Kaula Lumpur – or KL as it’s widely known – is a fantastic mish-mash of grand late-nineteenth-century buildings, glassy skyscrapers and boisterous markets. From its ethnic enclaves (this is a melting pot of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures) to its tantalizing cuisine, there’s much to see in this vibrant city – and as many places to bed down. Here’s our guide to where to stay in Kuala Lumpur.
Thanks to an oversupply of rooms for much of the year, rates remain competitive in KL. Despite this, it still makes sense to book ahead, especially during busy periods – July to August and November to December, plus school and public holidays.
Though it scores more on atmosphere than essential sights, Chinatown has traditionally been the favourite location for budget travellers, with its surfeit of inexpensive places to sleep, eat, drink and shop. Its backpacker-oriented guesthouses are mostly concentrated either side of Jalan Petaling, alongside budget hotels offering simple rooms but with better facilities. Both are increasingly modern and efficiently run, though furnishings are minimal and the cheapest rooms may not have windows. Only the more upmarket places feature frills like swimming pools, although there is an ageing public pool nearby at the Chinwoo Stadium.
Best for affordable style: Back Home
This leafy hostel features hardwood floors, bare-brick walls and comfortable, modern rooms set around a courtyard with coffee tables, where guests are invited to socialize. Staff are friendly and there’s an excellent café next door under the same management.
Best for old-world splendour: Hotel Majestic
Opposite the old Moorish-style railway station, this hotel, a wonderfully restored 1930s building, houses exquisitely furnished suites with butler service, the fifteen-story Art Deco Tower Wing with deluxe rooms and suites, along with a swimming pool and gym. Other facilities include a bar, spa, barber and screening room.
The commercial centre for KL’s Indian community, Little India features several mid-range options. Chow Kit is located 1.5km to the north, and is known mainly for the vast, bustling Chow Kit market. This is a great place for foodies – there's tropical fruit, fish, poultry and piles of fresh vegetables – or tuck into steaming meals prepared on site.
Best for international service: Silka Maytower Hotel
This international-standard hotel, set over 32 floors, offers modern rooms and apartments with earthy tones, equipped with flat-screen TVs and safes; the deluxes are more spacious, with sofas and bathtubs and there are also two pools – one for adults, one for kids – on the eighth floor, along with a sauna and a gym.
Best for location: Premiera Hotel
In the heart of Little India and just a short walk from Chinatown, this is a great independent option offering spacious rooms with modern amenities, and wonderful views of the city from the highest floors.
You’ll definitely want to consider the Golden Triangle when deciding where to stay in Kuala Lumpur. This area represents the modern heart of downtown KL, filled with restaurants, shops and nightlife options. The chief attractions in the area are the Petronas Towers, Suria KLCC, the city’s aquarium and Kompleks Kraf, the city’s largest handicraft gallery. Bukit Bintang (with its characterful guesthouses), Julan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Ampang (with more upscale hotels) form part of the Triangle.
Many of the Bukit Bintang guesthouses in the area occupy nicely restored old shophouses, with small, comfortable rooms separated from each other by partitions. It’s hard to go wrong with any of these, just as it’s difficult to be badly disappointed with any of the Golden Triangle’s upmarket hotels. The area also boasts excellent serviced apartments offering a lot more space than you’d get in a similarly priced hotel room.
Best for guesthouse charm: Orange Pekoe Guesthouse
This lovely guesthouse, on a quiet road just a couple of streets back from Changkat’s throng of activity, has clean and cosy rooms with wicker baskets as bedside tables. There are splashes of greenery throughout, and a communal area with cable TV.
Best for boutique bliss: Anggun Boutique Hotel
This welcoming boutique hotel aims to create a Pernakan house from yesteryear, with rooms set around an airy central courtyard with a little fishpond and a lovely antique Chinese medicine cabinet. Some have four-poster beds, while the three suites have balconies overlooking the street; bathrooms feature beautiful Chinese sinks with lotus and fish motifs.
Brickfields is a relaxed city neighbourhood, located 2km south of the city centre alongside KL Sentral station. Founded by a community of Tamils who were employed to work on the railways, the area still has a distinctly South Indian feel. Though there are few major sites, this feels like a neighbourhood proper – come to soak up the local vibes.
Best for business travellers: Le Meridien
This 35-storey business hotel houses contemporary rooms; most of them boast panoramic views. Facilities include a freeform outdoor swimming pool with deckchairs partly immersed in water, a gym, spa and a handful of restaurants serving international cuisine.
Best for convenient location: Hilton
Overlooking the National Museum and just a few steps from KL Sentral, this stylish hotel with a lavish lobby offers rooms as modern and comfortable as you’d expect from this reputable international chain. Facilities include ten dining outlets; the trendy Zeta Bar hosts international live bands and DJs.
The benefit of staying further outside the city comes in the form of more space and more bang for your buck. The Kuala Lumpur transport system is large, efficient and inexpensive, so getting to and from your accommodation shouldn’t be a problem. Those who want some peace and quiet but the ability to zip into the action should consider an option here.
Best for colonial airs: Carcosa Seri Negara
Set in sixteen hectares of well-manicured grounds just west of the Lake Gardens, these two elegant, whitewashed colonial mansions, containing thirteen suites between them, date to 1904 – the management here can truthfully boast “Queen Elizabeth slept here”. If a night here is out of the question, consider donning smart-causal clothes and dropping in for their English cream tea.
Best for modern amenities: Grid 9 Hotel
This excellent flashpacker hostel has a young and funky feel, with a welcoming lounge area dotted with colourful beanbags, communal computers, a pool table and flat-screen TV. The modern dorm rooms have reading lamps and individual sockets, while private doubles have a/c, TV and en-suite facilities. Guests enjoy complimentary access to Zouk club.
Header image: Kuala Lumpur skyline © Shutterstock