Which Area to Stay in Kuala Lumpur for Tourists
Last updated on April 22nd, 2023 at 05:03 am
Kuala Lumpur has become something of a second home for us when we travel to South East Asia. Mainly because it’s the hub for Air Asia, where inexpensive flights can be purchased to anywhere else in the region, but also because there’s plenty to see and do in and around the city. Delicious Malaysian food is in abundance, it offers modern comforts like shopping malls and state of the art cinemas, dozens of day trips are available, and also, in places, is still incredibly cheap.
For first timers, it might be difficult to know which area to stay in Kuala Lumpur. Although not as big as neighbouring cities such as Bangkok, it’s still big enough to feel overwhelmed when deciding where to stay in Kuala Lumpur.
Central Kuala Lumpur consists of four quite different neighbourhoods. They all look different, feel different and cater for different types of tourists. With our information on each, we hope we’ll help you decide which area to stay in Kuala Lumpur for your first visit to the Malaysian capital.
When we’re deciding on which area to stay in Kuala Lumpur, we always end up staying in touristy Chinatown. We usually shy away from tourist heavy areas but there’s something about Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown that keeps pulling us back. Plus, the area offers the most budget friendly accommodation and sits in the middle of other areas of the city.
It’s a buzzy area of the city, with the very center being one huge outdoor flea market on Petaling Street. The market mostly sells items to tourists such as bags, t-shirts, phone covers, jewelry and shoes. It’s not the most interesting of markets in terms of products for sale, but its sheer size, the many cheap Chinese eateries and Chinese dragons dancing up and down the traffic free streets, make it an exciting place to wander.
Chinatown might be scruffy looking when compared to other popular areas of the city, but it’s started to tidy itself up over the past few years. In the area surrounding Petaling Street Market, new trendy coffee shops have opened and Kuala Lumpur’s Central Market has been renovated so now offers many boutique shops, yummy street food stalls and a food court on the upper level.
Where to Stay in Kuala Lumpur – Chinatown
Lantern Hotel – Right in the middle of Chinatown, we love this clean and cheap hotel with free breakfast on the terrace overlooking all the action
Mingle Hostel – Dorms and private rooms are available in this well reviewed colonial building with roof terrace and in-house cafe.
Avenue J Hotel – With a terrace and on-site bar, this super modern and stylish hotel is on the edge of Chinatown leaving you close to the action, but without the noise.
If being close to shopping malls and nightlife is important when deciding which area to stay in Kuala Lumpur, then Bukit Bintang is the area for you. You’ll hardly be immersing yourself into Malaysian culture by staying in Bukit Bintang, but you’ll never be short of a place to eat, drink and shop. It used to be quite a seedy part of town full of dodgy massage parlors and brothels but that’s quickly changed with the modernisation of the area.
On our last visit, we counted 5 huge shopping malls in the Bukit Bintang area but The Pavillion stood out as being the biggest and best with an impressive two-level undercover street lined with many bars and restaurants and a multi-screen cinema.
You won’t find many cheap places to eat or much in the way of Malaysian food in Bukit Bintang, but there is one street where you can find exactly that. Check out Alor Street Food Night Market just around the corner from all the shiny shopping malls. It’s packed full of alfresco eateries on both sides of the street offering all kinds of Asian dishes for inexpensive prices. It’s open until at least midnight and weather permitting, is always busy with tourists and locals.
Where to Stay in Kuala Lumpur – Bukit Bintang
Wolo Bukit Bintang – Close to restaurants and shops with its own fitness center, bar and cigar lounge. The rooms look amazing.
InnB Park Hotel – Tucked away in the busy streets of Bukit Bintang, these carpeted for comfort rooms offer awesome views of the city.
Don’s Den Hotel – Don’t let the exterior put you off, inside is a funky little hotel offering well-decorated rooms at a cheap price.
KLCC now almost feels like an extension of Bukit Bintang as both areas have grown outwards to join each other. In fact, there is even an undercover walkway which joins Bukit Bintang with KLCC. KLCC is where you’ll find the iconic Petronas Twin Towers (skip the line here!). At nearly 1500 feet, you can see these joined towers from all over the city.
KLCC is the cleanest and most modern part of the city. It’s the city’s business district with new sky scrapers going up every year. Don’t bother looking for budget accommodation here when deciding which area to stay in Kuala Lumpur, most hotels are 4 and 5-star luxury towers offering views across the Malaysian capital city.
When you’ve finished looking at the Petronas Towers in disbelief, there’s not much to do in KLCC aside from more shopping and eating in the area’s own huge shopping mall or a stroll around the KLCC Park. The area is mainly used as a base for rich tourists, business workers and expats, where they can stay in extreme comfort. We did treat ourselves at the Traders Hotel for two nights where we enjoyed views of the Petronas Towers, a rooftop pool bar and free afternoon tea! It was well worth it.
Where to Stay in Kuala Lumpur – KLCC
Traders Hotel – We already mentioned this one. Luxury rooms with views of the Petronas Towers, fantastic international buffet breakfast and a rooftop pool/bar.
Element by Westin – Luxury studios and skyline suites nestled in the heart of metropolitan KLCC. At 900 feet high, the views are impressive.
Ascott Hotel – Located beside Petronas Twin Towers, with a fabulous roof-top pool and chic apartments.
ibis Kuala Lumpur City Centre – A modern yet affordable 4-star hotel that is just an 8-minute stroll to the twin towers. Equipped with a rooftop infinity pool, sky-view gym and even a shuttle service!
Brickfields (Little India)
For a slice of Indian culture, Brickfields should be considered when deciding which area to stay in Kuala Lumpur. Brickfields, or Little India as it’s also known as, combines old and new Kuala Lumpur.
Many of Kuala Lumpur’s Indian population live and work in this area, so when walking through the streets you’re greeted with the smell of Indian spices, the lure of delicious Indian food and the intriguing Indian shop houses selling all kinds of items for the Indian community. For us, the highlight is the Indan restaurants, where huge Thalis can be eaten from a palm leaf for just a few pounds.
In more recent years, the giant shopping malls mostly seen in Bukit Bintang and KLCC have spread to Brickfields. Just across the road from old Little India is the Nu Sentral shopping mall (with more restaurants, coffee shops and a multi-screen cinema) and a busy train station where most of the train lines go through. From here you can pretty much go to anywhere else in the city by train or monorail, which is a good thing because staying in Brickfields might feel a little far away from all the city’s action.
Where to Stay in Kuala Lumpur – Brickfields
Flip Bunc Hostel – Just clean and well reviews dorms here right in the middle of fascinating Little India. Added extras like bike hire and a hairdresser!
Hotel Summer View – Homely and comfortable hotel room with everything you need at a very reasonable price. Again, in all the Little India action.
Aloft KL Sentral – Super modern and stylish hotel just steps from Nu Sentral shopping mall. With outdoor pool and fitness center.
So has this post helped you to choose where to stay in Kuala Lumpur? We hope so. Your budget will play a big part when choosing which area to stay in Kuala Lumpur. Those watching their pennies will be better suited to stay in the areas of Chinatown and Brickfields where inexpensive hotels and eateries are more common. While those with better vacation funds can treat themselves to the luxury hotels and expensive nightlife in Bukit Bintang and KLCC.
Wherever you choose to stay in Kuala Lumpur, cheap transport connections are excellent by using the train and monorail systems, so you’re never further than a few minutes ride away from any district.