Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Forums Other Destination advice The Malaysia and KL master thread

The Malaysia and KL master thread

Reply
  • Entitled

    I’m considering a trip to KL for a week and looking at the comments on the article today it seems that we have some folks on here with good local knowledge. So my question is this, is it worth it?

    I know very little about the country but I am keen to take the family (inc kids aged 13 & 11) to experience SEA and there are some decent flights at present. Anything within striking distance of KL that we should consider without hopping on another plane, or is hoping on another plane exactly what we should be doing?

    Jon

    Definitely worth it! For the food especially 😉 Although a week probably isn’t really long enough.

    But for a one-week trip, I’d probably aim for maybe 3 days in KL, then one of the islands (time of year would influence whether you go east or west coast – east tends to be best in April to October or so, and west in November to March ish). Georgetown in Penang is lovely, or go for one of the better beaches in Langkawi, or if diving is your thing, go to the islands off the east coast.

    Without flying, you might for example drive (or hire a driver) from KL to Penang perhaps via a day/night in Cameron Highlands and/or Taiping on the way. Alternatively it’s about a 5-7 hour drive (albeit a rather boring one) over to Terrenganu on the east coast. Or from KL, Melaka could be a day trip, or a one-nighter. I probably wouldn’t bother with Johor unless you’re passing through on your way to Singapore by land.

    If you were going for longer, or if you’ve already ‘done’ Malaysia, I’d definitely recommend using KL as a base for exploring the region – Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, all within a couple of hours flying time. And Borneo of course, eg Kuching, or a bit further along, Kota Kinabalu.

    The Hilton at KL Sentral is excellent and a perfect location for at least the first and last day if you’re travelling to/from the airport on the KLIA Ekspres. Lounge used to be excellent also – may have changed post-pandemic of course. But for a family, a taxi/minibus is probably better value – look for the “Limo” service at the airport, or possibly better, download the Grab app before you travel – you’ll likely make good use of it during your stay! Shangri-La is probably the go-to luxury hotel in central KL (superb lounge aside from anything else), but there are also some good serviced apartments to be had for not much cost (especially if having a washing machine would be useful to you!) – eg Lanson Place, Fraser Residence, The Face Suites, Oasia.

    If you want to stay in KL but also get out of town a bit, there are some great jungle hiking places dotted around within about an hour’s drive, or you could go to Genting Highlands for lunch perhaps, and the theme park (or casino!) if that’s your thing.

    But you could probably spend a week just sampling all the different food Malaysia has to offer 😉

    thom

    Malaysia is great, but I’d suggest you would want to travel around rather than spend a week in KL specifically.

    I’d agree with @Jon that Langkawi is great for beaches, and George Town is definitely a great spot to visit for both fantastic food and to wander the streets of the old town (UNESCO world heritage site).

    Domestic flights in Malaysia are typically easy, quick and cheap and would recommend over long drives. Note Grab is very easy and cheap. If flying domestic you don’t need to turn up particularly early; as long as you make it before check-in closes you shouldn’t have an issue catching your flight.

    Jon

    Domestic flights in Malaysia are typically easy, quick and cheap and would recommend over long drives.

    Agreed. And if you don’t want to trek back out to KLIA, most domestic destinations are also served by Firefly from Subang airport (SZB), which may be easier depending on where you stay in KL.

    Not sure about now, but Malaysia Airlines used to be often cheaper to book LHR-KUL-Somewhere, with a stopover in KL each way, than just LHR-KUL (same rationale as ex-EU flights on BA, I suppose).

    One note of caution – it may have changed by the time you travel of course, but reports are that MH seems quite often at the moment to be consolidating short-haul flights at the last minute, so don’t plan anything where a few hours’ schedule change would cause you a problem 😉

    Oh also, if you do go to Borneo, keep in mind that Sabah and Sarawak are treated as international from KL, with their own immigration / passport control. And do check their immigration/Covid requirements before you travel – they’re not necessarily the same as those for Peninsular Malaysia.

    aseftel

    (Disclaimer: this is all based on pre-pandemic knowledge and things may have changed)

    I’d say that a week is too long for KL itself, but I’d recommend a bit longer in Malaysia if you can – there is so much to see.

    Hilton KL is a great spot to dejetlag and explore the city. Right next to the main station from the airport, good pool and lounge if you want to take it easy, same station is great for exploring the city. There are several other excellent luxury hotels (Mandarin Oriental, Shangri La) that are very reasonably priced relative to other large cities globally, but they’d need a taxi from the airport and traffic can be quite variable.

    Recommended side trips:
    Penang: Great food, spectacular colonial core in Georgetown, E&O hotel is a great alternative to Raffles. There are beach resort options on the north of the island (easy, cheap taxi transfer), Shangri La is quite nice.

    Langkawi: Has world-class beach resort options. If it’s in season and that’s what you want, go there.

    Borneo: Definitely worth it if you like wildlife. You have a few options here. My recommendation would be to fly into Sandakan and spend a couple days exploring the Kinabatangan river (with a guide or in a small group). If you want something a bit more on the map, then Kota Kinabalu/Sabah is an alternative. There also used to be a really great value Marriott round the back of Brunei that HfP readers rated, but I haven’t been.

    Cameroon Highlands: Haven’t been but friends who have rate it.

    Malacca: Georgetown alternative, more convenient from KL (day trippable).

    Michael C

    Just reinforcing the earlier ideas.
    Sure you could book a single ticket (with Malaysian) LON-KL/Penang (for example)-LON

    How about:
    KL
    Driver up to Cameron Highlands/tea plantations for a night (great experience for the kids, too)
    Taxi down to Ipoh and train to Penang.
    Cannot emphasise enough (as also mentioned above) how gorgeous the E&O hotel is.

    It’ll all be fantastic whatever the choice!

    Jon

    .Cannot emphasise enough (as also mentioned above) how gorgeous the E&O hotel is.

    Glad you said that – a friend of mine helped design the recent refurb 😂 Even if not staying, the afternoon tea is worth popping in for.

    As an alternative hotel option, The Edison is also nice, if you prefer something more boutique-style (opposite the Blue Mansion (worth a visit) and a short walk to Penang Road Famous Teochew Cendol (which would be a shame not to try ;-)). And, while I’ve yet to stay, The Prestige (Mr & Mrs Smith) looks like it could be good value on IHG points. Not sure whether either has family rooms, or rooms big enough for rollaways, though. Doubletree is rumoured to be good if Hilton is your preferred programme. There’s actually two Shangri-Las in Penang (Rasa Sayang, which was lovely when I stayed, albeit that was about 15 years ago, and Golden Sands, which I’ve only visited for lunch, but it seemed ok, if not quite as nice as the other one) and also a Jen (which I probably wouldn’t go back to).

    Penang Hill, with its funicular, is worth a visit.

    There’s also a Jewish Cemetery hidden away in the middle of town, which may be of interest (or come as a surprise!) to some.

    Aston100

    Some great info in here, thanks.
    How do people manage to spread two or three weeks across many places when traveling with big suitcases?
    I tend to avoid more than two hotels on a holiday due to the hassle of repeated unpacking and packing again, but must admit I’m probably not making the most of a country that way.
    What would be your suggestion for handling luggage when visiting 4 or 5 locations in Malaysia?

    aseftel

    Some great info in here, thanks.
    How do people manage to spread two or three weeks across many places when traveling with big suitcases?

    Don’t take multiple big suitcases..?

    It’s a hot part of the world so it’s not like you’ll have loads of jumpers and coats. You can pack relatively light. A backpack each and one large suitcase is plenty for a couple. You can get laundry done during the trip – don’t pay hotel per-item rates, ask a concierge or a doorman to recommend a per kilo supplier.

    If you want to bring stuff home with you, pack a collapsed duffel bag on the way out and then fill it with dirty laundry for your flight back. The laundry won’t mind being knocked around a bit in a duffel bag and you’ll have plenty of space in your suitcase.

    Jon

    @Aston100 Travel hand-baggage only and stay in serviced apartments with washing machines 😉

    On which subject, for anyone who wants to go hiking, no need to bring big hiking boots with you – get yourself some “Adidas kampung” from the markets in KL for about £2 a pair 😉 Or you could probably order them in advance from Shopee and have them delivered to your hotel: https://shopee.com.my/search?keyword=adidas%20kampung

    Buy leech socks while you’re at it 😉 https://shopee.com.my/search?keyword=leech%20socks

    Aston100

    @Aston100 Travel hand-baggage only and stay in serviced apartments with washing machines 😉

    How on Earth do you manage to take enough clothes for a 2-3 week holiday in a cabin sized bag?
    OK I understand you can wash and re-wear some of the clothes, but you’d surely need something larger than a cabin bag?
    And if you are bringing a cabin bag with you, rolling it along, you may as well make it a full size suitcase instead?

    Real scenario: I’m hoping to do 3 weeks (22 or 23 nights) in summer 2023 or 2024 in Malaysia.
    KL, Penang and Kelantan/Terengganu.
    Would be a week in each of those 3, +/- a day or so.
    From KL, there would be 2 or 3 * 1 day trips (one of which may be an overnighter).
    Penang would probably be 6 or 7 nights in Georgetown.
    Up to 10 nights across those 2 eastern states, including 5 nights on an island.

    I don’t how I would manage this with luggage. I’m not a young backpacker type either.

    Entitled

    Many thanks for all the detailed advice.

    To answer some of the questions, we are there early June and have a ton of Hilton points so I think we will stay there in KL for a couple of days before branching out into Malaysia somewhere. Hotels look exceptionally reasonable so I think we will move away from Hilton elsewhere.

    Jon

    How on Earth do you manage to take enough clothes for a 2-3 week holiday in a cabin sized bag?

    Easy 😉 4 or 5 days’ worth of layerable clothes, do laundry as needed. Hot climate, so no need for bulky clothing – 3 or 4 t-shirts, 3 short-sleeved shirts, maybe 1 long-sleeved, 2 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of light trousers, swim/gymwear, underwear, 1 pair sandals, 1 pair deckshoes (stuff the few pairs of socks you’ll need inside), sleeper suit for the flight if not provided on board, toiletries (decant liquids/gels into smaller travel bottles, use travel-sized deodorant, shaving gel, toothpaste etc, buy more in-country if needed). Then wear jeans, belt, jumper, trainers, jacket (if you really need one) on the journey. Hotel lounges tend to be fairly informal, but deckshoes, light trousers and a shirt will cover you for smart wear. Carry electronics, chargers, documents etc in a separate laptop/shoulder bag.

    Penang would probably be 6 or 7 nights in Georgetown.

    Suspect you’ll be bored after 4 days. Georgetown is great, but unless you’re attending an event or festival etc, or visiting friends/family, I’m not sure you’ll find 6-7 days worth of stuff to do there. I’d split it, 3-4 in town and 3-4 on the beach at Batu Ferrengi.

    Aston100

    Suspect you’ll be bored after 4 days. Georgetown is great, but unless you’re attending an event or festival etc, or visiting friends/family, I’m not sure you’ll find 6-7 days worth of stuff to do there. I’d split it, 3-4 in town and 3-4 on the beach at Batu Ferrengi.

    Good idea.
    Am considering The Edison in town, and the DoubleTree for the beach.

    Jon

    Am considering The Edison in town, and the DoubleTree for the beach.

    I approve 😂

    Keep in mind that the Doubletree isn’t actually on the beach as such, but across the road. Probably not a problem though, unless that was something you specifically wanted. I’ve heard good things about the Lone Pine up the road, incidentally, though I haven’t stayed myself.

    Over on the east coast, I’ve heard very good things about the Hyatt Regency in Kuantan. But my personal favourite is Tanjong Jara Resort, mainly for the (private) beach as much as the actual hotel (which is basic, but good; and Chef Anne’s cooking is superb).

    Talking of beaches, for anyone going to Langkawi, if you want the best beach and don’t mind paying through the nose for F&B, the Datai is the place to be. Sadly the affordable (and only) alternative on the same beach (The Andaman) burned down a while back. A friend stayed at the Ritz Carlton Langkawi recently and said it was superb. While in Langkawi, well worth getting a guide and doing a boat tour of the mangrove reserve – hotel concierge should be able to arrange.

    If you’ve got three weeks to play with, Lombok might also be worth slotting in for a few days – very different feel to Bali, and a lot less crowded. AirAsia has direct flights from KUL.

    BuildBackBetter

    KL and Penang for culture and food, but for best beaches, hop over to Thailand.
    Malacca is nothing special if you plan to visit KL / Penang anyway.

    thom

    I’ll second the Edison in George Town – fantastic hotel, great location and the staff are very warm and friendly.

    2/3 days in George Town would probably be enough to wander the streets (appreciating the architecture and street art), enjoy food and coffee, and do the funicular.

    Entitled

    We have ended up with 3 nights at the Hilton in KL and then 4 nights at the Shangri-La Rasa in Penang from where we will strike out into Georgetown.

    Thanks to everyone who contributed and helped shape the trip.

    Jon

    Good plan 🙂 The LRT from Sentral Station directly across the road from the Hilton will take you to KLCC in a few stops, or first, Pasar Seni for Central Market and Petaling Street; lots of interesting stuff in that area, around Masjid Jamek and Merdeka Square; nice little cafe inside the textile museum, also some lovely cafes and eateries round the corner in Jalan Sultan – from where you could perhaps walk up the road to Muzium Telekom (small and seemingly not well known, but quite interesting) and perhaps then onto the Bukit Nanas jungle canopy walk, and then Menara KL).

    Taking a slightly different (walking) route out of the Hilton to the MRT station you can get to Bukit Bintang, from where you can walk down the road in one direction to get to Pavilion mall (or at Lot 10 right outside the station, visit Hutong in the basement for cheap but excellent local food, or there’s some good Japanese options on the top floor), or in the other direction is Jalan Alor (street food – go to Wong Ah Wah at the far end), and Changkat Bukit Bintang (beer – bit of an expat vibe, and corresponding prices, but if it’s pubs you want, that’s where you’ll find them ;-). Ciccio’s at the top of the street is an excellent Italian restaurant). Around Sentral itself you’ve got the Lake Garden, bird and butterfly parks, Muzium Negara, Taman Tugu for (fairly gentle) hiking, and a short taxi or LRT ride away is Bangsar – the Jalan Telawi area is good for cafes etc and pottering around.

    May also be worth knowing that there are various free bus routes, mainly around the central (golden triangle) area.

    In Penang, I imagine the Shangri-La still does the free shuttle bus to the Hotel Jen, from where it’s easy to walk around Georgetown.

    aseftel

    In Penang, I imagine the Shangri-La still does the free shuttle bus to the Hotel Jen, from where it’s easy to walk around Georgetown.

    If not, it’s only £5-10 for a Grab taxi.

    Wanderlust

    The Shangri-La Rasa Sayang- stayed in the Rasa wing (adults only bit I think?) in 2013 and again in 2018- there was a massive decline in the resort between those two visits, it had become really run down and it seemed that all the good/experienced staff had left.

    Does anybody know if they have bothered with any refurb/ upgrade of the facilities?

    The real Swiss Tony

    To pitch in on the comment about packing light and laundry, this has been my MO for decades, Even have the wife & kids on side with it – especially valuable on multiple flight itineraries as you can save 30-45 mins hanging around per leg.

    Serviced apartments, per kg laundry services, the occasional club floor with free laundry (Shangri-la used to have an option where you could select free laundry for the whole stay – a couple of nights there and rinse that for all it’s worth!), another Shangri La (the Rasa Ria) did laundry (wash & fold) at a fixed price per bag.

    Also think carefully about the bag you use to make sure you’re maximising space.

    It’s not difficult – unless you want to be wearing a different shirt every day.

    Entitled

    A quick recap to thank everyone who helped shape our trip.

    We were very impressed with the Hilton KL. Nice pool, good location for public transport/airport, and great service. First time in years that I have stayed in a hotel that felt like it was back to pre-covid levels of service.

    Due to AirAsia cancelling our flights we ended up driving to Penang which took about 4hrs but I’m happy to drive rather than fly over a new country so it turned out okay. The Shangri-La Rasa felt quiet because the gardens are extensive but it provided a good ‘resort hotel’ experience.

    For anyone attending soon, we had the MySejahtera app checked a few times in Malaysia going in and out of Malls and train stations. We never had to ‘check in’ anywhere and we had the location services turned off. At the border we had two kids under 18 who required a PCR to enter and a LFT within 24hrs of arrival. We were not asked for proof of PCR and didn’t bother with the LFT because we had no means to record the result anyway.

    We have been back 24hrs now and I am already missing the hawkers stalls with amazing food for pennies. Oh, and I filled the hire car for £12. I could have wept.

    Jon

    Glad you had a good time! Thanks for reporting back 🙂 Malaysia really is a wonderful country.

    Also good to know the Hilton is back to normal. How is the lounge F&B offering these days?

    Out of interest, how come the kids needed PCR tests? I thought that requirement was dropped on May 1st – useful to know if there are exceptions…

    RK228

    A quick recap to thank everyone who helped shape our trip.

    We were very impressed with the Hilton KL. Nice pool, good location for public transport/airport, and great service. First time in years that I have stayed in a hotel that felt like it was back to pre-covid levels of service.

    Due to AirAsia cancelling our flights we ended up driving to Penang which took about 4hrs but I’m happy to drive rather than fly over a new country so it turned out okay. The Shangri-La Rasa felt quiet because the gardens are extensive but it provided a good ‘resort hotel’ experience.

    For anyone attending soon, we had the MySejahtera app checked a few times in Malaysia going in and out of Malls and train stations. We never had to ‘check in’ anywhere and we had the location services turned off. At the border we had two kids under 18 who required a PCR to enter and a LFT within 24hrs of arrival. We were not asked for proof of PCR and didn’t bother with the LFT because we had no means to record the result anyway.

    We have been back 24hrs now and I am already missing the hawkers stalls with amazing food for pennies. Oh, and I filled the hire car for £12. I could have wept.

    Thanks for the info and update. We are heading this way in a few weeks and will also be staying at the Hilton, so glad to hear that near-normal service is resuming.

  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.