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Is Kuala Lumpur a Good Temporary Base?


For bloggers, and other people who travel full-time and work online, finding a good temporary base is important. A place to chill out for a week or more, somewhere you can get things sent to you, do your washing, catch up on some work and more! It's imperative to take these temporary breaks to avoid travel burn out. 



But finding the right base can be hard. Many things have to be taken into consideration: weather, costs, things to do, where to stay, internet, but ultimately you're probably looking to get that fine balance between 'civilisation' (how easy is it to get the things you need) and 'exotic' (why leave your home country to go somewhere that looks and feels pretty much the same). Does Kuala Lumpur tick all the right boxes?



We stayed in Kuala Lumpur for one month to answer these questions, and this is what we found:

THE GOOD
The food in Kuala Lumpur is amazing! It's really diverse with plenty of Malay, Indian, Chinese, Thai and Western food. It's a cheap too, with a decent meal costing around 10 MYR (£3) - street food is even cheaper (but for those that eat meat I'd advise avoiding it here). 

Grocery prices surprised us - the shops are wildly varied depending on whether you shop in a supermarket (where everything is imported) or the markets. This sounds obvious, but the range really was gigantic. 


For example, in a Westernised supermarket a broccoli costs around 5 MYR, in a Malaysian supermarket it was around 2.5 MYR and at the fruit and veg markets it was just 1 MYR. The prices ranged from extortionate to reasonable to a steal! It wasn't just the price though, at the Westernised supermarkets the fruit and veg was all horrible - imported and unnatural looking, as opposed to at the markets where it was more than likely picked locally that very same day. You can taste the difference (and it's so much better for you). 


Ultimately, food in Kuala Lumpur is amazing and also cheap, provided you buy most of your groceries at the fruit and veg markets or the Malaysian markets. 


But don't feel like you can't take advantage of the Western supermarkets - a real highlight of Kuala Lumpur is being able to finally get your hands on things like Marmite, good bread and certain brands that you just don't find anywhere else in South East Asia. 




Markets
Aside from having cheap, good-quality fruit and veg, the markets in Kuala Lumpur are exciting, vibrant, colourful and a must-see. For us they felt super 'foreign' and exotic. We saw foods we'd never seen before and got to feel like real authentic locals. 


Shopping

Similarly to food shopping, Kuala Lumpur is the place to go to buy things from home that you can't necessarily find elsewhere. Malls are a big deal in Kuala Lumpur and you can find all your favourite Western chains there - from TopShop to Wendys. 


Even if shopping isn't your thing (it's not ours at all), these malls are a great place to soak up air-conditioning and, of course, people watch. 


[Futher reading 50 things you need to know about travel in Malaysia]

Internet
We found the internet in Kuala Lumpur to be fast and reliable - perfect for blogging. This will depend a little bit on where you stay though. 

We stayed at an airbnb for most of the month and at the Sheraton for two nights. The Sheraton of course has super-fast internet. We messaged our airbnb host before we booked to check that the download and upload speed was fast (it was 20-50Mb download, 30-50Mb upload). If internet is important to you too, I recommend that you do the same - wherever you stay! 

We also bought a sim card in the airport, so we could find grabs and ubers on the go. It cost 40MYR for one month, it was 2GB internet which was all we needed. 



Transport
The good news about Kuala Lumpur transport:
  • There's a free bus through parts of the city
  • Grabs and Ubers are plentiful and almost always the same price
The only time Uber was more expensive than Grab was getting to the airport from the city centre. Grab was 60 MYR and Uber was 120 MYR. (It's a 30 minute drive). 

You can also take a bus to/from the airport for just 12 MYR, but it takes ages. I only recommend this if you've got plenty of time/ love buses. 




The People

Most people we met in Kuala Lumpur were kind and curious. Almost all of them had excellent English too which was a plus for us! They are SUPER quiet (mostly) as well, we came to Kuala Lumpur after spending a month in Bangkok and got stared at a lot for talking loudly. Haha. 



Visas
The great news about Kuala Lumpur is that if you like it you can stay for 3 whole months on a visiting visa! 

THE BAD
The weather

The weather is pretty unpredictable in Kuala Lumpur - one minute boiling hot, the next minute exciting storm. The problem is you can't really do much exploring in either of those weathers. 

The good news is that the storms don't last too long (and they're so much fun to watch), and once they're over you get a bit of respite from the heat. 


It's not a deal breaker and the weather is different in different seasons. 

Transport
The bad news about transport in Kuala Lumpur is, like most capital cities, the traffic is awful and it takes ages to get anywhere. But as long as you plan in advance it's not the end of the world. 






The staring
What bugged me a lot in Kuala Lumpur was being stared at all the time by guys, it made me feel uncomfortable and it's rude (especially at the level that they were staring).  I know it's cultural and I don't want to sound like a privileged asshole, but on the other hand I don't want to be looked at like a piece of meat or an object. 

At first I dressed more conservatively. But in the 35-40 degree Celsius weather I was struggling not to faint if I wore anything more than shorts and a vest. 

So then I just wore what I wanted and ignored the stares (or if they were particularly bad, I'd stare at the accusing party's crotch, squint my eyes a bit and look unimpressed). 


So yea, sorry for being culturally insensitive, but if you're a woman who gets annoyed by being stared at all the time, like me, maybe KL isn't for you.  Don't get me wrong, I still recommend you go to KL and I'd still go back, but it just bugged me and took some getting used to. 


(You can probably tell I've only really travelled to western(ised) places like Australia, Canada, Europe etc, the staring is something that bugged me in Turkey too. I guess I'll have to 'get used to it' before we go to some other countries, but it's an interesting topic - tell me what you do!



THE UGLY
LGBT rights in Malayisa
Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia thanks to a mixture of Islamic Sharia Law and laws which date back to the British colonial era. 

In a 2013 study, just 9% of the Malaysian population believed that homosexuality should be accepted by society, but a whopping 86% believed it should not. 



Essentially, most of Malaysia has a negative outlook to homosexuality. 

You can of course visit Malaysia as a LGBT person but I can also understand why you might not want to. 


Prostitution
Ironically, with its conservative Muslim culture and anti-sodomy rules, Kuala Lumpur has a thriving flesh trade. 

Although prostitution is illegal in Malaysia, the size of the Malaysian prostitution industry is calculated at $963 million. 


Because sex is taboo in Malaysia, sex-industry problems are hard to tackle - how do you fix something you can't talk about? 


Well you can start by reducing the demand for it. If you want to go to Kuala Lumpur to have sex with a prostitute, please just don't. 


Every country in the world has its ugliness, I think it's important to stand up for what you believe is right and not just ignore it. But enough about the ugliness. There is also so much beauty in KL, let's get back to that:




THINGS TO DO IN KUALA LUMPUR

Batu Caves


The Batu Caves are a series of cave temples. But you probably only recognise the gigantic statue right? (I mean, I did). 





The statue is a Hindu shrine to Lord Murugan - the Hindu God of war. It's a whopping 142ft tall and is actually the second tallest statue of a Hindu deity in the world! It took 2 years to build (it was finished in 2006) and is covered in gold paint. 

He also looks great from behind.




But the caves themselves are pretty interesting too - they are 400 million years old!


Visiting both the deity and the caves are free, though a donation is welcomed. Bring something to cover your shoulders/knees as it's a sacred spot.



To reach the caves you have to walk up 272 steps - believe me, in the heat this is a big deal. Take a bottle of water! And actually we recommend going on a rainy day. Not torrential rain, just after or just before rain - that way it will be less hot and there will be far fewer people there. 

As well as the heat, you should watch out for the monkeys:
  

They are macaques which (after humans) are the most wide-spread primates on earth. They are also little shits and will steal your food. Let them have it, almost all macaques have hep B and you don't want that. 


But yes if you can fight off the monkeys and tackle the steps the Batu Caves are worth an afternoon :) 


Petronas Twin Towers


The Petronas Twin Towers are the iconic symbol of Kuala Lumpur and thus you will find them on most postcards and souvenir items. 



They are free to gawk at from the ground and you can even go inside them (yep there's yet another mall there). 




But when it comes to going up them - meh? For us, when it comes to braving stairs/elevators to see views of cities, we'd rather the iconic thing was actually in the picture:



And the Trader's Hotel opposite offers a great (free) view of the towers and of KL


WHERE TO STAY IN KUALA LUMPUR
Airbnb


We stayed for a month in Kuala Lumpur because we got a great deal on airbnb. We stayed at the Regalia Residences because we liked the look of their rooftop pool, and this is what we thought:

Location - is great, there's a shopping mall next door with great food (we recommend Simple Life) and a Western supermarket. Chow Kit market is also within walking distance (10 minutes) where you can get super fresh fruit and veg. Although it's not super central, you can get a $1 Uber into the city or take the free bus. And you don't really need to be central, we went to the centre a few times and it's not that interesting. 

The rooms - we had a studio apartment and it was absolutely massive. The downside of this though is that it never cooled down - even with the aircon on 24/7. 

The building - the building itself is getting kind of old, the lift takes ten years to get you anywhere and it could all do with a bit of sprucing up.

The pool - although we did manage to get our much desired insta-good shots, the pool wasn't that great. Again it needs a bit of sprucing up and because there are so so so many apartments at the Regalia, the pool is never empty. You can't just hang out there and relax. Okay maybe you can but we could never find an empty lounger. 

Would we go back and stay? Yes. Do we recommend that you stay? Sure, but it's not an absolute must, there are other apartments in KL. 


Hotels 

If you're looking for a hotel in KL we highly recommend the Sheraton we stayed here for our 11 year anniversary and absolutely loved it - the food, the high tea, the massages everything is incredible. 


House Sits
If you're wanting to house sit in South East Asia, Kuala Lumpur is a great place to start, house sits pop up here all the time and you can do long term sits (because you can stay visa free for 3 months).  

FLIGHTS TO KUALA LUMPUR 
Kiwi
Kuala Lumpur is a great place to fly into - flights come and go from Kuala Lumpur to all over the world - USA, Australia, Europe, lots of international flights land there.

And to get the best deals on flights, we always always use Kiwi (it's better than skyscanner). Kiwi will not just find you the cheapest flight, but also the shortest flight and the most recommended flight. 

For instance, most other flight comparison websites will (hopefully) find you the cheapest flight, but it might also be a pain in the butt - changes, long layovers etc. Kiwi takes this into consideration and shows you the recommended flight too.  



CONCLUSION 

So is Kuala Lumpur a good temporary base for bloggers, digital nomads and anyone else who'd like a break? Overall, we'd say yes - the food is great, the people are kind and quiet, there are some cool things to see and places to stay. Do we prefer Bangkok? Yes. Would we go back to Kuala Lumpur? Of course!

Let us know what you think - will Kuala Lumpur be your next temporary base? 




Disclaimer: all the information provided here is from our own personal experiences. We spent a month in Kuala Lumpur and whilst we feel like we had a typical experience, these will range from person to person. You might have a much better time or a much worse time. But we hope this has been a helpful guideline and given you some ideas. 


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ABOUTME

We're Laura and Tanbay, a British/German couple who have successfully weaselled our way out of the rat-race and want you to do the same! We also want to make it clear that we sometimes use “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and believe will add value to our readers.

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