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Moving to Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is the largest city in Malaysia and a major business and travel hub for Southeast Asia. Complete with bustling shopping malls, incredible restaurants and a world-class airport, it has made its mark as an exciting city in which to live. Yet for all its modernity and high-tech reputation, expats moving to Kuala Lumpur will experience a city that keeps in touch with its traditional roots.

Kuala Lumpur literally means 'muddy estuary', a name derived from its history as a tin mining town in the 1800s. It has certainly developed from those early days and today has a highly efficient subway system, world-class highways, beautiful architecture and some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world. 

The cost of living in Kuala Lumpur is more expensive than most other places to live in Malaysia, but when confronted with all the modern conveniences that the city offers, the added cost is understandable. It is, however, one of the cheaper Asian cities in which to live, especially when compared with neighbouring Singapore or Jakarta, and particularly Hong Kong, which is only a short flight away.

The city has a developed transit system with buses and trains connecting all areas. Traffic can be a problem, especially during peak hours, and most expats will find that public transport is the most viable option. A popular shopping destination, Kuala Lumpur has developed large shopping centres and boutiques. Expats moving with children are sure to be impressed with the number and quality of international schools in Kuala Lumpur.

There are a number of perfect weekend getaways surrounding Kuala Lumpur. The Cameron Highlands and the seaside town of Malaka are popular holiday destinations, while Singapore, Bangkok and Bali are merely a quick and cheap flight 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. The city is perfectly situated in Asia along international travel routes, ensuring home is never too far away.

Accommodation in Kuala Lumpur

Expats will find a range of accommodation options in Kuala Lumpur, suitable for a variety of budgets and needs. New arrivals should also make sure they research the different areas and suburbs of the city and surrounding region.


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 completely unfurnished, which may mean 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.


Finding accommodation in Kuala Lumpur

Renting or buying a property in Kuala Lumpur is an easy procedure and there are no hidden cultural nuances that hinder the process of finding and moving into a new home.

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 to expect to pay for a certain kind of space. This is mostly due to the fact that rental prices in Kuala Lumpur are often listed as 'View to Offer'.

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.


Factors to consider when house-hunting in Kuala Lumpur

Traffic congestion can be extreme in Kuala Lumpur, so many expats choose to live close to their workplace or children’s school, or in close proximity to public transport routes.

Expats tend to be scattered throughout the city but the more popular areas include Jalan Ampang, which is home to a number of embassies and consulates, and the areas of Kuala Lumpur City Centre, Taman Tun Dr Ismail and Damansara Heights to the west of the city centre. Bangsar Bahru, south of the city centre, is also popular for its pleasant setting, while the Golden Triangle is where most of the city’s international schools can be found. Jalan Ampang and Damansara Heights are the priciest, but shopping around does have its rewards.


Signing a lease in Kuala Lumpur

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 if giving at least two months’ notice or paying a no-notice fine.

At least two months’ rent is expected as a refundable security deposit. The tenant will be responsible for paying their own utilities, including water, electricity, sewerage, phone and internet bills. It’s important to also ensure that there is a clause in the rental agreement that makes it clear who pays for minor repairs to the property during the tenancy.

Areas and suburbs in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is a very diverse city. From its different neighbourhoods and inhabitants to its religions and cuisines, Kuala Lumpur is certainly 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 Kuala Lumpur for expats:


City dwellers in Kuala Lumpur

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, as well as 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 cafés or mini-markets. Although it can be very pricy to live in these downtown high-rises, most are incredibly spacious and residents do benefit from the conveniences of living within all the action. Singles, couples and families all find their homes in KLCC, mainly those who work within the downtown area.


Suburban life in Kuala Lumpur

Ampang

Ampang is very close to the KLCC area and attracts many expats due to the fact that it has been informally named 'Embassy Row', as well as the international schools that are located here. Ampang is home to virtually all of the foreign embassies in Kuala Lumpur and many diplomats live near here. Housing options in Ampang are diverse, but most condos and apartments are within lower-rise buildings. The construction can vary from new to 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. Private and international schools in this area are highly acclaimed. Expats will also find a few highly rated private hospitals in Ampang.

Mont Kiara

Mont Kiara is the typical 'suburban lifestyle' neighbourhood. Virtually all of the families who live in Mont Kiara are expats due to the various international schools in the area. 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. Due to the convenient presence of shopping malls and services, some find no need to leave the area much at all. Many places also boast beautiful views of the KLCC skyline.

Mutiara Damansara/Damansara Perdana/Taman Tun Dr Ismail

These three neighbourhoods are grouped together due 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 a plethora of expats and locals alike. All types of housing are found here, many with more traditional characteristics due to the age of the area. Another popular aspect of this area is a large mall, The Curve, which is home to IKEA, TESCO and many home and personal goods stores.


Cultural centres in Kuala Lumpur

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.

Seputeh

Seputeh is a centrally located neighbourhood right in the heart of Mid Valley City. Mid Valley is the largest shopping mall in the area, connected by the upper-end Gardens Mall. Seputeh is popular with expats due to its proximity to international schooling options. It is also popular for families who work in KLCC due to the nearby KL Sentral train station. Housing options range across the board and the residents are a mixture of expat and local.


Affluent areas in Kuala Lumpur

Damansara Heights

Damansara Heights is a very 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 the wealthy local community as well. It contains a few international schools and some quaint neighbourhood cafés 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 has a lot of overflow of 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 the best 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.


Hospitals in Kuala Lumpur

A number of the best public and private hospitals in Kuala Lumpur include:

Gleneagles Intan Medical Centre

www.gleneagleskl.com.my
Address: 282 Jalan Ampang, 50450

Prince Court Medical Centre

www.princecourt.com
Address: 39 Jalan Kia Peng, 50450

Sunway Medical Centre

www.sunwaymedical.com
Address: 5 Jalan Lagoon Selatan, Bandar Sunway, 475000

Tung Shin Hospital

www.tungshinhospital.com.my
Address: 102 Jalan Pudu, Bukut Bintang, 55100

Education and Schools in Kuala Lumpur

The standard of education in Kuala Lumpur is generally very good and expat parents should not struggle to find a good school for their children.

Schools in Kuala Lumpur are divided into public, private and international. Malay is the language of instruction for most subjects at public schools. Therefore, most expats choose to send their children to a private or international school. 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.

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, but the majority follow the British education system. A number of schools also offer the International Baccalaureate programme. 


International schools in Kuala Lumpur

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

The Australian International School

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

British International School Kuala Lumpur

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

Fairview International School

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 4 to 18
Website: www.fairview.edu.my

Garden International School

Curriculum: National Curriculum for England and Cambridge IGCSE
Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.gardenschool.edu.my

The International School of Kuala Lumpur

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

The International School at ParkCity

Curriculum: National Curriculum for England and A-levels
Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: www.isp.edu.my

Mont’Kiara International School

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

Nexus International School

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

Sayfol International School

Curriculum: National Curriculum for England, Cambridge IGCSE and Pearson Edexcel International Advanced Levels
Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: www.sayfol.edu.my

Victoria International School

Curriculum: National Curriculum for England, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 4 to 18
Website: www.victoria.edu.my

Lifestyle in Kuala Lumpur

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


Shopping in Kuala Lumpur

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

Expats moving to Kuala Lumpur need not worry about packing all their favourite wardrobe items. 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 Kuala Lumpur 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 like 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 Kuala Lumpur’s 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 through to designer t-shirts, jewellery, wallets and handbags.

The Mega Sale Carnival in July and August is orchestrated by the Ministry of Tourism for Malaysia in an effort to boost Kuala Lumpur’s reputation as a world-class shopping destination.


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. Kuala Lumpur is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines and this is particularly evident when sampling the delicious fare on offer in the exotic, trendy and stylish restaurants.

Being a meeting point of cultures and immigrant communities, Malaysians have come up with some unique tastes such as nasi goreng, a rice dish cooked with coconut milk and served with anchovies, roasted nuts, cucumbers, a slice of egg, chilli paste and curries. The mixture of fragrant spices, coconut milk and curry leaves make mamak Kuala Lumpur’s most popular cuisine. 

Chinese dishes are also a firm favourite with prominent dishes such as fried pork and stir-fried noodles with prawns, eggs, pork and sprouts readily available throughout the city.


Nightlife and entertainment in Kuala Lumpur

Despite the majority of Malaysia’s population being Muslim, Kuala Lumpur’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, with 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, Kuala Lumpur has something to suit every night owl’s preference and budget. Karaoke is also a particularly popular activity in Kuala Lumpur and most establishments have happy hours with drinks specials.

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

Weekends allow expats with families to travel the region. There are also clubs and gyms to join for those interested in the sports scene in Kuala Lumpur, 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 Gardens, Kanching Rainforest Waterfalls and the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park. The city also offers many museums and cultural activities for expats to learn about local heritage and culture.

Sport and fitness in Kuala Lumpur

Fitness is a growing part of the Kuala Lumpur lifestyle and is fast becoming more and more popular despite locals' initial reservations. Many believed that using a gym or joining a sports team would conflict with religious beliefs. Over time, however, Malaysians have embraced the idea that fitness can be practised by any person, regardless of faith.

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 activities is a great way to 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 who adored its contemporary style and coolness factor. 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.


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 courses where expats can play with clubs brought from overseas or rented on the premises.

Boot Camp

Shooting ranges and boot camp, a form of military training, are on the rise in Malaysia. 

Yoga

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

Running

Despite the heat, running is a great way to keep fit and Kuala Lumpur has a variety of venues, such as KLCC Park.

Water sports

Scuba diving, wake-boarding and snorkeling are huge activities in Malaysia. The country has some great sites to offer for these activities, such as the Perhentian and Tioman islands.

Kids and Family in Kuala Lumpur

The weather and greenery in Kuala Lumpur make it an ideal place for families with children. 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 very 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 spoiled for choice with beautiful beaches, jungles and other major cities to visit.


Activities for kids in Kuala Lumpur

There are all sorts of activities for all 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 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 are spoiled for choice when it comes to weekend getaways and holidays. The city is home to Air Asia, meaning 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 very good. 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 which 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. 


Eating out with children in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is famous for its food, and children will enjoy the many cuisines on offer as much as their parents. Children are welcome in most places, from local food courts to international chain restaurants and fine dining establishments. 

There are also a number of eateries that are particularly geared to families, with children’s menus, play areas and family-friendly extras such as plastic cutlery and colouring-in sets. 


Shopping for kids in Kuala Lumpur

The city has a number of good children’s clothing and shoe stores, including some large international chains. There are also several large bookstores that sell English books for children. There is also a small children’s library in the city centre.

Major supermarkets and pharmacies sell diapers and other baby and children’s products, though if expats have a particular brand preference, they may wish to bring a stock with them to avoid disappointment. 


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 very 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 traditional and modern, walking or driving through the city will reveal beautiful colonial architecture and heritage buildings beside towering modern skyscrapers. From interesting museums to tropical gardens and religious sites, 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 Twin Towers

The Petronas Twin Towers are a landmark of Kuala Lumpur. They were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004. 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, Masjid Negara Mosque and Masjid Jamek (Friday Mosque) should definitely be on the bucket list. The Kuala Lumpur Railway Station is a perfect architectural example of where East meets West.

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 (the Peninsula’s highest mountain is Gunung Tahan) are all great options for a family wishing to spend a weekend away from the city.

Cameron Highlands

Another great weekend getaway is the Cameron Highlands, which offers cooler mountain weather and great strolls through the country’s oldest tea plantations surrounded by rain forests and jungle scenery. It's the ideal vacation spot to escape the general Kuala Lumpur lifestyle.

What's On in Kuala Lumpur

A true melting pot of cultures and traditions, Kuala Lumpur has a host of annual festivals and celebrations. Many of these are specifically organised by the state to showcase the country’s diverse culture and history. They offer a wonderful opportunity for expats to learn more about the Malaysian people and way of life.

Below are some of the most popular annual events in Kuala Lumpur:

Chinese New Year (February)

The most important event for Chinese Malaysians, the Chinese New Year celebrates the first day of the lunar calendar. Celebrations take place across the region over 15 days. This is usually a time when Chinese people go back to their family homes outside of Kuala Lumpur, so the city sees a mass exodus of people into the surrounding territories.

Federal Territory Day (February)

Federal Territory Day is held on 1 February every year to commemorate the city’s status as a federal territory. There are parades and fireworks to enjoy, with the main celebrations taking place at Merdeka Square.

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 arts and crafts through traditional performances, parades and exhibitions.

King’s Birthday (June)

This is a public holiday to honour the birthday of the Malaysian King, who is also referred to as Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Celebrations take place throughout Kuala Lumpur on the first Saturday of June, with the most important one being held at Istana Negara (the National Palace), where an official ceremony is held. A ceremonial trouping of the colours is also held to demonstrate the military’s loyalty to the king.

National Day (August)

National Day, also known as Merdeka Day, celebrates the independence of Malaya, as Malaysia was formerly known, from British rule. Concerts and fireworks displays can be enjoyed across Kuala Lumpur, with the main festivities taking place at Merdeka Square.

Frequently Asked Questions about Kuala Lumpur

Those expats who are 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, here are 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.

Kuala Lumpur and most of the west coast tend to be covered in a blanket of smoke when burning is conducted during the dry season (June to October). This decreases visibility and is particularly problematic for those suffering from asthma or other respiratory problems.

What are the pollution levels like?

Air pollution levels are a concern in Kuala Lumpur. Forest fires, vehicle emissions and industrial pollution all detract from 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. The number to call in an emergency in Malaysia is 999. 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 recommended that women shouldn’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. For those who enjoy getting out of the city, the local Hash House Harriers meets fairly regularly. 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

Kuala Lumpur has an extensive and, for the most part, efficient transport system. Relatively cheap and easy to use, signs are clearly marked in English and Bahasa Malaysia. Thus, expats should not have a problem getting around in Kuala Lumpur.


Public transport in Kuala Lumpur

Public transport in Kuala Lumpur is extensive and includes taxis, buses and various rail systems. 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.

MyRapid Cards can be purchased and money is loaded onto the card which can then be swiped for bus and rail use. The MyRapid Card gives unlimited travel on the RapidKL buses, Light Rail Transport lines or Monorail and can be loaded for travel for up to 30 days. The card works on a 'touch 'n go' system. Every time a traveller places the card on the reader, the ticket value is automatically deducted.

Petty thieves and pickpockets are known to operate on public transport in Kuala Lumpur. Expats should always keep a close eye on their possessions, especially when getting on and off buses and trains.

Buses

Kuala Lumpur has an extensive bus network. There are a number of bus services available, including Metrobus, Rapid KL and City Liner. Buses are cheap and efficient, provided there are no traffic jams.

Bus fares depend on the operating company. Some will use the daily pass system, while on others the price of a journey will depend on how many zones are travelled across.

Trains

Kuala Lumpur has a well-developed rail system consisting of two major Light Rail Transit lines: the Kelana Jaya line and the Ampang line. It also possesses a monorail line which runs from Titiwangsa to KL Sentral, two commuter rail systems and an airport rail link. 

Trains in Kuala Lumpur are integrated into the bus system, which makes it easy to transfer from one system to another. It also means that commuters don’t have to pay separate fees when moving from the railway onto a bus route. 

The LRT is the most reliable form of public transport in Kuala Lumpur. However, it can get very crowded, especially during rush hour.

Taxis

Taxis in Kuala Lumpur are available 24 hours a day, and can be hailed on the street. There are extra charges if booking a taxi over the phone or after midnight. Taxis generally have a fixed rate depending on the distance travelled, and those from Kuala Lumpur International Airport are prepaid at a counter within the building. 

Due to heavy traffic congestion, particularly during rush hour, taxis are not the most convenient 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 not recommended. Cars drive on the left-hand side of the road.

If in possession of a valid international driver’s license then it is relatively simple to get a probationary driving license in Malaysia. Expats will need a number of documents, such as their original driver’s license, a translated script if it is not in English, a colour photograph, passport, payment and a completed application form. A work permit that is valid for more than three months is also needed.