How to Spend a Long Layover in Kuala Lumpur

Friday, 21 September 2018
For the longest time, I used to hate having a layover anywhere. I wanted to get to my final destination as quickly as possible. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate a long layover. In fact, I often seek these layovers out. It gives me the opportunity to explore a city or country I wouldn’t usually get the opportunity to.

I recently had a 12-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur on my trip to India. Many people told me just to sit and relax in the airport. But who really wants to sit in an airport, eating overpriced food for 12 hours?  I honestly don’t have travel plans to Malaysia or KL anytime soon, so I wanted to make the most of my time.

Getting Through Customs
If you have an, extend layover, always ensure you do not need a tourist visa to leave the airport. Fortunately, US passport holders are eligible for a free visa on arrival when in Malaysia. It took no time what so ever to get through customs. As I didn’t check any luggage, I didn’t need to wait for my suitcase to arrive.

As you exit the baggage collection area, to your right, you will find a luggage check area. For 28 Ringgit ($6.76USD), they will safely store your luggage for an entire day. Rates depend on how long you will be storing your bag so it may end up being cheaper for some people.

Take the Express Train
There are two train options to get into KL Central. I opted for the express train that only takes 28 minutes to get into the city. Round trip costs 99 Ringgit ($24 USD). The other train, which stops more frequently, is cheaper however as I was pressed for time I opted for the fastest train possible so I could see as much as possible.

Batu Caves
Once at KL Central, you will access all the train lines throughout Kuala Lumpur. If you come from an area that has excellent public transport, please be advised all the lines are not created equal. The line to the Batu Caves only runs once an hour.

The train, if it’s running correctly, takes about 40 minutes to get to the Batu Caves. It can take longer so make sure you factor the time in. Once you're at the caves, there are so many incredible places to explore. To the left of the train station is the Ramayana Cave. It costs 5 Ringgit to get in, but the caves are covered in sculptures depicting the story of the Hindu gods.

If you continue walking straight once exiting the train station, you will pass the menagerie and a smaller temple. Continue walking, and you’ll find the iconic steps leading up to the temple embedded in the caves. When walking up the stairs, watch out for the monkeys, they will try and snatch your purse looking for food. If they’re rebuilding the temple, you will be asked to carry a bucket of sand to the top. Think of it as Spartan training and take two. It’s for a good cause.

If you have time, and a bigger budget than I did, you can also explore the Dark Caves. There you will see tons of super cool critters and get to walk throughout the vast cave.

KLCC Petronas Twin Towers
After the Batu Caves, take the train back to KL Central or the Central Market Station. From there you can transfer over to one of the rapid lines. I opted to go to the towers first before exploring the markets. This line is slightly more expensive, but trains are running almost every 8 minutes so you will quickly get from point A to point B.

If you’re big on shopping, KLCC is a shopaholic’s heaven. There are so many incredible shops its hard not to get lost. There are also plenty of places to eat so if you’re not brave enough to try Malaysian food at the markets, this is the place to give it a go.

From there, exit the towers and walk to the gardens. The gardens are beautiful and give you exquisite views of the Petronas Towers. If you want to go up to the viewing deck of the towers, be sure to book in advance. When I went to try my luck, it was sold out for the day. However, there are a few incredible rooftop bars in the area that allow beautiful views of the towers and KL. Heli Bar is an iconic rooftop bar with a view that will impress any traveller.

Central Markets
Once you’ve viewed the towers and explored the high-end shops, hop back on the rapid line and get off at Pasar Seni. Here you will be able to access the Central Markets. Like many markets, there are a lot of trinkets and goods. It’s a relatively small space, but there was still some incredible artwork. I enjoyed that the artwork was different from many of the other pieces you find in SE Asia. If you’re pressed for time, I would recommend skipping the market. It is similar to most markets you’ll see in SE Asia.

Located within close proximity to the Central Markets, Chinatown is a beautiful outdoor market with a lot of historical sights located along the walk. You’re able to read about the history, explore KL a bit more, and shop. Many of the stalls offer similar goods, but all of the prices are super reasonable. There are also quite a few areas to stop and grab a bite to eat. A definite must when in KL.
One of the most common tips I got about exploring KL was to eat! My stomach wasn’t 100% so unfortunately I didn’t get to taste my way around KL but I did stop and grab a laksa in Chinatown. It was incredible! Thankfully, the staff spoke English (incredibly well), so I was able to just get the liquid. It was so tasty. It made me wish that I could have eaten it properly.

Once you’ve finished exploring and eating, make your way back to KL Central. If you’re pressed for time, you can use GRAB (SE Asia’s version of Uber), and that will get you back to the station quickly. From there, you can catch the express train back to the airport.

And just like that you’ll explore a new city, get a little exercise and make the most of a long layover. Travelling solo? No worries at all. I was travelling solo and had no issues getting around the city. I asked the information desk at the airport the best way to get everywhere and they were very informative. I never felt unsafe while walking around the city. Do not let solo travel stop you from exploring during a layover!

And until next time...
Stay curious!


  1. dude i totally think this was meant to be that i found your blog, my friend is traveling to India and also has a really long layover I think its like 20 hours, gonna send her this, she will def wanna read it!

  2. I used to work for a large Engineering firm, and several friends of mine lived in KL for a few years working on their project - they always used to say 'always leave the house with an empty bladder and a full tank of gas!' Wish I could visit, my friend had a lot of custom-made dress shoes made for herself there!

  3. This is a great article. So much to do whether it’s 12hrs or 24hrs 🤘🤘

  4. China town would be a great place to visit. I would love to have lunch there.

  5. Batu Caves is in our bucket list. We are planning for a trip in this year only. But reading your post I need to update my bucket list. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  6. You totally used your layover time quite well, one would think 12 hrs would be less but not the way you descried it. I have heard a lot about Batu Caves too.

  7. This looks absolutely beautiful! I wish I had a layover like that, too!

  8. These are some fabulous ideas! I know I would enjoy checking out the market. I do love to shop!

  9. Sounds like a great layover to me. Looks like 12 hours gave you ample time to see and do a lot.

  10. Wow talk about a great layover! It really does beat just hanging at the airport and missing out on these incredible sights.

  11. There is so much to do in 12 hours? Wow. I would just stayed in the airport and read. But your way is so much better.

  12. Your post reminded me of my trip to KL. I was there for a few days so I explored everything on your list. I did love the street food around Chinatown, so delicious, especially the clay pot rice.

  13. 12 hours? That's so long. But if you come to think of it, at least you got to explored another country huh? What an exciting day you had at KL. It's good that your layover is during the day. You got to go around. I am envious. :D

  14. This is such an awesome post. We never just stay at the airport if we have a layover over 4 hours. We always find something to do close by. You did so much in 12 hours. I love this!

  15. That's a great way to spend a layover! Instead of boring oneself at the airport, go out and spend some time in these cool places!

  16. Kuala Lumpur is one of the city that its okay for me to spend for a long layover. Lots of things to do and to enjoy!

  17. What a wonderful story. I didn't know there was such thing as a "great layover," but that's how I'd describe your experience and I admire your choices. Thanks for sharing! :)

  18. I giggled all the way through this because THIS is almost exactly how I spent my long layover to Bali a couple years ago. I guess smart minds think alike.