10 Hours in Kuala Lumpur: How to Get the Most Out of Your Layover
Why sit around the airport when you can explore a fascinating new city and earn a stamp in your passport while you’re at it?
As those of you who have travelled Southeast Asia will know, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is a major flight hub in the region and frequent layover location for popular destinations in Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, and other nearby locales. On a recent trip to Phuket, Thailand, I had a 10 hour layover in Kuala Lumpur on my way back to Shanghai. Kuala Lumpur is a fascinating city hosting a blend of different cultures and ethnic groups. Why not make the most of this short but sweet opportunity to explore a new city and earn another stamp on my passport?
Although I had 10 hours to spare, with some careful time budgeting one could easily still check off some of KL’s major sites in as little as a 5 or 6 hour layover. Start by hopping on the KLIA Ekspres line from the airport to KL Sentral, a 28 minute train ride which comes approximately every 20 minutes. The Ekspres train costs about 35 Malaysian Ringits (about USD$12) each way.
From KL Sentral, the city’s major train hub, it is extremely easy to jump on any of the metro lines to check out major attractions and to get a feel for KL’s different neighborhoods. The metro is pretty easy to navigate and an inexpensive way to move around the city quickly – most trips cost about 1 or 2 Malaysian Ringits, which is less than USD$1.
My first stop on the whirlwind city tour was the iconic Petronas Towers (KLCC stop on metro line 5). Behind the towers is a small yet scenic park and pond, a slight break from the heat and bustle of the city. There is also a large, upscale (and air conditioned!) mall underneath the towers in case one wants to squeeze in some light shopping. Although I didn’t budget in time to visit the viewing deck, both the Petronas Towers and KL Tower offer panoramic views of the city for those who have time to check it out.
Next on my list was Masjid Jamek station on line 5, which is walking distance to Jamek Mosque, one of the oldest mosques in the city, as well as the moorish style Sultan Abdul Samad Building, which was formerly a courthouse and currently houses government offices. Across from the Sultan Abdul Samad Building is the grassy Merdeka Square and the British style Royal Selangor Club.
My last stop in the city was Pasar Seni station on line 5, from which I was able to explore Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown. I started off with a visit to the art deco Central Market, a great place to pick up souvenirs, as well as a quick stroll down Kasturi Walk, an open air market. A must-see is Chinatown’s Petaling Street market, identifiable on either end with its iconic Chinese-style gates. Before heading back to Pasar Seni station, be sure to check out the beautiful, intricate detailing on the Sri Maha Mariamman Hindu Temple.
When heading back to the airport, make sure to give yourself extra time to clear security and customs in case of long lines or other unexpected holdups. Also be sure to double check whether your flight leaves from Terminal 1 or 2! I learned this lesson the hard way after getting off the KLIA Ekspres at the wrong terminal and nearly missing my flight.
Now that you have this blueprint for a whirlwind tour of Kuala Lumpur, next time you have a long layover at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, take the opportunity to explore this fascinating and culture-packed metropolis. While this is only a tiny sampling of what Kuala Lumpur has to offer, once you get a taste of this city you’ll be sure to be back!