Looking for a quick getaway with the fam? Here’s our essential guide to planning a trip to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore (as written by our KL born-and-raised writer).
The capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur (KL), has always been a popular quick getaway for families in Singapore. It’s also a city with a special place in my heart, having spent the first 30 years of my life there. KL is a haven for foodies, as well as a melting pot of cultures and traditions, making it a vibrant holiday destination for all.
P.S. If you don’t have a weekend to spare, check out our guide to Johor Bahru for a fabulous day of shopping and glorious food!
How to get to KL from Singapore
Lucky for you and the kids, KL is just a short one-hour flight away. There are daily flights between Changi Airport and KL International Airport (KLIA). Note that there are two international flight terminals in KL: KLIA and klia2. Just like Changi Airport’s four terminals, both KLIA and klia2 operate independently with their own departure and arrival facilities. So be sure to check which terminal you’re arriving and departing from to avoid any inconveniences!
You can also fly from Seletar Airport to the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang, a popular choice among business travellers as both airports are nearer to the city centres. Firefly is the only airline that operates this route.
Airlines: Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, airasia, Scoot, Jetstar, Batik Air (previously Malindo Air), Firefly
Travelling by bus is a more budget-friendly option for families. Depending on the traffic condition (especially at the Causeway and Tuas Second Link), you can generally expect this to be a five to six-hour ride. Buses usually make a short stop at Yong Peng Bus Station in Johor, so you can go for a toilet break or grab a quick bite at the restaurants and kiosks there.
Buses depart from various terminals in Singapore, including Golden Mile Tower, Bugis MRT, Boon Lay, Katong V Mall, and Our Tampines Hub.
If you have a car and love the drive, then this travelling option is just for you! The journey is usually shorter than travelling via bus, but it all depends on traffic and the number of stops you need. There are many rest stops along the way, though not all of them come with F&B options. You can check out the PLUS website (the concessionary for Malaysia’s North-South Expressway) for the full list of rest stops.
Pro-tip: You can check the traffic conditions at Woodland and Tuas Checkpoints via OneMotoring before you start your road trip!
Where to stay in KL
You can find anything from high-end luxe to clean, wallet-friendly stays in KL. For the ultimate luxe stay with the fam, we’d go for Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur, which charges no additional fee for children aged 17 and below sharing a room with their parents or guardian. We also like the colourful Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral for a casual and comfy stay.
Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur, 145, Jalan Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur.
Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral, 5, Jalan Stesen Sentral, Kuala Lumpur Sentral, 50470 Kuala Lumpur.
Want the ‘home’ experience with hotel facilities? You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to picking a serviced residence in KL too. Some of the top choices include E&O Residences which has a kids club on-site, THE FACE Suites with an infinity pool and superb view, and the super spacious Ascott Sentral Kuala Lumpur.
E&O Residences, Off Jalan Sultan Ismail, 1, Jalan Tengah, 50450 Kuala Lumpur.
THE FACE Suites, 1020, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kampung Baru, 50250 Kuala Lumpur.
Ascott Sentral Kuala Lumpur, No, 211, Jalan Tun Sambanthan, Kuala Lumpur Sentral, 50470 Kuala Lumpur.
Pro-tip: It’s best to choose an accommodation that’s within walking distance to the LRT or MRT in KL, as that’s one of the most convenient ways to get around.
How to get around KL
Commuting via KL’s various train lines (MRT, LRT, monorail, KLIA train lines, and KTM that goes intercity and interstate) is one of the best ways to explore the city. In fact, it just got more convenient with the opening of the second MRT line. Although the airport is about 60km away from the city centre, you can get there in 28 minutes via the KLIA Ekspres train. Here’s a copy of the map that illustrates how all the train lines connect.
You can purchase a single-trip ticket via the kiosks at each station or purchase a Touch ‘n Go card from any Watsons outlet (the KL equivalent of the EZ-Link card) for a more hassle-free commuting experience.
In case you’re wondering, yes – Grab is available in KL! Ride-hailing could be a faster way to get around KL unless you’re caught in the peak hour jam, that is. Some other ride-hailing services you can try out there include RYDE (the same in Singapore) and airasia Ride.
What to eat in KL
It’s true that Malaysia and Singapore share a number of common dishes. However, you’ll find that some of them differ in appearance and taste (most might say the Malaysian ones taste better – sorry, not sorry!). Here are some recommendations by yours truly.
Local food and hawker fare
Most of the Malaysian dishes you’ll find in KL are food traditional to the three dominant ethnic groups. A staple and must-have is nasi lemak, rice cooked in coconut milk and served with condiments like eggs, cucumber, and sambal (a spicy chilli paste). You can find these packed and ready for takeaway at any roadside stall (my personal favourite), or you can dine at a restaurant specialising in it – I usually bring my visiting friends to Village Park Restaurant. Another personal favourite is nasi kukus, a steamed rice dish served with spicy gravy and fried chicken (marinated with various spices) that originated from Malaysia’s East Coast, for which my go-to is Nasi Kukus Ilham.
Village Park Restaurant, 5, Jalan SS 21/37, Damansara Utama, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Nasi Kukus Ilham, Jalan PJU 7/16b, Mutiara Damansara, 47810 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Banana leaf rice, a traditional South Indian dish, is a meal my family loves. A banana leaf rice set by itself comes with rice, a few vegetable dishes, curry of your choice, rasam (a traditional soup dish), pickles, and papadam (deep fried cracker). You can add meat side dishes to complete your meal, such as masala chicken, deep fried squid, mutton curry, etc. My family loves having banana leaf rice at Maya. For a vegetarian and vegan-friendly option, Ganga Café is a local favourite.
Maya, 9, Jalan Telawi 5, Bangsar, 59100 Kuala Lumpur.
Ganga Café, 19, Lorong Kurau, Bangsar, 59100 Kuala Lumpur.
When it comes to Chinese-style hawker and street food, my parents like to get their fix at ICC Pudu. Most of the stalls are from the old Imbi Wet Market, a market that’s been known as a breakfast haunt for decades. Breakfast at ICC Pudu usually consists of a cup of Hainanese-style coffee from Ah Weng Koh Hainan Tea & Coffee, a plate of chee cheong fun (rice noodle roll) from Ah Fook Chee Cheong Fun, and a Teochew-style steamed noodle dish.
ICC Pudu, Jalan Kijang, Pudu, 55100 Kuala Lumpur.
Short of time, but want to sample as many local dishes as you can? You can check out Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock for a wide variety of all-time favourite Malaysian dishes. There’s also Lot 10 Hutong food court, which houses some of the best dishes from heritage stores in KL.
Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock, 15 outlets around Klang Valley.
Lot 10 Hutong, LG Floor, Lot 10 Shopping Centre, 50, Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250 Kuala Lumpur.
Cafés and Western fusion-style restaurants
In case you’re wondering, café-hopping is still a thing in KL! You can find some of the best cuppas at One Half x ilaika, Afloat Coffee Roaster, and FEEKA Coffee Roasters. For cakes and pastries, you’ll find all the sweets and savouries you love (and more) at Kenny Hills Bakers and Dou Dou Bake; or head over to Burrow for its famous canelés.
For something more filling (think weekend brunch), Antipodean (selected outlets have play areas for the kiddos!) and VCR dishes up some of the best all-day breakfast dishes. For some hearty dishes with the fam, we like Red Kettle for its homemade comfort food dishes.
One Half x ilaika, 17, Jalan 20/13, Taman Paramount, 46300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Afloat Coffee Roaster, 2-15, Second Floor, Jalan Jalil Perkasa 13, Arked Esplanad, 57000 Kuala Lumpur.
FEEKA Coffee Roasters, four outlets around Klang Valley.
Kenny Hills Bakers, seven outlets around Klang Valley.
Dou Dou Bake, 38, Jalan SS 4c/5, Taman Rasa Sayang, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Burrow, LOT GK12, Ground Floor, Bangsar Shopping Centre, 59000 Kuala Lumpur.
Antipodean, four outlets around Klang Valley.
VCR, two outlets around Klang Valley.
Red Kettle, F130, 1st Floor, The Starling Mall, 6, Jalan SS 21/37, Damansara Utama, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Restaurants with play areas
As a mum to a toddler, I confess I sometimes pick my dining options based on the availability of play areas. It’s the best of both worlds, after all: parents get to eat while the little ones play, then tend to the mini-mes when it’s their turn to eat. Aside from Antipodean, my toddler enjoys the spacious play area, colouring sheets, and wholesome food at Marmalade. Ben’s outlet in Bangsar Shopping Centre even has a slide and ball pit!
Marmalade, Level 1, F18 Bangsar Village, 11, Jalan Telawi 2, Bangsar, 59100 Kuala Lumpur.
Ben’s, Lot-T-06, Level 3, Bangsar Shopping Centre, 285, Jalan Maarof, 59000 Kuala Lumpur.
What to do in KL
Educational family-friendly attractions
Believe it or not, there’s a huge aquarium that houses 5,000 land and aquatic creatures right beneath the Petronas Twin Towers! Aquaria KLCC is one of the must-visits when you’re in town. And since you’re in the area, do factor in some time to visit Petrosains, The Discovery Centre, for a fun adventure on everything STEM-related. If you’re up for a trip slightly out of town, Farm In The City is a great place to get up close and personal with some friendly lemurs, alpacas, giant tortoises, and more!
Aquaria KLCC, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, Jalan Pinang, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50088 Kuala Lumpur.
Petrosains, The Discovery Centre, Petronas Twin Tower, Level 4, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50088 Kuala Lumpur.
Farm In The City, Lot 40187-40188, Jalan Prima Tropika Barat 1, Pusat Bandar Putra Permai, 43300 Seri Kembangan, Selangor.
Heritage walks and iconic spots (besides the Petronas Twin Towers)
It’s no doubt that the Petronas Twin Towers are the most famous icons and tourist attraction in KL; but there’s more to KL than that! Once you’ve ticked the towers’ SkyBridge and Observation Deck off your list, why not go for a walk around some of the city’s heritage and cultural spots?
My two year-old loves walking along Kwai Chai Hong (Chinese for “Little Demon Alley”), a century-old alley within KL’s Chinatown enclave. What used to be an alley for vice activities has now been refurbished into an artsy heritage trail (street art and murals!) with momentos of Chinatown’s glory days.
Pro-tip: Head there early for breakfast, as it’s also home to some of the oldest (and still most popular) traditional breakfast spots and hippest cafés.
You could also pay a visit to REXKL, originally home to the historic Rex Cinema that’s now a community arts hub. Aside from the regular music and arts events, you’ll find a variety of F&B outlets and one of my favourite bookstores – BookXcess. While BookXcess has many outlets within the Klang Valley, REXKL’s branch is said to be one of its biggest and most beautiful ones. Also, we’re talking about books as low as RM5 (less than S$2 at the point of writing)!
Kwai Chai Hong, Lorong Panggung, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur.
REXKL, 80, Jalan Sultan, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur.
Indoor and outdoor play areas
KL is not short of play areas, be it indoors or outdoors. You can find one of the biggest playgrounds within the city centre itself – in the Perdana Botanical Gardens! Called the Fantasy Planet & Dinosaur Park, this huge playground will definitely keep the kids entertained for a good amount of time. Venture towards the lake, and you’ll find a Bamboo Playhouse too.
You’ll also be spoilt for choice when it comes to indoor playgrounds. Our favourites are the safari-theme Jungle Gym, the giant slides and ball pits at Little Pirates Playland, and the space-theme Starship Galactica.
Fantasy Planet & Dinosaur Park and Bamboo Playhouse, Perdana Botanical Gardens, 50480 Kuala Lumpur.
Jungle Gym, three outlets around Klang Valley.
Little Pirates Playland, Lot 5.102.00, 5.106.00 & 5.107.00 ( Pink Zone Level 5), Pavilion Bukit Jalil, 2, Persiaran Jalil 8, Bandar Bukit Jalil, 57000 Kuala Lumpur.
Starship Galactica, SK6A 1 Utama Shopping Center, Bandar Utama City Center, Bandar Utama, 47800 Petaling Jaya.
Where to shop in KL
We did say that you’ll come back from KL with a re-stocked shopping bag. You can easily get your fix of retail therapy at any of the many shopping malls in town. One of the newest and biggest malls is LaLaport Bukit Bintang City Centre, the first of Japan’s LaLaport malls to open in Southeast Asia. It has six floors of shopping space, carrying a mix of local and international brands, as well as a few first-in-Malaysia Japanese brands. For upmarket products, there’s Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, Suria KLCC, and The Gardens Mall. Or if you just want to walk and shop till you drop, head over to any of the mega shopping malls in town: Mid Valley Megamall (not to be confused with the one in JB), 1 Utama Shopping Centre, and Sunway Pyramid.
LaLaport Bukit Bintang City Centre, 2, Jln Hang Tuah, Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur.
Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, 168, Jln Bukit Bintang, Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur.
Suria KLCC, 241, Petronas Twin Tower, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50088 Kuala Lumpur.
The Gardens Mall and Mid Valley Megamall, Lingkaran Syed Putra, Mid Valley City, 59200 Kuala Lumpur.
1 Utama Shopping Centre, 1, Lebuh Bandar Utama, Bandar Utama, 47800 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Sunway Pyramid, 3, Jalan PJS 11/15, Bandar Sunway, 47500 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Have a great time in KL!