Cost of Backpacking: Kuala Lumpur Travel Guide
Backpacking Southeast Asia…
…Kuala Lumpur on a budget
by Emily Outterside
Kuala Lumpur is the capital city of Malaysia and has been a popular travel destination from all around the world. There are so many things to do in this exciting city, and it doesn’t disappoint travellers, with something to suit all ages and budgets.
Throughout my 5-month backpacking trip of Southeast Asia, I have set myself a budget of £35 per day. This includes all accommodation, transport, activities, and food. I have therefore planned my 3-day KL itinerary around these costs. As I am travelling with my partner, accommodation costs are generally split equally between the two of us, so be aware if you are planning on solo travelling, budgets may need to be slightly higher.
I’m going to show you how you can make the most of your trip to Kuala Lumpur, even on a tight budget! Check out my plans and recommendations below.
Things to do
Kuala Lumpur is big and crowded, with many things to do in the city. The most challenging part of planning and itinerary is mapping them all out together with sensible transportation. You will discover the spectacular futuristic towers and skyscrapers, multi-story shopping malls, traditional cultural sights, unique local markets, and mouth-watering local food.
- Petronas Twin Tower
No trip to Kuala Lumpur would be complete without a visit to the Petronas Twin Tower. Standing at over 452 meters, the 88-story tower is the major architectural landmark and iconic symbol of Kuala Lumpur. The sky bridge and observation decks connect the two towers together and can be accessed by the public to experience the breath-taking views of the city. Access tickets to the sky bridge and observation decks are known to sell out so ensure you look at booking about a week in advance. Ticket prices are RM80 (£15) for tourists.
(Tip: the towers are closed on Mondays!)
Within the area of the Petronas Twin Tower is the Suria KLCC and KLCC Park
The Suria KLCC is a high-end shopping mall with over 300 boutiques, a variety of restaurants and exhibition spaces for events and festivals. While KLCC Park is the designated outdoor park, featuring the KLCC Lake Symphony Water Fountain Show, at 20:00, 21:00 and 22:00 daily.
- Batu Caves
Just 14km outside of Kuala Lumpur are the iconic Batu Caves and one of Malaysia’s top tourist attractions and is completely free to enter. The easiest and most budget-friendly option to get to Batu Caves is by train, costing only RM3 (50p) from KL Sentral. Trains depart every half an hour, and each journey takes about 25 minutes.
The first thing you’ll notice when approaching the Batu Caves are the stairs with 272 steps leading up to the caves. On the way up the stairs you will most likely encounter many monkeys. Since they are often fed by visitors, this is no surprise. But beware, sometimes they try to go for backpacks or something similar in search of food.
Once at the top, you are right at the entrance to the Light Caves. These are large open caves with some small shrines, numerous colourful statues of Hindu gods and openings in the limestone cliffs.
(Tip: visit early to beat the crowds and ensure you dress respectfully)
- Petaling Street
For us food lovers, Petaling Street is the best place for a street food tour in Chinatown, with multiple local vendors and fruit stalls. A few recommendations from Will are the Kwong Woh Tong (herbal jelly), Taufu Fah (Soy pudding with dark sugar), Muah Chi (Sticky rice balls coated in peanuts) and Air Mata Kucing (monkfruit drink).
(Tip: Look but don’t touch- they might make you pay! Best time to visit is late afternoon.)
- Central market
Central market, also known as Pasar Seni, is an decorative art building, full of Malaysian character and filled with stores that showcase local Malaysian handicrafts, carvings, souvenirs, and traditional batik prints. The area can be very lively with street performers and musical shows and surrounded by traditional local delicacies.
- KL Tower
KL Tower (Menara Kuala Lumpur is another iconic building in the city. At 300 metres tall, there is a 360-degree atmosphere restaurant and a Skydeck glass viewing platform. Tickets cost RM43 (£8) per person, available both online or at the gate.
Nearby is KL Forest Eco Park, the canopy walk offers amazing aerial views of the forest and the city and entrance is free!
- Bukit Bintang
The Golden Triangle in Bukit Bintang is one of the most touristy spots in Kuala Lumpur. The area is filled with great shopping malls, restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels and people!
Where to stay
Kuala Lumpur has a wide range of accommodation to choose from, ranging from budget hostels to mid-range hotels, and luxurious hotels. As a visitor, one of the best locations to say is near the Pavilion KLCC area. The transportation accessibility, wide variety of food, and shopping on your doorstep makes this a convenient area to stay.
As we are travelling on a budget, we are planning to stay in the Bukit Bintang area, within a 15 minute walk of the KLCC area, where accommodation is slightly cheaper. I have found that the average price for a mid-range hotel room in this area costs RM485 (£90) total for 3 nights (£15 per person, per night). Costs generally work out cheaper by staying in the same accommodation for the duration of your stay rather than moving between multiple hotels/hostels.
Here are some of my accommodation recommendations within this price range:
- Expressionz Suites
- Summer Suites KLCC by Luna
- AnCasa Hotel
- KL Marigold at Berjaya Times Square
What to pack
As I am travelling for a total of 5 months, I am taking a 60L backpack as well as a 15L day bag. As the climate in Southeast Asia, including Kuala Lumpur is generally very hot (25-32degrees) thin, lightweight clothing luckily doesn’t take up too much space in my backpack. (Tip: Ensure you pack at least one outfit suitable for temples, covering shoulders and legs). My smaller rucksack comes everywhere with me. This contains a small first aid kit, including rehydration tablets and sun-cream, bottle of water, waterproof jacket, mobile phone, portable charger and wallet.
(Tip: check your banking charges on payments abroad! I use Starling Bank which has no fees or charges on any worldwide purchases).
The official national language of Malaysia is Malaysian. English is recognised as the second most spoken language so most of the time you should be able to communicate in English.
Here are some common Malaysian words/phrases that could be useful to learn if needed:
- Ya (yah) – Yes
- Tidak (tee-dak) – No
- Air (ah-yer) – Water
- Berapa (be-raa-paa) – How much?
- Tolong (toh-long) – Please
- Terima Kasih (te-ree-mah ka-seh) – Thank you
My Itinerary (& budget breakdown)
After arriving at Kuala Lumpur Airport, the cheapest transport option to the city centre is via bus. This costs RM10 (£2) and takes one hour. The first day is planned to explore the area of KLCC before checking into our hotel at Bukit Bintang. We will check out the KLCC Park, Suria Mall and Petronas Tower. The evening showings at the water fountain will be tied in with dinner.
- £15 accommodation
- £2 Transport
- £15 Petronas Tower ticket
- £0 KLCC Park and Suria Mall
- £5-10 food and drink
Starting the day off early, we will head towards the KL Tower and Canopy walk at around 8am, before the crowds get busy. Line 8 monorail will cost you RM8 (£1.50) and takes 5 minutes from Bukit Bintang to KL Tower. The Skydeck glass viewing platform and canopy walk is expected to take between 2-3 hours total. The afternoon will be spent exploring and tasting the local delicacies in Central market and Petaling Street.
- £2 transport
- £15 accommodation
- £8 KL Tower ticket and canopy walk
- £5-10 food and drink (Petaling Street, Central Market)
Visiting the Batu Caves is recommended in the morning to avoid larger crowds. Trains depart every half an hour from KL Sentral to Batu Caves, and each journey takes about 25 minutes. We plan to arrive at the caves at 9am before it gets too hot and too busy. Suggested time spent at the caves is around 3 hours. To escape the heat, the afternoon will be spent in Pavilion, Bukit Bintang, where you can spend most of your time indoors, cooling down in an air-conditioned building. This is also a great place for souvenirs before leaving the next day.
- £2 transport
- £15 accommodation
- £0 Batu Caves
- £5-10 food and drink
The overall cost of my 3 days in Kuala Lumpur, based on my itinerary, will cost me £104 (an average of £34 per day). My biggest tip to ensure you stick to your budget is to research and book your accommodation in advance to secure any discounted prices found. Staying in the same accommodation for multiple nights, generally brings the cost per night down.
I hope that me sharing my travelling tips and recommendations on how to travel on a budget have inspired some of you to set out on your own journey, discovering Malaysia’s exquisite landscapes, rich culture, and mouth-watering foods.
What is the first thing you would want to do when you are in Malaysia?
written by Emily Outterside