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Kuala Lumpur is one of those cities where you would want to have a layover, especially if you’re on a long-haul flight transiting between continents. KL International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world and even if you have a short layover in Kuala Lumpur, the airport itself is big enough to explore for a couple of hours while waiting for your next flight.
So before booking your next flight, squeeze in a layover in Kuala Lumpur to immerse yourself in a new culture. Depending on your travel plans, I would choose the longest layover in Kuala Lumpur without having to buy a separate plane ticket. This is so you can have the time to explore the best of Kuala Lumpur city without making a separate trip and yes, it is totally possible with kids.
Do I need a visa for a layover in Kuala Lumpur?
You do not need a visa if you’re transiting within 24 hours and staying in the transit hall.
If your stopover is longer than 24 hours or you would like to get out and explore the city, you would need to obtain an appropriate visa.
However, it’s very simple for nationals from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most countries in Europe. You’ll be granted a 90-day visa-free entry on arrival for tourism purposes without having to do anything else. For nationals from any of these countries, you would need to apply for a visa.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminals
There are 2 terminals at Kuala Lumpur International Airport that are connected by a free shuttle bus. Double-check your boarding pass to make sure you come back to the correct terminal before your next flight.
Can I leave the airport during a layover in Kuala Lumpur?
The short answer is YES. Especially if you hold a passport that doesn’t require a visa to enter Malaysia. However, depending on the duration of your layover, consider whether you have enough time to explore the city.
KL Airport to City Central
Kuala Lumpur International Airport is quite far from the city centre, about an hour by taxi and possibly longer with traffic during peak hours. So if you only have a couple of hours to spare, it can be very stressful rushing to the city and back.
KLIA Ekspres only takes about 30 minutes to get to KL Sentral. Once in KL Sentral, the light rail system in Kuala Lumpur is very convenient.
Our family loves using ride-share apps to get around Asia. During peak hours, we send out requests on several ride-share apps to get the quickest ride to our destination.
AirAsia Ride is now available in selected South East Asia countries including Malaysia. We have tried and tested AirAsia Ride and can recommend downloading the app for a ride-share alternative at a much more affordable rate. However, AirAsia Ride is only popular in Kuala Lumpur at the time of writing. We didn’t have much luck using it outside of KL.
Grab is the Uber equivalent for ride shares in South East Asia. If you happen to have a local number or plan to get one while travelling in South East Asia, Grab is the go-to ride-share app with the most drivers in Asia. Not the cheapest, but the app with the most drivers.
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Hotel by the Hour
If you have a short layover or a layover with unfriendly times, Capsule Transit is conveniently located in both terminals inside Kuala Lumpur International Airport. This is a great place to rest your head between connecting flights and you can book by the hour.
In all honesty, the capsules were very basic and had limited space, but it was good enough to squeeze in a nap for the price of it and the convenience of its location.
Layover in Kuala Lumpur Itinerary
The best time for a layover in Kuala Lumpur is arriving late afternoon. Kuala Lumpur is a city that comes alive at night and arriving in the afternoon will give you enough time to get to the city, shop around and try some local food before the fountain show starts at KLCC. Then you can head to the night market for street food and desserts before heading back to the airport, either for a night stay or to catch your connecting flight.
KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Centre)
You can’t say you’ve been to Kuala Lumpur without a picture in front of the Petronas Twin Towers. While you’re there, wander around the 6-storey shopping mall at the foot of the Petronas Twin Towers – Suria KLCC. This is the heart of the city and can easily take up a few hours, especially if you’re here to shop.
Although the food court at Suria KLCC is pretty amazing, you might want to leave some room for desserts, street food and drinks as you discover Kuala Lumpur as the food heaven. Some of the must-try local food are Mee goreng mamak, Nasi lemak, Ayam percik, Laksa and a dozen more.
If you can stay until dark, don’t miss the fountain show Lake Symphony at the esplanade for some dazzling lights.
Jalan Alor (Eat Street) at night
We immediately regretted having dinner when we got to Jalan Alor. This place was packed with people and you can find all kinds of local street food, desserts and fresh fruit juices on either side.
We loved Wong Ah Wah Restaurant and their signature honey soy chicken wings. If you’re up to trying some local delicacies, we highly recommend seafood such as stingrays, shellfish and snails or a frogleg claypot, yum.
Are you keen on trying the King (smelliest) of Fruits – Durian? It’s one of those fruits you either love or hate, and I can’t stand it haha.
Petaling Street – Chinatown
If you’re in need of some new accessories like hats, belts, bags, clothes and toys for kids, Chinatown or Petaling Street is the place to be. Petaling Street was a bit of a culture shock for me actually. It was fun wandering around the stalls and haggling with the vendors, but it could be a sensory overload for those not used to this culture.
You can get really cheap knock-offs on Petaling Street, but be mindful of the quality of the products. I’ve shown interest in a fragrance that was no longer manufactured and the vendor offered me RM300 at first but quickly went down to RM200, RM100, RM50 then RM30. I didn’t end up buying the fragrance of course, in case the RM30 caused me more harm than good, but it was a very entertaining experience in Chinatown.
Be sure to leave plenty of time to get back to the airport as traffic can be pretty bad. Factor in the hour-long drive to the airport, arrive a couple of hours before your flight and make sure you arrive at the correct terminal.
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