Kuala Lumpur (or KL, as it’s colloquially known) is Malaysia’s dynamic capital. This fast-paced, multicultural city is a lively melting pot that Chinese, Malays, Singaporeans, Indians and a mix of foreigners all call home.
Languages spoken in Kuala Lumpur
It’s easy to lose track of all the languages spoken in Kuala Lumpur. The official language of the country is Malay, the lingua franca of the many races that reside here. You’ll also hear Cantonese and Mandarin, Hindi and Tamil, even a smattering of European languages in the expat areas.
However, you can easily get around KL on just English. After all, Malaysia was once a British colonial outpost — though there’s been a concerted effort since that time to rename old English road names and buildings, many residents speak English.
The major tourist hot spots will be well labeled in English and, apart from a few street side stalls and suburban coffee shops, all the restaurants will have English menus.
The best time to visit Kuala Lumpur
It can be easy to peg Malaysia as a tropical paradise given its proximity to the equator, but even though sunshine and 80-degree temperatures are pretty much guaranteed all year long, there are definitely better times to visit than others.
Kuala Lumpur is particularly affected by the southwest monsoon from May to September, during which time you can expect blazing sunshine in the morning and some impressive thunderstorms in the evening.
If you can, avoid the months of June and July, as smoke blown over from Sumatra often affects the air quality in Malaysia.
Late January and early February are known to be particularly hot months in Kuala Lumpur; coincidentally this heat takes place at the same time as the Lunar New Year.
What to pack for a trip to Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is not so different from any other Southeast Asian city — you’ll need plenty of sunblock, mosquito repellent and an umbrella to ward against unpredictable thunderstorms.
But KL is also a city of contrasts, so on top of your beach gear remember to pack something special to wear for a cocktail at a rooftop bar or to the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (home to the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra).
Malaysia is also a more conservative country than you might imagine, so women should carry a cover-up with them, as some venues can be fussy about the amount of skin on display.
Unlike some of its neighbors, Malaysia is not a country where you can get by on U.S. dollars, so remember to get the local currency (the ringgit) for your day-to-day expenses.
Should visitors rent a car in Kuala Lumpur?
Renting a car is not necessary in KL — it’s not even advisable, as the city’s traffic is notorious and the road systems are always changing.
The public transport system is not extensive, but it’s adequate for the main tourist sightseeing spots, and for everything else, just take a taxi. You can get a cab to even the outskirts of the city, or book one for a day to take you around all the major sights.
Hotel taxis are generally the most reliable, although expensive; KL has a bit of a problem with taxi drivers ripping off unsuspecting travelers. Insist on using the meter rather than accepting the fixed price they’ll try to offer you.