Our towns: Kuala Lumpur

When we had an active office in ASEAN, Kuala Lumpur was where, after lots of research, we put it. We called it home and we loved it. When we closed the office, our boss refused to leave and still lives in the heart of the financial district. It really is that good!

Kuala Lumpur is hot in more ways than one.

Sitting just 350 km above the equator, it is truly tropical with a monsoon season and hot, humid days and nights.

The city is a mix of old, new and futuristic.

With a city skyline dominated by the famous Petronas Towers and their less famous cousin The KL Tower, and sitting in a bowl surrounded by mountainous jungle, KL affords a unique skyline. Modern offices, hotels, malls and apartment blocks jostle for attention in the Golden Triangle whilst old fashioned shop houses and colonial buildings show that KL remains a collection of villages with an individual character.

KL is one of the world's most eclectic cities: within the city boundaries you can find Malay, Chinese and Indian districts, each with their own character. But unlike many cities, these are not ghettos – the vast majority of Malaysians are oblivious to colour and race and everyone is welcome everywhere.

From the Philharmonic Concert Hall at the base of the Twin Towers to buskers at street stalls, you will be in the company of politicians, captains of industry and the ordinary hard working people of KL in a city where the primary leveller is food. For Malaysians love to eat, and they love to eat well. People commonly drive long distances across the city to visit a particular noodle stall, sitting on plastic stools on the pavement to enjoy the treat.

One thing to learn about Malaysia: eat and drink local and you will rarely be dissatisfied with price, quality or quantity.

But that's not to say that if you want world class restaurant surroundings you would be short changed. KL has some of South East Asia's best dining, both formal and informal, in restaurants, bars and hotels.

KL is famous for being one of the world's most cost-effective destinations. And it's true. Check out our Hotel Booking service to find out the amazing prices for staying in first class hotels right in the heart of the city.

For families accompanying delegates, KL has extensive shopping and visitor attractions. During Visit Malaysia Year 2007, there is the Eye on Malaysia – a huge wheel with a firework display every night. In the city confines, there is the Beryl Chocolate Museum (you might wonder why we suggest this but there's a very good reason – Beryl's Chocolate is the only chocolate manufactured in South East Asia that compares with UK manufactured Cadbury's and also they satisfy the twin cravings of caffeine and chocolate with choc-covered coffee beans), the Royal Selangor Pewter factory and visitor centre, several national museums, a zoo and library, Batu Caves and of course the bridge linking the two Petronas Towers as seen in many films and TV programmes.

Entry Visas

Visas: to check current visa requirements, check the website of your local Malaysian Embassy / High Commission or visit http://www.imi.gov.my/eng/im_Page1.asp

For those that do not require a visa, you will be issued a “Social Visit Pass” on arrival. This covers attending business meetings, conferences and training courses.

Immigration cards have been abolished but you will be required to register fingerprints on entry and departure.

Arriving in Kuala Lumpur by air.

On the plane: if you are travelling in business or first class – ask your cabin crew for a priority lane pass for immigration. If there are none available, keep your boarding pass with your passport.

In the airport.

There are three terminals at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

1. International (“Satellite”) Terminal.

This terminal is where all long hall international flights arrive, and most regional flights. Some regional flights, however, do arrive at the domestic terminal (see below). Note: low-cost carriers land at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal - see below.

From the arrivals gate, turn to the central hub of the terminal and follow the signs for the train to the main terminal. Trolleys are available at the arrivals gates but are not allowed on the trains. There are many toilet facilities between the gates and the train.

When you get off the train, turn left. In front of you there is a lift and two escalators going down. Take either one, and walk straight ahead to immigration. If you do not have a completed landing card, locate one and fill it in before queuing for immigration.

For first / business class passengers there is a fast-track gate. Follow the orange carpet. There is also a lane for diplomats and for families with children.

For APEC card holders, there is a dedicated gate.

There are separate zones for holders of Malaysian and foreign passports. However, at times, when the foreign queues are long and all Malaysians have passed, the officers will generally call foreign passport holders to the Malaysian desks so keep an eye open for the call.

After immigration, walk through the shopping area to immigration baggage reclaim. If your airline did not announce the belt that your luggage will appear on, check on the monitors.

NOTE: if you intend to use the Airport Express Train (see below) to travel to the city, you can purchase your ticket (RM35 each way) from the desk before baggage reclaim.

Note2: KLIA's VIP service - see below - can be arranged at this point, too.

Often, KLIA's efficient baggage reclaim means that the first bags are on the belt by the time the first passengers arrive in the reclaim area.

There is an ATM and there are several bureaux de change in the area before baggage reclaim. You will need local currency to purchase a ticket for the high speed train. If you use the VIP service, you can pay with a credit card.

The price of the VIP service is almost exactly the same as using an airport limo - and about one-third of the cost of a hotel car.

After reclaim, exit through Customs. There are routine checks on random bags including x-rays.

Notes:

a. All currency exceeding MYR1,000 or the equivalent of USD2500 in foreign currency must be declared on the arrivals card

b. All arriving passengers who have travelled from or been present in (within the previous 21 days) certain countries in Africa and others where yellow fever is present must report to the duty health officer before Customs.

c. All plant and foodstuffs must be reported to the duty officer before Customs.

After Customs, you will be in a “glass house.” In that glass house, you may

* buy a ticket for an airport car to your destination

* buy a ticket for the high speed airport train.

2. Domestic (“Main”) terminal.

Our current record from the door of the plane opening to being being in the destination in the heart of the city is 49 minutes (admittedly with hand luggage only).

From the arrivals gate, follow the signs for immigration. It can be a long walk depending on your gate. Trolleys are available at the arrivals gates. Walk through the shopping area and go up the escalator to baggage reclaim.

You can buy a ticket for the airport express train just before baggage reclaim.

After baggage reclaim your bags may be x-rayed in an internal customs inspection.

2, Domestic. You will not pass through immigration or customs but even so your bags may be scanned as you leave baggage retrieval. Once you leave the domestic terminal, you will arrive in the same arrivals area as international travellers and you can follow the travel arrangements above.

3. KLIA 2 - this terminal is dedicated to low cost airlines. It markets itself as a shopping centre with an airport attached. Walking to the buses or trains is a hike: be prepared. Basically, come out of the arrivals area and walk to the opposite end of the shopping centre.

Getting from KLIA to the City.

There are five alternatives:

“Executive Service”

Hotel car

Airport car

Airport Express train (and taxi to hotel)

Coach.

“Executive Service”

KLIA's VIP service is convenient and good value. Book at the desk before Baggage Reclaim. There you will be allocated a dedicated porter who will collect your bags with you and escort you to the train into the City. He will either travel with you into the City or "pool" with another porter so he can go back to the belt area. When you alight in the City at KL Central your porter or City based porter will collect your bags and take you and them to the Limousine counter where you will be handed to a driver. A Mercedes will take you to your hotel or other specified City destination. This is by far the quickest and most comfortable way to travel from the airport into town, and it's significantly cheaper than booking a hotel car. Details at https://www.vipservice.com.my/

Hotel car:

Hotel cars are generally expensive compared to other means of transport. As KL is a safe city, the usual reason for arranging a hotel car – that is security – is much reduced. Some hotels include one-way car journey in the price if you book a certain class of room for a minimum of, usually, three nights. Check when booking.

Airport Car:

There are three classes of car.

Usually, a budget taxi, that is a "compact" Proton, will be fine.

Recommendation: use a budget car. You may have to persist: the operators sometimes appear to have trouble hearing you when you ask for the cheapest car and keep repeating your "request" for a mid-range car.

Once you have a ticket, you queue (gate 7 for premium, gate 2 for budget). There are rarely long queues.

You can pay by cash or credit card. There are ATMs and currency exchange in baggage retrieval area.

The journey to the city takes about 50 minutes, if there are no jams. If it's raining, taking a car is a bad idea because there will be bad traffic.

Our records: plane to home in 58 minutes in the dry with no traffic; plane to home two and a quarter hours in the wet when KL becomes a giant car park.

Buses (cash only, tickets at a booth) are reliable, frequent and cheap , taking you to your hotel via a change to a minibus in the city.

From KLIA2: Buses to hotels are reliable and extraordinarily cheap. You will get a coach into town then transfer to a mini bus to your hotel. You can get the Express which makes a stop at KLIA main terminal before speeding you into town. 4G wifi is free on the train.

IMPORTANT: do not take a car from any of the touts who illegally hound passengers outside the glass house. If you forget to get a car ticket, then there is another car service counter to your right immediately in front of the domestic arrivals doorway. However, you can follow the signs to the metered taxi rank: this places the risk of a slow journey on you and is generally not recommended.

Similarly, if you have not booked a hotel intending to do so on arrival, do not talk to any of the touts. Look for the hotel / travel agents' desks and go direct to them. We suggest you avoid this problem by using our hotel booking service: click on the link in "Travel Arrangements."

High Speed Train.

If you have bought your ticket prior to baggage reclaim or in "the glass house" after Customs, then simply go to the lift to the platform. Overhead signs (purple) guide you. There are no ticket barriers at KLIA - but you need your ticket to get out at KL City Air Terminal.

The train leaves every 15 minutes. The journey to the KL Central City Air Terminal KL CAT) takes 28 minutes.

On the way, you will pass (on your right) the new Federal Capital (Putrajaya) which has some extraordinary architecture. It is built on land reclaimed from extensive mining operations.

On arrival at KL CAT, use a lift or escalator to the arrivals hall. Your ticket will be retained at the automatic barrier. There is a pay desk for those who managed to walk past all the opportunities to get a ticket!

From KL CAT there are three ways to your hotel:

Taxi (prepaid – get a budget taxi for MYR15, approx.) We recommend using a taxi.

Note: there are two types of taxi: budget and premium. A premium taxi will cost double the price of a budget taxi but frankly there is not much to choose between the two.

Monorail (the Monorail station is a five minute walk through a shopping centre called Nu Sentral (sic) and is not recommended for first-time visitors or those with luggage. The Monorail is not suitable for those with disabilities due to the almost total absence of lifts on the system and where there are lifts, they are often out of order, the lack of down escalators, the lack of functioning stair lifts for wheelchairs, and lack of audible systems to aid the sight-impaired). Having said that, the Monorail does go to much of the primary hotel district and for those familiar with the city is an excellent way of getting around.

LRT (the excellent tube system). The LRT platforms are within the same building as the KL CAT. Follow the signs. Although convenient, we do not recommend it for first time visitors, or those with luggage or disabilities. However, at peak times, or in the case of bad weather, if your hotel is close to an LRT station, this is a useful option. The LRT system has undergone tremendous expansion in the recent past and it is genuinely on a par with the world's best.

Check with your hotel if there is a convenient LRT station.

(it is possible to combine LRT and Monorail but the system is not well integrated and this is not recommended for first time visitors or those with luggage or disabilities).

3. KLIA 2Low Cost Carrier Terminal.

With 27 million passengers passing through KLIA 2 in 2016, it's a reasonable assumption that at least some of our delegates will arrive this way. There are frequent flights from all over the region with many carriers.

It's a very modern airport: landside it's a shopping centre; airside there are lots of shops, a wide selection of places to eat and access to the KLIA Express.

Arriving in KL by bus.

For travellers from Singapore, many people prefer to use one of the excellent express bus services. If you are in transit in Singapore airport, then there is nothing to be gained – but if you are in Singapore city, then point to point time difference is only about an hour and, surprisingly, the “hassle factor” is less. (depending, both into and out of Singapore, on the speed at immigration which has been slowing a lot during 2016 and subsequently).

There are many services and we could not list them all here. But if you are staying in Singapore, your hotel concierge will be able to tell you which one leaves from nearest your hotel. Not all stop within KL's Golden Triangle. The Nice service stops about two kilometres outside that district – but also starts from outside the central Singapore district and some services go to the suburban bus terminal where there is a short LRT ride into the city centre.

Getting around KL

Not long ago, KL had a public transport system that was simply dismal but within the past five years, it has seen a revolution.

The KLIA Express provides a frequent, reliable and fast connection to the airport.

For convenience on buses, LRT and monorail, pick up a prepayment card at the ticket office at a station. Fares are cheap: Load it with, say, MYR25 and that's probably enough for your intra-city travel. It cannot be used in taxis or on trains outside those listed above.

The LRT system (the tube) connects KL Central and many parts of the city with a clean, quick and reliable service. The system has appeared with little or no fanfare but it easily compares to those in e.g. Singapore and Hong Kong. And it's far nicer than e.g. London's.

The Rapid Transit trains provide a commuter service to many points in the city with several interchanges with the LRT

The Monorail snakes through the city and is a very convenient and quick way of getting around although its interchanges with other services are poor and it is not suitable for anyone with any form of physical disability.

The Rapid KL bus system has undergone the biggest change. New and renovated buses are now clean and comfortable with large signs setting out their destinations.Tickets are v cheap. The bus is useful to connect the various rail systems.

Taxis are a constant source of problems for the authorities, residents and tourists alike. Most are honest and competent but a small percentage give the others a bad name. There are a few basic rules – don't get in a taxi that is hovering outside a hotel or a shopping complex – they will demand a fee that far exceeds the meter rate; don't get in a taxi that hoots at you as you are walking – these will almost always demand a fee that far exceeds the metered rate. Within the Golden Triangle, most honest taxis will charge fares of between MYR3 and MYR5. If a driver asks for significantly more, he is breaking the law by refusing to use his meter and he is stealing from you. But remember – most drivers are honest, you just have to be prepared for the few that are not.

The preferred taxi hailing service is GRAB - make sure you choose Grab Taxi. There is no guarantee that Grab Car drivers (like Uber, which is why we cannot recommend them) have the proper authorisations or, even, insurance to operate carriage for reward.

The Golden Triangle area is quite small and it is easy to walk from one side to the other in about fifteen minutes. But hardly anyone walks in KL because it is so hot and muggy. With humidity levels consistently above 80% and temperatures generally in the mid 30s C, walking inevitably means arriving at your destination in a rather sweaty state. Also, pavements are often not even, kerbs are high, much of the pavement is made up with tiles that can become slippery for leather-soled shoes or in the rain. There are almost no suitable routes for those with walking sticks or wheelchairs, and few audible warnings for the blind at crossings . Crossing roads can be hazardous as KL drivers are unpredictable and motorcyclists are downright dangerous, ignoring all road traffic laws and even riding along pavements at speed. Lastly, although not a major problem, there are cases of bag snatching especially in areas frequented by tourists and expatriates. We emphasise that this risk should not be overstated but sensible precautions should be taken.

Documentation

You are required to carry identification documents at all times. However, for safety although officially not acceptable, it is probably better to keep your passport safe in your hotel and to carry a photocopy to produce if required.

Down Time

Kuala Lumpur (known by all as KL) is the capital city of Malaysia, lying at broadly the centre of the Malayan Peninsular. Surrounded by mountains and jungle, KL has a fascinating mix of people and architecture.

The centre of KL is known as “The Golden Triangle.” This is an area bounded by

North: KLCC – where the famous Petronas Towers dominate the skyline

East: Jalan Imbi – where the notorious Pudu Jail used to house serious criminals

West: Jalan Ampang – one of the city's main arteries

South: Jalan Pudu – where the city's main bus terminal is situated.

Within the Golden Triangle, you will find the shopping districts of Bukit Bintang (the Malay for Star Hill) which includes the latest additions to KL's luxury shopping experiences at Star Hill Gallery and Pavilion plus the existing centres of KL Plaza, Lot 10 and Sungei Wang (“Golden River” in Malay) which are mainly for clothes. There's the upmarket shopping of KLCC under the Twin Towers, the technology centres of Low Yat Plaza and Imbi Plaza plus Times Square which is a more broad based mall.

The city is a foodies' haven. Yes, you can get western fast food – but why would you want to? KL has excellent restaurants at prices that are surprisingly affordable – and in the Golden Triangle, it would be difficult to think of a cuisine that is not represented.

Hotels are remarkably affordable – and an absolute bargain compared to almost any other capital city you can think of. Check out our bookings service to see how you can get fantastic deals on very upmarket chains.

Most hotel restaurants are halal although some have some non-halal restaurant. The Federal and The Concorde, for example, both have good non-halal Chinese restaurants whilst their other outlets are halal. The Federal is also home to Delaney's Irish Pub which sells pork.

Many restaurants in KL are pork-free but do not seek halal status because to do so would preclude the sale of wine.

Outside the hotels, the range of available foods is truly surprising. In Chengkat Tong Shin (alongside the south end of Bukit Bintang) you will find Indian / Pakistani, Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese plus several Chinese coffee shops serving chicken and pork dishes of the highest quality.

Chengkat Tong Shin runs into Tengkat Bukit Bintang. Turning left into that road will lead you to a French country restaurant (just off Tengkat Bukit Bintang), a Japanese fusion restaurant, two European restaurants specialising in pork dishes, a Lebanese restaurant, an English pub, an English garden bar, a fine dining French restaurant and three Italian restaurants of differing styles of cooking plus a variety of other less defined but nevertheless fine places to eat.

In Jalan Raja Chulan, in Wisma Lim Foo Yong is the nearest KL has to a Hong Kong Chinese restaurant, Marco Polo (non-halal).

In Bukit Bintang itself, several middle eastern restaurants serve a wide range of foods from the region.

Alongside Bukit Bintang is Jalan Alor: this is where the locals eat. Guidebooks call it “Food Street” but no locals know it by that name! Here you will find Malay, Mamak (Indian / Malay) and Chinese food stalls 24 hours a day many serving outstanding food at prices that many travellers find hard to believe. You can feast on some of the best food you will ever eat for a remarkably small sum – provided you don't mind eating a plastic table on the pavement. And don't be surprised to see cars with official badges and special number plates pulling up – Malaysia is totally egalitarian when it comes to food – if it's good, the chairman of a bank might well be sitting at the table next to a messenger from his company.

KL has also seen the development of so-called Speakeasy Bars. These are often hidden (hence the name). They may have only a street number to show where they are or, in some cases, no signs at all. We have our favourites and we'll tell you which, but some are tiny so we're not going to encourage crowds by naming them here!

Note: although there are laws to preclude smoking in air-conditioned places that sell food, in bars this is often not enforced. Clubs are often distastefully smoky.

Leaving KL

Getting out of town is easy!

You can use the VIP service to collect you at your hotel and provide reverse porter services via the High Speed Train to aid you to and through check in. Depending upon the time of day and the weather, this is probably your best option, especially in the monsoon season.

Airport limo service. You can book a car direct from your hotel to the airport with a kerb-side drop off. There are lots of trolleys and porters are free.

Hotel car: if you want to burn cash, then book a hotel car for, generally, at least three times the cost of the airport service or the VIP service.

If you are flying with Malaysian Airlines or Cathay Pacific, you can check in at KL CAT (City Air Terminal). In the monsoon season, using the LRT to KL Central and checking in at KL CAT is the best option. Check in at least two hours before your flight if you have hold luggage or 90 minutes if you have hand luggage only. These times are strictly enforced. If you miss the check in at KL CAT, you will still - unless you are very late - be able to catch a train and check in at the airport.

If you are going to Singapore, and you are travelling by bus, your bus may leave from any one of a number of places. Make sure you know where the bus leaves from and how long it will take you to get there, especially in poor weather or especially busy travel periods.

At the airport

As you enter the terminal, there are a number of places where you can securely wrap your luggage. This is especially important for travellers to the USA who are not permitted to lock their cases. If you need "fragile" stickers - make sure you have more affixed to the outside of the wrapper at check in.

Most airlines use a common-queue system but some, for example MAS, have dedicated areas for premium class passengers. As with all airports, increased security checks are increasing the time it takes to get through the process of check-in, customs, immigration, etc. Even though KLIA is one of the most efficient airports in terms of time taken to clear passengers through the system, it is still possible that there may be hold-ups so don't be late.

If you arrive early, then you have a choice of eating places before going through immigration. At the food court on the second floor of the main terminal you will eat for far less than "airside," if budget is a concern. If it is less so, then there is an excellent (although the service is slow) but expensive Chinese restaurant in the rear part of the terminal.

After check in, international passengers go through a gate directly in the centre of the terminal and down escalators or lifts. The gate has recently been hidden behind shops but trust us: it is there!

Domestic passengers go through a gate at the left of the terminal.

International passengers: the same system of lanes works on departure as on arrival: follow the orange carpet for diplomatic, first, business or APEC passengers and for families with children. There are gates for Malaysian and Foreign passport holders.

After immigration is the only bottleneck in KLIA: am early scanning system which is primarily for customs : security is dealt with at the individual gates. Requirements vary depending on the state of alert but KLIA is generally sensible and does not require laptops to be removed from bags, shoes and belts to be removed, etc. at the customs check. However, at particularly busy times, there can be long delays at this point. If you are late, you can try to use the crew lane on the right but this is not generally successful. There is no special lane for premium passengers.

After that check make certain you know which gate you are going to - some regional flights leave from the main terminal; all long haul and most regional flights leave from the satellite terminal. Access to the Satellite terminal is via the train. Note: business and first class passengers - the lounges are all in the satellite terminal (except a small, alcohol-free, MAS lounge in the main terminal). And although it can't possibly be true, it feels like it's a much longer walk to planes in the main terminal, presumably because unlike the satellite terminal, the corridors are windowless.

At the gate scan, you will be required to remove coats and boots that reach above the ankles or that have metal eyelets; belts, keys and coins from pockets, laptops, tablets and large cameras from bags. The usual liquids, etc. in a plastic bag rule applies.

In the terminal, there is shopping, dining and more.

Inside the main terminal, from the hub where the train stops to any gate is less than five minutes' walk. There are travellators and small trolleys for ease.

So that's it: getting into, around and out of KL for a Financial Crime Forum event is pretty simple, and very enjoyable. KL's a great city, and we look forward to welcoming you to our "home" in Asia Pacific.

© 2011 The Financial Crime Forum; revised 2016