Often overlooked in favour of Singapore and Bangkok, KL is in fact a hidden gem with stunning skylines and world-class infrastructure, which are complemented by highly ranked education and medical care,yet it comes with a very affordable price tag. Text by Benjamin K. Yong
If you google ‘KL underrated city’, you will find a number of websites including the UK’s Daily Express newspaper waxing lyrical about KL’s uniqueness and how it’s been overlooked. Quoting excerpts (edited)from the said article (published in August 2017): “Friendly,fascinating and fun, the Malaysian capital offers the best of Southeast Asia, it has got it all. Kuala Lumpur enjoys the very best of Southeast Asia without the downsides.It offers all the glitz and modernity of Singapore without the tiresome rules and regulations, and its street life has all the enlivening buzz of Bangkok without the grime or occasional seediness.”
Quoting the writer further: “While Singapore is undoubtedly clean, efficient and easy on the eye, it can also be a little, well… dull. And the Thai capital may be a thrilling riot of colour and energy but it can be exhausting, exasperating and the service – outside of top establishments- is often sketchy, at best.”
“Not only is English widely spoken, there is glorious colonial architecture and the finest and most varied cuisine in Asia. It is extraordinarily good value too – accommodation, eating out and getting around is inexpensive. KL also teems with quality four and five-star hotels with room rates at a fraction of that even in other Asian countries.
“Travelling around KL is a breeze, there’s a light railway system, metro and even a monorail, plus a kilometre-long elevated Bintang Walkway, an air-conditioned walkway high above the traffic leading to the tourist, commercial and nightlife centre of Bukit Bintang.
“It emerges at the Pavilion, one of the city’s largest and glossiest malls. Just three minutes from Jalan Alor is Changkat Bukit Bintang, which has cocktail lounges, classy whisky bars, and pubs. Petaling Street Night Market in Chinatown is judged by many to be the best in all of Southeast Asia.”


For digital nomad Barbara Riedel who has been travelling around the world since 2014 and has written a book entitled “My Trip Around the World”, she has this to say about KL: “Malaysia gets overlooked. Plain and simple. I’ve listed Kuala Lumpur as one of the five most live able cities in Southeast Asia, but with Thailand next door, Malaysia is easily overlooked and underrated.
“Malaysia is a great location for expat living. In fact, Malaysia provides a better standard of living and is a wealthier country than Thailand. You also have the diversity of three different cultures, plus a number of expats.“As a result, I’ve often said that Malaysia is the United States of Southeast Asia — for all the good things and none of the bad. The diversity is one of its greatest characteristics. Malaysia offers so many amenities, including a great airport. KL is the home for AirAsia and you’ve also got Singapore next door with more connections.
“Malaysia is a bit of a mix between the two countries it’s nestled between: Singapore and Thailand. KL, with its famous twin towers, which are still the highest in the world, and impressive shopping malls, has many modern aspects similar to Singapore but without the expensive price tag. The prices are more comparable to Thailand.Additionally, Malaysia has a range of beautiful islands that are worth a visit. The climate in Malaysia is tropical, warm and sunny, but with abundant rainfall.”
As you can see, Malaysia and in particular KL, gets high marks from more discerning travellers. Prior to the 2014 twin Malaysian Airlines flight disasters, there had been a lot of visitors from China but following the unfortunate incidents, the number had dropped to a trickle at one point. For the past one year however, it seems they have returned in big numbers again, no doubt seduced by Malaysia’s uniqueness and in recent months, its Musang King durians.


More Chinese are also choosing KL as a retirement destination under the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme. In fact, Malaysia was ranked top as the ideal retirement destination in Asia in 2018, according to a new Retirement Index from International Living.com. The index, which takes into consideration criteria such as cost of living, healthcare and climate, ranked Malaysia fifth globally.
Last year, CNN had ranked Kuala Lumpur 6th place globally for the best place to retire abroad. That’s not surprising given that KL was also ranked as Southeast Asia’s second most live able city after Singapore in the Global Live ability Ranking released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) last year.
Also in 2017, Euromonitor International placed KL at 10thplace in its Top 10 most visited city in the world at 12.3 million visitors.
And the list goes on and on…
Like most of the world’s capital cities, KL is the economic, trade, financial and business heart of the country. Since the ringgit depreciated significantly three years ago, Malaysia’s properties have become one of the cheapest, if not, the cheapest among all capital cities in ASEAN. It also has some of the friendliest and most transparent property rules for foreigners in Asia.
This means, considering KL’s world class infrastructure (several 100+ storey buildings are about to be completed soon), and high live ability ranking, it is the best value capital city possibly in the entire world.

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