How to survive a layover in Kuala Lumpur airport

KL Layover

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!

Capsule by Container Hotel at KLIA

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
  • Chinatown
  • 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.
Putrajaya Mosque Kuala Lumpur Layover KLIA

Putrajaya Mosque

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.

Garage Station at KLIA2

Garage Station at KLIA2

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!

As always, our guides and content are completely free. If you found this post (or anything we do) useful, we’d be grateful if you considered using the affiliate links below. We’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Rest assured, these are the services we love and use ourselves. Thank you in advance for your support! Phoebe and Matt

  • Skyscanner – our go-to for booking flights
  • Agoda – one of our go-to sites for booking hotels
  • – another of our go-to sites for booking hotels
  • Rental Cars – a great search engine for renting a car
  • TourRadar – a great search engine for booking tours

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.

27 Comments on How to survive a layover in Kuala Lumpur airport

  1. tripsynutsy // July 18, 2018 at 1:51 am // Reply

    Good stuff…I guess we are lucky to stumble across this one before our layover at Malaysia….keep writing.. cheers


  2. Hi Phoebe, We have a 7 hour layover in KL Airport and we were wondering / trying to work out if we have enough time to get out and see the Petronas Towers?! would be awesome if we could but are worried about missing our internal flight!
    Thanks in advance!


  3. kamaka alston // October 17, 2017 at 2:44 pm // Reply

    I’m not even sure what terminal we will arrive in, but a small group of us has a layover in november from 850pm until 655am. are any of these suggestions open during that time?


  4. Found your blog while googling about this airport! Thanks so much for sharing your tips! I will definitely be looking into them! Do you know if it’s possible to sleep in the airport if arriving late at night?


  5. Hi Phoebe – I am arriving at KL airport at 10pm and flying to
    Lombok at 8am the next day. If I book in to any of the lounges or rest places do I need to book in advance?
    Many thanks Debbie


  6. Great article. Very helpful as this closely mirrors my experiences over the past couple of years in and out of KLIA2.
    You are totally correct, it can be a very long way from point to point and leave yourself plenty of time with a connecting flight but KLIA2 is a great spot to shop and eat and pass away time between flights.
    For anyone with 8 or more hours in transit strongly recommend a trip into KL onboard KLIA Ekspress.


  7. Kourageous Kerona // February 21, 2017 at 10:04 am // Reply

    Thanks Phoebe! I am traveling to Bali in late March and I will have long layovers in KLIA while going to and from Bali – one lasting as long as 16 hours! At first, I was mortified, but after reading this article, I now see it as vacay number two! I am excited to know here is so much I can do with these valuable hours, and I have never been one to turn down an adventure. Once more, thank you! Continue doing these very helpful, informative blogs, for people like me really depend on them and are grateful to have access to them. Sending you hugs from Japan. Stay blessed!


    • Thank you so so much Kerona 🙂 I’m SO happy the blog post was helpful for you. KLIA is a very friendly, easy to navigate airport. My first thought was how you might like to get a room or find a lounge so you can have a shower and a sleep 🙂 Have a GREAT holiday xx


  8. God, this blog is the best thing to happen. Helped me thoroughly for my upcoming flight. Thanks. Can you just tell me one more thing, to go out of the airport, do we need to apply for the transit visa well in advance or is it on arrival?


    • So glad it helped! Hope you’re on your way to an amazing adventure 🙂 I’d love to answer that for you, but I’m not sure to be honest, best to find out from a proper Government authority.


  9. Wow, what a comprehensive post! I’ll have to check out that food court next time.

    I had a nightmare of a time when I left from KLIA! Have you ever found yourself panicked thinking you were going to miss a flight there? I almost did! Haha.

    If you want a laugh at my misfortunes have a look here:

    I’m gonna link to your website for anyone who wants ideas on how to enjoy KLIA, unlike me!

    Backpacker Luke


  10. Ronja Sebastian // December 28, 2016 at 4:10 pm // Reply

    Hi Phoebe, thank you for a great article! I’m doing a visa run to KL from Bali in a couple of weeks, and will be landing in the evening around 7:30pm, and then flying back 9am the next morning. I would love to head in to KL for some good Malay or Indian food, and possibly go clubbing (I love house music). My plan is basically to not sleep in between but just enjoy KL by night.
    Do you think there’s enough time for that? And if so, what’s the best place to go that isn’t super far away from the airport? Specific tips/restaurants/clubs are warmly welcome.🙂
    Thank you!


    • Hi Ronja, wow! That’s quite the busy trip you’ve got planned 🙂 I’d love to give you some more detailed advice, but I haven’t done what you’re looking at doing before, so I’m not sure if it’s possible. I’d hate to give you some advice and have it be wrong. I hope you have a great trip though!!


  11. RonjaSebastian // December 28, 2016 at 4:09 pm // Reply

    Hi Phoebe, thank you for a great article! I’m doing a visa run to KL from Bali in a couple of weeks, and will be landing in the evening around 7:30pm, and then flying back 9am the next morning. I would love to head in to KL for some good Malay or Indian food, and possibly go clubbing (I love house music). My plan is basically to not sleep in between but just enjoy KL by night.
    Do you think there’s enough time for that? And if so, what’s the best place to go that isn’t super far away from the airport? Specific tips/restaurants/clubs are warmly welcome.🙂
    Thank you!


  12. Will be stuck in transit in the dead of night at KLIA. What time do shops & cafes open at KLIA? Is it 24/7 ?


  13. Hi Phoebe, I was wanting to find out more out the Suma Suma Express Lounge. Are the food and drinks complementary or do you need to purchase your own. Also i’ve been informed that the lounge shuts at 10pm? The website isn’t very black and white haha so trying to find out more from someone that has been there personally. Looking like a good option for my 6 hour layover 🙂



    • Hi Liana, it has been a while since I was in the lounge so it’s hard for me to remember specifics, I’m sorry 😦 There’s a free website/app called Lounge Buddy, they compile lounges around the world. Their website may have some more details in it. If you’re flying with AirAsia on one of their Premium Flex flights, you can get into their lounge for free. Just on the off-chance you are 🙂


  14. Abu Faisal Al Mizan // September 9, 2016 at 5:02 am // Reply

    Hi Phoebe…I was getting scared of 6 hours layover in klIA.
    Thanks a lot.
    Let’s see how this goes.


  15. Bhushan Bidnur // August 28, 2016 at 3:06 pm // Reply

    thanks for the tips dear..
    i have 6.5 hours layover and your blog has given me a lot of options. .. cheers


  16. Hey! Thanks a lot for this. Have a 13 hour layover in KL this Saturday the 30th and your post has provided me with everything I need + more. Cheers!


  17. Hi Phoebe. great blog here and helpful inputs. I’m gonna be in Malaysia next month, for the first time, and need some help in what to pack, what to see etc. Could you possibly share a link to some of your posts having the above details ? Thanks much in advance, you rock blogger! 🙂


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