Of all the far-off, exotic destinations abroad we long to visit during the pandemic, there’s one place that (literally) hits closer to home: Kuala Lumpur.
The Malaysian capital has always been a reliable spot for a quick weekend getaway in the days before Covid-19, so it’s no surprise that most Singaporeans might be pretty familiar with the buzzing city centre. For many of us, it’s been more than a year since we’ve roamed the streets of KL, so imagine our joy when quarantine-free travel between Singapore and Malaysia is now possible!
Singapore Airlines is even deploying its Airbus A380 among the daily flights to and fro Changi Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport to make things even more interesting. What’s not to like about a quiet hour-long flight on a superjumbo plane for a trip to Kuala Lumpur? That’s faster than the amount of time it takes to get from Tuas Link to Pasir Ris on the MRT.
Time, after all, is of the essence if you’ve sorely missed the sights and sounds of the lively Malaysian city. Let’s explore a list of things to do in Kuala Lumpur and places you might want to revisit or check out now that quarantine-free travel to the country up north is within easy reach.
1. Catching breathtaking views at Petronas Tower Skybridge
Heading to the centre of KL to visit the world’s tallest twin towers is as touristy as touristy gets. But hey, now’s the best time to drop by without the massive crowds and long lines that typically await you at the Petronas Twin Towers.
This iconic 88-floor landmark stands tall as the symbol of Malaysia’s modernity while still paying homage to the country’s Muslim heritage, as seen in the towers’ Islamic architectural influences and motifs. You also can’t beat the best aerial view of the entire city from the Skybridge — the two-storey bridge that connects both towers at a lofty height of 170m above the ground.
Here is where you’ll get a breathtaking panorama of KL from up high. Perfectly fine for anyone afraid of heights, as the bridge will feel sturdy enough to walk on without any feeling of swaying back and forth.
After which, head up to the observatory deck on the 86th floor of Tower 2, where you’ll get the opportunity to hop on a telescope to scope out the cityscape while also taking in exhibits to learn about the building’s history and architecture.
Since you’re already there, you might as well make a stop at Marini’s On 57, a rooftop bar and Italian restaurant located on the 57th floor of Menara 3 Petronas. Sip on cocktails and dig into their signature pizzas and pasta dishes while enjoying an unbeatable bird’s eye view of the KL city centre.
Address: 241, Suria KLCC, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50088 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday — 9:00am to 9:00pm
2. Getting up close with marine life at Aquaria KLCC
Impressed with the sky-high views at the KL twin towers? Now it’s time to get excited below ground at Aquaria KLCC, the state-of-the-art oceanarium located beneath the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.
This is where visitors get to walk through Malaysia’s first underground aquarium exhibit — a 90m transparent tunnel that’ll let you appreciate marine life in their element up close.
Sharks, lobsters, clownfish, turtles, seahorses, jellyfishes, otters: you’ll see a wide variety of aquatic critters (about 5,000 in all) native to Malaysia and around the world.
Aquaria KLCC is divided into eight unique exhibit zones too, so visitors get to see the lives of these creatures in their replicated habitats. Be sure not to miss the daily feeding sessions, where divers will get up close with sharks, electric eels and Japanese spider crabs and give them their grub. Be sure to pack your cameras with you - but remember, flash photography is not allowed.
Address: Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, Jalan Pinang, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50088 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday — 10:00am to 7:00pm
3. Shop till you drop at Mid Valley Megamall
For most Singaporeans, it won’t be a holiday trip without some shopping. For that, there’s Mid Valley Megamall, the retail and dining complex located in the popular urban district of Mid Valley City.
It’s a playground for everyone young and old with everything you’ll ever need under one roof. There are over four hundred retailers offering everything from upscale fashion outfits to tech gadgets; cosmetics to home furnishing; groceries to entertainment — one can literally spend an entire day there and not get bored.
There won’t be any lack of food options in this KL shopping mall either. Dig into local delicacies from the likes of Original Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar, Ah Her Bak Kut Teh, Madam Kwan’s and Santan Cafe. Or go international with A&W, Amarin Heavenly Thai, Kiku-Zakura, BBQ Town and Jamaica Blue Fine Coffees.
Don’t forget that whatever you spend on will be (relatively) cheaper in price when you convert your Singapore Dollars to Malaysian Ringgit. Which is why we love hopping across the border, no?
Address: Lingkaran Syed Putra, Mid Valley City, 59200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday — 10:00am to 10:00pm
4. Eating till the early morning at Jalan Alor Food Street
But let’s be honest; the main reason why Kuala Lumpur holds such a dear place in our hearts is the food. If you’re all for visiting the best food haunts in the city, glorious street food awaits at every corner of the city, and at such affordable prices, we don’t blame you if you’re constantly munching on something or the other. Pisang goreng, apam balik, Ramly burgers, rojak mamak — they’re just not the same in Singapore.
Regulars will know that the best spot to satiate your KL food hunt is Jalan Alor Night Market, the famous stretch of road in Bukit Bintang hosting dozens of hawker stalls and seafood restaurants that stay open till the wee hours of the morning.
For folks who’ve never been, get ready to be overwhelmed by the blinding lights and sumptuous aromas of dishes being served out by the streets. We definitely miss ordering a huge platter of freshly-barbecued chicken wings from Wong Ah Wah Restaurant before heading to Restoran Meng Kee Grill Fish for oyster omelette and char kway teow.
Of course, a trip to Jalan Alor isn’t complete without tucking into the smoky and delicate chicken satays of Terminal Satay Zul. Of all the things we love about KL, the inimitable street food haven that is Jalan Alor ranks very highly on the list.
While there aren’t overall safety measures enacted on the entire street, all restaurant owners are required to place their tables far apart enough to allow for ventilation and safe social distancing. Each restaurant will have their own rules on how many people are allowed to sit together, so ask before you dine in.
Address: 75, Jalan Alor, Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Most stalls open from 5:00pm until midnight; some remain open 24 hours a day.
5. Hunting for the best Nasi Kandar at Restoran Kudu Bin Abdul
Another thing you can only find in Malaysia: authentic Nasi Kandar. For the uninitiated, Nasi Kandar is an Indian-Muslim delicacy originating from Penang but has since become a staple throughout the entire Malaysian peninsula.
The premise is simple: Steamed rice with a variety of vegetables (traditionally, okra and aubergine) and meaty side dishes that you can pick and choose. The kicker comes in the form of mixed gravy — a savoury combination of various house curries that will usually flood the plate and be absorbed by the fluffy rice, giving it a unique, bold taste.
Arguments about who offers the best Nasi Kandar is customary, as fans will usually be subjective about which restaurants offer the best combination of curries. In KL however, Restoran Kudu Bin Abdul is deemed to hold the best Nasi Kandar in the city.
Long queues at this spot start as early as 11:00am each day, and it’s common to stay in line for at least half an hour. But is it truly the best Nasi Kandar spot? We’ll let you decide as you make your way across KL.
As always, it’s best to eat Nasi Kandar with your hands — it just tastes better licking the rich curries off your fingers, as Malaysian forefathers have done since the 1900s.
Address: 335, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Chow Kit, 50100 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Monday to Wednesday — 8:00am to 8:00pm; Thursday — 8:00am to 6:00pm; Friday —24 hours; Saturday — 8:00am to 7:00pm; Closed Sunday
6. Taking in the culture at National Museum and Perdana Botanical Garden
You’ll be needing to walk off all that food from your time in KL, of course. One way to discover the magic of KL on foot is the National Museum and the Perdana Botanical Garden.
The National Museum is where you’d find an impressive collection of exhibits dedicated to Malaysian history and culture stored across four main galleries. Learn about the country’s traditional weapons, musical instruments, ancient history, cultural arts and more in a museum designed in the style of traditional royal Malay architecture.
After taking in all that cultural richness, take a walk to the Perdana Botanical Gardens, a peaceful park that was established in 1888 by British colonists. A serene lake is located in the centre of the park, surrounded by multiple curated gardens, including the Hibiscus Garden (where Malaysia’s national flower gets a spotlight) and the Sunken Garden (where shrubbery and petunias dot the French-style parterre. In other words, plenty of Instagram opportunities.
The highlight has to be Laman Perdana, a magnificent square of towering sculptures where events and activities were formerly held in the pre-pandemic days. We recommend visiting the park (and Malaysia in general) between February and September when it’s not so rainy. The drier months are when the tropical foliage gets in full bloom, after all - just be sure to lather up on your sun care, especially if you’d like to visit features like the Deer Park.
Address: Jabatan Muzium Malaysia, Jln Damansara, Perdana Botanical Gardens, 50566 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday — 9:00am to 5:00pm
7. Hanging out at Petaling Street
Petaling Street, for those in the know, is where you get to experience some authentic KL street market culture. It’s a place steeped in history — this was once home to Malaysia’s Chinese settlers before it was revamped into a pedestrian shopping arcade. Some historic influences remain, such as the Chinese-style arches at both ends of the street and various places of worship.
This famous street in Malaysia’s Chinatown is packed with open-air roadside stalls to purchase some unique gifts, cheap off-brand wares and delicious street snacks. Indulge in some muah chee from prominent hawker Madam Tang, who incorporates unique flavours like Ribena, pandan and green tea into her peanut mochi.
Be sure to cool down with a cup of cold Air Mata Kucing (Sweet Monk Fruit Longan) or a cup of bean curd pudding from fellow Petaling Street legacy stalls. It’s also the best spot to people-watch as you kick back on a plastic stool and down some snacks and beer while tourists haggle with stall owners on pricing.
Thanks to the influx of tourists and foreigners, Petaling Street is where you’d find trendy cafes, hip bars, artsy murals and boutique hotels to check out. As with all places where it could get crowded, it is advised to keep a 1-metre distance between others to stay safe.
Address: Jalan Petaling, City Centre, 5000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday — 9:00am to 12:00pm, 6:00pm to 1:00am
8. Having a blast at Sunway Lagoon
You can’t forget about Sunway Lagoon — it's the ultimate theme park experience in Malaysia.
A beloved tourist attraction for Singaporeans of all ages, this amusement park in Greater Kuala Lumpur may not be in the city centre but it’s worth making the trip out to Subang Jaya for a full day of fun.
Currently open to fully vaccinated patrons, the park assures that everyone can have a grand old time with confidence. From roller coaster rides to water slides (including one of the largest wave pools in the world), visitors can have just as fun an experience as they would have before the pandemic so long as they stick to the rules.
Kids, especially, will have a blast on themed rides and the Wildlife Park, where they can get up close with over 150 species of animals, including white lions, meerkats, ostriches and other exotic creatures. The Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon will be where they’ll spend most of their time since it holds attractions revolving around the likes of SpongeBob and Dora The Explorer.
Address: 3, Jalan PJS 11/11, Bandar Sunway, 47500 Subang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
Opening hours: Sunday to Monday — 10:00am to 6:00pm, Closed Tuesday
Things to note while travelling in Kuala Lumpur
Face masks must be worn in indoors and when you're travelling on public transport. Mask-wearing outdoors is optional but encouraged in crowded places.
The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) offer convenient ways to get around the city. Otherwise, hopping on a Grab ride is your best bet to avoid haggling with cab drivers.
Car rental services are available at KLIA for those who’d like to drive around in Kuala Lumpur — more information here.
There’s plenty to miss about Kuala Lumpur, a city that may be just as familiar to us as Orchard Road. With quarantine-free travel now available to the Malaysian capital, we can’t wait to take a trip to Kuala Lumpur and revisit our old haunts with both friends and family to reconnect with our neighbours up north!
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Best time to visit
While hot and humid most of the year, heading to Kuala Lumpur towards the end of the year would be delightful with the cooler breeze abound. Just remember to pack a small umbrella in case the rain comes.
Get around KL city in different and convenient ways. These range from the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the monorail, to the usual bus and taxis. Seasoned travellers do recommend that to beat the traffic, especially during the morning and evening rush hours, the trick is to find a hotel near where you want to visit and move around by foot to really soak up the local sights and culture.
Currency used in Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit. Malaysia is one of Southeast Asia’s most affordable cities. You can find ATMs conveniently located in most areas across Kuala Lumpur, and moneychangers that will give you a competitive rate.
There are multiple airlines that fly direct to KL from Changi Airport. Search for great deals and book your tickets now.