- Download our Moving to Kuala Lumpur Guide (PDF)
Expats moving to Kuala Lumpur will enjoy all the benefits of living in a world-class destination. The city is a bustling, multicultural hub, evident in its range of shopping, cuisine and nightlife options. As a cultural melting pot, it is widely influenced by the diversity of people who call it home and, as such, expats will find plenty to explore and loads of variety.
Shopping in Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia is a well-loved shopping destination, so much so that exploring the city’s countless shopping malls is a popular pastime adopted by locals, tourists and expats alike.
Newcomers in Kuala Lumpur need not worry about bringing a wardrobe's worth of clothing along. One trip to the Golden Triangle, the city’s premier shopping area, will see all the old favourites replaced, renewed and revitalised.
The Golden Triangle is central to the city in terms of entertainment and business. Bukit Bintang Street is lined with shops and malls stocked with electronic goods, fashion merchandise and designer brands. Malls such as Low Yat Plaza, Sungei Wang Plaza, Lot 10 and Berjaya Times Square also stock almost anything expats could need. At the base of the Petronas Twin Towers, shoppers can find the popular Suria KLCC, which has a host of designer goods.
Jalan Hang Kasturi houses the Kuala Lumpur Central Market, which is the best place to buy arts and crafts, antiques, paintings, handicrafts and quirky souvenirs. Nearby Chinatown is an ideal destination for finding a bargain and has everything from herbal medicines and dried food to jewellery, wallets and handbags.
Eating out in Kuala Lumpur
Expats in Malaysia are in for a treat when it comes to the range of dining-out options available. The metropolis is home to a fusion of cultures and cuisines and this is particularly evident when sampling the delicious fare on offer in the many exotic, trendy and stylish restaurants.
Being a meeting point of cultures and immigrant communities, Malaysia frequently has its own version (or sometimes many versions) of popular dishes from all over Asia. 'Nasi goreng', or fried rice, can be found in more than a dozen styles throughout Malaysia, borrowing from all sorts of cultures along the way. Meanwhile, the mixture of fragrant spices, coconut milk and curry leaves make the popular 'mamak', a local style of Indian food sold at open-air stalls. Chinese dishes are also a firm favourite with 'hokkien mee', a fried noodle dish, being a popular choice.
Western food is also available in the country for expats looking for a taste of home, but with local foods being much more affordable and widely praised as one of the world's most delicious cuisines, there is little reason to stray from local offerings.
Nightlife and entertainment in Kuala Lumpur
Despite the majority of Malaysia’s population being Muslim, many other cultures and religions are welcome. The local population is largely tolerant of many of the indulgences which Western expats enjoy. Alcohol is widely available (though on the expensive side), and there are countless bars and nightclubs operating across the city.
From rooftop bars with city-skyline views to trendy cocktail lounges and glitzy dance clubs, Kuala Lumpur has something to suit every night owl’s tastes. Karaoke is also a particularly popular activity, and most establishments have happy hours with drinks specials.
The Golden Triangle is the city’s nightlife hub. Jalan Bukit Bintang, one of the city's busiest streets, is lined with bars, restaurants and clubs, while Bangsar Baru, once a run-down business district, has also become a trendy area with many bars and restaurants.
Outdoor activities in Kuala Lumpur
Weekends allow expats with families to travel the region and experience its natural beauty. There are also clubs and gyms to join for those interested in the local sports scene, as well as social groups within the city that meet over the weekends.
Kuala Lumpur also has many beautiful parks for the whole family to enjoy, including the Perdana Botanical Garden, Kanching Rainforest Waterfall and the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park.
See and do in Kuala Lumpur
Expats will never be short of things to see and do in Kuala Lumpur. A true blend of East and West, and both traditional and modern, the city boasts everything from fascinating museums and religious sites to tropical gardens. Weekends are sure to be jam-packed with exciting activities and excursions within the city and the wider Klang Valley. Below are some of the most popular sightseeing spots in Kuala Lumpur.
The National Museum
The National Museum (Muzium Negara), located on Jalan Damansara and close to the Perdara Lake Gardens, is a great starting point for expats looking to learn more about the culture and heritage of Malaysia.
The city's mosques are both breathtaking and awe-inspiring. With their intricate carvings and peaceful settings, the Masjid Negara Mosque and the Masjid Jamek Mosque should definitely be on anyone's bucket list.
Catching a train or bus to Taman Negara is recommended for hikers and nature lovers keen to experience some of the oldest rain forests in the world. Trekking, rafting, fishing, bird watching and climbing are all possible for expats looking for a break from city life.
Another fantastic weekend getaway option is the Cameron Highlands, which offers cool mountain weather and strolls through the country’s oldest tea plantations surrounded by rain forests and jungle scenery. It's the ideal vacation spot to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
What's on in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur has a large and diverse variety of annual festivals and celebrations. These events inevitably offer a wonderful opportunity for expats to learn more about the Malaysian people and way of life. Below are some of the most popular yearly celebrations and festivals held in the country.
Langkawi International Water Festival (April)
This water-sports event is a great way to spend some time in the sun, with events ranging from sandcastle-building competitions and underwater treasure hunts to kayak races, fishing competitions and beach netball games.
Colours of Malaysia (May)
Known locally as Citrawarna Malaysia, this annual festival is organised by the Malaysian Ministry of Tourism to showcase the country’s culture through traditional song-and-dance performances, dazzling parades, delicious ethnic food and beautifully made handicrafts.
Kuala Lumpur Marathon (June)
Weaving its way through notable city landmarks, the Kuala Lumpur Marathon begins and ends at Dataran Merdeka. This is a great way for outdoorsy expats to get to know the city while enjoying a run with a view. This is also a fantastic spectator event.
Good Vibes Festival (July)
Each year, this beloved music festival brings the best in local and international indie, pop, electronic and hip hop music to the hills of Genting just north of Kuala Lumpur. While the performances are the highlight, attendees should make sure to check out the festival's giant playground, art installations and mouthwatering food stalls.
Where to meet people and make friends in Kuala Lumpur
Meeting new people in a strange country can be difficult and daunting. Below are a few suggestions for expats looking to make friends and immerse themselves in local activities.
A place for people of all ages to come together, build friendships and engage in a wide range of activvities, the YMCA of KL is a great place for expats to pursue hobbies with other members of their community.
Expats from all over come together for a range of different occasions. The aim of the Society is to bring foreigners in Malaysia together and establish new friendships and support networks in the country.
MANZA is the perfect club for any expat to meet new people. People from all nationalities come together for book club meetings, casual coffee or drink at rooftop bars. Join in and meet a few interesting new faces.
The aim of the ABWM is to help newcomers to Malaysia to acclimate and build up a reliable friend group. With many social events ranging from reading groups to sports clubs and charity lunches, time spent with this group is never dull and expats are guaranteed to make a few new friends.
►Take a look at our Kids and Family in Kuala Lumpur section
"I love the food! You can find so much good, and inexpensive, local food that’s a mix of Chinese, Indian, and Malay." Emily tells us all about her life in Malaysia in her expat interview.
"Kuala Lumpur has so much to offer. You can enjoy city life to the fullest – there are a massive amount of shopping malls here, a variety of restaurants and cuisines, and people from all over the world." Read more about American expat Kimbra's experiences here.
Are you an expat living in Kuala Lumpur?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Kuala Lumpur. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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