3 days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and no clue what to do? | The Ultimate Backpacking Guide

3 DAYS IN KUALA LUMPUR AND NO CLUE WHAT TO DO? 

THE ULTIMATE BACKPACKING GUIDE

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was my first ever international airport I landed in eight years ago (minus across the ditch to Aus), and I vividly remember sitting patiently waiting for my connecting flight – my oblivious wee mind day dreaming of the possibilities of the city that was lying right behind those airport walls.

Fast forward what feels like a lifetime and I have now visited Kuala Lumpur – but this time on the opposite side of those walls, watching my daydreams unfold. 

This city has a chaotic beauty about it that I can’t quite put my finger on — It could be the mumble jumble of religions on display showcasing their cultures loud and proud, or the abstract street art vibrantly lining odd alleyways. Maybe the fact it has some of the tallest skyscrapers I ever did see towering overhead, a gorgeous array of temples, an eco forest plonked right in the middle of the concrete jungle, and hectic souvenir markets that I love to hate. OR, perhaps the insanely good street food selection, as per Asia.

As I have now spent a good 3 days in Kuala Lumpur exploring the city endlessly (which is a perfect amount of time might I add), I thought I would put together an ultimate backpacking guide to help you on your way through Malaysia’s capital – great for those on a budget, like me! Or, for those simply just wondering what in the world there is to do in Kuala Lumpur – well, let me tell you… 

Here’s how I spent 3 days in Kuala Lumpur –

How I got there, how I got around, where I slept, what I did, ate, spent – and all that jazz.

KL - infographic

WHAT TO DO

Kuala Lumpur IS FULL TO THE BRIM WITH FREE THINGS TO DO – WHICH IS ALWAYS A BONUS IN MY BOOKS! 

By day

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BATU CAVES

Despite getting the mad wobbles climbing back down the staircase at Batu Caves (I blame the copious amount of falls on stairs whilst drunk), and slightly freaking out at the jitterish wee monkeys jumping from god knows which direction (lucky they’re cute) — this spot actually exceeded my expectations!

Batu Caves is a ginormous 400 million year old cave (not an exaggeration for once in my life) on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, which you’ll find at the tippy top of this rainbow staircase on the side of a limestone hill. I’m always so intrigued and captivated by Hindu shrines, and those both inside and out of the cave sure didn’t cease to amaze me. A MUST do on your 3 days in Kuala Lumpur! 

Tips

HOW TO GET THERE –

A 30 minute metro ride on the KTM Komuter from KL Sentral – Batu Caves (end of the line) will set you back a cool 2 MYR (.75c NZD). The train goes every 15 mins during on peak hour and 20 – 30 mins off peak.

WHEN TO GO –

Before 9am is your best bet – I arrived around 8am and there were only a handful of people, and the heat wasn’t quite at a {sweat your ass of level} yet. Coming back out of the caves and down the stairs an hour later, was heaving with people and scorching hot.

Note that after any amount of rain, which KL tends to have it’s fair share of, you will get wet once you enter inside the caves – be prepared.

COST

Free!

OPENING HOURS –

 6am – 9pm, daily.

THEAN HOU TEMPLE

At first peek this gorgeous Chinese temple sitting pretty on a hill, enchanted me right off the bat. Dedicated to the ancient goddess, Thean Hou, the temple is a sight for sore eyes – adorned with intricate details covering every surface, vibrant pops of colour catching your eye, lanterns dangling overhead, cute wee Chinese herb gardens to frolic around, and weird and wonderful statues popping up left, right, and centre. Every level of this multi storey temple is well worth a wander, especially the prayer hall – I will never wrap my head around how temples were designed with such ridiculously perfect detail, so damn long ago. Oh, and that stunning view over the cityscape as you peer through the temples archways – beaut!

Tips

How to get there –

You can either catch a metro to KL Sentral and walk 40 minutes (20 up hill) to the temple – I done this on the way there. Or, opt to get a Grab which is roughly 10 MYR (3.80 NZD) back into the Bukit Bintang backpacking area.

COST –

Free!

DRESS CODE –

No dress code, however always be respectful with your clothing choices at temples.

OPENING HOURS –

8am – 10pm, daily. 

LITTLE INDIA

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an absolute sucker for India. My favourite country on this planet (besides New Zealand, of course) – so if there’s a Little India close by, you know where to find me. Dreaming of the beautiful sari’s, roaming the back alleyways, indulging in a thali or two, and soaking up the magical atmosphere and Bollywood sounds that transport me back to a magical time. As I was in KL at the same time of the Indian Diwali Festival (Festival of Lights), the place was alive and kicking. 

If you love Indian food and embracing a new culture, then Kuala Lumpur’s Little India wouldn’t go a miss!

Tips

How to get there –

Closest metro – KL Sentral. From there it’s a 15 minute walk to reach Little India. 

STREET ART

What seems to be a reoccurring theme in Malaysia, street art is hidden down quaint alleyways, high on the sides of tall buildings, painted right under your feet – and in god knows which other direction. Always so colourful, creative, and full of life. If you want to be avidly on the look out for street art whilst spending your 3 days in Kuala Lumpur, most of what I stumbled upon below was when wandering the streets of Jalan Alor and Changkat, Bukit Bintang.

Tips

Where to find it –

Along with Jalan Alor and Changkat – Jalan Sultan, Laman Seni, Shah Alam, Jalan Gereja, and SS2 Petaling Jaya, are your best bets to finding street art around the city. 

MASJID JAMEK MOSQUE, Sultan Abdul Samad Building + MERDEKA SQUARE 

The back to back Masjid Jamek Mosque and Sultan Abdul Samad Building, both showing off an aesthetically pleasing muted orange brick with contrasting white vs orangey bronze dome tops – sit pretty next to the Klang River. Serene Masjid Jamek is the oldest mosque in Kuala Lumpur, while Sultan Abdul houses the Supreme and High Courts. Both great places to roam the grounds and appreciate the beauty of architecture built in the 1900’s. 

The staff here were incredibly friendly and informative with all the random questions I had – good chats were had!

Just opposite the Sultan Abdul you’ll find Merdeka Square – known to be the colonial core of Kuala Lumpur where Malaysia proclaimed freedom. A large square patch of grass with the Malaysian flag flying high, makes for the perfect place to pop for a lunch time picnic, or to lay on after walking for hours on end. 

Tips

How to get there –

Closest metro – Masjid Jamek, across the road from the Mosque.

COST –

Free!

DRESS CODE – 

Cover your shoulders and knees, OR, headscarves and robes are available for free at the entrance.

OPENING HOURS –

8.30am – 12.30pm – prayer time – re opens at 2.30pm – 4.30pm, Saturday – Thursday. 

KL ECO FOREST PARK

A forest, in Kuala Lumpur?! Yes, you read that right. Smack bang in the centre of KL city is a slice of real life rain forest. Complete with relaxing walking trails, swinging bridges and canopy walks, dazzling views over the city, beautiful greenery, and birds chirping away. You would never know you were in the midst of a concrete jungle. I could have wandered this place for the whole day, but an hour or two done the trick. 

Tips

HOW TO GET THERE –

The Eco Forest is pretty central (if you’re staying in the Bukit Bintang backpacker area), so its easily walkable. Otherwise you can catch the metro to the closest station – Bukit Nanas.

COST – 

Free!

OPENING HOURS –

8am – 6pm, daily.

KL TOWER

Super close to the Eco Forest is KL Tower – a tall skinny thing that is near impossible to miss. A popular landmark in Kuala Lumpur which can be spotted from a mile away across the city, up close and personal with dreamy palms bordering, or up in the sky from the Observation Deck for a 360 degree view. I just opted to see it from the outside below!

Tips

HOW TO GET THERE –

Closest metro – Dang Wangi Station. From there it’s only a few minutes walk.

COST –

Observation Deck – 49 MYR (18.50 NZD) – International Adult

Sky Deck – 99 MYR (37.50 NZD) – International Adult

If you want a sweeping birds eye view over the city, any city for that matter, I always recommend going to a rooftop bar instead. The drink prices are always ridiculously high, but usually you don’t have to pay entry fee. I for one would much rather pay a hefty price and get a drink, rather than that same price without one.

OPENING HOURS –

9am – 10pm, daily.

PETRONAS TOWERS

I have a memory engraved in my mind of little curly head Briar sitting propped up at her primary school desk, playing a quiz with a group in her classroom on facts about the world. Until 2004 the Petronas Twin Towers were the tallest buildings in the world, and for some bizarre reason I knew that when I was eight – and bloody won a gold star for our group! Because of this silly little memory, Petronas Towers has always been the first thing that pops up when I think about Kuala Lumpur (weird, I know). To be honest, they were cool, rather tall as you might have expected – but nothing out of this world spectacular in my eyes. Worthy sight to see nonetheless! 

Tips 

HOW TO GET THERE – 

You can walk like I did from Bukit Bintang, bypassing the Eco Forest and KL Tower, which takes roughly one hour – not including stops. Alternatively you can catch the metro to the closest station – KLCC.

TAKE NOTE –

If you head to the back side of the the towers you’ll find gardens which are a great place to rest your feet and gaze up at the twin giants.

If you happen to be there at night you can catch the nightly fountain light show! On at 8pm, 9pm and 9.45pm, and lasts for 10 minutes.

CENTRAL MARKET

An eye catching baby blue art deco facade outside – traditional handicrafts and knick knacks galore inside. Like a flea market, just a wee bit fancier.

Perfect for those market lovers like me, you’ll find authentic Malaysian goods, prints, and souvenirs – all housed in this beautiful old heritage building. 

Prices are a bit higher than a roadside market, but a good bit of window shopping never goes a miss – am I right. 

The second floor has some not too shabby looking restaurants that could be worth checking out too, as well as nearby Katsuri Walk for even more market wares. 

Tips

HOW TO GET THERE –

Closest metro – Pasar Seni. The Central Market is a short walk from Petaling Street.

OPENING HOURS –

10am – 10pm, daily.

By night

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MY FAVOURITE TIME OF DAY IN KUALA LUMPUR, when the lights flicker on and the city comes to life.

PETALING STREET MARKETS ‘Jalan Petaling’

Best wandered at night in my opinion, Petaling Street has rows on rows of wee market stalls selling mostly cheap souvenirs and knock off brands – but the lively atmosphere is what did it for me! 

An array of fruit stalls, hot nuts, and all sorts of interesting snacks to nibble on, are abundant throughout the markets. 

Add the bustling crowds with the irresistible smells of curry laksa, nasi lemak, and rich spices filling the air from nearby China Town – make for a lively night scene.

Crowds can get a bit hectic, but in a nutshell it’s a great spot to experience and immerse yourself in the culture of Malaysia.

Tips

HOW TO GET THERE –

Closest metro – Pasar Senti. 5 minutes walk to Petaling Street from there.

OPENING HOURS –

9am – 12pm and 6pm – 1am, daily.

WHERE TO EAT 

You will inevitably eat your way through your 3 days in Kuala Lumpur – it’s an absolute foodie heaven.

Food in KL is a mixture of so many different cuisines. If you’re travelling other parts of Malaysia as well, I would try a few other exotic cuisines here and save the authentic Malay food for smaller towns jotted around. Either way, the Malaysian food is delicious – here or elsewhere. Nightly food markets and hawker centres are usually your best bet for cheap, yet tasty food – especially for those backpackers on a budget who don’t want to fork out loads for every meal. 

My faves 

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CHINA TOWN

Everyone loves a good bit of Chinese delicacies, so China Town in Kuala Lumpur is where it’s at! Wander down the lantern lit streets and odd, dodgy looking side lanes, and you’re bound to find a little restaurant that tickles your fancy. 

Not the prettiest or cleanest place, but Tang City Food Court has a cheap and tasty food selection to take your pick from! 

Tips

HOW TO GET THERE –

Closest metro – Pasar Senti – located in China Town.

OPENING HOURS –

6am – 11pm, daily.

SRI GANESA INDIAN RESTAURANT 

THE best Indian food! If you want to veer away from Malay cuisine for a meal and get stuck into some super cheap, and proper delicious Indian food (honestly on par with the quality you get in India), then I highly recommend this hidden gem in Bukit Bintang!

A cheeky shout out to the lovely staff too, who made my experience that much more enjoyable and will adhere to your food requirements – vegetarian, dairy free, vegan, etc. In true Indian style they’ll re load your plate up again, and again until you say stop – so trust me, you’ll want to go with an empty belly!

Check out the map at the end where I’ve pinned the exact location. 

Tips

OPENING HOURS –

6am – 11.45pm, daily. 

JALAN ALOR NIGHT FOOD MARKET

And last, but boy oh boy not least, the best nightly food market situated right in the heart of Bukit Bintang. 

Wander the red lantern lit up stretch of restaurants, slurp up some mouth watering char kway teow noodles, and have a go at tasting the smelly (really, not that bad) national durian fruit. 

I’m a people watcher (not in a creepy way, promise) and love watching people go about their daily lives . There’s something about sitting at little road side stalls watching the world past you by, seeing the hard working cooks whip up lines of meals like a wheel oiled machine, and street performers hilariously do their thing – Jalan Alor is a prime spot for this! 

The prices here are in the slightly higher price range than the first two (but still cheap – it is South East Asia after all!) I paid 7 MYR (2.60 NZD)  for my rice noodle soup – on the VERY cheapest end.

If you’re up for a night cap after dinner, head to Changkat – which is literally at the end of the Jalan Alor Night Market. The perfect party spot for backpackers who are after a beer, or ten! 

Tips

OPENING HOURS –

Open 24 hours, daily – But best to go after 7pm for a more lively atmosphere and better food selection.

Now to the logistics

VISA

First things first, visas – or lack of should I say. For my fellow New Zealanders we can stay up to 90 days without the need for a visa.  62 other countries are in the same boat – 30 – 90 days visa free. One less thing to worry about it! 

WHEN YOU ARRIVE

I arrived into the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) (cheap as chip flights fyi), which is the largest and most popular airport in Malaysia. The cheapest way to get yourself into the city is by taking the clean, air conditioned Star Shuttle Bus. After coming through the baggage claim area from your flight, find the travelator that takes you downstairs to the ‘transport’ area – here you will find trains and buses. Buy a ticket which costs 10 MYR (3.70 NZD) from the counter and they will inform you of your platform number. The journey takes one hour and leaves every 20 – 30 minutes. You’ll be dropped off at Pudu Sentral Station in the heart of the city.

If you are coming from elsewhere in Malaysia or Singapore, there are well connected and affordable bus services that run multiple times a day. 12.Go is a great website that scans all the best bus journeys for your particular time and day. 

I highly recommend getting a mobile travel sim card at the airport while you’re at it. Digi is great – costing 40 MYR (15 NZD) for 15 days. A good wee package with 25gb of internet, plus calls and texts, and I haven’t had any problems. Pop the sim in and you’re away laughing! 

HOW TO GET AROUND

I’m a huge believer in exploring a new city by foot – you stumble upon so many more hidden gems! However, Kuala Lumpur is a beast of a city so you’ll no doubt need some public transport a time or two. 

The metro here is well connected and super affordable! It’s easy to use, with an ‘English’ option on the ticket purchase machines at each station. I paid between 1.60 – 1.90 MYR (.60 – .70c NZD) to scoot around the city. 

Grab (Malaysia’s version of Uber) is another great option.  Download the app, put in your destination, accept a driver, and you’re away. Piece of cake.

Always have a map downloaded on your phone to help you navigate your way around – Google Maps (I’ve been recently converted) works a treat. 

WHERE TO STAY

I’m an avid user of switching between Hostel World and booking.com to find the cheapest and best looking hostel whilst travelling. The area of Bukit Bintang is known as the backpacker hub, perfect for you party animals out there and super close to all the nightly food joints and hot spots. 

BEST TIME TO GO

Like the rest of South East Asia, Malaysia is hot and sticky all year round. Downpours of rain are common in the afternoons,  so I highly recommend doing your sightseeing earlier rather than later in the day. May to July and December to February is known as the best weather wise – although anytime of the year is definitely doable.

SAFETY

Is Kuala Lumpur safe? In my personal experience, yes. As a solo female traveller I never felt unsafe, once. The people of Malaysia are super friendly and always deliver a smile and helping hand if needed. 

If you’re still a bit weary about travelling in Asia, especially as a solo traveller – check out my solo travel tips post where I give tonnes of handy tips!

LANGUAGE

Bahasa Malaysia – Most Malaysians can speak or understand at least a little English, so I had no problem conversing with the locals.

CURRENCY

Malaysian Ringgit – 1 MYR = 0.37 NZD. Download the XE Currency App to have a quick and accurate way on hand to work out how fast you’re whipping through that backpacker budget.

If you have trouble finding anything in my list of things to do – check out and download the map below! 

Enjoy your 3 days in Kuala Lumpur – Let me know your thoughts down below and what you get up to while in the land of skyscrapers, colonial gems, charming locals, and damn good food. I’d love to hear!

Thanks for reading,

Briar

ENJOY THIS ULTIMATE BACKPACKING GUIDE ON HOW TO SPEND 3 DAYS IN Kuala Lumpur? PIN IT FOR LATER!

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