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Moving to Kuala Lumpur

Replete with bustling shopping malls, incredible restaurants and a world-class airport, Kuala Lumpur is quickly climbing the ranks as one of Southeast Asia's most popular expat destinations. Yet for all its modernity and high-tech reputation, expats moving to 'KL' will experience a city that keeps in touch with its traditional roots. This delicate balance can be seen everywhere, especially in the city's architecture, with its masterfully crafted mosques that sit beside majestic, towering skyscrapers.

The cost of living in Kuala Lumpur is more expensive than most other Malaysian cities, but given all the modern conveniences that the city offers, the added cost is understandable. Also, when compared to other Asian cities such as neighbouring Singapore or Jakarta, and particularly Hong Kong, KL is in fact rather cheap.

The city has a well-developed transit system with buses and trains connecting all areas. When on the road, traffic can be a problem, especially during peak hours, and most expats find that public transport is the most viable option. Expats moving with children are sure to be impressed with the number and quality of international schools in KL, not to mention the many fun family activities on offer.

As a worldwide shopping capital, KL offers a lifestyle second to none, enhanced by the wonderful Malaysian cuisine the city is home to. Should expats need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, there are a number of perfect weekend getaways surrounding KL. The Cameron Highlands and the seaside town of Malaka are popular holiday destinations, while Singapore, Bangkok and Bali are both quick and cheap flights away.

Kuala Lumpur is making its mark on the international business map, and is a great destination for expats wanting a dose of adventure mixed with modern conveniences and a fantastic lifestyle.

Pros and cons of moving to Kuala Lumpur

The variety of religious celebrations, the marriage of modern sky-rises and historical buildings, and the harmonious blend of Malaysians and expats, all make Kuala Lumpur stand out. However, like any city, it has its pros and cons for those expats who choose to settle there.

The city is growing by leaps and bounds and shows no sign of slowing anytime soon. In a positive sense, this means openness and acceptance towards change and forward-moving progress. However, there are a few obvious growing pains that the country will continue to face.


Accommodation in Kuala Lumpur

+ PRO: Large open-plan living areas

Owing to the fact that Kuala Lumpur has become such a prominent Southeast Asian destination, most buildings being constructed are new, modern and spacious. The living areas are open-plan and most contain floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing the year-round sunshine to shine through. The newer homes contain at least three bedrooms. Often, condos or bungalows can even have five or six. Both of these accommodation types are readily available throughout the various suburbs of Kuala Lumpur.

- CON: Soaring prices

Because everything is so new, the prices can be a bit steep, both for rental and purchase. This is also due to the fact that safety is a concern in Kuala Lumpur, so many of the condos and bungalows have gates and guardhouses. Certain amenities within the home, such as hot water in the kitchen, microwaves, ovens, dishwashers and washer/dryer units, are all considered 'extras', many of which can be negotiated into the rental or sale price.


Cost of living in Kuala Lumpur

+ PRO: Locally sourced items are cheap

Thanks to the consistently warm and humid climate in Malaysia, there is a huge variety of Asian fruits and vegetables grown here. Add to that the chicken, beef and fishing industries, and shoppers have a plethora of options. Malaysia is also home to a variety of manufacturing plants, from wooden furniture and clothing, to textiles and ceramics.

There is a huge market in Malaysia for oil and gas companies, much of which is locally sourced. Because of this, petrol tends to be on the cheaper side in comparison to various Western countries. Expats who have homes that require gas for stovetops will find prices are low as well.

- CON: Expensive imports due to taxes

Anything that isn't made in Malaysia will be expensive to import. This includes vital items such as cars. There are some auto manufacturers within Malaysia, but the quality is sub-par. For those thinking of importing their current car, import tax will be extremely high.

For expats pining after certain creature comforts, importing food from home is also very expensive. The cost of wine, beer and liquor is rather exorbitant in Malaysia owing to the strict taxes on anything containing alcohol. Duty-free is the best bet when flying into the country.


Cultural expression in Kuala Lumpur 

+ PRO: Variety and freedom

Kuala Lumpur is home to a wonderful variety of cultures. Traditionally, but not always, the following holds true: the indigenous Malay are Muslim, the Indian Malay are Hindu, and the Chinese Malay are Buddhists. The Malaysian government honours a variety of holidays, with Islamic ones being most prominent. Malaysia allows freedom of expression, so newcomers should not be worried about practising their own religion.

- CON: Closed streets and shops

The downfall of all these glorious holiday celebrations are the closed roads, making for more traffic in the already congested city. The amount of public holidays the government recognises affects work and shop hours.


Healthcare in Kuala Lumpur

+ PRO: Doctors are highly skilled and services are cheaper

Malaysia is quickly becoming a top medical tourism destination worldwide. The doctors are all highly educated, starting their education in Malaysia and finishing up in various Western countries before returning to their home country to practise. Healthcare costs are extremely low in comparison to Western countries and with the burgeoning market, business has demanded more and more modern hospitals and private clinics. Health insurance is also quite reasonable and most plans cover many of the expenses expats would incur. 

- CON: Conservative culture may stipulate a certain type of assisted care

Even though medically speaking the country is advanced in comparison to other Southeast Asian countries, there is still an element of tradition in healing methods, specifically in relation to nurses. They tend to be a bit more conventional and not as open to Western-style practices.


Transport in Kuala Lumpur

+ PRO: Ever-expanding light rail and cheap taxis

Kuala Lumpur is a growing city and with that comes a need for more public transport. Kuala Lumpur’s light rail line has been able to satisfy much of that need. Within the city itself, the light rail has quickly become a more viable mode of transport for locals, expats and tourists alike. The government also built two high-speed, non-stop lines to and from the international airport. The cost is minimal and the compartments are clean and air-conditioned. Taxis are also plentiful around Kuala Lumpur and charge a low rate. 

- CON: Heavy traffic on a daily basis

The downfall of Kuala Lumpur’s quickly expanding city is the amount of traffic. Cars clog up the roads every day between 7am and 9am and again from 4pm to 7pm. The government is working on expanding lanes but with the often scarce police not properly enforcing traffic rules, it quickly becomes a free-for-all, sometimes causing more harm than good.


Cuisine in Kuala Lumpur

+ PRO: Variety of local options

Kuala Lumpur is known as a gastronomic hub of Asia, and it’s easy to see why. Cuisines range from typical Malaysian to Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese and Thai. Malaysia is also known for its hawker stalls – food stands found on the side of the street serving aromatic dishes at a fraction of restaurant prices.

- CON: Good Western food hard to find

Although there are lots of Western-style outlets around the city, there are only a few that seem to get it right when it comes to the cuisine. Those establishments tend to be a bit pricier, but are usually worth the cost. 

Accommodation in Kuala Lumpur

Expats will find a range of accommodation options in Kuala Lumpur suitable for a variety of budgets and needs. Before embarking on the house hunt, new arrivals should also make sure they research the different areas and suburbs of the city and surrounding region to get a good idea of their options.


Types of accommodation in Kuala Lumpur

Housing in Kuala Lumpur comes in many different forms and includes standalone houses, known as bungalows, as well as semi-detached and terraced houses, apartments and condominiums. Generally, condominiums are the most popular option for expats in Kuala Lumpur, as they are secure and often have amenities such as gyms, swimming pools and tennis courts.

Accommodation can be furnished, semi-furnished or unfurnished, which may mean it's completely empty of kitchen appliances or even curtain rails. Most apartments will come unfurnished, while serviced condominiums are mostly furnished. Serviced accommodation is significantly more expensive than a normal apartment, depending on the area one chooses, but generally comes with all utilities and amenities included.


Finding accommodation in Kuala Lumpur

Expats can find accommodation in Kuala Lumpur online and by looking through local newspapers and publications. It's recommended to view a few properties to get a sense of how much one can expect to pay for a certain kind of space.

Many expats choose to use a rental agent to help them in their property search and in negotiating the terms of their lease agreements. Some expats who choose to stay in Kuala Lumpur for a long time have even gone as far as to invest in property, again with the help of an agent. Real-estate agent fees are normally paid by the landlord or seller.


Renting accommodation in Kuala Lumpur

Leases

Rental terms are negotiable, but most leases are set for a period of two years. It is possible to include a clause in the lease agreement allowing for early termination provided tenants give at least two months’ notice or pay a no-notice fine.

Deposits

One or two months’ rent is expected as a refundable security deposit, and the first month's rent must also be paid upfront. At the end of the lease period, the deposit is returned in full as long as the home has been kept in good condition.

Utilities

The tenant will be responsible for paying their own utilities, including water, electricity, sewerage, phone and internet bills.

Areas and suburbs in Kuala Lumpur

The best places to live in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is a diverse city. From its different neighbourhoods and inhabitants to its religions and cuisines, KL is nothing if not unique. There is such an assortment of lifestyles here that there really is a fit for every expat and every family, especially when it comes to choosing the right area or suburb in Kuala Lumpur to call home. 

Here are some of the most popular areas and suburbs of KL for expats.


City dwellers in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur City Centre

Kuala Lumpur City Centre

Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) is exactly what the name implies. It is directly downtown and within walking distance to the major shopping malls such as Suria KLCC, Pavilion, Fahrenheit88 and more. KLCC is also in the heart of the famous Golden Triangle entertainment, commercial and shopping district, as well as the lively Bukit Bintang area. Accommodation in the city centre consists mainly of condominiums and apartments. Both furnished and unfurnished units are available in KLCC, and there's also the option of serviced apartments.

Almost all of the housing complexes contain their own fitness facility and pool area, and some will also include children’s playgrounds and cafes or mini markets. Although it can be very pricey to live in these downtown high-rises, most are incredibly spacious and residents do benefit from the conveniences of living right in the middle of all the action.


Suburban life in Kuala Lumpur

Mont Kiara

Mont Kiara

Mont Kiara is the typical 'suburban lifestyle' neighbourhood with many an expat family lured to the area by its well respected selection of international schools.

There are more high-rise condos here than in any other suburbs, yet scattered throughout are also town houses and semi-detached houses, as well as bungalow-style homes. There are also several serviced apartments available to expats in Mont Kiara.

Thanks to the convenient presence of shopping malls and services, some find no need to leave the area much at all. Many places here also boast beautiful views of the KLCC skyline.

Ampang

Ampang is home to virtually all of the foreign embassies in Kuala Lumpur and many diplomats live near here. As such, the area is immensely popular among expats and is commonly referred to as 'embassy row'. Unsurprisingly, there are a number of international schools that are located here to cater for the expat community, though there are also some good private school options to consider.

Housing options in Ampang are diverse, but most condos and apartments are within lower-rise buildings. The construction can vary from new to somewhat dated and the streets are generally quiet and safe. There are numerous stores for everyday needs, as well as a couple of shopping malls for bigger purchases. Expats will also find a few highly rated private hospitals in Ampang.

Mutiara Damansara/Damansara Perdana/Taman Tun Dr Ismail

These three neighbourhoods are grouped together owing to their proximity to one another. Although Damansara Perdana and Taman Tun Dr Ismail are both quiet and a bit more upper class than their neighbour, Mutiara Damansara, all three options attract expats and locals alike. All types of housing are found here, many with more traditional characteristics due to the age of the area.


Cultural centres in Kuala Lumpur

Bangsar

Bangsar and Pantai

Bangsar and Pantai are neighbours. While Bangsar is the more popular choice, some residences are on the outskirts in or near Pantai, where the expat-friendly and popular private hospital, Pantai Medical Centre, is located.

Bangsar is a diverse neighbourhood full of both expats as well as middle- and upper-class locals. Bangsar is a mere 10 minutes from KLCC and is situated upon a hill boasting glorious views of the skyline.

Bansgar is home to the famed Bangsar Village, as well as the Bangsar Shopping Centre. Both are very popular with expats and locals alike, making shopping very easy and the availability of both local and imported goods common. Bangsar is also known for its thriving nightlife and street markets.

Homes here can be pricey, but may be worth it for all the conveniences. There are also a couple choices for serviced apartments.


Affluent areas in Kuala Lumpur

Damansara

Damansara Heights

Damansara Heights is a highly popular choice for expats as it is close to Bangsar, Mid Valley, KL Sentral, and still only 15 minutes outside of KLCC. Damansara is home to a wealthy local community as well. It contains a few international schools and some quaint neighbourhood cafes and restaurants. Most shopping is done in nearby Bangsar, about a five-minute drive away.

Homes here are on the expensive side but are of newer construction, mainly consisting of semi-detached houses and bungalows.

Sri Hartamas

Sri Hartamas is located very close to Mont Kiara and is ideal for expat singles, couples and families wanting the conveniences of Mont Kiara amenities, yet a removed living atmosphere. Homes are on the higher end but include condos, townhouses and semi-detached houses, as well as serviced apartment complexes. Shopping centres are convenient and the restaurants are cozy and intimate and offer a wide range of cuisine.

Healthcare in Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia’s healthcare system continues to go from strength to strength as the government invests more in marketing the country as a global medical tourism destination. Healthcare in Kuala Lumpur offers some of the best healthcare in the country, with high-quality public and private medical facilities available.

Expats moving to Kuala Lumpur will benefit from easy access to relatively inexpensive healthcare, well-trained medical staff and high-tech facilities. Pharmacies are also plentiful in the city and can be found in most malls.

Below is a list of recommended public and private hospitals in Kuala Lumpur.


Hospitals in Kuala Lumpur

Assunta Hospital

www.assunta.com.my
Address: Jalan Templer, PJS 4, Petaling Jaya, 46050 Selangor

Beacon Hospital

www.beaconhospital.com.my
Address: 1 Jalan 215, Section 51, Petaling Jaya, 46050 Selangor

Cardiac Vascular Sentral Kuala Lumpur

www.cvskl.com
Address: Jalan Stesen Sentral 5, Kuala Lumpur Sentral, 50470 Kuala Lumpur

Sunway Medical Centre

www.sunwaymedical.com
Address: 5 Jalan Lagoon Selatan, Bandar Sunway, 47500 Selangor

Education and Schools in Kuala Lumpur

The standard of education in Kuala Lumpur is generally good and expat parents should not struggle to find a suitable school for their children. Most expat parents opt for international schools, preferring a familiar curriculum taught in the family's home language.


Public schools in Kuala Lumpur

Public schools can be attended free of charge by both expats and local children. The quality of education varies but is generally considered to be good. However, in public schools, teaching is in Malay, Tamil or Cantonese. Unless the family already speaks one of these languages, or the expat child is young enough to still pick it up easily, this is a deal-breaker for most expats, who rather opt to send their children to a private or international school instead. Bureaucratic obstacles can also play a role in this decision.


Private and international schools in Kuala Lumpur

There is a broad range of private and international schools in Kuala Lumpur catering to the diverse population of expats that call the city home.

International schools mostly follow the American, British, Australian or International Baccalaureate curricula. Private schools in Malaysia follow the Malaysian curriculum and have English as the language of instruction. Many private schools also offer faith-based learning. 

Expats should consider a number of factors when choosing a school in Kuala Lumpur. Education at both private and international schools comes at a high price and parents should factor these costs into any negotiations for their relocation package. Additionally, top schools may have waiting lists, so it’s best to begin the enrolment process as early as possible.

The location of a school is also a vital factor to consider, as traffic in Kuala Lumpur can lengthen the commute time considerably. Most private and international schools will have a bus service available to students, depending on where they live.


Special needs education in Kuala Lumpur

While the government has a long way to go in terms of making adequate resources available for special needs students, there have been moves towards a more inclusive education system. The majority of Malaysia's special needs students attend a Special Education Integrated Programme (SEIP) in a mainstream school, which offers extra support and makes necessary adaptations for the student. In cases where this isn't sufficient, children can attend a dedicated special education school.

If possible, we recommend that parents with special needs children send them to a private or international school with a special needs department. Here, the extra resources available give special needs students a better chance at getting the support needed, especially as classes are typically smaller with more individual attention given to each student.


Tutors in Kuala Lumpur

For local and expat parents alike, tutors can be an incredibly useful resource. Whether a child needs a little extra help in a difficult subject, is adjusting to a new curriculum or is learning a new language, hiring a tutor can go a long way in easing the process. Good tutoring companies operating in Kuala Lumpur include Tuteroo and MyPrivateTutor.

International Schools in Kuala Lumpur

The standard of education in Malaysia is high and expats will have a wide selection of international schools in Kuala Lumpur to choose from. These schools cater to various nationalities and offer curricula from a number of countries around the world, with the British education system being most commonly offered. A number of schools also offer the International Baccalaureate programme, while some schools teach the Australian, American, German and French curricula.

Below is a list of the best international schools in Kuala Lumpur and its surrounding areas:


International schools in Kuala Lumpur

Australian International School Malaysia

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Australian
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.aism.edu.my

British International School of Kuala Lumpur

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: National Curriculum for England, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: www.bskl.org.my

Deutsche Schule Kuala Lumpur

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: German
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.dskl.edu.my

GEMS International School Tropicana Metropark

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.metropark.gems.edu.my

International School of Kuala Lumpur

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.iskl.edu.my

Lycée Français de Kuala Lumpur

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.lfkl.edu.my

Mont’Kiara International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.mkis.edu.my

Oasis International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.ois.edu.my

Sunway International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and Canadian (Ontario)
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: sis.sunway.edu.my

Lifestyle in Kuala Lumpur

Expats moving to Kuala Lumpur will enjoy all the benefits of living in a world-class destination. 'KL' is a bustling, multicultural city, evident in its range of shopping, cuisine and nightlife options. As the city is such a cultural melting pot, it is widely influenced by the diversity of people who call it home and, as such, expats will find plenty to explore and loads of variety.


Shopping in Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia is a well-loved shopping destination, so much so that exploring the city’s countless shopping malls is a popular pastime adopted by locals, tourists and expats alike.

Expats moving to KL need not worry about bringing a wardrobe's worth of clothing along. One trip to the Golden Triangle, the city’s premier shopping area, will see all the old favourites replaced, renewed and revitalised.

The Golden Triangle is central to KL in terms of entertainment and business. Bukit Bintang Street is lined with shops and malls stocked with electronic goods, fashion merchandise and designer brands. Malls such as Low Yat Plaza, Sungei Wang Plaza, Lot 10 and Berjaya Times Square also stock all these items and more. At the base of the Petronas Twin Towers, shoppers can find the popular Suria KLCC, which has a host of designer goods.

Jalan Hang Kasturi is the place to go if looking for the Kuala Lumpur Central Market, which is the best place to buy arts and crafts, antiques, paintings, handicrafts and quirky souvenirs. Nearby Chinatown is an ideal destination for finding a bargain and has everything from herbal medicines and dried food to jewellery, wallets and handbags.


Eating out in Kuala Lumpur

Expats in Malaysia are in for a treat for the senses when it comes to the range of dining-out options available. KL is home to a fusion of cultures and cuisines and this is particularly evident when sampling the delicious fare on offer in the exotic, trendy and stylish restaurants of the city.

Being a meeting point of cultures and immigrant communities, Malaysia frequently has its own version (or sometimes many versions) of popular dishes from all over Asia. Nasi goreng, or fried rice, can be found in more than a dozen styles throughout Malaysia, borrowing from all sorts of cultures along the way. Meanwhile, the mixture of fragrant spices, coconut milk and curry leaves make mamak – a local style of Indian food sold at open-air stalls – some of KL’s most popular cuisine. Chinese dishes are also a firm favourite with prominent dishes such as Hokkien mee, a fried noodle dish, readily available throughout the city.

Western food is also available in Malaysia for expats looking for a taste of home, but with Malaysian food being much more affordable and widely praised as one of the world's most delicious cuisines, there is little reason to stray from local favourites.


Nightlife and entertainment in Kuala Lumpur

Despite the majority of Malaysia’s population being Muslim, KL’s many other cultures and religions are welcome. The local population is largely tolerant of many of the indulgences which Western expats enjoy. Alcohol is widely available (though on the expensive side), and there are a range of bars and nightclubs operating across the city.

From rooftop bars with city-skyline views to trendy cocktail lounges and glitzy dance clubs, KL has something to suit every night owl’s tastes. Karaoke is also a particularly popular activity in KL and most establishments have happy hours with drinks specials.

The Golden Triangle is KL’s nightlife hub. Jalan Bukit Bintang, one of the city's busiest streets, is lined with bars, restaurants and clubs, while Bangsar Baru, once a run-down business district, has also become a trendy area with many bars and restaurants.


Outdoor activities in Kuala Lumpur

Weekends allow expats with families to travel the region and experience its natural beauty. There are also clubs and gyms to join for those interested in the sports scene in KL, as well as social groups within the city that meet over the weekends.

Kuala Lumpur also has many beautiful parks for the whole family to enjoy, including the Perdana Botanical Garden, Kanching Rainforest Waterfall and the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park.

Sport and fitness in Kuala Lumpur

Fitness is a growing part of the Kuala Lumpur lifestyle and is fast becoming more and more popular. Over the past few years, health clubs have sprung up all over Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding areas and suburbs to accommodate the new fitness craze. 

Joining a sports team or signing up for a spinning class or similar group activity is a great way to stay in shape and meet new people. 


Gyms in Kuala Lumpur

Fitness First

Fitness First was the health club that started the fitness craze in Kuala Lumpur. With its revolutionary design, trendy outlook and convenient facilities, it quickly garnered the attention of young adults and students. Their fitness studios are located throughout the Kuala Lumpur city centre and popular expat areas, such as Mont Kiara.

Celebrity Fitness

Celebrity Fitness prides itself on the concept of using local celebrities, mostly fashion models, to promote the image of the club, offering a wide variety of aerobic classes and studios. Personal training, spinning, yoga and group exercise programmes are available here.


Health and fitness activities in Kuala Lumpur

Golf

Golf is a hard hobby to give up and expats moving to Kuala Lumpur can take comfort in the fact that they won't have to. The city has a number of excellent courses, some of which are open to the public and others that are more exclusive, requiring a membership. Taking advantage of Kuala Lumpur's natural beauty, the city's golf courses are often set in gorgeous locales such as lakeside and jungle areas.

Yoga

A great way to stretch both the body and mind, yoga is becoming increasingly popular in Kuala Lumpur. Some practices are more focused on the physical aspect while others tend more towards the spiritual and mindfulness aspects of yoga.

Gyms regularly offer group classes as part of membership, or alternatively, a number of small, local studios specialise in yoga teachings.

Water sports

Unsurprisingly, with the island's surplus of ocean surrounds, scuba diving, wake-boarding and snorkelling are huge activities in Malaysia. The country has some great sites to offer for these activities, such as the Perhentian and Tioman islands. Closer to Kuala Lumpur, just half an hour's drive outside the city, expats can check out Putrajaya Lake and Tasik Biru.

Kids and Family in Kuala Lumpur

The weather and greenery in Kuala Lumpur make it an ideal place for families. With some excellent international schooling options and a host of extra-curricular activities on offer, expat families moving to Kuala Lumpur will find it an easy city in which to keep children busy and happy. 

Local attitudes to children are overwhelmingly positive and they are welcomed almost everywhere in a city that is accepting of different cultures and faiths. As well as boasting some fun attractions in its own right, Kuala Lumpur is a gateway to the rest of the country and the region, where families will be spoilt for choice with beautiful beaches, jungles and other exciting cities to visit.


Activities for kids in Kuala Lumpur

There are all sorts of activities for children living in Kuala Lumpur. Weekend outings include visiting water parks, a zoo, craft centres, forest reserves, museums and science centres. Parents will also find almost every sport or hobby on offer around the city. 

The excellent Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra puts on a number of children’s concerts throughout the year known as 'family fun days' and there are often good-quality theatre productions aimed at the young ones. Kuala Lumpur’s many malls also provide an abundance of activities, including cinemas, indoor play centres and ice skating.

Families have an abundance of options when it comes to weekend getaways and holidays. As Kuala Lumpur is the home of Air Asia, it’s easy and often relatively cheap for the whole family to visit local islands and other cities within the broader Southeast Asian region.


Environment and climate in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is a green city. It is surrounded by jungle and some of the nearby national parks are worth a visit. However, because of the heat and humidity, many expats are surprised by how much time they spend indoors.

Midday is generally too hot for outdoor activities, apart from swimming, so most people find they need to plan around this and get out and about in the earlier part of the morning or the later part of the afternoon.


Medical facilities for children in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is home to good quality hospitals, many of which have excellent reputations. Most expats use paediatricians based in these hospitals for their children’s immunisations and health needs. In-patient and antenatal and postnatal care is also excellent. As with many things, word-of-mouth is often the best way to find a practitioner.


Parent networks in Kuala Lumpur

There are many parent networks in Kuala Lumpur that can be a valuable source of information and support for expat families. Ibu Family Resource Group is a popular organisation that connects parents of local and expat children through playgroups, seminars and support groups. Many expat groups also have affiliated playgroups and parent networks. A lot of expat families live in condos, and these also provide excellent opportunities for meeting other parents and families from all over the world.


Challenges for families in Kuala Lumpur

Traffic can be an issue in Kuala Lumpur, with long jams and sometimes unpredictable driving to contend with. While the railways are highly efficient and clean, public transport does not reach all areas of the city and most expat families find that it’s difficult to get around without a car.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that Kuala Lumpur occasionally experiences haze, brought about by annual forest fires in the region. The government is good at ensuring people are informed of pollution levels and instigates a school-closure policy if it becomes a problem. However, instances of this are rare.

See and Do in Kuala Lumpur

Expats will never be short of things to see and do in Kuala Lumpur. A true blend of East and West, and both traditional and modern, the city boasts beautiful colonial architecture and heritage buildings beside towering modern skyscrapers. From fascinating museums and religious sites to tropical gardens, there is something for everyone to enjoy, and weekends are sure to be jam-packed with exciting activities and excursions within the city and the wider Klang Valley.

Below are some of the most popular sightseeing spots in Kuala Lumpur.


Attractions in Kuala Lumpur

The National Museum

The National Museum (Muzium Negara), located on Jalan Damansara and close to the Perdara Lake Gardens, is a great starting point for expats wishing to learn more about the culture and heritage of Malaysia.

Petronas Towers

The Petronas Towers are a landmark of Kuala Lumpur. Until 2004, they were the world's two tallest buildings. The towers offer spectacular views of the city as well as great shopping opportunities at the base. For a fee, visitors can take a tour of the double-decker sky bridge connecting the two towers and can also go all the way to level 86. 

Mosques

The city's mosques are both breathtaking and awe-inspiring. With their intricate carvings and peaceful settings, the Masjid Negara Mosque and the Masjid Jamek Mosque should definitely be on the bucket list.

Taman Negara

Catching a train or bus to Taman Negara is recommended for hikers and nature lovers keen to experience some of the oldest rain forests in the world. Trekking, rafting, fishing, bird watching and climbing are all possible for expats looking for a break from city life.

Cameron Highlands

Another fantastic weekend getaway option is the Cameron Highlands, which offers cool mountain weather and strolls through the country’s oldest tea plantations surrounded by rain forests and jungle scenery. It's the ideal vacation spot to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

What's On in Kuala Lumpur

A true melting pot of cultures and traditions, Kuala Lumpur has a large and diverse variety of annual festivals and celebrations. Many of these are specifically organised by the state to showcase the country’s diverse culture and history, while others are simply celebrations and showcases of film, art and music. Either way, these events inevitably offer a wonderful opportunity for expats to learn more about the Malaysian people and way of life.

Below are some of the most popular yearly celebrations and festivals held in Kuala Lumpur.


Annual events in Malaysia

Langkawi International Water Festival (April)

This water-sports event is a great way to spend some time in the sun, with events ranging from sandcastle-building competitions and underwater treasure hunts to kayak races, fishing competitions and beach netball games.

Colours of Malaysia (May)

Known locally as Citrawarna Malaysia, this annual festival is organised by the Malaysian Ministry of Tourism to showcase the country’s culture through traditional song-and-dance performances, dazzling parades, delicious ethnic food and beautifully made handicrafts.

Kuala Lumpur Marathon (June)

Weaving its way through notable city landmarks, the Kuala Lumpur Marathon begins and ends at Dataran Merdeka. This is a great way for outdoorsy expats to get to know the city while enjoying a run with a view. This is also a fantastic spectator event.

Good Vibes Festival (July)

Each year, this beloved music festival brings the best in local and international indie, pop, electronic and hip hop music to the hills of Genting just north of Kuala Lumpur. While the performances are the highlight, attendees should make sure to check out the festival's giant playground, art installations and mouthwatering food stalls.

Frequently Asked Questions about Kuala Lumpur

Expats moving to Malaysia will no doubt want to learn more about their adoptive country. From health issues, pollution and safety to meeting other like-minded foreigners, below we've provided answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about expat life in Kuala Lumpur.

What are the biggest health concerns in Kuala Lumpur?

Malaysian weather is hot and humid and perhaps the biggest health concern is keeping one's body properly hydrated. Tap water should either be boiled or purified before drinking.

Dengue fever is a risk in all parts of Malaysia. The mosquitoes transmitting dengue tend to bite during the day so it is best to remain vigilant.

What are the pollution levels like?

Air pollution levels are a concern in Kuala Lumpur. Forest fires, vehicle emissions and industrial pollution all deteriorate Kuala Lumpur’s air quality. Many expats will notice the pollution on first arrival. Spending weekends outside of the city in areas such as the Cameron Highlands does help, and wearing a facemask is recommended on particularly smoggy days, especially for children.

How safe is Kuala Lumpur?

Violent crime involving expats in Malaysia is relatively uncommon. There are occasional instances of petty theft and pickpocketing and some expats have reported burglaries. However, this is not the norm and the levels of petty crime are more or less the same as in most large cities around the world.

It is best to always be aware of one's surroundings, as pickpocketing can occur. Female expats should be particularly vigilant at all times, and it is generally advised that women don't get into a cab or lift alone late at night.

Is it easy to meet other foreigners in Kuala Lumpur?

Meeting other foreigners is not an issue in Kuala Lumpur, where there is a well-established expat community. A steady flow of international visitors means the city offers many opportunities to socialise. There are a number of expat organisations in Kuala Lumpur that arrange expat get-togethers. Families with kids will find that the local international schools also tend to be great when building a friendship network.

Getting Around in Kuala Lumpur

Public transport in Kuala Lumpur is extensive and largely made up of buses and various rail systems, with the Light Rapid Transit (LRT) system being the most popular. Transport routes, availability and commute times are significant factors expats will have to get used to when moving to Malaysia. But ultimately, getting around Kuala Lumpur is relatively easy.

Some expats may prefer driving over public transport, especially if they have children or if they want to explore areas beyond the city. Traffic and parking can be a problem, though, and some expats find the Malaysian driving style to be on the reckless side.


Public transport in Kuala Lumpur

MyRapid Touch 'n Go

The MyRapid Touch 'n Go Card is a smartcard ticketing system which can be used on all trains and buses, regardless of carrier. Travellers load credit onto the card in advance and simply tap in and out when boarding a bus or train. When a traveller places the card on the reader, the ticket value is automatically deducted from the available credit.

Trains

Kuala Lumpur has a well-developed rail system, consisting of three Light Rapid Transit (LRT) lines, three commuter lines, one Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) line, and one monorail line. There are also two dedicated airport-link services that run to and from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Operated by Express Rail Link (ERL), these two lines are known as the KLIA Ekspres and KLIA Transit.

The LRT, MRT and monorail operate under the banner of Rapid Rail. The monorail runs directly through the city centre with the LRT lines branching off, connecting various suburbs to the city centre. The MRT, along with the commuter rail lines, run over longer distances, connecting Kuala Lumpur with surrounding towns. The commuter rail is run by KTM Komuter.

The LRT, with a daily ridership of close to half a million, is the most reliable and popular form of public transport in Kuala Lumpur. However, it can get very crowded, especially during rush hour.

Buses

Kuala Lumpur has an extensive bus network. There are a number of bus companies operating in the city, with Rapid Bus being the most common, followed by Metrobus. The bus system is well integrated with the train system, with a number of bus routes acting as feeder services to train stations.

Buses are cheap and efficient, provided there are no traffic jams. However, bus usage is declining as a result of the wide coverage of trains in Kuala Lumpur, which are generally seen as the preferred option.


Taxis in Kuala Lumpur

Taxis in Kuala Lumpur are available 24 hours a day, and can be hailed on the street. Ride-hailing apps such as Grab and MyCar are also operational in the city and are often used by expats and locals alike. That said, heavy traffic congestion, particularly during rush hour, can sometimes make taxis an inconvenient means of getting around Kuala Lumpur. 


Driving in Kuala Lumpur

Driving in Kuala Lumpur can be chaotic at the best of times. Traffic lights are not always adhered to, and this goes for other road rules as well. Due to the unpredictable nature of other drivers in Malaysia, driving is generally not recommended.

Those who do decide to drive can do so on an international driver's permit for up to 90 days. Citizens of Commonwealth countries can use their driver's licence from home. To continue driving after this period, expats will need to convert to a Malaysian licence.