To begin with, Malaysia is one of the more “bang for your buck” holiday destinations in Southeast Asia. Even if you’re staying in its capital of Kuala Lumpur, you likely are going to get a lot of value for your money as the food is great and cheap, and there are numerous lodging options available to suit all types of budgets. Many people (book tour packages to Kuala Lumpur) as a way to cut down on costs and streamline their sightseeing at the same time. If you really must pinch pennies, below are some practical tips on how you can make your money stretch even further:
Most of your cash will likely go towards keeping yourself fed and fueled. The easiest way to save up on this aspect of your vacation is to choose where you’ll be dining wisely. Malaysian street food is both amazing and affordable, and it’s a great way to acquaint yourself with the local culture. Hawker stalls and small family-run neighboruhood joints abound, and you should take advantage of their ubiquity. Try the national favourite, nasi lemak, which is fluffy and fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk with pandan and served with a variety of side dishes. Also make sure to get some satay, which is char-grilled marinated meat on skewers served with a lip-smacking sweet and spicy peanut sauce.
Keep a bottle of water with you
One of the fastest ways to empty your purse is by buying drinks while you’re outside. We get it, the heat and humidity can only be combated with frequent hydration, but you can be a step ahead of the game by filling a water bottle up at the hotel and then refilling it as needed throughout the day – most restaurants will be happy to do this for you at no charge if you ask. If you must have a fresh bottle of water every time your supply runs out, head for a supermarket instead of a convenience store. There, prices on drinks are usually cheaper.
In Malaysia, alcohol is heavily taxed and comes with a hefty price tag. You can save a lot of money simply by limiting your consumption of beer and liquor! Frequenting establishments and watering holes during happy hour and taking advantage of promotional offers is another way to save money without depriving yourself of Kuala Lumpur’s vibrant nightlife. Finally, you can bring the party back with you and buy liquor from the mart or a nearby convenience store to enjoy in the comfort of your own rented room.
Use the buses and MTR system whenever you can
Kuala Lumpur’s public transit system is efficient, reliable, and very budget-friendly. Familiarise yourself with the monorail, MRT/LRT, and bus routes before heading out to sightsee, and your efforts should translate into big savings over the course of your holiday. Value transport cards are available for purchase as soon as you land at the airport. For weekenders, we recommend the KL TravelPass. It gives you access to single or return transfer on the KLIA Ekspres train that can take you to the heart of the city, as well as two days of rides on the LRT, MRT and monorail.
Get hip to the usual cabbie tricks
Sometimes getting from point A to point B can be a complicated affair. If you just want to get somewhere without having to map out a complicated route (with transfers!), there are plenty of cabs that ply the streets of KL. The trick to not getting fleeced is by getting on red and white sedans—these are the city’s budget taxis, and the cost of using one is cheaper than going for the premium variant, differentiated by their blue color. Once inside, insist on the meter; it’s the law, but cabbies can lobby for a fixed rate or even claim that their meter is broken in order to charge you more than they need to. It’s also a good idea to have a lot of loose change handy so that you can always pay the exact fare. Many drivers will say they don’t have change for large bills, and you end up forfeiting your own money this way.
Join a free walking tour
Malaysians are very proud of their capital city, and the local government promotes some of the most popular heritage sites and attractions through free walking tours in historical areas. Free means you spend exactly zero cents for a guided tour of the greats. Make sure to inquire via email or visit the official website of the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (http://www.visitkl.gov.my) to learn more.
DIY your itinerary
Some of KL’s best attractions and most vibrant neighbourhoods can be explored without shelling out a single cent, such as the KL Forest Eco Park at the foot of the Menara KL Tower, or the KLCC Park just outside the Petronas Towers. Some neighborhoods worth exploring are Kampung Bharu, the city’s oldest district, KL’s very own Little India over at Brickfields, and Chinatown over at Petaling Street.
Kuala Lumpur may be the center of commerce and industry in fast-developing Malaysia, but even here, in the country’s most expensive city, there are great bargains to be had if you’re wise. Make sure to keep the tips above in mind the next time you find yourself in KL.