Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s capital city that combines the heady mix of famous landmarks, iconic skyscrapers, tourist attractions, locals’ favourites and historical sights. The largest city of this fascinating country – home to around 2 million people – is known for its fascinating and colourful culture as well as being rich in its natural reserves.
In the heart of Kuala Lumpur is the Alice Smith School, one of the most popular international schools in Malaysia, offering a wonderfully diverse, well-rounded education for its students. But before you hit the airport and fly out to the city, here are our top fun facts about Kuala Lumpur.
Where is Kuala Lumpur?
The city of Kuala Lumpur is in the country of Malaysia. It is the largest city and the capital of the country. It is in the west of Peninsular Malaysia, not far from Sumatra and the Straits of Malacca, and is growing exponentially in economic development and population.
Also referred to as KL, the city’s name means ‘Muddy Confluence’ and references its location, close to where the Klang and Gombak rivers intersect. If you head over to Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur’s Old City Centre district, you can still see the confluence.
The national language is Malay, which is spoken by most people in the city, but English is a commonly spoken language in the country, particularly within the government and education. Other languages spoken are Chinese (or Mandarin) and Tamil. Its currency is the Malaysian Ringgit, banknotes and cent coins in various denominations.
What’s the time difference between Kuala Lumpur and the UK?
Kuala Lumpur is seven hours ahead of the UK in the summertime and eight hours in winter. This is because Malaysia's time does not change between the seasons as in the UK. So, 9 am in London is 4 pm in KL. Usually, flights direct to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport are approximately 13 1⁄2 hours long.
Transportation in Kuala Lumpur
Getting around the city is relatively easy, and most people choose to travel by train. There are three train lines – the MRT, the LRT and a monorail – with a dedicated, high-speed, non-stop service to and from the airport, called the KLIA Ekspres. There are also buses and taxis available, or you can hire a car.
What to See in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is known for abundant landmarks, such as the Petronas Twin Towers, the Petaling Street flea market and its 400 million-year-old Batu Caves. Here are our top recommendations on what to see in Kuala Lumpur.
Petronas Twin Towers
Top of the list has to be the Petronas Twin Towers, reputed to be the tallest twin buildings in the world at 452 m high. There are 88 storeys to each tower, which are connected by a double-decker sky bridge between the 41st and 42nd floors, which you can walk across – don’t look down!
As well as being the headquarters for Petronas, Barclays, IBM, Accenture and Reuters, among others, there is also a fascinating Science Museum and Petroleum Museum, and the Petronas Concert Hall which hosts orchestras and musical royalty. But the star of the show, if you’re not afraid of heights, is the awe-inspiring Observation Deck on the 86th floor.
Possibly the biggest attraction in KL, the Batu Caves are simply stunning. The limestone caves incorporate three large temples, and a few smaller ones, with many caves dating back 400 million years or more.
There are three main caves to see – the Cathedral Cave, the Museum Cave and the Art Gallery Cave. Stand and marvel at the Hindu shrines and mythological depictions, the paintings and statues, and have a go at climbing the 272 steps to the main cave.
Forest Eco Park – Canopy Walkway
This stunning feat of nature is one of the oldest forest reserves in the country and features an amazing canopy walk that is 200 m high. Visitors walking along the canopy are treated to a once-in-a-lifetime aerial view of the treetops of Forest Eco Park and also the city of Kuala Lumpur from a distance.
Istana Budaya – Cultural Palace
Called the Palace of Culture, Istana Budaya is Malaysia’s National Theatre. It is the best venue in the country for any type of theatrical performance, from music and operetta to classical and opera. Sitting right in the heart of the city adjacent to the National Art Gallery, its turquoise-blue roof catches the sun, as well as the eye, and on Saturdays, the theatre hosts free live music and dance outside its front gate.
A great family day out is the Sunway Lagoon, Malaysia’s superb multi-park attraction. It is packed full of different activities – over 90 across six parks – ideal for adventurers and adrenaline junkies, theme park rides and more relaxing options. They also host a variety of performances and events throughout the year.
Is Kuala Lumpur safe to live in?
Generally, as with most large cities in South East Asia, Kuala Lumpur is safe to live in for individuals and families. KL has a busy and friendly expat community throughout the city. There are excellent educational opportunities, along with a decent infrastructure in and around the city and an improving healthcare system.
Favoured districts for expats include the trendy suburb of Bangsar, Mont Kiara on the outskirts of the city and ideal for families enrolling children into international schools, like Alice Smith School in Kuala Lumpur. Damansara is for the more budget-conscious but has many good schools and plenty of things to do. Desa ParkCity is rising in popularity due to its community feel, parks and sports centres.
Where to stay in Kuala Lumpur
Some areas of Kuala Lumpur are more suited to families than others, and some districts are more oriented towards activities and sports. So, let’s look at where to stay in Kuala Lumpur.
Bukit Bintang is central to the city and has an abundance of hotels, restaurants and amazing shopping, like Pavillion. You could lose yourself in them, whether it’s shopping, the cinema or tasting local Malaysian food. The fabulous Jalan Alor, the Hawker Street food market, is located here, as is the city’s best food court.
Within walking distance is the area around KL Sentral Station; ideal if you want to use the city’s transport. There are also some of the most popular attractions here, including the Butterfly Park, the National Mosque and the Botanical Garden.
Chinatown and Merdeka Square sit in the Old Centre of the city and, following investment in these areas, the areas are becoming the hippest in KL. Ideal for those on a budget, there are plenty of hotels and hostels, restaurants and markets to enjoy.
Moving away from the tourist areas and again, with budgets in mind, check out Chow Kit, Kampung Baru and Masjid India. There’s also the benefit that one of the city’s leading restaurants, Jalan Kamunting, is located in Kampung Baru.
For those wanting peace and quiet, head to Bangsar South, a bit further out from the city centre. You’re more likely to find bigger open spaces and apartment hotels in this area.
Kuala Lumpur is a fascinating city with a rich history and culture. It is also a modern metropolis with a lot to offer visitors. From its towering skyscrapers to its bustling markets, there is something for everyone in Kuala Lumpur.
The Alice Smith International School was founded by Alice Fairfield-Smith and is the first British international school in Malaysia. With their Primary Campus in Kuala Lumpur and a Secondary Campus in nearby Selangor, students are encouraged to explore and discover abundant opportunities within an innovative, supportive and connected community.