I spent the weekend in Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia, because I had to make a visa run. A visa run is a trip you take to a neighboring country, so you can come back into the country you want to be in legally. My visa run was sponsored by my job, and I was given the option to go to Laos or KL. I chose KL because the flights are always cheap, and as an American, I don’t need a visa.
GETTING TO KUALA LUMPUR:
My flight via AirAsia was only $120USD round trip from Chiang Mai (CNX). Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) is a huge airport with two separate terminals dubbed KLIA and KLIA 2, respectively. I flew in and out of KLIA 2, which isn’t so important when flying in, but it’s essential when flying out. KLIA is one-hour from Kuala Lumpur City Center (KLCC) via car. I got in around 9:15 p.m., and I have a cardinal rule of taking the most direct route to my location, specifically for safety concerns, when I arrive in a new city in the evening. My taxi to my hostel was 84MYR, which is equal to $23USD. A cheaper (and quicker) option is to take the KLIA Ekspres, the high-speed train that gets you to KLCC in 33 minutes. The KLIA Ekspres is 55MYR ($14USD), and it drops you at KL Sentral, which connects you to all of KL’s public transportation.
WHERE I STAYED:
I stayed at BackHome Hostel. It cost 153MYR (USD 37) for three nights. There was free breakfast, coffee, tea, and water, the bedding was great, and both the pillows and mattresses were comfortable. The location was perfect. I could get to Chinatown, Sri Mahamariamman, the National Textile Museum, Merdeka Square, and the I HEART KL statue in 10 minutes on foot. It was a 20-minute walk to Alor Street Food Night Market and a 10-minute car ride to the Petronas Towers. I must also mention the amazing showers. The water pressure was perfect, and the water temperature reached scalding just the way I like it! Backhome has dorms for solo travelers, which I stayed in, but there are also private rooms for those who are coupled up or just want some privacy. The social atmosphere is great for meeting people, and the staff is lovely. BackHome Hostel gets a 10/10 for location, cleanliness, amenities, safety, and staff!
WHAT I SAW:
Day 1: KLCC Park, Petronas Towers, Traders Hotel and Alor Street Food Night Market
The Traders Hotel is a beautiful five-star hotel with a Sky Bar and pool. From the Sky Bar, you can see a breathtaking view of the Petronas Towers. My lunch was 55MYR, which is a whopping $14USD. I mean, what did you expect? It is a five-star hotel, after all! But all jokes aside, with that price tag, I would say it’s necessary to stop by the Traders Hotel.
Day 2: Chinatown, Sri Mahamariamman (Hindu temple), KL Bird Park and Petronas Towers Tour
The Kuala Lumpur Bird Park and the Petronas Towers tour were the only places I went that cost money. As a budget traveler, I think the KL Bird Park was unnecessary, but if you have a bit more to spend, I would consider checking it out! The Petronas Towers tour was definitely worth the money, but I also think it could be skipped if you’ve visited any of the other tallest buildings in the world.
Day .5: Merdeka Square, I HEART KL Statue and the Textile Museum.
It’s easy and cheap to get around KL. It’s very affordable via teksi (Malay for taxi) and public transportation, so long as someone doesn’t try to scam you. Out of my numerous taxi rides, I was only scammed twice! I would just say know where you’re going and show a driver a map if they act confused. My travel hack is to download an app called maps.me, it’s an app that lets you access the map of any city with or without data. It is available on all smartphones, and it’s a lifesaver when you’re in a foreign country. All you have to do is download the map for the city you’re visiting, and you’re good to go.
The culture of KL was terrific. The main ethnic groups are Malay, Chinese, and Indian. This makes KL a melting pot of cultures, and the food is some of the best I’ve ever had. Everyone speaks English in KL, so that wasn’t something I worried about. Malaysia is also a predominantly Muslim country, so I would say be respectful of that. I felt safe and comfortable in KL, but I was on high alert for pickpockets. Oh, and always trust your gut – I got into a mildly sketchy situation while getting scammed by a crazy teksi driver!