After a less-than-perfect introduction to Malaysia, I arrived in Kuala Lumpur worn out and demotivated. If I had reached the city without the incident at the land order, I might have actually enjoyed my time there. However, because of the prejudice I faced, I entered Kuala Lumpur with a bias that was hard to shake off.
And unfortunately, that preceded every interaction I later came to have during my stay.
I would say that I spent two days in the city but in reality, I was there for five. My initial plans had me spending two days in Penang, before commuting to Kuala Lumpur for the remainder of my time. The border situation set me back by a day, eventually disrupting my plans to the point where it no longer made sense to try to get to Penang.
But it wasn’t for the lack of trying. After finding my way from the airport to KL Sentral station, I attempted to buy a train ticket to Penang. Unfortunately, the seats were sold out for the day and the next one too. I took that as a blessing in disguise and a sign to slow down, after all, Penang was not a “must-visit” destination for me.
What's Covered in this Post
Visiting Kuala Lumpur – Where to Stay
The Santa Grand Signature Hotel, located in the city centre, proved to be a suitable base for my time there. It wasn’t particularly close to any of the attractions I wanted to see, but it wasn’t too far out either. The hotel offered views of the Petronas Twin Towers and the KL Tower, although my room didn’t have these views.
As a solo traveller, I found my room to be quite adequate in terms of size and amenities offered. And what it lacked in views, it made up for in general comfort. That being said, if I ever returned to Kuala Lumpur, and the chances of that happening are very low, I might choose to stay in a different place. This apartment hotel caught my attention!
Anyway, with the first three days of my stay basically spent working and catching up on sleep, I set out to see what I could in the last two days.
Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur
Visiting Kuala Lumpur – Things to Do in the City
While researching things to do in Kuala Lumpur, I came up with a shortlist that included visiting the Thean Hou Temple, the Moroccan Pavilion, Seri Gemilang Bridge, Putrajaya Mosque, Batu Caves and the Kuala Lumpur Forest Eco Park.
My first stop was the Thean Hou Temple and I got there using the Grab Taxi app.
Visiting Thean Hou Temple, Kuala Lumpur
The Thean Hou Temple is one of Malaysia’s most notable Chinese temples, featuring traditional Chinese architecture, including red pillars, golden roofs, and intricate carvings. I arrived at the temple quite early in the morning and spent some time watching as devotees made their way into the temple by kneeling, walking and bowing right from the entrance pathways.
I also took a walk around the garden, familiarizing myself with the different statues on the grounds. Eventually, I made my way into the temple, strolled around the premises for a while, and took a few photos before heading to my next destination.
Dress Code: What to Wear to Visit Thean Hou Temple
There is no dress code to visit this temple but as it is an active place of worship, it is advisable to dress more on the conservative side. A rule of thumb is to wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulders.
Best Time to Visit Thean Hou Temple
The best time to visit the Thean Hou Temple is in the morning before 9 am when tour buses start to arrive. I am guessing that late afternoons and evenings will also be a good time to visit after the larger tour groups have left. And if you’d like to visit as part of an organized tour with a guide, here’s one to consider.
Next, I made my way to Putrajaya – which was a little far out of the city – to visit the Moroccan Pavilion and Putra Mosque. The Morrocan Pavilion was closed for renovations, so I spent my time exploring the gardens and then walking over to the Putra Mosque and exploring the environs.
Finally, I ended the day by visiting KLCC Park.
Visiting Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur
The next morning, I set out early to visit Batu Caves, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur. But these limestone caves and cave temples, believed to be around 400 million years old, are much more than just a tourist attraction.
Like the Thean Hou Temple, the Batu Caves Temples are an active place of worship for Hindu devotees.
Standing at the entrance to the main cave is the temple’s most prominent figure, an impressive 140-foot-tall statue of Lord Murugan, a major Hindu deity. Beside the statue are a flight of 272 colourful steps that lead up to the caves.
Inside the caves are more chambers and temples, some of which are open to visitors to explore. I remember gazing up at the impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations within the cave, only for a drop of water to fall directly into my right eye!
I took that as my cue to leave and headed back down the stairs, just as the notorious and mischievous monkeys of Batu Caves began to awake.
Dress Code: What to Wear to Visit Batu Caves
In general, ladies are advised to wear clothes that cover their knees and shoulders. I had read that the staff make rigorous checks to enforce the dress code, so I brought a scarf with me. I used it when I ascended the stairs, although no one enforced this while I was there.
PS: Sarongs are available for rent at the base of the stairs for the people who need them.
Best Time to Visit Batu Caves
The best time to visit Batu Caves is early in the morning or late afternoon and evening. This way, you will not have to deal with the crowd, as well as the mid-day heat, which can be quite brutal in Kuala Lumpur.
Up next on my itinerary for the day was a visit to the KL Forest Eco Park but I made the rookie mistake of not confirming its opening hours and found out, only when I got there, that it was closed on Fridays.
I can’t say that I was disappointed as I made my way down to Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown and Central Market. Here, I walked around some more, and did a bit of window shopping and some people-watching, before ducking into Leaf & Co. Cafe for a refreshing mid-morning snack.
Afterwards, I made my way back to KLCC Park and had lunch at the Nandos restaurant inside the mall. And with that, my visit to Kuala Lumpur came to end. The next day, I caught an early morning flight back to Nairobi via Doha.
How to Apply for a Visa to Malaysia
Nigerian passport holders require a visa to enter Malaysia. I have written a detailed article covering the process of applying for the Malaysian evisa. You may find it here.
Is Kuala Lumpur Safe?
I would say that I had no major safety concerns in Kuala Lumpur. I will admit that I had some moments of paranoia while walking in search of a pharmacy and then dinner on my first night out but I chucked this up to my initial negative experience and bias.
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In addition, I had read a few travellers’ accounts of (petty) crime in the city which kept me a little on the edge. Still, I lived in Lagos and am now in Nairobi, so I try to be as street-smart and hyper-aware as I possibly can be, no matter where I travel to.
How to get to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore
As Singapore and Malaysia are close to each other, it makes perfect sense to visit both countries on a single trip from Lagos or Nairobi. The fastest way to travel from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur is via a 1-hr direct flight into the city. There are several flights a day that make the trip and a few affordable carriers. I flew with Jetstar Airways and enjoyed the service.
Of course, a road trip is also possible between both countries, however, if you are travelling with a Nigerian passport (I’d also be conscious as an African passport holder), you will most likely be turned away. It does not matter if you have the correct entry documents. Read about my experience here.
If you must attempt a land border passage, I advise that you enter Malaysia first (via KLIA) and travel into Singapore.
Have you been to Kuala Lumpur before? Tell me about the highlights and lowlights of your visit.
And if you haven’t visited, I hope this article does not discourage you from doing so. Remember that my views and experiences are subjective. I am hoping they give you an idea of what to expect if you plan to visit (as a Nigerian traveller) and how to prevent a bad experience or mitigate the effects of one.
Let me know what you think!