Kuala Lumper is a destination that doesn’t make it on to every backpacker’s itinerary, and it’s not hard to see why. Months and months of paying less than a quid for a beer suddenly make any price that resembles that of a pint at home seem extortionate.
However, it’s not all bad. As a frugal backpacker (or tightarse, depending on who you’re talking to) I found out that Kuala Lumper can be done on a budget. Here’s how…
After my five nights in Vientiane, I decided I fancied embarking on a journey. My brother Chris is based in KL and having not seen him for a while, I decided to check out Malaysia. The free visa and cheap flights also had a say in this.
I realised that flights were much cheaper from Bangkok than anywhere in Laos, so decided to get an overnight sleeper train back to Bangkok which appears to be my second home these days. Out of curiosity, I checked if it was possible to travel from Bangkok to KL overland. It was possible, and a hell of a lot cheaper too – the only downside being that it involved a 22 hour train.
Now I quite enjoy sleeper trains, and I live in hope that they are all like my first experience of one (they aren’t, in case you were wondering), but even I had to think twice about this. Almost a full day on a train – is it really worth it?
In the end I decided it was worth a go. The flight to Kuala Lumper would have cost me about £75, the train to Butterworth and bus to KL from there cost me, in total, less than £30. What’s more, the time flew by so in hindsight it was definitely worth doing!
Granted; not everyone has a brother who lives in Kuala Lumpur whose couch they can kip on. For my first two nights though, I stayed in a cool hostel called Marquee Guest Houzz (yes, that spelling is intentional) near Central Market which cost me 25 ringgits a night – about a fiver.
I’m lead to believe that there are plenty more hostels and guest houses at a similar price in the area, but as I said, a relative in the city is always a bonus!
One thing I’ve learnt in Kuala Lumpur is how amazing food courts can be. Back home, I’d avoid them like the plague as they tend to be full of scrotes wearing trackie bottoms and Hype t-shirts thinking that McDonald’s is the pinnacle of international cuisine.
Out here though, they tend to play home to a variety of local, authentic food at reasonable prices. My particular favourite was the food court underneath the Lot 10 shopping mall – recommended to me by Kael and Georgie over at Nomadic2.
I ate here most days, sometimes twice a day, and was never disappointed by the a particular noodle dish from Soong Kee which could be picked up for 10 ringgits. Fair enough, the dish was called “Tripe” and contained a lot of different anonymous cuts of meat, but what you don’t know doesn’t hurt you. I have since found out that “tripe” contains a mix of beef brisket and cow’s stomach. Perhaps ignorance really is bliss.
I was also fond of the hanging tandoori chicken that could be found at the front of numerous restaurants and shops. Chicken and a full naan bread with dips also cost around 10 ringgits and was worth every sen (that’s the Malaysian word for “cent” – I’m not making words up here).
Believe it or not, all the sightseeing I did in Kuala Lumpur was completely free of charge.
The iconic Petronas Towers are perhaps what most people associate with Kuala Lumper and they are absolutely awesome to see. As you can see from the selfie below, I was slightly excited…
You can also go up to the viewing deck, but I decided against it. I’ve already seen plenty of skylines in my time, so I didn’t really see the point.
The other attraction I checked out was the Batu Caves – a rather impressive series of caves and temples on a huge limestone hill just outside of the city. From my previous experience, and the fact it is a big tourist attraction, I was expecting to part with some cash to get in but to my pleasant surprise you just walked in and out as you pleased.
I’m not entirely sure why, but similar to a temple I saw in Delhi, the Batu Caves are also inhabited by a large amount of monkeys constantly on the lookout for any food going spare. I must admit I was slightly creeped out by some of the monkeys who seemed to stare me out quite a lot. Maybe I just have one of those faces, or maybe they didn’t like the not so flattering photos I took of them…
Finally, a word on transport. Where possible, I tried as hard as I could to avoid taxis. I found a large majority of taxi drivers would rather stand in the rain and talk to their mates than put their meter on for a tourist.
I made the journey between my brother’s place and my hostel a number of times, both on and off the meter. Without the meter, my driver charged me between 15-20 ringgits. With the meter, it cost me between 5-7. Now, I realise that I’m complaining over a couple of quid but the feeling that you’re being taken advantage of is one that really irks me.
Thankfully, KL has a really good and cheap public transport system which can be used to get to the main attractions. It cost me around 4 ringgits each way to get to the Batu Caves, which is probably around 10 times less than a taxi would have cost! Being crammed into a commuters armpit is a small price to pay to save that much money.
One final word on taxis. When we were at the Batu Caves, two of the people I was with wanted to go to the chocolate outlet so we asked a taxi driver outside the train station for directions. He told us that it was a big of a trek, but he would take us for just 10 ringgits – bargain!
Or so we thought. After driving up and down numerous bridges, overpasses and whatnot, we arrived at the chocolate outlet. Upon leaving the taxi I saw a familiar site: he’d literally taken us to the other side of the train station. He waited around and collected his commission from the chocolate outlet and offered us a lift back with a huge smile on his face. Shithouse.
As you can probably gather, Kuala Lumpur is a city that can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. Despite what people say, it can be done on a budget and in a day or two. If you have the time, then it’s worth a visit.