Kuala Lumpur is one of the top tourist destinations in the ASEAN region because it acts as a regional hub for many budget airlines providing cheap and affordable airline travel to the most popular destinations in the region.
Kuala Lumpur should be on your list for the year 2023 as the travel industry has opened up and it’s a great time of the year to grab discount travel deals on tours and hotel bookings.
If you are a first-time traveler to Kuala Lumpur and want to plan budget travel to Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding areas, this guide is for you.
Let’s get started with planning your arrival to the city. The public transport in KL is world-class and very efficient connecting all major tourist hubs and places of interest with the amazing infrastructure of road and light rail.
How to travel to Kuala Lumpur City for the KLIA airport?
KLIA and KLIA2 (Airasia and budget terminal) are both connected by a shuttle service. The cheapest way to travel to the city is to catch a bus from the bus terminal across from the KLIA terminal at the ground floor level. The ticket costs around RM 10 and it takes one hour to reach KL Sentral transport hub where you can find a train or light rail to various locations in the city.
If you plan to travel intercity, BTS (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan at Bandar Tasik Selatan) is the main terminal connecting all major cities of mainland Kuala Lumpur, Thailand, and Singapore. Some bus services also operate from KLIA airport to Melaka, Putrajaya, etc.
The second option is to catch the KL-Express train cost RM 56 to KL Sentral in under 28 minutes. This is the quickest way to travel between the airport and Kuala Lumpur city.
A budget taxi ride with a fixed fare (the counter is on the ground floor at KLIA2) will cost around RM 90 to the city center. A premier blue taxi will cost around RM 130 for the same trip.
What are budget travel essentails?
The first thing on arrival is to get a SIM card for your phone. DIGI is a great service provider with a package under RM30 with 10G plus data which is good enough for a short stay. The data recharge cards can be bought at any 7-ELEVEN store in the city.
Next, the most important thing is the money exchange. I suggest getting RM 200-300 converted for basis use at the airport, as the rates are a bit higher. There are plenty of money-changers in Bukit Bintang and Masjid India area offering good rates for foreign currency.
TIP: Try to budget for 1-5 days and get your money exchanged at one place in the city before heading out on your excursions. Using ATMs to withdraw cash or using a CREDIT CARD can incur extra costs and transaction fees.
An ATM withdrawal using an international debit card will cost you a lot more due to the lower exchange rate, ATM transaction fee as well your bank transaction fee.
I use a Citibank card because there is no transaction fee for CITIBANK ATM for any withdrawal across the world. However, the number of ATMs is limited.
Even though travel insurance is not a requirement. I suggest buying quality travel insurance to cover any mishaps on your trip. This can include road accidents, hospital admission and flight cancellation, etc.
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Where to find budget hotels in Kuala Lumpur city?
If you plan to save $$ on travel and accommodation, the city center area is ideal for a budget stays in Kuala Lumpur City. Here are some quick benefits of staying in the City Central Area:
- Easy access to cafes, bars, and restaurant
- All tourist services including moneychangers, laundry, and food marts are easily accessible
- Restaurants are open round the clock
- Light rail train stations are easily accessible
- Walking distance from most historical places of interest
I recommend staying in Masjid India or the Central Market area (both places are close to each other). Masjid Jamek India light rail terminal LRT is the nearest station to Petaling Street, Central Market, and Merdeka Square.
I stayed in the Masjid India area in 2022 in two different hotels and highly recommend both of these establishments:
- Travelodge City Center: A budget hotel with room rates under RM110 (walk-in rates) with easy access to China Town and Central Market. This is a safe and well-maintained property. Best rates can be obtained by booking online in advance with Agoda.com.
- The Avenue Hotel Central Market: This amazing re-furbished hotel provides clean and well-managed rooms. The ideal location makes it a great place to stay as the hotel is located just behind the central market. A number of cafes and restaurants are located within the walking distance. Merdeka Square is within 5 minute’s walk from this hotel. The rooms are small but provide all basic amenities.
How to get around KL city without spending a lot
LRT is a very cheap option that connects most major places of interest in the city including Masjid India, Bukit Bintang, Chowkit, Jalan Imbi, KLCC area.
The central area to explore is called Golden Circle which includes KLCC and Bukit Bintang Area. These places of major tourist attractions include Petronas Tower, KLCC Park, and all major shopping malls in the city. LRT in my experience and using GRAB ridesharing service is the best way to move around. A number of bus services operate in the city, however, LRT is most efficient in touristy areas in the city.
If you have limited time to travel, a great way to explore most places of interest is by Hop On and Hop Off Bus. Click here to buy discounted tickets online.
GRAB ridesharing service is quite affordable in the city and a very efficient mode of transport. The taxi operators can overcharge at times unless you fix the rate before hopping into the car.
If you plan to travel Genting Highlands, Go Genting is a great way to save money on travel to Genting Highlands for a day trip. The ticket includes return transport by bus, Awana cable car ticket, and lunch at Genting Highlands.
What some of the free places to explore in Kuala Lumpur
Plenty of places in KL can be explored on foot and do not cost anything. Let’s start with exploring Jalan Petaling (Chinatown), Kasturi Walk, The Central Market, and Merdeka Square.
Walk along the heritage trail by following the street markets and you can see plenty of art galleries, museums, mosques, and places of interest. The entry fee to museums ranges from RM 10-15.
In Bukit Bintang, Jalan Alor, Changkat Bukit Bintang, and shopping malls including Pavilion, Farenhiet88, and Berjaya Times Square can be explored on foot and do not cost anything.
Please note that the entry fee for International visitors is more than for Malaysian Citizens in most tourist locations across Malaysia. You can save by booking online.
Here is the fee for the most popular attractions:
- PETRONAS Tower observation deck: RM 80
- Menara KL: RM 49 TO Observation Deck, RM 15 for Mini Zoo
- Zoo Negara: RM 50 for adult
- KL Bird Park: RM 75 for adult
- Sunway Theme Park: RM 208 for adults (if bought online). Check Tickets Online
Where to find cheap food in kuala lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is a cultural hotspot with a good ethnic mix. The city center area has plenty of tourist activity as well as government offices. Therefore, finding cheap and quality food in the city is not difficult. The Nasi Kandar restaurants cater to more Indian/Pakistani tastes and offer a mix of curries, deep-fried chicken, vegetables, and popular noodle dishes under RM10. The food is normally served with cold drinks or Teh Tarik.
Asian cafes are spread across the city offering a wide range of popular soups and stir-fries. A meal at a nice restaurant will cost under RM 20.
Bukit Bintang has plenty of quality mid-range middle eastern restaurants catering to travelers from the Middle Eastern, Iran, and the Indian Sub-continent.
Food courts in shopping malls are the best places to eat cheap food as the choices are endless and the food is reasonably priced. Most food outlets offer halal food.
what are the best places for budget shopping in kuala lumpur?
Bukit Bintang is the tourist capital of Kuala Lumpur City with a number of quality shopping Malls. The best malls for mid-range and budget shopping include Sungei Wang and Berjaya Times Square Shopping Mall.
Both of these malls have hundreds of local and foreign fashion brands, toy shops, and local arts and crafts stores. Berjaya Times Square is a great place to shop for women’s fashion, travel equipment, accessories, and kids’ clothing.
Planning to shop for souvenirs? Stop by the Central Market in Kuala Lumpur offering a wide range of cultural artifacts, batiks, souvenirs, and gifts from all parts of Malaysia.
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