Why go to Kuala Lumpur
It is hard not to fall in love with the capital of Malaysia: one of the youngest capitals of Southeast Asia wins hearts with its bold youthful and cosmopolitan character. The rich colonial heritage coexists in harmony with state-of-the art skyscrapers, lush parks are a welcome oasis of tranquillity to escape to after the world-class shopping marathons, and ethnic dishes of Chinese, Indian, Muslim and Western cuisine make your mouth water. The Petronas Towers, the highest twin towers in the world, rise proudly in the heart of the capital, commanding views over the modern bustling city.
From Phnom Penh to Kuala Lumpur
The distance from Phnom Penh to Kuala Lumpur if travelling overland is 2100 km. Even if driving all way through, it will take you at least 30 hours. It means that it makes no sense to go overland if your aim is simply to get from Phnom Penh to Kuala Lumpur. If, opposite to it, you are thinking about a road adventure full of new experience and colourful pictures – well, and you have at least a week at your disposal – then go!
Flying from Phnom Penh to Kuala Lumpur takes 1¾ hours only.
Flights from Phnom Penh to Kuala Lumpur
Two airlines currently serving Phnom Penh–Kuala Lumpur route are the leading Asian low cost airline AirAsia and a major Malaysian carrier, Malaysian Airlines. The former sells one-way tickets from about USD45, cheaper during Big Sale periods; the latter is twice as expensive.
Note that checked baggage is not included into your ticket price either with AirAsia or with Malaysian Airlines. For your reference, a 20 kg bag with AirAsia will cost you USD16; Malaysian Airlines offer the same service for USD28. With AirAsia you have options of 20 kg, 25 kg (USD18), 30 kg (USD32) and 40 kg (USD64), while Malaysian Airlines leave you with the choice of 20 kg and 40 kg (USD56).
Phnom Penh International Airport is located 10 km west of the capital. It is easily reached by motorbike taxi, by tuk-tuk, by taxi or even by public bus from the city – depending on how much you wish to pay and how much luggage you have. The cheapest option is, of course, the public bus (Line 03), which you can catch, for example, at the Night market (transfer stop from Line 02) or at the Central market (transfer stop from the Line 01). Taxi to the airport cost from USD9 to USD12 depending on from where you start your trip. The whole trip may take from 20 minutes up to one hour and is highly dependent on traffic situation.
In Kuala Lumpur, you arrive to KLIA with either airline but AirAsia uses KLIA2, the second terminal located 2 km from the main building. Getting to the centre is easy – just take KLIA Ekspress or KLIA Transit (MYR55, 28 minutes) or opt for a cheaper shuttle bus (MYR10, one hour), terminating at KL Sentral.
From Phnom Penh to Kuala Lumpur overland
If you are an adventurous person and have at least a week at your disposal, travelling from Phnom Penh to Kuala Lumpur is an awesome way to get acquainted with three countries, have some great time in Bangkok, party and relax on Koh Samui, take a foodie’s stroll over Georgetown in Penang and arrive to Kuala Lumpur sun-tanned and full of energy.
Take a bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (USD15; 7 hours; night buses available) to spend a day wandering among laterite jaw-dropping creations of the Khmer Empire in Angkor.
Jump onto the international bus to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok (USD30; 9 hours; one morning departure a day) and enjoy your time in the capital of Thailand, celebrating your way in Khao San Road, getting the best Thai massage ever in Wat Pho, plying the muddy waters of Chao Phraya River on a cheap public boat and indulging into world class shopping, wining and dining whenever you need it.
Tip The majority of nationalities get a free 15- or 30-day stamp while entering Thailand; but some need to apply for their visa in advance or get one on arrival. Always check visa requirements for your passport not to get in trouble at the border.
Take a night train from Bangkok to Suratthani (10 hours, THB1000/USD30) to catch a ferry to the islands of the Gulf, or buy a combination ticket from Bangkok to Koh Samui (11–14 hours, THB1400/USD40) to make a truly paradise island break.
Continue your journey by train from Suratthani to Padang Besar (6½ hours, THB970/USD25) and cross the border to Malaysia where take the next ETS service to Butterworth (1½ hour, MYR30/USD7) and spend a couple of days exploring the culinary capital of Malaysia, Georgetown, and Penang in general.
Note The immigration offices of Thailand and Malaysia are located on the Malaysian side of Padang Besar. The security check is immediately after Malaysian immigration booths.
Tip Malaysia grants from 30- to 90-day free stay for many nationals, but it always pays to double-check.
From Komtar bus station in Penang take a direct bus to Kuala Lumpur (5½ hours; MYR40/USD10) or go via Butterworth if you prefer to travel by train.
For the journey of the kind you will need at least 9 days; more if you want to relax on the beach, less if you are ready to skip the Gulf islands or Penang. For instance, you can consider taking a bus from Suratthani to Hat Yai to hop onto the international bus service from Hat Yai to Kuala Lumpur (8 hours, THB500/USD15) which is the most convenient and easy way to go through Thai-Malaysian border.
Getting around in Kuala Lumpur
Even if you are used to get around new places on foot while travelling, it can turn out a bad idea for Kuala Lumpur. Forget about polite drivers stopping at the pedestrian crossing. Be ready for heavily trafficked streets and polluted air.
Partly due to heavy traffic, partly – to non-existent map of routes, local buses are a very inefficient way to move around the city. If you manage to figure out which one you need, have the exact fare, as drivers would not give you any change – or better use Touch n’Go.
The best way to get around in Kuala Lumpur is rail transport. There are three types of it: LRT (or Light Rail Transit), the most useful of the three with Kelana Jaya Line running through KL Sentral and KLCC; the iconic monorail, which has the only line running through Bukit Bintang and Chinatown; and KTM Komuter which provides a convenient way to get to the outskirts of the city (e.g. to Batu Caves).
Touch n’Go cards can be used on all means of transport; but pay attention to touch it both when getting in and out while using KTM Komuter. A single ride on LRT and monorail cost from MYR0.7 to MYR2.80 depending on the number of stations you run; the most expensive ticket for KTM Komuter is MYR7.
Things to do in Kuala Lumpur
With an endless list of museums, churches, mosques and temples, historical buildings, shopping opportunities and natural attractions in and around the Malaysian capital, the time spent in Kuala Lumpur is never enough. You can make your visit as diverse and busy as you wish but by all means try to find some time for a very special experience which visiting of any of the following places can enrich you with:
Petronas Twin Towers are easily a whole-day destination. From getting up to the Skybridge on the 41st-42nd level and to meditating to the intricate dance of the fountains at the foot of the towers after dark, you will hardly find a moment for boredom.
Menara Kuala Lumpur may seem just a humble relative of its more famous counterparts elsewhere but it definitely offers the best view of the city with Petronas Twin Towers right in front of you. The revolving restaurant is a great place for an elegant lunch or diner, too.
Kuala Lumpur boasts many green areas and zoos, but Kuala Lumpur Bird Park located in the scenic Lake Gardens is an absolute stunner, especially if travelling with your little ones in tow. The natural aviary with freely flying birds transports you right in the heart of a rain forest.
Batu Caves with the iconic image of Lord Murugan look cheerful and colourful from outside with all those Hundu deities meeting visitors at the entrance gates just at the foot of the stairs, but the system of million-years caverns at the top does impress even more.
- Central Market is every shopping lover’s start destination which combines food venues, shops, entertainment programs all under the same roof of an amazing art deco masterpiece. Central Market gives you a real taste of KL shopping which goes far beyond the exquisite boutiques of Suria KLCC next to Petronas towers.
Your onward travel from Kuala Lumpur
Venturing further south from Kuala Lumpur, the two most popular destinations which can be reached overland, include Melaka, luring visitors with its rich historical heritage, and Singapore, where state-of-the-art skyscrapers blend in harmony with stately colonial mansions. Wish you fly, low-cost airlines which use KLIA as their hub, bring other great international destinations like Hong Kong, Hanoi or Saigon within an easy reach.