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What is the best way to see Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital city? You can take a half-day city tour with a company, such as Asian Overland. You can also do walking tours of parts of KL (as locals call it) with lots of tourist attractions close together, such as Chinatown and Little India.

LRT train enters Bukit Jalil station.
LRT train enters Bukit Jalil station.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

KL public transit system

Another option is the Kuala Lumpur bus and rail public transport system, which includes KL monorail, LRT lines, KLIA Transit, KTM Komuter and KLIA Ekspres. We rode the monorail and one of the LRT (light rail transit) lines from one end to the other to orient ourselves to the system and the city.

Each LRT line is color-coded. Colors appear on the trains, signs and free maps which passengers can pick up at LRT stations, tourist offices and some hotels.

As we watched through large, clean windows, vignettes of city life scrolled by—homes, office buildings, shopping malls, schools, gas stations, gardens and outdoor cafés. Fellow passengers ranged from school children, wearing uniforms and backpacks, to business people on their way to and from work.

Kuala Lumpur's transit system is good for going to tourist sights in the outskirts, such as the Batu Caves, and city center attractions near the monorail and Kelana Jaya/Terminal Putra LRT line. Elsewhere, it can be confusing because you need separate tickets for each system and transfer points are not always easy to find.

KL Hop-on Hop-off City Tours

The easiest way to see Kuala Lumpur's attractions is on the KL Hop-on Hop-off double-decker buses. You can buy 24 or 48-hour passes and get on and off at 22 stops, as often as you want, to visit nearly four dozen KL sights and shopping malls. The pre-recorded commentary is in English, as well as eight other languages.

Petronas Towers
Petronas Towers
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Kuala Lumpur combines the exotic appeal of the Far East with the modern amenities of the West. Modern, Tudor and Arabian Nights-style Moorish architecture, colorful incense-filled Chinese temples and the world's highest twin skyscrapers make KL a fascinating city.

Anyone who has seen the movie Entrapment, starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones, will recall the towering Petronas Towers, joined mid-height by a sky-bridge at levels 41 and 42. In another scene, Connery met Zeta-Jones at Bukit Jalil station on the Sri Petaling LRT line.

Kuala Lumpur hotels

We boarded the Hop-on bus at the Malaysian Tourism Centre (MaTiC), but you can board at any of the stops. (For a list of the stops and more than 100 KL hotels along the route see the Hop-on Hop-off bus website.)

At MaTiC, we picked up brochures and maps. Friendly staff helped us book flights and bus transportation, hotels and tours. We also watched demonstrations of traditional games and costumed dancers perform in a cultural show.

City tour

It was fun exploring KL. From Merdeka Square, we admired the Moorish-style arches and domes of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and its 135-foot (41-meter)-high clock tower. We visited Masjid Jamek, a beautiful Moorish-style mosque, studded with minarets and domes.

Hindu Sri Mahamariaman Temple in Chinatown
Hindu Sri Mahamariaman Temple in Chinatown
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

At Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, we walked under a tower embellished with Hindu gods and watched worshippers offering coconuts, fruit and flowers to the deities. In the ornate Thean Hou Temple, we saw a Chinese bride and groom pose for pictures with their wedding party after placing burning incense sticks before a statue of Buddha.

Another day, our Hop-on Hop-off bus pass brought us to Perdana Botanical Gardens (also called Lake Gardens), to view its Orchid Garden as well as the Bird, Deer and Butterfly Parks. Later, we visited the ultramodern National Art Gallery and the onion-domed Textile Museum.

KL nightlife

There is no shortage of things to see and do in the evenings. One night after dinner, we attended a performance at Istana Budaya, KL's beautiful national theater, which offers operas, Broadway-style shows and local music.

Although KL has Planet Hollywood, Starbucks and other international restaurants and coffee shops, we preferred the local nightlife. The air is so balmy that restaurants open their doors and windows and set up street-side tables.

Istana Budaya, Malaysia's national theater
Istana Budaya, Malaysia's national theater
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Bangsar is a lively district filled with restaurants and coffee shops. We had a wonderful candlelit dinner at Manja, a Mediterranean-style restaurant. Another evening, we enjoyed a Northern India meal with background sitar music at the Taj in the Crown Princess Hotel. (Their pistachio ice cream is superb.)

For great views, we went to the 1,378-foot (420-meter)-high Menara Kuala Lumpur (KL Tower). From the observation deck, we watched the sun set and the city lights twinkle on like diamonds after dark.

Afterward, we visited Thean Hou Temple, where lights illuminated dragons and mythical creatures on the brightly tiled pagoda roof. Inside, people placed fragrant smoking incense sticks in brass burners before a statue of Buddha.

People walk under batik hangings in Central Market.
People walk under batik hangings in Central Market.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll
Pagoda roofs of Chinese Thean Hou Temple at night
Pagoda roofs of Chinese Thean Hou Temple at night
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

For pure fun, we visited Chinatown's Petaling Street night market, famous for designer knockoffs, watches, electronic goods, Chinese figurines and calligraphy.

Shopping in Kuala Lumpur

The Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour stops at several KL shopping malls, including Lot 10 Shopping Center, Sungei Wang Plaza and Bukit Bintang Plaza.

At Karyaneka and the Central Market, we shopped for Malaysian handicrafts, such as hand-painted batik, pewter, silver and rattan baskets, as well as gifts made from songket (brocade fabric handwoven with gold thread).

Shopping malls, including Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, Sunway Pyramid and Suria KLCC (at the base of Petronas Towers) rival North American shopping centers for comfort, convenience and selection. Malls also have large food courts where you can buy inexpensive meals.

Hop-on Hop-off Bus tickets

What are the KL Hop-on Hop-Off Bus hours? Tours run every day, year-round, from 8:30 in the morning to 8:30 in the evening. Buses arrive and depart at each stop every half hour.

We bought our Hop-on Hop-off Bus tickets at our hotel in KL, but you can also buy them on their website, on the bus and from travel agents. Kids, students and disabled riders can buy tickets for discounted prices.


KL Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour

Tourism Malaysia

Malaysia Airlines

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