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Last Updated on July 24, 2023 by Madison Krigbaum
Although Malaysia has been on my bucket list for years, my trip in August was an entirely unexpected necessity. After residing in Bali for two months – mostly healing from my recent foot surgery – it was necessary for me to leave the country on a visa run. When searching for flights, I expected Singapore to be my cheapest option out of Indonesia. To my surprise, I was wrong – it was Kuala Lumpur. Although I’m not much of a city person, I ended up loving the five days I spent in Malaysia and was able to put together an extensive five-day Kuala Lumpur itinerary!!
Keep reading for the gorgeous mosques, delicious eats, amazing skyline views, colorful staircases and stunning Hindu shrines built into caves that is Kuala Lumpur city.
For more tips on traveling solo to Southeast Asia, visit my Asia Travel Guides.
Where to Stay in Kuala Lumpur
Penthouse on 34 Hostel
Although KL has plenty of great options for hostels, one stands out clear above the rest. Penthouse on 34 had, hands-down, the best views I’ve ever seen from a hostel. Like its name suggests, the hostel was located on the 34th floor of an apartment building and included access to the building’s rooftop infinity pool with incredible views over the Kuala Lumpur skyline (pictured below).
Sadly, I stayed here only five days before the rooftop bar reopened! Hopefully, you’ll have better timing. The hostel had a convenient location in the middle of the city and was about an hour drive from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The rooms themselves were clean and included security lockers and a privacy curtain over every bunk. I was lucky enough to score a bunk bed that backed up against a window! I fell asleep and woke up to skyline views of the city – magical ✨
The Best Kuala Lumpur Itinerary
Although you could spend years exploring this exciting Malaysian city, below is what I was able to cram into my five days in Kuala Lumpur!
Visit the Thean Hou Temple
A visit to the Thean Hou Temple should be on every KL travelers’ bucket list. This colorful Chinese temple is only a short Grab* ride away from the city center, so it’s an easy addition to your Kuala Lumpur itinerary.
From the top stories, where the photos below were taken, you can enjoy some stunning views of the city and the surrounding hills. Entrance to the temple is free as of 2021, so a visit here is perfect for the budget-conscious traveler!
*Grab is a widely-used ride share app and one of the easiest ways to get around Southeast Asia. InDriver is also a good option if you’re looking to negotiate your price.
Explore the Masjid Jamek
The Masjid Jamek is located in the city center and is ranked as one of the top things to do in Kuala Lumpur, for good reason. Not only is Masjid Jamek one of the city’s primary mosques, but it’s also one of the oldest. It was designed in 1908 by architect A.B. Hubback and officially opened its doors in 1909.
Visitors to the mosque should keep the strict dress code in mind. Non-Muslim women will be given a long robe with a hood to wear (although you can also wear your own head covering). Men should wear long trousers when visiting the mosque. Visitors are only allowed during non-prayer hours (listed below), but entrance to the mosque is free.
Hours of Operation:
10AM – 12:30PM
2:30PM – 4PM
Closed for non-Muslim visitors on Fridays
Tour the Federal Territory Mosque
The Federal Territory Mosque is another spot you don’t want to miss on your Kuala Lumpur itinerary! Unlike the Masjid Jamek, non-Muslim visitors are not permitted to walk around this mosque unaccompanied. You are required to join a free tour* in order to explore the mosque. Keep in mind that this tour is not short, it takes around two hours total. The information provided was very interesting, however most of us on the tour agreed that it would have been nice to know about the time commitment in advance. Many of us had prior engagements that we had to miss.
The Federal Territory Mosque is one of the largest mosques in Malaysia – covering a whopping 47,000 square meters. It was opened to the public in 2000 and the architecture was greatly influenced by Istanbul’s Blue Mosque. The mosque was constructed with 22 blue domes decorated with decorative tiles. Keep in mind, the same rules for clothing apply at the Federal Territory Mosque as the Masjid Jamek.
Hours of Operation:
Saturday – Thursday: 10AM – 4PM
Fridays: 10AM – 12PM and 2PM – 4PM
*Like most countries I’ve visited, I had many lovely interactions with the Kuala Lumpur locals. Everyone was extremely kind and enthusiastic about educating visitors on the teachings of Islam. I will note that my only negative experience was with my late-middle aged tour guide at the Federal Territory Mosque. Throughout the tour he made several uncomfortable comments about liking my appearance. Although my reactions were anything but appreciative, he continued to make comments throughout the entire tour. As a solo female traveler, I didn’t feel unsafe, but I did feel uncomfortable.
Stay safe out there ladies. And for my fellow solo female travelers, check out my blog post filled with safety tips to utilize while traveling alone.
Marvel at the National Mosque of Malaysia
Unfortunately, I was unable to personally visit the National Mosque of Malaysia due to time constraints. However, it will be my first stop next time I visit the city and it’s a great addition to any Kuala Lumpur itinerary.
Built between 1963 and 1965, the National Mosque of Malaysia was built to symbolize Malaysia’s independence and multi-cultural harmony. Its construction was meant to give thanks to Allah for the country’s peaceful independence – achieved without any bloodshed. Entrance is free to visitors and non-Muslim women are expected to wear the long robes and head coverings provided upon entry.
Hours of Operation:
6:30AM – 1PM, 2:30PM – 4PM, 5:30PM – 7PM
Shop for Souvenirs at the Central Market
If you’re looking for some cute (and affordable) souvenirs from your time in Kuala Lumpur, the Central Market is a great place to start. Its central location in the city means it’s usually only a short Grab ride away from wherever you are. Take an hour or two to stroll through the many vendors on display, including the food stands located on the upper level.
When I visited in August of 2022, many of the stands were empty. Hopefully more shops would have opened up by the time your Kuala Lumpur trip rolls around!
Have a Shopping Spree in the Petronas Twin Towers
Standing at a whopping 1,483 feet, the iconic Petronas Towers are the world’s tallest twin towers. These towering skyscrapers are also a HUGE shopping mall! This mall was one of my first stops in Kuala Lumpur, since I couldn’t find OUAI Detox Shampoo at the Sephora in Denpasar 😂
Although this mall is massive, it’s definitely not budget friendly. You’ll find plenty of high-end luxury brands like Dior, Balenciaga and Chanel – as well as mid-level, but still expensive, brands like Nike, Ralph Lauren and Victoria’s Secret.
For an RM 80 fee (about 18 USD), you can visit the connecting bridge between the two towers and experience the views 86 floors above the city on the KLCC Observation Deck. Visiting hours are 10AM – 6PM every day.
Climb the Stairs to The Batu Caves
When travelers picture Kuala Lumpur, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the colorful staircase entrance of the Batu Caves (shown below). Although most tourists I spoke to believed the caves to be a bit overhyped, they absolutely deserve a spot on your Kuala Lumpur itinerary.
If you’re staying in the city center, it’s easy to take a half day trip to the Batu Caves. Although you can easily take the KMUTER train, there are often long wait times between departures. My trip was ill-timed, so I decided to book a car on the InDriver app instead. It only cost me about RM 20 (or 4.50 USD) for a 20 minute drive. Entrance to the caves is free, but visitors are required to cover your legs. Like any other touristy area, be sure to keep a sharp eye on your belongings – it seemed like a pickpocketer’s paradise.
The Batu Caves are one of the most important Hindu shrines in the world. The caves themselves are not large and are easy to explore in 20 minutes or less. In my opinion, the real star of the show is the colorful staircase and the Murugan Statue – the tallest statue of a Hindu deity in Malaysia (third largest in the world). The limestone forming the Batu Caves is believed to be over 400 million years old!
Enjoy Skyline Views from Your Hostel
If you took my advice and booked your stay at Penthouse on 34, don’t forget to take advantage of the amazing views from your rooftop infinity pool! From this vantage point, you’ll have an amazing view of the tallest Kuala Lumpur towers, including the Petronas Towers, the Kuala Lumpur Tower and the Warisan Merdeka Tower. The only downside is that the sun sets on the other side!
If you’re not staying at Penthouse on 34, consider splurging on a night at The Face Suites. This luxury stay includes access to a rooftop infinity pool with similar views of the city!
Have a Stroll Through the Perdana Botanical Gardens
The Perdana Botanical Gardens are a great budget-friendly activity to add to your Kuala Lumpur itinerary! Visitors can enjoy a wide array of nature trails, gardens and animal sanctuaries free-of-charge. There are plenty of beautiful spots to take photos or enjoy a relaxing day with a book and a picnic.
Eat Seafood on Jalan Alor Street
Jalan Alor is KL’s famous street food street! The street comes alive at night, with hundreds of vendors selling seafood, satay, chicken wings, oyster omelettes, stir fried noodles, coconut ice cream and much more. The prices are very reasonable and dining on the crowded streets with a Tiger beer (or two) is an experience you can’t miss in Kuala Lumpur.
For a list of must-try dishes on Jalan Alor Street, head to this blog post on SethLui.com.
Party in the Bukit Bintang Area
Although Malaysia is technically a dry country, there are plenty of drinking options to accommodate for non-Muslim tourists on vacation. Bukit Bintang is the shopping and entertainment district of Kuala Lumpur. Here is where you’ll find a long strip of bars and clubs catering to tourists and non-Muslim residents.
I met plenty of fellow solo travelers at my hostel and we enjoyed a couple nights filled with Tiger towers and darts in the Bukit Bintang area!
Restaurants to Add to Your Kuala Lumpur Itinerary
Kuala Lumpur’s foodie scene was a delightful mix of Malaysian cuisine, Chinese food and other international cuisine. As always, I did plenty of research before heading out to eat in KL. I’m confident that the restaurants below are the best budget eats to add to your Kuala Lumpur itinerary!
Restaurant Kin Kin
Kin Kin was the very first restaurant I tried on my foodie tour of Kuala Lumpur…unless you count a salmon onigiri at the airport. I ordered a hot bowl of the chili pan mee and was thoroughly shook by the deliciousness of it.
Chewy egg noodles come covered in minced pork, fresh scallions, crispy anchovies, chili paste and a perfectly cooked poached egg. Break the egg, mix everything together and enjoy a delicious meal! The pan mee and a bottle of water only cost me RM 11.50, or 2.50 USD.
Old China Cafe in Chinatown
The Old China Cafe, located in Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, is like stepping back in history. The restaurant used to be the guildhall of the Selangor & Federal Territory Laundry Association. Inside, you’ll see two large mirror facing each other. This is a omen of good luck in traditional feng shui.
I asked the server what he recommended on the menu and decided to try the Ju Hu Char and Precious Nasi Lemak (a typical dish in Malaysia). These two dishes, a beer and a water set me back about RM 58 or 13 USD.
Although the food was very tasty and I enjoyed eating in a restaurant with so much history, the service was terrible. It took me forever to get the server’s attention and I was ignored for most of my meal.
Sek Yuen Restaurant
Sek Yuen has been serving up delicious Cantonese dishes in Kuala Lumpur for 60 years and is a welcome addition addition to your Kuala Lumpur itinerary.
The restaurant is located in a charming old building filled with large, circular tables that seat parties of 8-10. I felt a bit guilty taking up a whole table all by my lonesome, but there are no smaller options to choose from! Since the signature dish is the crispy duck, I ordered a half duck and some delicious eggplant stir fried with oyster sauce.
Looking back, I did not need a side dish. I barely ate half of the duck and left the restaurant absolutely stuffed! The duck, eggplant, a coke and a juice cost me RM 68 or 15 USD.
Limapulo – Baba Can Cook
Limapulo is a charming restaurant located in the Chow Kit area of Kuala Lumpur. The owner, “Baba” started the restaurant with his godson and they’re widely known to have some of the best food in the city.
If you visit on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Saturday, you’ll have the chance to try their delicious Nyonya Laksa – which I highly recommend. They also served the most delicious iced coffee I’ve had so far in South East Asia! Nyonya Laksa and two iced coffees only cost me RM 25 or 5.50 USD.
Last on my list of restaurants to add to your Kuala Lumpur itinerary is the Capital Cafe. This spot is a favorite among locals and is often packed around mealtimes. When I visited for lunch, there were no open tables so I shared with a couple local women.
When you enter the Capital Cafe, there are two lines. The line on the left is for rice dishes and the line on the right is for noodle dishes. Otherwise you can do what I did and play the clueless American card to get some much needed help. My plate of mie gorang was delicious and, along with a big piece of fried chicken and a glass of teh tarik, only cost me RM 16.50 or 3.50 USD.
Hopefully my Kuala Lumpur itinerary has provided you with enough travel inspo for your next trip to Malaysia! Although I hadn’t planned on stopping in KL if it wasn’t for my visa run, I really enjoyed exploring the city and learning more about the local culture and the teachings of Islam.
If you enjoyed this Kuala Lumpur travel guide, you may enjoy my related posts linked below. Don’t forget to follow along for the adventure on Instagram @madisonsfootsteps, and make sure to subscribe to the blog to receive my free guide filled with the best jobs for digital nomads!