Kuala Lumpur is the capital city of Malaysia; it’s home to many of Asias banking hubs and is an amalgamation of different cultures thanks to it’s geographical location. The beautiful skylines and food cannot be missed. Thankfully, a visit to Kuala Lumpur will not put a plaster on your damaged bank balance unlike its neighbour, Singapore and can even be explored on a smaller ‘backpacker budget.’ This post will hopefully give you some tips and tricks on how to keep in budget in one of the most expensive areas in Malaysia.
Hostels: The most affordable hostels are located in Downtown Kuala Lumpur within the Bukit Bintang district, where a dorm bed can be grabbed up for £3-£6 a night and some even house cute balconies. If you’re not fussy and just want a bed to sleep in, any of these hostels found on Booking.com or Agoda will probably do you perfectly. Unfortunately for us, we chose to stay in possibly the dirtiest one of the lot (SO MANY cockroaches), which got me complaining at the time but on reflection, it was cheap as hell.
Boujee Budget: Those who have found themselves on my website from Instagram will probably know what’s coming as I haven’t really shut up about it but here’s an alternative to a dorm room...
There’s a number of high-rise blocks that are simultaneously owned by different companies with individual apartments rented out via popular booking websites. A lot of them aren’t very highly rated, promise certain views of the city but don’t include them in their price, others are entirely unaffordable. I lucked out when I found the ‘Expressionz’ building, where a company called ‘Like Home’ was offering a studio apartment for £28 for one night. This included use of the infinity pool on the 48th Floor, the gym, the OTHER infinity pool on the 8th floor and endless perfect views of the city.
Absolutely everything was at face value. It was utterly incredible. On arrival, we were upgraded to the one bedroom apartment they offer, as we had been double booked. The apartment was huge and spacious with a fully equipped kitchen; a ginormous bed and it even had a washing machine (the backpacker dream).
The infinity pool speaks for itself. It was clean and well kept and we only shared it with a maximum of six other people at one time and first thing in the morning we had it entirely to ourselves, which was nothing but pure magic. The building also homes a gym, a café, a restaurant and a business centre, which after working-hours, doubles up as a beautiful balcony area on the 21st floor.
Move your feet: Getting a hostel in downtown KL as aforementioned secures you to be able to walk around most major parts of the city and allows you to easily explore major landmarks such as KL tower and the Petronas Towers.
Public transport: Public transport to places like Batu Caves that are slightly further out of the city, or the Masjid Jamek mosque are cheap as chips with prices as little as five Ringgit for 30 minute journeys. There's even a couple of entirely free routes. If you buy the ‘KL TravelPass’ on your arrival into Kuala Lumpur and plan on using public transport lots, this local oyster card will make your journeys run smoother. Be sure to check transport times here
Grab: Asia's answer to Uber and always something I will recommend, however, it’s a little more expensive in Kuala Lumpur, what with it being a major city, so don’t expect it to be as cheap as elsewhere in South-East Asia.
3. FREE STUFF
KL Forest Eco Park: The Kuala Lumpur Forest Eco Park is located directly under the KL tower in the middle of the city. It’s a huge Eco park with individual trails, canopy walks and my favourite, mosquitos. It’s a literal forest in the centre of the city, which just makes for the perfect escape and IT’S FREE. We walked around for a couple of hours exploring the different trails and it was perfect.
KLCC: Most tourists head towards the front of the Petronas Towers to get their perfect Instagram shot. It can get very hectic with lots of locals offering to sell you wide angle lenses or to take your pictures. Not to mention having to literally bend down and tilt you neck so far to get any pictures without other tourists in. A little tip I have is to head round the other side of the towers into The Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) Park. The only other people you’ll encounter are office workers having meetings or most enviously, those who are having a quiet jog on their lunch break. It’s really quiet and a much more peaceful spot on which to perch on the grass and admire the famous Petronas Towers.
Cheap night out: This is a bit of a cheat because it wasn’t exactly free but was affordable and unique. The Crackhouse Comedy Club about 12 kilometres out of town, hosts their ‘Open Crack’ open-mic night on a Wednesday. It’s just RM15 (roughly £3) and is an opportunity for a fun and cheap night out. Some of the comedians had literally turned up and a couple of them were utterly painful but in an embarrassingly wonderful way. We watched about twelve comedians across three hours for £3, which was a steal.
Other free stuff to be explored includes Petaling Street (Chinatown markets), Rex KL (abandoned cinema turned market and creative culture hub), Batu Caves, Masjid Jamek and Central Market.
4. FOOD AND DRINK
Eat Local: The best food we had in Kuala Lumpur was from the tucked away Nagasari Curry house. It’s local run and serves not only Malaysian specialities but amazing North and South Indian Curries too. We ordered the Roti Canai, a local hot soft bread pancake with different spiced dipping sauces and alongside this, we indulged in Daals and Masalas. Visiting twice, our bill never came to more than £10 for a full meal for two people.
Brunching: A couple of amazing brunch places can be found in the same area as the hostels. LOKL, VCR and Merchant’s Lane Cafe were our favourites. Full Breakfast and Brunch dishes are a little more expensive but ranged from RM12-40 (£2-£7).
Happy Hour: Along the Bukit Bintang road is where you’ll find the coolest bars and best happy hours in town. Do note that Happy Hours in Asia are usually most compatible for beer drinkers so if you don’t enjoy beer; learn to. Our favourite was The Rabbit Hole where a beer tower of 8 pints is, it also serves Alice In Wonderland themed cocktails that might appear on a daily Happy Hour if you’re lucky.
To round things off, if you’re thinking Kuala Lumpur is out of your budget as a backpacker and you want to take it out the equation, don’t. It’s a beautiful city and can be so affordable if you plan it right. And remember, if you’ve got the spare pennies book a little rooftop pool apartment, you won’t regret it and your friends will be more than jealous...
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