How to get around in Kuala Lumpur (like a local)

Kuala Lumpur is a beautiful city and is fun to explore, but without knowledge of how to get around you might find yourself perpetually stuck in traffic or lost in its many side streets.

But it doesn’t need to be difficult. In fact, virtually the entire city can be explored with relative ease.

Whether you prefer to travel by taxi, bus, train, metro or Grab, this article will run you through all of the best and simplest options to get around Kuala Lumpur while you’re here.

This is especially important in a city that’s notorious for heavy traffic, especially during rush hours.

But if you know which modes of transportation are available and when to use each of them, you can enjoy getting around in KL without the drama.

Let’s get started…

How large is Kuala Lumpur?

Kuala Lumpur is the capital city of Malaysia that covers an area of 243 km2 and has an estimated population of 8 million as of 2020.

Kuala Lumpur is home to the cultural, financial and economic centres in Malaysia. It’s also the home to Malaysia’s Parliament and the official residence of the Malaysian King – the Istana Negara. 

Does Kuala Lumpur have Uber?

Well, Kuala Lumpur used to have Uber back in 2017. However since the merger of the operations with Grab in 2018, Uber no longer exists in Malaysia.

If you’re looking for a ride-hailing app in Malaysia, you can use Grab instead.

It’s an Asian version of Uber, but basically the same thing.

What time is the rush hour in Kuala Lumpur?

For the morning commute, the rush hour in Kuala Lumpur usually begins around 7 a.m and can last up till 9 or even 10 a.m.

In the evening, rush hour begins around 4 p.m and lasts until around 8 p.m.

Of course, everything gets thrown out when it’s raining.

There’s a saying in much of South-East Asia, “instant traffic, just add water” and that’s definitely true of Kuala Lumpur.

If you’re planning to travel from place to place in Kuala Lumpur its best to avoid these peak times as the traffic can be pretty bad.

How to get around in Kuala Lumpur

When it comes to getting around in  Kuala Lumpur, tourists have several options. Actually, many tourists choose to simply get around on foot due to the traffic congestion in KL. 

Here are some transport suggestions for you to get around KL to make your life easier.

LRT

The “LRT” otherwise known as the light rail transport is one of the most popular options for Malaysians to travel around KL, especially to get to and from work.

It’s a public rail transport service that runs along two major routes – Kelana Jaya LRT line and the Ampang LRT line. 

The Kelana Jaya line runs between Kelana Jaya and Gombak.

Meanwhile, the Ampang line is divided into two destinations. Both routes start off at Sentul Timur LRT Station with the first route ending in Sri Petaling and the second in Ampang.

The LRT operates from 6 a.m to 12 a.m (midnight) with trains arriving once every 3 to 15 minutes. The fares start from as low as 1rm and vary depending on how far you’re traveling.

The LRT is a good way to get around and it’s something that I personally use a lot. The downside is that it feels a bit “bumpier” than the MRT (below) and is more difficult to be a standing passenger on.

Like all forms of transportation in Kuala Lumpur, the LRT is jam-packed during peak hours, with long lines in stations.

MRT

The Kuala Lumpur MRT is a fully automated public transit rail service that connects Kuala Lumpur city centre to various areas around the city.

Starting from Sungai Buloh and running all the way to Kajang, it’s one of the most convenient and comfortable modes of transport if you want to travel to places in and around the city centre, all the way out to the fringes of Kuala Lumpur.

A single-journey ticket will cost you between 1.60rm and about 3rm, depending on how far you’re traveling.

Tickets can be purchased from any ticket vending machine located at all MRT stations. The Kuala Lumpur MRT starts operating at 6 a.m every day, but when it comes to the closing time it varies from each station.

Generally, they’re closed at midnight from Monday to Fridays and 11 p.m on weekends.

I should also mention, if you plan on using the MRT or LRT more than a couple of times, it’s much more convenient to buy a “touch and go” card so you can simply tap on and tap off like a local, instead of having to buy a ticket for every ride.

You can buy “touch and go” cards from the stations themselves, but also from a lot of convenience stores.

KTM Commuter

The KTM is another rail service, similar to the LRT and MRT above.

The KTM covers much longer distances though, reaching all the way to Singapore in the South East and all the way to Thailand in the north.

However, some areas around KL don’t have an LRT or MRT station nearby, but they are served by the KTM, so it might be your only option.

One downside of the KTM is the infrequent schedule. Every time I take the KTM I feel like I always just miss a train and need to wait 40 minutes for the next one. It’s nothing like the MRT or LRT where they just come one after another.

Be aware that the KTM has carriages that are for women only. This is something that I had never seen anywhere else in the world before coming to Kuala Lumpur.

On one occasion, I got on a KTM, sat down and after a few moments the woman that I sat next to got up in disgust and stormed off to a different seat.

I thought to myself, do I smell THAT bad today?

Then I got a tap on my shoulder and some other female passengers pointed out the “ladies only” signs at which point I moved to another carriage.

Taxi

Personally, I avoid ever taking a taxi in Kuala Lumpur.

This is because most of the time taxi drivers don’t go by the meter instead you will have to haggle for a price before you even sit in the car.

Every time I see a tourist talking to a taxi driver to negotiate a ride I feel like shouting “don’t do it!” to them and helping them download a ride-hailing app instead.

However, if you do manage to get a taxi that runs by the meter, the fares start from 3rm for the first 3 minutes and 0.25rm for every 36 seconds or 200m traveled.

But seriously, just don’t do it – choose a different method of transport unless you’re really stuck and have no other option.

Ride Hailing

There are actually a couple of great ride-hailing options in Malaysia, including EzCabMyCarMula, and Grab.

If you’re considering trying one of these ride-hailing apps, I recommend you probably just go for Grab. It’s the most popular ride-hailing service in Malaysia, with the best network and reputation.

With the acquisition of Uber in Malaysia its no wonder that Grab is the number one go-to ride-hailing service in the country now.

Another great thing about using a ride-hailing service is that if you happen to lose something while you’re in a car as a passenger, it’s generally quite easy to get in touch with the driver and there is a high chance that your lost item will be returned.

Grab fares start at 5rm for a short journey and go up from there. In nearly all cases, the fare will be cheaper than what you’ll pay if you take a taxi.

Transport OptionGood reasons to choose each
GrabNicer cars, friendly drivers, transparent and affordable pricing, better security and recourse, cashless payment options…..
Normal TaxiNone, don’t do it!

Bus (MyRapid)

Traveling by MyRapid aka “the bus” is another way for you to get around in KL.

Most of the buses on the road today are fairly comfortable, complete with air conditioning.

One downside to taking the bus is that they’re never punctual. In fact, at times you might have to wait for 20 minutes or more for the next bus.

Also, the bus gets VERY crowded during the rush hours.

Another downside to the bus is that you’re at the mercy of the traffic. That’s fine if you’re traveling outside of rush hours, but a nightmare if you’re stuck on a very crowded bus that’s barely moving.

The bus fares vary based on which zone you’re traveling to but are very cheap, even compared to the LRT and MRT.

You can go to their website if you want to learn more about MyRapid fares.

Hop-on tourist bus service

If you want to save yourself the trouble of having to figure out how to use the LRT system or which lines to take, the Hop-off tourist buses might be worth checking out.

Kuala Lumpur has its own double-decker Hop-on, Hop-off buses which are pretty easy to recognize because of their bright and flashy colors.

If you’re interested in getting on the tourist bus, I would highly recommend you to start from Lot 10 shopping mall, right in the middle of the city. It’s the starting point of the Hop-on, Hop-off bus trip.

For an adult, the tickets will cost you 40rm and they’re valid for 24 hours. If you’re planning to use it for more than a single day you can go for the 74rm ticket which is valid for 48 hours.

The tickets for children and disabled persons are 19rm and 38rm respectively.

Car Rental

One of the best ways to get around Kuala Lumpur is to have your own ride.

Driving in Kuala Lumpur is generally safe, but there are a couple of things to consider before getting into the driver’s seat.

First, you need to realise that rush hour sucks. It really sucks.

Second, even if you’re following the directions of a navigation app like Waze, sometimes it can be confusing to know which road to take when you’ve got multiple options and you’re moving at any sort of speed.

I’ve certainly taken plenty of wrong turns when I’ve been following Waze to get around KL.

Still, if you’ve got your heart set on driving, more power to you.

There are plenty of car rental companies that you can check out online or at the airport.

Here are some car rental companies that I consider to be the best in Kuala Lumpur. 

• KSE Rent A Car

• Kwikcar

• Klezcar

• GoCar Malaysia

• Europcar

By the way, if you’re wondering if you can use your driver’s license on the road in Malaysia or not, check out my other post no that where I cover everything you need to know.

The winner is…. Walking!

An option that’s often overlooked by the majority of locals is good ol’ fashion walking.

The truth is that it’s actually a really good option if you’re not going too far, especially during peak hours.

I remember one occasion when I got a Grab from my place in Bukit Bintang to Avenue K (next to KLCC). I made the mistake of traveling at 5pm. The journey took ONE HOUR.

60 minutes!

I can literally walk there in 25 minutes.

Partly because of that horrifying experience, partly because it’s a healthier option and partly just because I hate waiting for Grab or being stuck in any sort of traffic, I tend to walk A LOT around the city centre.

In fact, on the average day in KL I walk around 10km’s.

I recommend that you walk anywhere that’s less than 2km away unless you know there’s a really convenient transport option to take, there’s some reason why you can’t walk long distances or, of course, if it’s raining.

Oh one important tip – make sure you’re dressed appropriately for the weather if you plan to do much walking.

While walking is perfectly fine in shorts and a t-shirt, it is a complete nightmare if you’re wearing long pants and a business shirt.

This might be part of the reason that most locals don’t walk much from place to place – they tend to dress VERY formally, despite the hot weather.

Getting around Kuala Lumpur summary

Kuala Lumpur is a big, bustling city with lots of traffic, frequent rain and plenty of different transport options.

By planning ahead and researching what options you have available to get from place to place, you’ll be well-positioned to spend less time stuck in traffic and more time doing what you actually want to do.

One unfortunate truth about getting around KL is that often to get from one place to another you will need to change modes of transport at least once. You may even need to use Grab to get to the starting or end points too.

In my opinion, Kuala Lumpur’s public transport system is less convenient than those of Singapore, Hong Kong or Seoul, but it’s still much better than Jakarta.

I hope this article was helpful for you and if you have any other good tips on how to get around KL, feel free to reach out to me and let me know.

Safe travels ✌🏼

Marty Spargo

I first visited Malaysia as a tourist in 2004 and frequently returned for short visits over the next decade or more before moving to Kuala Lumpur to live in 2018. I live and work in KL, but remember what it's like to see the city for the first time as a tourist, so I try to create helpful articles with that in mind. You can read my full bio here.

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