It is often the case that Kuala Lumpur hovers just under the radar of digital nomads these days. Indeed, most wandering online workers will happily (and somewhat predictably) reel off the likes of Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Ho Chi Minh, as well as Thailand’s ’big three’ of Phuket, Bangkok and Chiang Mai, whenever they get asked to name a few of the most desirable cities in Asia to live and work in. Kuala Lumpur, sadly, rarely gets a mention.
This is not entirely fair as Malaysia’s vibrant capital really does have a lot offer.
As well as being one of Southeast Asia’s most modern cities, Kuala Lumpur (KL in local parlance) is blessed with abundant Internet options, outstanding food, great onward travel connections and a truly buzzing, cultural scene. In addition, KL is far cheaper to live in than most North American/European cities, is relatively easy to get around, and embraces English as its second (or third) language with great gusto.
Sounds pretty good, eh?
Well, if the idea of ensconcing yourself in this engaging city for a prolonged period of time floats your boat, you’ll no doubt want to know a little bit more about how you can make the most of it. With any luck, this brief article will help you to do just that, as well as whet your appetite a wee bit more.
Step 1: Get settled
Like most other large cities in Asia, KL has plenty of accommodation options ranging from hostels and hotels, to flats, bungalows and condos. There are some really good hostels in KL so you may not need to be in quite as much of a rush to check out of your backpacker digs as you might normally be if you choose wisely.
Once you do flee the dorms and lockers though, chances are you will be in the market for a rental flat (or perhaps even a serviced condominium if business is brisk) which can be furnished, semi-furnished or completely unfurnished. It is normally the case that most flats are completely blank canvases while the majority of serviced condos are likely to be furnished.
The easiest way to find accommodation in Kuala Lumpur is to look online and/or sift through local newspapers and For Rent publications. It’s a good idea to view a few properties before making any kind of concrete decision as rents in KL are often listed as ’View to Offer’. More and more digital nomads these days follow the trend set by expats and use an estate agent to help them in their property search as this makes it easier to negotiate lease agreements.
In general, Jalan Ampang (the city end), Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC), Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Damansara Heights (to the west of the city centre), Bangsar Bahru, (south of the city centre), and the Golden Triangle remain the most popular areas for digital nomads (and expats) to settle in.
Step 2: Get wired
If your accommodation doesn’t have Internet included, (it probably won’t unless you’re leaning toward the better end of the market) then you’re best bet is to hit the city streets and make the most of the free Wi-Fi available at KL’s numerous eateries. Chances are you will need to hunt around for a place that will suit your own particular needs as coffee shops (kopitiam) and cafes in this part of the world tend to be on the noisy (and more often than not, hot) side. If coffice working doesn’t turn out to be your thing, then you can always take advantage of KL’s limited, yet, highly agreeable co-working spaces. As well as unlimited access to high-speed Internet, these communal workspaces provide handy accessories like printers, fax machines, and other office essentials which you’ll struggle to find elsewhere. PAPER + TOAST (in the Golden Triangle) and Urban Village (also in Bangsar) are all good options.
Step 3: Get around
You should walk wherever and whenever possible in KL as pounding the pavements of this surprisingly green city is a real treat (whenever the heat and rain allows, that is). Don’t be fooled into thinking cycling is a good idea because those you see on bikes have such a carefree look on their face. The local cyclists are seasoned pros who hide their fear well – cycling is dangerous in this city, so do yourself a favour and steer well clear of anything with two wheels!
Whenever you do find yourself with a fair distance to travel, you can take solace in the fact KL has a comprehensive and – in the main – pretty efficient public transport system which is easy to use and relatively cheap. The fact that signs are clearly marked in English as well as Bahasa Malaysian, means getting from A to B is a cinch. Buses and trains are generally your best bet as they can be easily accessed, more so if you invest in a MyRapid card, which affords unlimited travel on the network of your choice (you simply ’load’ the card with money and then swipe it via the touch ’n go system whenever you want to use a bus or train). At present, the Rapidpass can be used on RapidKL buses, Light Rail Transport lines and Monorail, and can be loaded for travel over one, three, 7, 15 or 30 day periods.
Taxis should only really be used when no other option is available. KL’s taxis are some of the most expensive in all of Asia and tend to take ages to travel, even a short distance whenever the traffic is snarled (which is frequently).
While the volatile weather, pricey taxis and persistent traffic jams may keep Kuala Lumpur from being one of Asia’s most favoured digital nomad destinations, it has more than enough going for it to warrant a good few months’ exploration. Just give it a chance and believe me, Kuala Lumpur’s multicultural charm, wonderful heritage (inside and outside of the city), bountiful – and extremely tasty – culinary offerings, and mish-mash of architectural styles will conspire to make you stay longer than you initially thought you would...
Have you spent time living the digital nomad lifestyle in Kuala Lumpur? If so, why not take a few moments to tell us your own views in the comments box below...we’d love to hear from you!