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Going Solo in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia – An Insider's Advice for Single and Solo Travelers

By Raymond J G Wells

Kuala Lumpur ranks highly on my list of single-friendly cities. I have visited numerous times, often on my own, and always in relative safety and comfort. The vast majority of the locals are genuinely warm and friendly and will probably be curious about where you are from and interested in what you think of their home city. Once a provincial backwater, KL, as it is affectionately called by its residents, is now the center of Malaysia’s political, commercial, cultural and social life. Full of frothy energy, with a population of nearly 1.5 million, this city of remarkable contrasts is a fascinating juxtaposition of glistening skyscrapers alongside graceful colonial edifices, pre-war ornate shophouses, gleaming copper-domed roofs and Moorish-style buildings. It is a combination of cutting edge, cosmopolitan sophistication and lingering olde world charm. The hot and humid climate creates lush greenery and a profusion of blooms and colors – a tropical version of the Big Apple, New York City.

Going Solo in Kuala Lumpur

It’s easy to have fun on your own. Kuala Lumpur is still very affordable for North Americans, Japanese and Europeans, and the quality of most accommodation is very good. Getting around is easy, and many Malaysian’s speak good English. The districts I would recommend for solo travelers include Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, Jalan Petaling, Jalan Ampang and Bukit Bintang.

Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin

This district houses some of the most photographed buildings in town such as the elaborate Supreme Court built in Moorish style by the British at the turn of the century. The railway station is another fine example featuring the Moorish design elements much favored by colonial British architects.

Moving south, it’s impossible not to notice the Dayabumi Complex with its intricate blue Islamic designs incorporated into a modern office building. A short stroll will bring you to the National Mosque (Masjid Negara); this is a magnificent example of Islamic expressive art, and the mosque has a unique blue “umbrella” roof design. This is a sightseeing area par excellence.

Jalan Petaling

Jalan Petaling is the heart of Chinatown and it’s a great place to hunt for souvenirs. Overshadowed by tall office blocks and towering hotels, it’s a city within a city, and this is where you will come across Chinese groceries, herbalists, shoe-shops and numerous delicacies. Fake “branded” goods are also plentiful. The Central Market has been extensively refurbished and today functions as a bustling bazaar cum center for arts and performances.

Jalan Ampang

This is KL’s prestigious Embassy Row, and it has a lot to catch the eye, including deluxe 5-star hotels like Hotel Nikko, the Renaissance and the nearby Oriental Mandarin, all lavishly elegant. There’s super shopping at Suria KLCC, which houses several department stores such as Isetan and Marks and Spencer, around 250 speciality stores, designer boutiques and eateries. If you should get bored shopping at KLCC pop into the Petronas Gallerie. It’s a modern, international class, fine art gallery and well worth a visit. All in all Ampang is a good area for lodging, dining and wining, and for shopaholics.

Bukit Bintang in the Evening

Bukit Bintang is a locale I would recommend for a night-time visit. This district has long been a hub for shopping and entertainment, going back to pre-World War II times. The area includes the two major shopping malls of Starhill and Lot 10 and several five-star hotels such as J W Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton. Recently, it has been thoroughly transformed with an attractive pedestrian walkway complete with huge terra cotta pots filled with bright flowering plants, water columns, shady trees, al fresco dining areas and touristy coffee houses. It’s now KL’s most vibrant leisure and entertainment center.

Where to stay

Best Bites for Singles

Dining opportunities in KL are stupendous. Myriad cultural influences have made the city renowned for eclectic but very creative cuisine at prices that won’t break the bank, especially with the current exchange rate of 3.8 Malaysian Ringgit to 1 US dollar. Food is taken very seriously here from the 5-star hotel restaurants right down to the simple hawker’s stalls. The cuisine of China’s Canton and of Southern India have had significant influence on the city’s culinary heritage, as well as the sublime cuisine of Thailand. Here’s a small selection of good restaurants in town for single travelers.

Day Trips

If You Go to Kuala Lumpur


Comment on this article

>> From Anita Roy: "That truly is an insightful article and gives me a much better understanding of how I should plan my solo trip to KL this December [2011]. I am really looking forward to it and hope to enjoy it with some interesting co-travelers I connected with on mingletrips.com."

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