2011 Best places to stay in Kuala Lumpur
Updated on 25th January, 2013. First published 25th October, 2011
Kuala Lumpur boasts an abundance of accommodation, from basic hostels through to luxurious hotels. Finding a room you like may not be a particular challenge, but being able to afford it is another matter entirely. Going by hotel rack rates, KL is undoubtedly one of Southeast Asia's most expensive cities to stay in.
KL is at its least competitive in regional terms at the budget end of the market. It's hard to find a decent dorm bed under 20 ringgit, while the minimum you will pay for an en suite double is three times this — no wonder the best value places fill out fast.
For those on the tightest budgets, the Step Inn Guesthouse offers among the cheapest dorms (15 ringgit). Their rooms are fairly good value too, starting at 40 ringgit. Overall this is one of the best-run guesthouses in town. About 10 minutes' walk away is Bintang Guesthouse, one of the city's few non-sleazy, old-style cheapies. You can get your own room for 35 ringgit upwards, which is not much more than what you'd pay for a dorm at flashier guesthouses.
Overall, Chinatown offers the best value in town at the budget end of the market. Monkee Inn has some of the keenest pricing around, with dorms 25 ringgit and rooms from 30 ringgit, although rates rises markedly when you add "luxuries" like air-con and windows. For a quieter, more homely feel, The Travel Hub is another great budget option (dorms 25 ringgit, rooms from 30 ringgit).
For those looking for a real traveller vibe, Red Palm (dorms 30 ringgit, rooms from 55 ringgit) is worth considering, though be warned it only sleeps 14 people and is often full. Across the road is one of KL's funkiest places, Tropical Guesthouse (rooms from 60 ringgit). Friendly and fun, this is a good option for young couples.
When you're on a tight budget, shared bathrooms are the norm in KL, so CheckMate Guesthouse is a welcome change. All rooms (from 70 ringgit) have private bathrooms and air-con. Rates rise at weekends but are still reasonable. Another good choice for budget travellers who value having their own bathroom is the Etika Inn (rooms from 65 ringgit), a little gem that offers some of the best value accommodation in the city.
Although the most common price for a dorm in KL is 25 ringgit, a new breed of guesthouse has emerged over recent years, charging 30 to 40 ringgit for a bed. Many offer a real step up in comfort, security and amenities. For solo travellers not obsessed by privacy, these represent a pleasant, sociable option. Decent private rooms are normally available for couples (or friends) who want the advantages of a well-run guesthouse, with the privacy of a hotel room.
The greatest concentration of these places is in Chinatown, including the excellent Explorers Guesthouse (dorms from 30 ringgit, rooms from 68 ringgit); well-run Matahari Lodge (dorms 30 ringgit, rooms from 45 ringgit); oddly accessed and even more oddly named Ribbon Stayyz Bed & Breakfast Guesthouse (dorms 35 ringgit, rooms 78 ringgit); and Reggae Guesthouse 2 (dorms 30 ringgit, rooms from 70 ringgit), a much quieter alternative to its namesake, Reggae Guesthouse 1.
Outside Chinatown, Irsia Bed and Breakfast (dorms 29 ringgit, rooms 66 ringgit), is a solid choice, in a quiet part of Pudu, while Sunshine Bedz KL (dorms 30 ringgit, rooms from 80 ringgit) is a popular new addition to the Bukit Bintang accommodation scene. In the running for the title of best dorm beds (39 ringgit) is the Rainforest B&B. It's not just that the beds are super-comfortable, but the guesthouse (rooms from 115 ringgit) as a whole is one of the most pleasant and tasteful around.
Privacy is important to many travellers, and if you can live without the sociability aspect of a guesthouse, KL has seen an upsurge of affordable hotels over recent years. At the forefront of this trend is the great value My Hotel chain. My Hotel @ Bukit Bintang (rooms from 88 ringgit), My Hotel @ Brickfields (rooms from 98 ringgit), My Hotel @ Sentral (rooms from 108 ringgit), are all examples of how good budget hotels can be.
In much the same mould, the Beltif provides a surprising amount of comfort for the money, albeit in a more out of the way location. By contrast, both the Apple Hotel (rooms from 98 ringgit) on Jalan Alor, and the Chinatown Boutique Hotel (rooms from 100 ringgit), are right in the thick of the action.
None of these hotels could be accused of having bags of character, but for much the same price it's possible to stay at the superb Sahabat Guesthouse (rooms from 99 ringgit). Although prices go up at weekends, they remain good value, considering the quality of the accommodation provided. Booking ahead is strongly advised.
Midrange hotels in KL are generally aimed at Asian package tourists and business travellers, where amenities such as good TVs are generally more important than charm or room size. Maintenance can also be a serious issue. Luckily several decent midrange options have opened over recent years.
They include Frenz Hotel (rooms from 148 ringgit), by far the best in its class in Little India; The 5 Elements Hotel (rooms from 150 ringgit), filling a much needed niche in Chinatown; and Hotel Summer View (rooms from 140 ringgit), an excellent compromise between affordability and comfort in Brickfields.
An oversupply of rooms in the four- and five-star categories means booking online can almost always get you large discounts. One factor to beware of though is the dreaded "plus plus" (10% service and 6% tax), which is often added at the very end of the booking process.
With the higher prices generally come better facilities, such as gyms and pools. If you value class over show, and character over bland uniformity, however, then a really great choice is the Anggun Boutique Hotel (rooms from 279 ringgit). Stylishly fashioned out of two converted shophouses, this lays the city's best claim to the term "boutique".
If space is an important concern, then KL has several "all suite" hotels, which provide a lot of (quality) room for your buck, as well as kitchen facilities. Among the best performers is Somerset Seri Bukit Ceylon Hotel (rooms from 440 ringgit), which combines a great location with a very high standard of accommodation.
Also well worth considering, especially if you are staying in a big family group, is the MiCasa All Suite Hotel (rooms from 373 ringgit). The only downer is its inconvenient location. This is even more true of the otherwise excellent Pacific Regency Hotel Suites (rooms from 452 ringgit).
Traders Hotel (rooms from 398 ringgit) vies with the Pacific Regency for having the best pool with a view in KL. It has more than one string to its bow though, and is acknowledged as one of the city's very best hotels. A new rival on the vertigo-inducing pool front is the GTower Hotel (rooms from 410 ringgit), a very classy addition to the city's high-end options.
However comfortable these hotels are, KL also has a number of five-star establishments that are almost obscenely luxurious. Most are part of respected international chains, their names providing an implicit guarantee of excellence. But due to a glut at the top of the market, the KL outposts of these luxury brands are relatively affordable.
The two top choices for a splurge are the Ritz Carlton Hotel (rooms from 390 ringgit), and the Mandarin Oriental (rooms from 625 ringgit), both near faultless examples in how to run a luxury hotel. Much of their business comes from repeat customers, a sign of how good they are at what they do. If only everyone could afford to show such loyalty to a place like the "Mandy O".
Unless otherwise noted, the rates indicated above are walk-in rates. Many of these can be booked online, so be sure to shop around for a discounted rate.
Story by Pat Fama
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