Back in September, I traveled through Malaysia for a total of 30 days. During that time, I had three stays in Kuala Lumpur, where I used to photograph its spectacular skyline. In this photography guide, I share the best photo spots I found with tips on how to get to and around Kuala Lumpur.
How To Get To Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia and also its largest travel hub. If you want to travel through Malaysia, you'll likely fly to Kuala Lumpur International Airport - also KLIA. It lies 60km south of KL's center, which is reachable via several transport options: You can take the bus, the express train, or a cab.
The bus is the cheapest way to get to KL for around 2$ per person, but it also takes the longest. You can expect up to an hour to get to the TBS terminal. You still need a taxi to reach the center in another 15 to 20 minutes.
The express train will get you to KL Sentral station for around 10$ and is the fastest option taking less than 40 minutes. As with the bus, you still need a taxi to your hotel, but you'll be much closer to the center.
The best way to get to KL is by taxi. If you travel with two or more people, it's also cheaper than the express train. KL Airport Limo, for example, will cost you around 20$ for a ride to any hotel in central KL. Depending on traffic, expect between 45 and 60 minutes of travel time. If you walk out of the airport, you'll also find options for 16$. You can also check if a Grab is nearby - more on that later.
Besides getting to Kuala Lumpur by plane, you can also get there by bus from Singapore if you want to combine the two cities in your travel itinerary. Those buses are comfortable and take between five and six hours.
Getting Around Kuala Lumpur
I already mentioned Grab, the Asian version of Uber, but with many more capabilities. If you want to get around any medium to major city in Southeast Asia, install the Grab app on your cellphone and create an account. Once you arrive at an Asian airport, first thing, get a SIM and activate the Grab app for the country where you landed. Grab is usually cheaper than getting a taxi, and you'll also avoid scams because you know right from the start how much a trip will cost you.
Pro tip: Sometimes, you might not be able to get a Grab in time, and you might need to take a taxi. You can still use the app to get a calculation for the desired route. It will give you an idea of what to expect when negotiating a price with a taxi driver. They usually charge more, but it shouldn't be more than 1.5 times the Grab price. Ideally, get them to use the meter.
I'd say that without Grab, it's hard to get around Kuala Lumpur. Many areas are not walkable. From some of the apartment buildings, it's impossible to reach public transport on foot.
Grab is also great for ordering food. If you've selected a building with a view, you'll likely want to photograph the sunset. It often interferes with dinner. You can pick from the countless food options Grab offers and have it delivered to your apartment. If you like Pizza, for example, Ghost Pizza is a great option.
Where To Stay in Kuala Lumpur
In Kuala Lumpur, choosing a hotel or apartment can be closely tied to selecting a photo spot. Many buildings in KL have a rooftop bar, terrace, or pool. The goal is to find accommodation in one of those buildings, ideally with a view towards the Petronas Towers. In the next part of this article, I will share the three places we stayed.
Kuala Lumpur Photography Guide
Kuala Lumpur is one of the best places in the world for cityscape photography. And to make the most out of a stay in this wonderful city, it's worth searching for accommodation that offers rooftop access. I looked through close to 100 apartments to find the best views, and I share the result of this research below. In addition to photographing KL's skyline from the top of its highest buildings, you can also head farther out into the suburbs. I didn't visit all of those but managed to get in a sunrise shoot at one of the best vantage points.
The first time I stayed in Kuala Lumpur, I rented an apartment in the Expressionz Suites building via Airbnb. If you want access to one of the best views of the Petronas Towers, then this is the right place to stay. This apartment building comes with a rooftop terrace and an infinity pool. Currently, only a visit of one hour is allowed at a time for a maximum of 20 people. You should always plan some waiting time if you want to get up there for sunset. There's also an entrance fee of 2,5$ per person. But for a view like this, I'm happy to pay for it.
The rooftop area was perfect for photography. Next to the pool is a little area with space for one or two tripods. I could take photos from there for an hour without getting in the way of any of the other guests.
The building and the apartment felt very modern and new and the elevators were fast. If you stay there, you'll also get fast internet, Netflix, a filtered water dispenser, and a shower with a view. The only downside is that you need a Grab to get to the center. We walked to the Petronas Towers once, which are only two kilometers away. But this part of KL is not ideal for pedestrians.
Let's continue with one of the most popular rooftop views in Kuala Lumpur. At least within the photography community, Regalia Suites is known for its rooftop area. And that's for good reason, as you can see in the photo below.
The view is where the pros of this place end. This building has seen its best years a long time ago: Renovation is dearly needed, the elevators take forever, and the apartments don't have the modern feel found in Expressionz Suites. I read countless reviews of different apartments, and at one point, I doubted if the view would be worth staying in Regalia Suites.
In the end, I found NaiBnb's apartment, which was the best compromise. It had a balcony with a view, fast internet, and Nai's team was very helpful in organizing my rooftop access. In Regalia Suites, a reservation for the rooftop is required at least one day in advance. In addition to that, no bags and tripods are allowed.
So you might wonder: If no tripod is allowed, how did I take the long time exposure above? The wall at the end of the pool area is perfect to stabilize a camera. If you head up there and are the only photographer like I was, you can take incredible photos of the skyline. If there are more photographers, you'll be disappointed.
A pleasant surprise was the view from Ceylonz Suites. During my research, a lot of guesswork was involved as I booked my apartment there. Based on the photos I had seen, I couldn't be 100% sure if there was a photo area up on the roof and if I would be allowed to set up a tripod. I shouldn't have worried. Taking photos from the 39th floor was very relaxed. I could head up there before sunrise until long in the evening without booking time slots or waiting for others to leave. It could get a bit crowded in the pool area one floor below, but not on the terrace from which I took this photo.
If you like to explore cities on foot, you'll also like this location much more than the other two. You can walk to both Chinatown and the center area within 20 minutes. It also allows you to head to a restaurant instead of ordering food via Grab, which we did while staying in the other two apartments.
Close to the residence of Kuala Lumpur's Mayor, you'll find Changkat Tunku Lookout Point. It's the best sunrise view of Kuala Lumpur. To get there, take a Grab and be early. You'll share this place with many local photographers. I've been told that at times of the year when the sun rises behind the Petronas Towers, you can expect up to 50 photographers lining up on the street there. The good thing is there's a lot of space.
Make sure to bring a long lens that allows you to zoom in on the skyline. I took the photo above at 111mm. To get this result, which combines light from just after sunrise with the city lights of blue hour, I left the camera in place for an hour to capture the different atmospheres. Using a technique called time blending, I blended the two together.
A visit to Kuala Lumpur wouldn't be complete without exploring the mighty Batu Caves. Although this is a very touristy place, it's definitely worth a visit. Those caves are huge, and if you visit them at the right time of year and day, you might be able to capture some beautiful light rays in the main cave. I was there around noon as the sun peeked over the rim of the cave. But its angle wasn't right in September. I still managed to capture a photo I like.
If you want to visit, head there by train or take a Grab. We actually wanted to take the train but learned that we first had to purchase a prepaid card to use the train and not just a ticket. For the two of us we would have paid nearly as much as using Grab. It cost us about 7$ to Batu Caves and back to Regalia Suites. Also good to know: there's no entrance fee for the main cave.
Kuala Lumpur has much more to offer than the few views I show in this article. While the focus of my visits was skyline photography, you'll find at least as many photo opportunities down in Kuala Lumpur's streets. If you spend time walking around the center or Chinatown in the evening, I'm sure you'll find something to photograph.
In the video I show a bit more behind the scenes and information about the apartments I stayed at, so you might want to check it out in addition to this article.