In world terms, Kuala Lumpur is a relatively affordable place to visit, but compared to the rest of Southeast Asia, with the notable exception of Singapore, it’s expensive. Accommodation is the biggest single outlay, with the cheapest decent rooms costing upwards of 80 ringgit a night. But many tourist attractions too are seriously overpriced, particularly for non-Malaysians. So here are a few ways to have fun for free (or nearly free) in KL.
Walking. Despite being such a pedestrian-unfriendly place, the more central parts of the city offer reasonable pottering territory. For those who would like to be guided round, KL has two free walks for tourists, one setting off every day from Central Market (Annexe) at 10:30; the other leaving from the YMCA in Brickfields at 08:00, on the first and third Saturday of every month, until the end of December 2011 (follow this link for more information).
The built environment. KL may be doing its best to concrete over most of its history, but more than 2,000 buildings remain from before Malaysian independence in 1957. Most are not open to the general public, but they are all free to look at. The Colonial District, Chinatown, Little India, Brickfields and Kampung Baru are the best places to search out the city’s built heritage.
Most post-independence architecture is an aesthetic disaster, with only a handful of exceptions, including the Petronas Twin Towers (tours, which are no longer free, are suspended until December 2011) and the Dayabumi Tower (near Pasar Seni).
Places of worship. One of the results of KL being so racially diverse is that it has an abundance of places of worship, all of which are free to get in. That includes Christian churches of all denominations; Chinese Taoist, Confucian and Buddhist temples; Tamil Hindu temples; Sikh shrines; and of course, many, many mosques. Chinatown, Little India, the Colonial District and Brickfields are the best hunting grounds for the most attractive places of worship.
Public green spaces. One of the delights of KL is how much greenery it has. Not only does it have some great public parks, it also has a tropical rain forest reserve (Bukit Nanas) right in the heart of the city. All these spaces are free to get in, and provide great escapes from urban KL. They also offer a wealth of activities, from jogging tracks to paddling pools, which do not cost anything.
Museums and art galleries. Seeing contemporary art is almost always free in KL, whether it be a small private show, or the National Gallery. Several shopping centres, such as the Starhill Gallery, provide public spaces for seeing art. For the most part, the public museums in and round KL charge a nominal fee, but some of these are complimentary too.
Music and dance. Central Market runs a cultural show at 21:00 nightly at the adjacent covered shopping street, Kasturi Walk, as well as other one-off events. The Malaysian Tourism Centre also regularly puts on performances, for a nominal fee of 5 ringgit. Dozens of pubs, bars and restaurants put on concerts (everything from rock to jazz) for punters, but unless you nurse a glass of water all night, your budget will take a hit from the generally exorbitant price of alcohol.
By Pat Fama
Last updated on 2nd September, 2014.