If you are traveling in Southeast Asia, it’s likely you’ll pass through Kuala Lumpur as it is a major travel hub. Whether you’re spending some quality time in the city or in town for a layover, we’ve compiled a list of fun FREE (our favorite price) things to do in Malaysia’s capital city.
1. Batu Caves – Monkeys, statues, stairs, oh my!
We were surprised to find the entrance to the Batu Caves immediately off the highway in Kuala Lumpur. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the massive gold statue of Lord Murugan.
Grab a bucket of sand or a brick as you climb the 272 steep steps, crawling with feisty monkeys that lead into the limestone caves that house Hindu temples (that you are helping to reconstruct by carrying up supplies).
Tip: If you truly want to keep this as a free activity, ladies need to make sure to cover their legs above the knees (shoulders are not required to be covered). Wear pants or a longer dress/skirt or bring your own sarong to avoid paying the 5 MYR ($1.27 USD) fee to rent a sarong. You will get 2 MYR back when you return the sarong so the rental will only put you out a total of 3 MRY ($0.76 USD). It’s still very cheap, but as a backpacker, I understand every bit counts!
Tip: Beware of the monkeys! Yes, they are cute (especially the babies!!) but they can be vicious. Do not bring food up the stairs or into the temples or the monkeys will do their best to snatch it from you. They have also been known to steal sunglasses and other personal items. Keep a close hold on your water bottle (which we recommend bringing).
Tip: Wear comfortable shoes! Closed-toe shoes are ideal, especially if you are taking the additional dark caves tour (see below).
For a little cash: We highly recommend taking the Dark Cave educational tour, which costs 35 MYR (less than $9 USD) a person. Wildlife is abundant in the cave ecosystem and you get to briefly experience total darkness (don’t worry though, each person is given a flashlight).
2. KL Forest Eco Park – Hang out in this urban jungle!
Okay, so it’s not actually a jungle. It’s a rainforest! In fact, “Kuala Lumpur is the only city in the world that has a natural rainforest situated right at its centre,” (according to Kuala Lumpur’s official tourism site).
Escape the city and hang out on the multiple suspension bridges among the trees while skyscrapers are just out of reach in the distance. The Kuala Lumpur Tower towers over the park, offering a great view from the suspension bridges.
Tip: Wear bug spray! We read reviews that there can be many mosquitoes and other bugs in the forest park (as to be expected in a rainforest). Luckily we didn’t personally experience the bugs as we visited in the rain (a silver lining from our the rainy day visit).
3. Petronas Twin Towers – World’s tallest twin towers!
At their completion in 1998, the Petronas Twin Towers were the tallest buildings in the world and held the title until 2004. Standing at 88 stories, they still claim the title of the world’s tallest twin towers!
Because of their massive height, you can see them from all over the city, but they are impressive to see up close. At the base of the towers, there is a mall and also a park with viewpoints and a large fountain that boasts a light and water show at night. On the opposite side of the towers, there are more fountains and stairs filled with tourists snapping photos (where our photo above was taken).
Tip: Visit at night! We personally found the Petronas Towers to be the most impressive at night while lit up.
Tip: You can get a great unobstructed view(as of November 2017) of the Petronas Twin Towers from SkyBar, located on the 33rd floor of Traders Hotel. We went up to check out the view and after looking at the menu decided we didn’t want to pay that much for drinks, so we took some photos and then left to find cheaper drinks at a convenience store on ground level. Voila – free viewpoint!
Splurge: You can visit the skywalk on the 42nd floor that connects the Petronas Twin Towers (this is also the highest two-story bridge in the world) as well as the observatory on the 86th floor. This will set you back 85 MRY ($21.59 USD) a person. We did not do this as it was over our budget and we didn’t feel it was necessary, although it gets good reviews. It is advised to purchase tickets online to avoid long lines.
4. Jalan Alor – Bring your appetite!
Jalan Alor is major food street in Kuala Lumpur lined with hawker stands (food stalls). It is free to walk around and take in the sights and smells – both good and bad. Unfortunately, the food isn’t free, but it’s pretty cheap and you can barter! There is local cuisine as well as nearly every type of Asian food you can imagine. Food ranges from basic chicken to more “exotic” stingray and frog. We tried grilled stingray and enjoyed it.
We tried durian for the first (and last) time at Jalan Alor. Durian is a fruit native to southeast Asia that is so potent it banned on public transportation and in hotels in many cities. We were surprised to be handed gloves to eat it but soon found out why they were necessary (the consistency is mushy and sticky like mashed potatoes mixed with taffy). Our durian experience is worthy of its own blog post.
*Bonus – Find FREE accommodation!
Couchsurfing: As is true with most large capital cities, there are tons of couchsurfing hosts in Kuala Lumpur. Couchsurfing is a great way to make new friends, experience places like a local, and also save money with a free couch (sometimes even a private room) to sleep in. Never couchsurfed before? Check out our beginner’s guide to couchsurfing!
Want a little more luxury for a lot less?
Click here to check out our post on how to stay at hotels with the best rooftop pools in Kuala Lumpur for a fraction of the cost.
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