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A Gap Year Guide to Kuala Lumpur

Make the Most of Malaysia’s Capital

A stop off in Malaysia can be like arriving in another world, so here are a few tips on getting the most out of the capital city Kuala Lumpur, including negotiating curried fish heads, finding the best pork the metropolis has to offer, and getting a foot massage fit for royalty.

Upon arrival

Arriving in a new city can be daunting at the best of times, and just getting into the city can prove a trial. There are a lot of taxi touts prowling around the arrivals area, so it’s best to go to the special airport limo desk where you can pay up front and sort the money out before you even step into a car. Expect to pay around RM100.
Alternatively you can catch the airport shuttle to KL city centre, which leaves roughly every ten minutes and is cheaper than a taxi. It takes around half an hour to make it into the city so that your adventure can begin.

Spicy and stinky foods

Malaysian food can be an acquired taste. Much of it is really spicy, and the local delicacy of curried fish heads might not be to everyone’s liking. Another local favourite is the durian fruit, widely considered delicious but which smells like rotten garbage. Street hawkers sell them and you’ll catch the scent a mile off. They’re so pungent that most hotels have banned them. If you’re feeling adventurous, seek out sugared cuttlefish, a particularly interesting delicacy.
If you’d rather play it safe there’s plenty of Western fare available, including the likes of TGI Friday, Planet Hollywood, and the Hard Rock Cafe, along with Irish pubs and Italian, German, and Japanese restaurants. If you’re really desperate McDonalds and KFC have their usual presence.
The prominence of Islam in Malaysia means pork can be hard to come by. A Halal symbol outside a shop means you definitely won’t find any there. If you’re craving a good sausage give Finnegan’s Irish pub a go.

Delicious beverages

It’s easier to get alcohol in Kuala Lumpur, though it’ll cost you, with quite a few pubs and clubs raising their prices as the night wears on. Tiger Beer is the local brew and proves to be a tasty drop. It’s also easy to get hold of soft drinks, and coffee shops specialise in iced blended drinks that come in a wide range of flavours. My favourite is black forest flavour – add a shot of coffee if you need a pick me up.

Affordable luxury accommodation

You can stay in four star luxury hotels in Kuala Lumpur for around £25-30 per night, which is really rather good value for money. For that you’ll get modern decor and a TV in your room, and most have a pool, gym, and restaurant and/or bar. Some of the better hotels even come complete with an exclusive designer shopping mall. If you’re looking to save money you can find budget hotels for as little as £8 per night.

Sights and shopping

It might be the obvious choice, but you can’t visit Kuala Lumpur without seeing the Petronas Towers. These twin skyscrapers are amongst the tallest in the world, with a bridge joining them together three-quarters of the way up that’s open to visitors. It’s a truly spectacular way to see the city, particularly after dark. Keep in mind that it isn’t open on Mondays. There are also great views from the KL Tower, though it’s often marred by smog.
Kuala Lumpur is heaven for serious shoppers. Plazas are laden with designer stores, and there are also local shops, night markets, and plenty of places to rest your feet with a coffee or three.
After a long day of shopping there’s no better way to relax and unwind than by booking yourself in for a foot massage. You’ll find parlours on all the central streets, and you can usually get a thirty minute session for around £5. Bliss!

Stay safe

Staying safe in Kuala Lumpur is really a matter of common sense and courtesy. Keep in mind that police officers carry impressively large guns at all times.
Drug laws are incredibly strict, and being caught in possession could see you facing the death penalty, so it’s wise to steer completely clear for the duration of your visit.
Many locals will offer lifts to foreigners in order to make a little extra cash. Remember what your parents taught you about accepting lifts from strangers and only ever travel in marked taxis.
Like any big city Kuala Lumpur has its fair share of pickpockets, so never carry all your cash at once and make sure it’s well hidden on your person. Be especially vigilant in crowded shopping malls where people can easily knock against you.
A particular note for women: as it’s a Muslim country, dress in a way that doesn’t show too much skin. It will attract a lot of unwanted attention. As tempting as the heat can make it, it’s illegal for girls to sunbathe topless.
Kuala Lumpur is a vibrant city that never sleeps, and spending time there on your gap year is bound to be an experience to remember. Make sure you make it a good one!

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