KL might not be as cheap as Bangkok, but it’s still a lot of city for little money. Especially with this list that shows 10 great things to do at zero cost. So long live the crisis. The best things in Kuala Lumpur come for free.
1. Selfie with the Petronas
Still haven’t figured out whether Petronas Towers are cool or kitsch. Fact is: they’re big. They’re shiny. And they’re free. At least from the outside. The neighboring KLCC Park also offers a 1 K jogging lane, tons of exotic trees, synchronized fountains, play grounds, even drinking fountains. Try to resist the surrounding cafes and shops.
Inside the Suria shopping mall, on level 3, The Galeri Petronas is one of the major art galleries in town, hosting free shows of local and internal artists.
2. Colonial Legacy
With its eclectic mixture of gothic, Moorish and Moghul influences, Kuala Lumpur has some of the finest colonial architecture. The most camera friendly buildings are lined up at Merdeka square: the sultan Abdul Samad building with its golden clock tower and, next door, the former railway offices, now housing the free textile museum. Further down the road, the old KL Railway Station will transport you to One Thousand and One Nights.
3. Magic. Majestic. Masjid
Right where the Gombak and Klang rivers meet, on an idyllic peninsula with waving palm trees, sits the oldest and most majestic mosque of Kuala Lumpur. Built by Benison Hubback in 1907, the Masjid Jamek combines Moorish horseshoe arches, Moghul minarets and Persian domes. The mosque welcomes visitors, every day (except Friday), from 8.30 to 12u30 pm and from 2u30 to 4u30 pm. This is a place of worship so make sure you are properly dressed.
4. The Manicured Jungle
The Lake Gardens or Perdana Botanical Gardens are KL’s colonial-era Central Park. A true oasis, with deer park, picnic areas, giant playgrounds and walking trails around an artificial lake. Getting there for free? Also can! Get the free purple line bus to Pasar Seni LRT station, take the sky bridge to the old KL KTM station, walk down the platform, leave the old railway station and into the direction of the National Mosque.
5. Birdy Nam Nam
The KL Bird Park claims to be the world’s biggest free-flight aviary. At 50 RM a pop, the ticket for foreigners is rather steep (still good value). Little tourists know that the Park’s best part is actually free. Just go to the Hornbill restaurant. The terrace offers ring seats to watch the free flying hornbills up close. They might even come and steal your food. The restaurant has decent snacks at reasonable prices. So, that’s free Birdy, good Nam-Nam. Do not take a taxi from the Bird Park as they are charging triple. Instead, just walk back to the old KL Railway Station or KL Sentral.
6. Meet the Queen of Flowers
Right in front of the Bird Park is the Orchid Garden – Depending on the season you can see 800 varieties of orchids in every shape and color. An adjoining section is dedicated to the hibiscus, Malaysia’s national flower.
7. Stairway to Heaven
The Batu Caves are a series of Hindu temples inside a limestone hill, 13 km north of the City. A two-way LRT train ticket only 4 RM (1 us $). The giant statue of Lord Murugan overlooks 272 steps to the main cave. Watch out for the monkeys, they can be aggressive. Also, ladies, make sure you’re properly dressed – if not, you’ll need to rent a sarong. Entrance is free – but it’s worth spending 35 RM for the outstanding, Dark Cave tour, organized by the Malaysian Nature society in the neighboring cave.
8. Culture Shopping at Publika
This shopping center is not your typical 10-story totem of consumerism, but the perfect mixture of fashion, food and art. Especially the central courtyard is Bobo Paradise. The White Box gallery has the best shows in town, the neighboring Black Box organizes concerts, lectures and film festivals, The Bee pub in the corner tons of indie concerts (mostly free). A taxi from the city should be around 12 RM.
9. These boots are made for hiking
No need to leave the urban city to see the real one. Bukit Nanas is a strip of protected forest around the KL tower. For more adventurous hiking, try the former rubber plantation of Bukit Gasing in Petaling Jaya – very popular on early Sunday mornings. Don’t forget to bring a bottle of water. No entrance fee, just the taxi fee – around 12 RM from KL city.
10. Enter the Green Dragon
Petaling Street in China Town is the best place to shop for real fake merchandise. But hey, no charge for looking, right. Put on your best poker face and bargain hard. Competition is fierce, so try to find the ‘normal’ market prices (a DVD is 8 RM max – with the fancy box 10 RM). This will save endless debates and ridiculous starting prices. Never look like you really want an object, slowly walk away. If the price is right, the vendors will run after you. Always stay polite and watch out for pickpockets.