It’s been forever since I’ve had the mindset to put pen to paper. My recent solo trip to Malaysia changed things. This post is an overview of my trip to Kuala Lampur/Malaysia. Details to follow.
Airport – KLCC
Airline – Malindo Air (Not recommended. Please choose another airline. Poor customer service. On my way over all I was offered was water. The flight was delayed by 2.5 hours. You have to pay extra for food when you book your ticket (was unaware of this concept). The food wasn’t good either.
Visa – Easiest Online Visa ever (one of the reasons why I chose to visit Malaysia). Beware of fake Visa sites. Your visa expenses should not exceed $60-$70. Make sure you apply for your visa only via an official Malaysian website ending with .my.
Hotel – Furama @ Bukit Bintang. It is a good hotel except for the construction going on all around. That makes the commute very difficult. I would recommend staying at KL ‘downtown’ (area near the Petronas twin towers) instead.
Transportation – Mostly Grab. Not all the tourist destinations are connected by public transport (surprisingly). You will need to alternate between Grab and the train.
GRAB – Impressive application. The drivers are pro-actively responsive. Loved how easy to use it was. I could not sync my credit card for payments so had to rely on cash.
I struggled with time management on my last day in Malaysia. I asked a Grab driver if he would wait for me at one of the attractions and drop me at the hotel later. I’d pay him accordingly. He agreed!! That made my life so convenient!
Trains – Trains have a good frequency. The tickets cost around 1-3 RM. Tickets can be bought at the kiosks apart from the ticket counter. The kiosks do not accept folded currency.
Funny but true, the trains to and from the airport cost you 55 RM!! Grabs cost you 65 RM. Weird!
Regular Taxis – They charge you at least double of what Grab would. Also, they have no tracking system so definitely not a safe option for solo travelers. Feel free to test your bargaining skills.
Buses – Debatable frequency. The construction going all around must be one of the issues. Also, some of the bus stations are located at shady places where you may not feel safe as a solo female traveler.
Demographics – Malay + Chinese + Tamilians; most of them are 2nd or 3rd generation Malaysians. Inter-caste marriages have led to cross-cultures as well.
Culture – I’d go with conservative. Most women adorn a headscarf. You can see a good mix of Malay-Tamil-Chinese culture with all the sects protecting their own cultures well.
Don’t be surprised if you hear ads of ‘Folic acid’ and ‘Stay in your own lane’ on the radio channels.
Languages – Malay, Tamil, Mandarin and English. Also, Manglish. Add ‘La’ at the end of every sentence to sound like a local. Can definitely help you bargain better.
Weather – September through January is monsoon. If you travel during this period (like I did) be ready to forgo a few attractions. The rains dampened Melaka city tour and all of my evenings.
Attire – Multiple forums advise you to go conservative. You can differentiate between locals and tourists based on the way they dress. I’d suggest go all cotton and conservative (I went from Denims to Uniqlo 3/4th in the middle of Perdana botanical gardens to Save My Soul). Temples require you to be dressed appropriately (read: no legs showing) in order to enter. Mosques provide you with the traditional Islamic attire at the entrances that you have to wear if you wish to enter. I recommend carrying a scarf in your bag and a bathtub of sunscreen.
Safety – As a solo female traveler, I tried to be aware of my surroundings at all times. Malaysia is notorious for bag snatching and robbery (ALL Grab drivers warned me against it). I don’t know the statistics for crime against women/sexual assaults though (red: prefer not to google either). All the tourists seemed to be guarding their purses more than their lives.
I chose group tours instead of private ones. Grabs felt pretty safe/Normal cabs did not. Trains are safe. I waited at a shady bus-stop, all decked up, for half an hour in complete darkness and received some unwelcome attention. I’d avoid doing that in the future. Along the same lines, Chinatown becomes shady after dark.
PS: You can keep your passport in the hotel locker. I was not asked for any ID ever. Please do not carry it if not required.
Currency/Money – Ringgits/Dollars/Rupees everything seemed to work there. I was the happiest since Chase Sapphire Reserve worked at most places (it doesn’t work everywhere in India).
- KLCC Aquarium
- KLCC Park
- Batu Caves
- Sri Mahamariamman Temple
- Reggae Bar
- Petaling Street
- Melaka – Day tour
- Bukit Bintang
- No Black Tie – Jazz concert
- Pisco – Peruvian bar
- Suria Mall
- Bukit Bintang
- Perdana Botanical Garden – Bird Park, Butterfly Park, Deer Park, Tun Abdul Razzak Memorial, Unique trees park (or something to that effect)
- Petronas Towers
- Heli Lounge
- National Mosque of Malaysia
- National Museum of Malaysia
- Central Market + Kasturi Street
- National Textile Museum
- Thean Hou Temple
Attractions I could not cover/would want to cover the next time I am in Malaysia –
- Hibiscus & Orchid garden – Closed for renovation
- Jalan Alor AKA Khau galli of KL – I am sad to have missed this. The rain dampened my spirits every evening.
- KLCC Eco Park – Rainforest in the middle of a hustling city. I chose not to visit.
- KL Tower – Fell short of time. Also, having lived in the city of Space needle I did not feel the need to go to another needle kinda space.
- Genting Highlands – I heard rave reviews about this place during my Melaka day-tour. Sadly, I did not have enough days to cover it. The pictures look amazing though.
- Penang – The pictures were to die for. But Penang is farther away from KL and not a day-trip material. I’d suggest a road trip for this destination.
- Little India – Fell short of time. Also, coming from India I opted out.
- Glittering Fireflies & Kuala Selangor Night tour – Not enough time, guts and energy. Also, probably not a good life choice during monsoons.
Pro tips –
- Wear cotton as much as possible.
- Beware of purse snatchers.
- Carry a portable charger. In hindsight, life would have been simpler with it.
- Do not fold your Riggits. The kiosks won’t accept them.
- Map your destinations beforehand so that you don’t lose time searching for them and don’t miss out on the fun.
- Mind the timings for temples and mosques. They are not open throughout the day.
- Grabs are difficult to find during prime time. I waited for an hour on Day 2 and ended up taking a cab.
- In hindsight, taking trains would have been much more economical and would have caused lesser frustration. Trains are traffic-proof.
- I’d rather stay in a hotel near the Petronas towers and Changat Bukit Bintang than farther away. Though my hotel was in close proximity, the construction and rains made it impossible to commute to the more happening places.
- Alcohol is expensive – or at least it was wherever I went.
- It is okay to carry a backpack everywhere. Most tourist attractions have stalls to take care of your bags.
- You are in good hands with T-mobile. God bless T-mobile.
- If you decide to click a picture with parrots at the Bird park please mind their toe-nails!
- Carry a camera instead of relying on your phones for pictures. You need your phone battery for Grab.
- Carry an umbrella/rain jacket if you decide to visit during monsoons. Most resorts/ few tourist attractions are closed during monsoons.
- Always carry enough cash (you probably know that).
Keep watching this space for details and pictures.