Fun things to do in Kuala Lumpur on a broke backpacker budget

Malaysia is a country that might get overlooked amidst the other popular Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand or Vietnam. Like the other Southeast Asian countries, Malaysia is also incredibly cheap. Thus, Malaysia should not be missed, especially it’s capital Kuala Lumpur. Kuala Lumpur is an incredibly modern city that, like many cities, offers a little bit of everything for any person. For starters, the diversity is insane. Upon arriving in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport you’ll quickly notice how every sign is translated into English, Arabic, Chinese, Tamil, and of course the official language of Malaysian Malay. Good news! Because there are so many spoken languages, English is quite common and a sort of “middle ground” language for Malaysians. This mental break makes getting around a whole lot easier. This guide is for broke backpackers who want to be ballin’ on a budget and who want to survive on as little as possible, yet thrive at the same time.

Go on a hike

The great thing about Kuala Lumpur is that it is a city surrounded by nature. Whenever I first arrived, my Grab driver told me that Malaysia has two seasons: wet and hot. This makes for a super green environment. The best view I found of Kuala Lumpur and the greenery surrounding it was on the West Bukit Tabur trail. You can easily find it on the free app AllTrails (buying the Pro version isn’t necessary). Technically, this trail is a loop. Half of it requires some climbing or scrambling (and nerve), and the other half is just a trek through the jungle. However, I didn’t hike through the treacherous part but rather started the hike on the jungle end, got to the top viewpoint, and went down the way I came. The jungle way is safer and much less scary than scrambling down or climbing up. If you decide to go on this hike you might get lucky and be accompanied by three friendly trail dogs! The trail is pretty obvious, but if you lose your way on the hike the trail dogs will know which way to go and lead you there.

Sample street food on Jalan Alor Street

Jalan Alor Street is a hopping night market with street food stalls and vendors trying to sell you anything from chicken feet to squid that they cook in front of you to steamed purple sweet potatoes at a cheap price. Out of all of the Southeast Asian countries that I have visited, Malaysia has the best food. I think the reason behind this is because of all of the diversity. Craving Indian food? Chinese? Arabic? Thai? You’ll surely find it for a cheap price on Jalan Alor Street! Pro tip: it is quite touristy so beware of pick-pocketers.

Drink at a rooftop bar and see the Petronas Towers before hitting the club

This might be the most expensive splurge in this guide but trust me when I say that it’s worth it for the view. I enjoyed going to Heli Lounge, which is a helicopter pad by day and transforms into a rooftop bar by night. To see the beautiful Kuala Lumpur skyline all you have to do is buy a drink! After sipping on your over-priced drink and taking a selfie with the Petronas Towers in the background, head over to Zion Club, a fun and free dance club that is on the lively street of Changkat Bukit Bintang. Pro tip: don’t show up wearing sandals or flip-flops at Heli Lounge because they will make you change into their shoes provided or not admit you inside.

Explore the Batu Caves

It wouldn’t be a trip to Kuala Lumpur if you didn’t check out the Batu Caves. This cool tourist site is free and worth a trip to the outskirts of the city. The beautiful Hindu shrines, bright columns, and colorful steps make this a great photo opportunity. It’s okay, we won’t judge you if you go overboard on the posing and posting on Instagram. Just make sure not to bring any food or water with you as there are tons of monkeys in the area who are known to steal and fight you for those goods!

Admire the beautiful architecture

Get on the metro and stop at the Sultan Abdul Building. You can’t go inside of it, but you can admire the architecture from the outside. Make sure to circle the building and find the long water fountain that is shaped like a star at the end. Then, go to the Jamek Mosque just a couple minutes walk away. Afterward, get a Grab and go on a free tour at Wilayah Mosque. On the tour, you’ll learn about Islam and feel the grandeur of the mosque.

Get henna tattooed at Brickfields

Brickfields is the “Little India” of Kuala Lumpur. Once you arrive, it will feel like you’ve stepped out of Malaysia and into a completely different country! Take a stroll inside the shops, eat some curry, get your eyebrows threaded, and get your hands henna tattooed. Most places that offer henna have a book where you can flip through the pages and find the exact henna that you would like on your hands. I got both my hands tattooed for only 20 ringgit! Pro tip: if you want to get your hands henna tattooed wait to do it till the end, right before you leave to go back to your hostel. Henna takes some time to dry and if you wait till the end, then you won’t have wet hands when browsing inside any more shops.

These are just a few suggestions on fun things to do in Kuala Lumpur on a broke backpacker budget. Malaysia was one of my favorite Southeast Asian countries that I went to and a big part of that had to do for my love of Kuala Lumpur. It has something for everyone and should not be missed.


Hey there! I’m Morgan and I’ve been moving around the U.S. and then the world for the last year. I went from living outside of a national park to snowboarding every day at a ski resort and then backpacking around Southeast Asia. Currently, I’m residing in Ski Town, U.S.A. Specifically, when I travel, I travel on a 20-something, backpacker’s budget. Cheers to the surviving and thriving lifestyle!