If you’re a budget traveller, this guide to travelling Kuala Lumpur on a budget may be just what you’re looking for before planning your next adventure.
Will and I saved a lot on airfares to Malaysia, which you can read about in our post How We Travelled To Malaysia For Free, so we decided to use what we saved as our budget for transport, accommodation, food, drinks and attractions in Kuala Lumpur. We exchanged $740AUD, which got us a total of 2100RM (Malaysian Ringgit).
Tip: Make sure to find out what the currency exchange rate for Malaysian Ringgit is before you arrive so that you know whether you’re getting the right amount (we got ripped off by 220RM). Avoid exchanging money in airports or banks as they charge more, going to an actual currency exchange booth is the better option.
I’ll calculate costs at the correct exchange rate at the time: $1AUD = 3RM.
Airport Transfer 15RM ($5AUD)
We caught a bus to Kuala Lumpur City, which only cost 15RM ($5AUD) each for an hour and a half journey. The bus was air-conditioned and very comfortable (which is just what we needed after an overnight flight!)
Tip: Avoid taxis and choose the bus over a train because it is a third of the price, unless you need to get there faster.
Cruise the City for FREE
You don’t need to budget for getting around in Kuala Lumpur because there are 4 free city buses that will literally get you anywhere.
Sleep at a Hotel for $20AUD or Hostel for $5AUD
A friend of ours recommended to stay at Areena Star Luxury Hotel. We decided to take her advice after finding out it was only $40AUD per night for a standard double room. We weren’t expecting much for how cheap it was but were pleasantly surprised when we arrived. The staff were lovely, the Wi-Fi was unbelievably fast, we had our room cleaned every day, there was a pool/spa and a small gym area with basic weights there.
Looking for an affordable place to stay in Kuala Lumpur? Get $70 off your first AirBnB stay using this link.
However, if this is out of your budget, another friend of ours recommends ‘Pod’s Backpacker’ hostel as she had a great experience and lived off the free food there for a whole 3 days. It only costs 15RM ($5AUD) per person per night!
Tip: Ask people for recommendations and read reviews on trip advisor, it’s amazing how much easier it is to then find what’s best for you.
Eat a Full Meal for 5RM ($1.60AUD)
Most good restaurants cost anywhere between 12-20RM ($4-$7AUD) per meal. We went out for dinner every night and our favourite restaurant was ‘Betel Leaf’ which is a fine dining Indian restaurant in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. The food and service was amazing so we went there twice and never paid more than 33RM ($11AUD) for the whole bill.
Tip: Expect a service charge of around 2-3RM (less than $1AUD) at some restaurants.
However, if you’re on a budget, eat where the locals eat. You’ll find street food and local food courts everywhere where you can eat a huge meal for as little 5-9RM ($1.60-$3AUD). You can go here for breakfast, lunch and dinner and not spend more than $6AUD for the whole day and the food is really good.
Eat Fruit for 1RM ($0.30AUD)
I had a banana every morning for 1RM ($0.30AUD), which I believe tasted even better than organic bananas do in Australia. There are also many exotic fruits to try in Malaysia that I’d never seen before.
The Best Dessert for 3RM ($1AUD)
I don’t know why these ‘Putu Bamboo’ rolls from the Central Markets tasted so good but I wish we could bring them home. Only 3RM ($1AUD) for 5 rolls!
Drink Bottled Water for 1RM ($0.30AUD) or Coconut Water for 8RM ($2.60AUD)
Drink Coffee for 3RM ($1AUD)
If you love your coffee as much as I do, Kuala Lumpur may disappoint if you’re on a budget. Starbucks and Gloria Jeans were the only places that understood ‘cappuccino,’ which cost at least 12-15RM ($4-$5AUD) for a standard size. It was hard to digest the fact that I was paying the same amount for coffee as I could for a good meal at a nice restaurant…but it had to be done.
If you’re on a budget, you can try coffee for as cheap as 1RM ($0.30AUD), which tastes horrible so I recommend getting a can of ice coffee for 3RM ($1AUD) from Seven Eleven instead.
Alcohol Starts at 15RM ($5AUD) for a Standard Drink
I’m not much of a drinker but we still went out to see what nightlife was like in Kuala Lumpur. At most bars the cheapest drinks on the menu were spirits with soft drink for 15RM ($5AUD) per glass. The vibe wasn’t that great during the week compared to Kuta (Bali) or Phuket (Thailand).
Drink Juice for 5RM ($1.60AUD)
Since we found it hard to find healthy meals, we made daily visits to ‘Fresh Code,’ an all-organic juice bar near the Central Markets. Juices and smoothies were 12RM ($4AUD), which tasted amazing and made us feel a lot better.
I also tried orange juice from vending machines that were freshly squeezed on the spot for only 5RM ($1.60AUD) per cup.
Visit the The Petronas Towers for FREE
Visit during the day and at night to take some good photos of this unbelievable piece of architecture.
You can also window shop at the huge shopping centre at the bottom of the building.
Tip: If you’re a budget traveller, this shopping centre isn’t for you. It is full of only the best designer brands but is still nice to walk around.
Do a FREE Guided Walking Tour
Register for this tour at The Art Gallery. There are 2 tours to choose from, both go for around 3 hours and are completely free (they don’t even ask for tips at the end). It was so interesting to learn about the history and culture of Kuala Lumpur. Or if it’s within your budget and you’re looking for a more personalised experience, you can book a local guide to take you on a private tour of Kuala Lumpur here.
See The Art Gallery for FREE
What I enjoyed most about The Art Gallery was seeing a huge hand made model of the entire City of Kuala Lumpur. We watched a short video that shared a bit more about the design of the city and the big architectural plans for the future. Since I have an interest in architecture I thought this was amazing. You can also get a nice photo with the ‘I Love Kuala Lumpur’ sign outside of the gallery.
Tip: There is a small fee to enter the Art Gallery but if you do the Free Walking Tour you’ll see it all for free.
Visit China Town for FREE
Here you will find good street food, restaurants, markets and fake designer branded goods for very cheap.
Tip: The people here are professional barterers so if you do want to buy something make sure to walk through the entire markets first to get a feel for prices. Someone offered Will an aftershave for 120RM which we bartered down to 50RM thinking it was an awesome deal until the guy at the next stall’s first offer was 20RM for the exact same thing at the end of the night.
Explore the Central Markets for FREE
I think the markets here are a lot nicer than China Town, the shopping is still very cheap but there is no annoying bartering. It’s also a very nice place to walk around, get street food and get your feet cleaned by fish for 10RM ($3.30AUD).
Tip: Just put your feet in and don’t look. It can be extremely ticklish!
See the MUD Show for 40RM ($13.50AUD)
This musical shares why Kuala Lumpur was created and the journey of how it got to where it is today. If you’re a visual learner and would like to learn about Malaysia’s history without it going into one ear and out the other then see this show. It was very entertaining, the actors got the audience involved a lot (so be prepared) and overall it was a lot of fun.
Tip: If you’re the type of person that needs someone to explain movies and theatre shows to you (like me) then I’d definitely recommend doing the free guided walking tour first because it made it a lot easier to follow!
Go to the Open Deck at the Kuala Lumpur Tower for 75RM ($25AUD)
The view of Kuala Lumpur at night was unreal. We also saw wild monkeys at the bottom, which was so cool considering it was in the middle of a busy city. We received a 50% off voucher at our hotel so it only cost 149RM ($50AUD) for 2 people.
Visit The Batu Caves for 3RM ($1AUD)
If you’re prepared to walk up a very tall set of stairs then this is a must see when in Kuala Lumpur. Here you’ll find Hindu temples and lots of monkeys!
Tip: Hold on to your camera tightly and be careful of the monkeys, they like to snatch things off you.
Travel agencies charge $26AUD to add this trip to your holiday, and tour desks in Kuala Lumpur charge around 60RM ($20AUD) but all you’re really paying for is a transfer to get to the caves because when you get there it is free to enter. We caught a train directly from Kuala Lumpur Central to the Batu Caves, which only cost 3RM ($1AUD) each for a return trip!
Tip: If you’re female, make sure to cover your legs otherwise the Hindu ladies at the bottom of the stairs won’t let you enter. If you wear shorts they’ll offer you a sarong for 5RM ($1.60AUD).
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