Kuala Lumpur is one of the more expensive cities when compared with those found in nearby Indonesia and Thailand. It’s a capital city with a very modern feel that still manages to retain its authentic roots, though, slowly but surely the luxurious shopping malls that wouldn’t be out of place in Abu Dhabi or Dubai are dominating the local stalls.
Kuala Lumpur is not all that expensive when compared to its western counterparts such as London or New York, as you can easily get a 45 minute taxi for under $20 and a wonderful falafel in a pita bed for less than $1… but, if you’re used to the prices of smaller cities within Indonesia, for example, you might find yourself wincing at the price of some travel based purchases, particularly when it comes to accommodation.
That said, there’s a certain pulse and almost professionalism to the city where it feels like people are moving on up and going places – you can’t help but get sucked into the sunset rooftop bars where cocktails are around the same price as what you would expect to find at a sunset bar in Paris, or even Iceland, yet there’s a lot of free stuff to do in Kuala Lumpur that’s definitely worth looking into.
Also, whilst hotels can be pricey, you can find a cozy studio apartment for rent in KL for just a few hundred dollars, if you’re planning to stick around for a few months, and as KL is such a great base for exploring other parts of SE Asia, it makes sense – after all, you can get internal flights from KL to Penang, or even into Thailand or Vietnam for less than $10 if you book in advance.
- Take a Walk In The Park
The KLCC park is a 50 acre park in the centre of Kuala Lumpur. With its ample seating area, much greenery and open water, it is a nice place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur. It’s a place where you can sit and rest next to various water features as well as keep fit with its 1.3km jogging track. It has to be one of the top free things to do in Kuala Lumpur and the energy in the park is always welcoming, tolerant and friendly.
To get to the park you can take the undercover and air conditioned walkway from Bintang or jump on the metro to KLCC station; this is particularly helpful given that Kuala Lumpur is prone to wet season weather and, yet, at the same time, it can be like an oven in the city so the combination of air conditioning and being undercover makes a lot of sense.
- Admire the Petronas Towers
The Petronas Towers was the tallest buildings in the world until it was overtaken by Tapei 101. Going into the tower itself can be pretty costly, at around 80 MYR (which is around 20 US Dollars) but admiring the impressive magnitude of the building from the outside (where you’ll be met with tons of other tourists taking selfies) is a free experience that is also a great place to sit down with a nice cold bubble tea and people watch.
The towers are, of course, impressive by day, but they are even better at night when they are illuminated. In terms of getting to the Petronas Towers, they are located right next to KLCC Park, which again, is stunning at night due to the free water show on offer.In fact, the free water show that get displayed most nights are one of the best water shows in the world.
Then, if you’re looking for a more romantic and perhaps more upmarket way to admire the towers (without the kids) then going to the Heli Bar which is a bar on a helicopter pad with wonderful views of KL and buying a cocktail to enjoy the Kuala Lumpur skyline, particularly at sunset, is a great way to spend an evening. Admittedly this isn’t a free option, but for the price of a drink it’s well worth it.
- Watch The KLCC Lake Symphony Show
In front of the Petronas Towers, and the shopping mall of Suria KLCC, each evening at 7pm you’re in for a treat as the fountains turn to life with colour as they dance to music. This is a very well choreographed show that is known as one of the most stunning yet low key water shows in SE Asia. It has a wonderfully calm and welcoming family friendly atmosphere, with people of all cultures, gathering around on the steps of the lake to see the spectacular show.
- Perdana Botanical Gardens
The Perdana Botanical Gardens is a beautiful park of 200 acres that surrounds a lake. This meticulously landscaped area is great for cyclers, joggers, or just for those that wish to wander around and absorb the atmosphere.
It has a number of WiFi hotspots within the park and plenty of private areas to sit with your family to enjoy a picnic. Indeed, one of the best ways to escape the midday heat is to find a shady spot with a picnic blanket, load up Netflix on your mobile device and watch a film together as a family.
There are are a number of sheltered areas that make for a great ‘den’ environment when the rain starts to pour down – and it can be a great adventure to make a dash for one of these shelters where you can then watch the lightning show and hear the thunderous rumbles as the rain pelts down on the ground. In terms of getting there, it’s just a 10 minute walk from Chinatown.
- Free Walking Tour
The free walking tours in Kuala Lumpur are put on by the city council. If you’re interested in experiencing a free city tour, log on to visitkl.gov.my to book your place. The walk covers the main areas of Kuala Lumpur and provides plenty of information about the history of the city, the culture, and the food. It’s also a great way to meet people from all different cultures.
- Batu Caves
A short train ride out of Kuala Lumpur and you’ll find the iconic Batu Caves; these caves are formed from limestone and is home to a large pack of cheeky monkey’s that will galdy steal your food if you’re not careful, though more notably, it’s home to the most famous Hindu shrine outside of India – making it somewhat of a pilgrimage site.
Within the caves you’ll find yourself surrounded by bats whereas, walking up the steps, you’ll be greeted by the aforementioned monkey’s – and down below, on ground level, you’ll find hundreds if not thousands of pigeons that rival the setting outside of the Notre Dame in Paris.
Other than the cheap train fare from KL, you’ll benefit from a free half-day excursion, and unlike most tourist sites – here you can get very cheap food of decent quality, whether that’s traditional Indian food or a freshly cut young coconut, for less than a dollar.
On the other hand, if you want to take a tour of the inside of the cave, this is a little pricey.
- Canopy Walkway
In the treetops of the KL Forest Eco Park, you’ll find a set of rope bridges that will take you along the tree line. It’s a fun free thing to do that provides an amazing visual contrast of the nine hectares of natural forest you’re in, with the commercial skyline of KL with its skyscrapers and concrete jungle of highways way out in the distance.