Kuala Lumpur is one of those cities a lot of flights tend to go through. If you’re planning a trip to Asia, there’s a good chance you may find yourself at Kuala Lumpur’s International Airport (KLIA) at some point. Heck, you might even find yourself here if you’re flying long-haul to the other side of the world, depending on which airline you go with.
If you find yourself with a layover at KLIA and need to kill a few hours or survive an overnight stop, here are my tips on things to do at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Here’s a link to an interactive map, to help you work out what’s what. Just keep in mind there are two sections to the airport KLIA and KLIA2, with KLIA2 catering to low-cost airlines.
Pro tip: If you’re looking to explore Kuala Lumpur during your layover and want detailed insight into how to get around and what, exactly, you can see and do during your layover, I wrote a guide just for you: This is what you can actually do on a Kuala Lumpur layover.
1. Chill out at the Sama Sama Express Lounge
If you’re in-transit and have 3-4 hour layover before you get back on the plane, head to the Sama Sama Express Lounge. It costs 94 MYR to get in, which is around $30AUD p.p. You get access to a private lounge which is really comfy, has very good wifi, showers so you can freshen up, loads of food and drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic. There’s TV’s and you can watch the departure times on big screens so you don’t miss your flight. I can recommend this place as I’m sitting in it right now, writing this blog post while I wait for my flight. Find the Sama Sama Express Lounge here.
2. Go shopping
The airport is attached to a mall, called Gateway@KLIA2. There are quite a few good shops, including jewellery, clothing, shoes and electronics stores. Gateway is separate to the airport, so you’ll need to clear customs to have a look around the shops and possibly buy some things, before going back through security and customs for your flight. But, if you have 5 hours layover and want to stretch your legs, it could be worth it for you. Find Gateway@KLIA2 here.
3. Eat amazing local food, really cheap
If you do go into Gateway@KLIA2, get yourself downstairs to NZ Curry House. It’s a big open-plan food-court style area at the very bottom of Gateway and it’s super low-key. The food here is awesome, local and really, really cheap. If you haven’t tried Malaysian food before, this is your chance! It looks to me like a lot of the airline staff eat here, which is a good sign, you always to eat where the locals eat. Try the Thosai Masala and Roti Chanai, washed down with an Ice Lychee Tea. It cost us $7 AUD for a mountain of food!
4. Get a massage
Ohhhhhhhh yeaaaaahhhhhhhh. You cannot tell me a massage would not feel incredibly amazing when you’re in the middle of two long flights. Don’t even try! I’m not buyin it! You want it. You know you want it. Get yourself down to the Reflexology & Massage Centre for some much-needed and well-deserved foot reflexology. Drift off to sleep, get your legs and feet massaged and wake up feeling like a whole new you. Find the Reflexology & Massage centre here.
5. Catch up on sleep
If you really need to catch up on sleep during your longer-length layover and don’t want to sleep on the airport floor, then there are a few options for you to consider:
- Capsule by Container Hotel: situated within the airport, it offers capsule-style beds for you to sleep in for 3, 6 or 12 hour stays. They also have free wifi, luggage lockers and shower facilities so you can freshen up.
- Tune Hotel: external to the airport, but only a few minutes walk, Tune offer no-frills budget accommodation perfect for getting away from the airport. The wifi here is great, the rooms are comfy and the showers are awesome.
- Sama Sama Hotel: also external to the airport, Sama Sama Hotel is best suited for extended layovers and anybody who wants to get away from the airport for a few hours to rest and refresh. There’s a 2-minute buggy ride to get there, apparently! How fun for you!
6. Watch free movies at the movie lounge
Yep, you read that right, good friends. Get yourself down to the movie lounge, which is just a big open space with a whole bunch of TV’s on the wall showing HBO movies all day and night. It’s a great place to chill out for a few hours, especially if you’ve found yourself on a flight that doesn’t show any movies. Find out more about the movie lounge here.
7. Explore Kuala Lumpur
If you have a longer layover you may like to go into Kuala Lumpur and see the major sights. A company called Baggage Solutions allow you to store your luggage for a fee, you can find them here. From here you can either catch the Kuala Lumpur Express (train), taxi or Uber into town, there’s some great information on that here. A good option for you could be to buy a ticket for the Hop On Hop Off bus, which takes in all the major tourist attractions and gives you a bit more free reign on when/where/what you do and see.
You could also pre-book yourself a tour. A lot of vendors understand that KL is a popular layover spot and that people want to take advantage of that, so you could do some research and find a tour operator willing to meet you at the airport, take you out for the day and show you all the things you want to see in the time you’ve got, then get you back to the airport in time for your flight.
Places you might like to consider seeing include:
- Petronas Twin Towers
- The Royal Palace
- The Lake Gardens
- Menara KL Tower
- Merdeka Square
- Thean Hou Buddhist Temple
- Central Market
- Bukit Bintang
- Popular shopping malls, like: Berjaya Times Square, Pavillion KL, Fahrenheit 88, Starhill Gallery, Suria KLCC and Plaza Low Yat.
8. Head to the observation deck
If you’re looking for a cool place to get interesting photographs, get yourself to the observation deck, which is on level 3 in between the two buildings. It’s a great place to get photos of all the planes coming and going, lined up at the boarding bridges and gates. I think it would be especially pretty at night when it’s all lit-up, perfect for those long-exposure shots.
9. Eat some more
This is your chance to try the great local food, so don’t squander it. Be sure to find a traditional local coffee shop and try a few of the local specialities like Kluang Coffee, Ipoh Coffee and Kaya Toast. Try typical Malay fare like Nasi Lemak and Nasi Campur, both rice based dishes. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals what ‘must try’ food there is and get stuck into it! Malay food is notoriously yummy and they’re proud of their delicious food offerings.
10. Visit Garage Station
I’ve left this place to last and put it on here separately as it’s my favourite place to visit at Gateway@KLIA2. It’s a really quirky, cool store selling new vintage-themed items like tin wind-up toys, quirky badges and pins, really cool movie posters and magnets and heaps of other things. This place is pretty new in opening up and we stocked up on all kinds of really awesome things for our home. I definitely recommend a visit!! Find Garage Station here.
So, there are my top ten tips on things to do and how to survive your next layover at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. What are your tips? Share them in the comments below.
Useful travel resources for your trip to Malaysia!
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Phoebe is a travel writer and photographer with a love for storytelling and making people laugh. Matt is a videographer and photographer with a passion for the great outdoors and big adventures. Together we inspire big adventures through our guides, videos, vlogs and photographs. Find out more about us here.