A Kuala Lumpur Layover – Not a Minute to Waste!

It’s one of those posers isn’t it – is it REALLY worth the effort of leaving an airport and heading into town? So much to consider – immigration, security, transport and then allowing enough time to do it all in reverse so that you don’t actually miss your connection.

While KL airport is not the worst place to while away your time whilst in transit, the city centre is well worth a visit and even just a few hours will allow you experience some of the highlights and main attractions…..

The stunning Petronas Towers are a must – even if you don’t have time to visit the famous sky bridge. I love the elegance of the chrome and stainless steel structure which contrasts with the colourful chaos of Chinatown’s markets and Jalan Alor’s hawker food stalls.

Actually that’s even enough – the Towers, a bit of shopping in either Chinatown or one of the fabulous shopping malls (there’s even one at the Towers with over 300 stores) and then sampling the great street food on Jalan Alor. I’d settle for that!


Planning is very important or your layover will rapidly go downhill and you’ll end up with a wasted day!

Be sensible about time constraints – Allowing for about an hour trip both ways, and a few hours when back at the airport for security etc., I wouldn’t venture into the city with anything less than an 8 hour gap between flights.

Getting in to the city – Depending on your time and money constraints, your options are bus, taxi and train. Bus is the cheapest, taxi the most convenient but the most expensive and train, at 33 minutes, is the fastest.

Getting around – You can walk, use the metro system or download the GRAB (Malaysian UBER) app. The LRT (Light Railway System) will get you from the central station to Petronas in about 13 minutes.

To use GRAB or Google Maps, you will need data. You can pick up a prepaid SIM card at the airport (about €5 for 7 days) but the most popular mobile shops will have long queues. You can order a SIM card online but you still have to collect it upon arrival. It’s a lot of bother for a few hours….

Most businesses accept credit cards but you may need some cash for the hawker stalls. There are ATMs everywhere but it might be handier to withdraw some Ringgits before you leave the airport (we just went to an exchange bureau with no queue as we were walking through the airport and handed them a €20 note).

If you’ve enough time to visit the Skybridge and Observation Deck at Petronas, make sure to book in advance to get a time slot that suits and to avoid long queues at the ticket desk.

Of course there’s more to KL than Petronas, shopping and food!! Check out the Top 10 lists, decide what interests you and what you can fit into an itinerary – but remember – you don’t want to spend all your time on the metro!

14 thoughts on “A Kuala Lumpur Layover – Not a Minute to Waste!

  1. Wow, what a beautiful city, Marie! Long layovers might be a drag to some, but they give you an opportunity to approach your travel day with intention. You may be surprised to discover a city you’d love to return to for longer. I am glad to see you made the most of yours! Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    1. It’s great if it’s actually long enough to do something – but the 5-6 hour stops are the worst – especially after a long flight. It’s happened to us so many times – especially in Heathrow, when were’re just exhausted and still have to wait forever for that short flight home.

    1. Thanks a mil Teresa – I didn’t actually have that many when I went looking yesterday – so I think I’ve pretty much included them all!!!

  2. We’ve never risked a city visit during a layover – I think I’m too paranoid about missing a flight! But I can definitely see how this would be more interesting than sitting around the airport 😀

    1. We’d a stopover in Eindhoven last year for about 7-8 hours and took the bus into town and just had a walk around, a lovely lunch and headed back – and it was great. My favourite is Newark – we’ve had a few early morning arrivals and then the Dublin flight leaves around 7.30pm … We have it down to a fine art – shuttle to Jersey Gardens Outlet which is about 20 minutes away with 2 empty carry on bags of course, shop til I drop, back on bus about 4.00-4.30 and I really feel as though I’ve had a day out!!!😅 😂

  3. I’m 100% a fan of leaving the airport during a long layover and seeing a place you may never see otherwise. This looks like you had a great time in KL and I enjoyed virtually seeing the sights.

    1. Thank you Diana. The opportunity doesn’t arise very often because most of our layovers seem to be 5-6 hours max. But there have been one or two opportunities that we missed because we concentrated on the trip and left it too late to properly plan for leaving the airport. Like Sarah though, I’m also paranoid about missing a flight and have to be at the airport for hours beforehand so would have to be very very comfortable about everything before I’d venture too far….

      1. I completely understand the paranoia, I definitely share it. We’ve only left the airport once recently, during an 8 hour layover in Miami. It was enough time to rent a car and head to the beach for 3 hours or so. I don’t think I’d risk it on a 5-6 hour layover either, though.

      2. That sounds VERY ambitious – but brilliant!! I definitely wouldn’t have the nerve to do that! What a great layover!

  4. Loved Kuala Lumpur when we visited a few years ago..our street food experience was in Kampung Baru, an old village in the heart of the city with the Petronas Towers looming overhead. What we’ve tended to do is, if we have a potential stopover of more than, say, 6 or 7 hours, book a couple of nights in the layover city if it’s appealing enough. For some reason this is not as appealing when you’re on the way home, especially if like your Heathrow stops, most of the journey is done.

    1. Ah you’re right about coming home – it’s just not the same! We’ve spoken about it before in recent years pre Covid but it came up again this time – we’ll have to start splitting the long haul flights with a 2 or 3 day stopover and plan accordingly – back to back 7-9 hour flights and often a third flight tagged on is just getting too much…

  5. How great that you were able to breeze through the city! You came up with some wonderful stops. I did a day through Hong Kong a few years ago, before the pandemic and before the Chinese government tightening the reins.

    1. Gosh a day in Hong Kong would be a bigger challenge! But it’s all in the planning isn’t it – accepting that you can’t see everything and concentrating on just a few highlights. We were in Hong Kong in 1988! i loved the buzz of the place. I remember having my guidebook – one of the little Berlitz pocket guides – on my lap in a restaurant and the 2 of us following instructions on how to use chopsticks!

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