Kuala Lumpur

Welcome to Kuala Lumpur

Worlds collide in Kuala Lumpur, a teeming tropical centre where glitzy malls rub shoulders with dusty markets, grand old colonial buildings share city blocks with 21st century skyscrapers, and innocuous suburban streets hide exclusive nightclubs and world-class restaurants. Don't be surprised if you find the place a little disorienting: this young city is still defining itself, and the pace at which it is changing is enough to make the most seasoned traveller dizzy.

Of course, this state of flux is half the Malaysian capital's charm. Ever since it was carved from the jungle as a tin mining outpost in the 1850s, KL's residents have been fighting against the heat and humidity (not to mention the forces of British colonialism and Japanese imperialism) to create a resilient, bespoke South-East Asian city.

Malaysia's economy has exploded in recent years, and signs of KL's newfound wealth are everywhere. Retail is booming, with the world's biggest luxury brands competing for mall space. Meanwhile, a burgeoning arts scene (stoked by the city's music-loving students) and expanding sports industry (kick-started by the 1998 Commonwealth Games) are helping KL make a cultural name for itself.

Away from the glitz, the three distinct ethnic groups that have made this patch of rainforest their home - Malay, Chinese and Indian - conduct their business. There's plenty to be seen in KL's ethnic enclaves, but the city's most fascinating pockets are where everyone has mucked in together, creating a happy urban hybrid unlike anywhere else in Asia.

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Quick facts

  • Inhabitants in Malaysia:
    Approx. 28.3 million
  • Inhabitants in Kuala Lumpur:
    Approx 1.8 million
  • Official language
    Bahasa Malaysia, English
  • Currency
    Ringgit (RM)
  • Time zone
    GMT +8
  • Emergency number
    Police, Ambulance: 999, Fire: 994, Tourist police: 03-21496590
  • Constitution
    Federal constitutional elective monarchy and parliamentary democracy
  • Country phone code
    +6
  • Country code
    MAS
  • Local transportation
    Light Rail Transit (LRT), Monorail, Metred Taxi, Public Bus