This is a summary of all our travel expenses for the 14 nights we spent in Kuala Lumpur during June 2019. You should keep in mind that if one travels at a slower pace it's easier to make savings as especially transportation can eat into your budget quickly. In this case, we stayed in a single AirBnB apartment for 14 nights so we were also able to cook for ourselves. We found that if one can contain accommodation costs and avoid specialised or fine-dine restaurants, Kuala Lumpur is a fairly affordable destination. That being said, you don’t need to cook for yourself, there are plenty of fantastic and cheap street foods and restaurants available all over the city. Although it was not our first time in Kuala Lumpur, we still visited many of the typical ‘tourist attractions’, but we did not spend money on entrance fees for observation decks and the like.
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(Note that the following spending does not include flights to and from Kuala Lumpur.)
Kuala Lumpur, 14 nights - Mercu Summer Suites
(AirBnB Studio Apartment)
The apartment is in the Mercu Summer Suites building on the 33rd floor. The apartment itself was fairly spacious with a couch, coffee table, dining table with 4 chairs and a moderately equipped kitchen (full fridge, microwave, 2 plate induction stove, kettle & toaster). The bathroom has a wet room style shower but with sufficient space. There is a small (1m wide) balcony with sliding doors, but unfortunately, the current construction of another even taller building right in front of it makes the balcony somewhat useless except to hang washing. Location was a 10-minute walk to Bukit Nanas Metro Station, 10-minute walk to two local supermarkets and also about a walk to the Petronas Towers and KLCC. There was also access to a small gym, yoga deck, swimming pool and jacuzzi at all times, which was an added bonus. There are also 2 convenience stores on the ground floor of the building which can be very handy.
We generally try to eat like and with the locals. In Kuala Lumpur, this is very easy with the exception of breakfast. We prefer a western-style breakfast and although this can easily be found in Kuala Lumpur, it is not the local custom and is thus relatively expensive. For this reason, we choose to rather prepare our own breakfast at our accommodation. The most traditional local breakfast dish would be Nasi Lemak (rice cooked with coconut milk) with various accompaniments.
Traditional cuisine in Kuala Lumpur is incredibly diverse, mainly due to the diverse cultural history of Malaysia. You will find Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian and Bornean cuisine with strong influences from Thai, Portuguese, Dutch, Arabian and even British cuisines. You can also find western food very easily available but at a slight price premium.
We ended up preparing our own dinners roughly half of the time and eating out at night markets or small local eateries the remainder of the time. It can definitely be slightly cheaper to eat local dishes (particularly rice and noodle dishes) all the time, however, we prefer to be able to vary our diet with salads and vegetables where and when possible. The supermarkets have a great variety of fresh produce and we found it easy to cook for ourselves.
Being a predominantly Muslim country, although alcohol is available in some places, it remains relatively expensive. We did not make a habit of consuming alcohol and only enjoyed beer one evening at the top of the Heli Lounge Bar for sunset.
We make use of local transportation as much as possible and only resort to taxis if there's a good reason or no alternative. Public transport is very easy and convenient to use in Kuala Lumpur. We purchased 2 KL Travel Pass Cards (you need one per person) which included return transportation from and back to the airport as well as two consecutive days unlimited use of the LRT (metro), monorail & all local busses, but excluding commuter trains. This was by far the majority of our transportation cost for the 2 weeks (MYR 240 of MYR 268)! We could have made use of a local bus from and to the airport which would have been a fraction of the price, but considering our time of arrival, we opted for the metro. The card is a convenient and efficient way of using public transport if you load it with credit and are going to be using it often and regularly, but using cash is just as easy and recommended if you are only going to be doing a few trips. We used cash for the rest of our trips. The road traffic in Kuala Lumpur can be rather extreme, so although taxis and Grab are easily available, often public transport will be the faster alternative! Grab is the Malaysian equivalent of Uber and can even be used for food deliveries (GrabFood). The city is fairly pedestrian-friendly, and if you can bear the humidity, you can explore a large area by foot. The public transportation stations are within such close proximity of each other that it is really easy to find a station when you want to. There are also public shared bicycle rental facilities if you care to brave the traffic!
CELLPHONE & DATA
Being very dependent on data for getting around and rather heavy data user generally, this is one of the first things we investigate when staying in a country for a period of time. We found the best option for us was purchasing a local prepaid Tune Talk SIM Card (MYR 10 each) which included some slow-speed data. We then each purchased 1GB of high-speed data and unlimited calls between same network valid for a period of 30 days for an additional MYR 10 each time. There are generally plenty of free wifi spots all around Malaysia, although we never had the need to connect to many of them. All our accommodations also had free wifi included.
Our "General" category includes everyday expenses like toiletries, medical, laundry & small shopping items.
We generally try to stay away from very touristy places and prefer to explore independently. In Kuala Lumpur, there are many “tourist activities” which do not need to cost money. Even visiting the Batu Caves and KL Forest Eco Park is free. It’s the entrance fees to observation decks which are expensive and can quickly add up. For this reason, we chose to rather pay for a drink (MYR 30 will get you the cheapest beer) at the Heli Lounge Bar where we could enjoy the sunset and a stunning view over the whole of Kuala Lumpur. Public toilet facilities are available at most tourist attractions, and although they may often be pay facilities, the fee is usually very low. Just keep in mind that the facilities are very seldom western-style toilets. They are usually the Asian style (hole in the ground) without any toilet paper provided.