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Kuala Lumpur Business Travel Guide

Conducting Commerce in Malaysia's Capital

The Petronas Towers dominate the nighttime skyline of Kuala Lumpur

The Best Hotels, Restaurants and Off-the-Clock Activities for Kuala Lumpur Business Travelers

Sprawled over nearly 100 miles in western Malaysia, about sixty miles inland from the coast, Kuala Lumpur — commonly known as KL — is a fast-paced capital city. Founded in the mid-1800s by a small group of tin miners, it is now on par with Singapore and Hong Kong as one of Southeast Asia's most important destinations for business travelers. Finance, information technology, textiles, footwear and petroleum are just a few of the industries that draw briefcase-wielding travelers to KL: industries as diverse as the city itself, with its Chinese shop houses, colonial buildings and swaths of skyscrapers, including the dramatic, Cesar Pelli-designed Petronas Towers, the tallest buildings in the world when constructed in 1998. The city's Malay, Chinese and Indian heritages mean a wealth of great dining, and a tourism industry that caters equitably to both regional and western visitors ensures a variety of ways to spend those post-meeting hours.

Facts to Know Before You Go -
Kuala Lumpur Business Travel

Kuala Lumpur International Airport Map:
Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) | Airport Map by

Currency: Ringgit
The conversion rate for the Malaysian Ringgit (MYR) is approximately 2.96 to the U.S. dollar. ATM-type cash machines are plentiful in the airport and most banks in the city and rural areas.

Clean, plentiful and efficient, taxis are a smart option for travel inside the city. Most cab rides around the city are five dollars or less, and even though a fifty percent surcharge is levied after midnight, the total should never be outrageous. Unfortunately, taxis aren't convenient for getting from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) to the city center. Rates are reasonable — approximately twenty dollars — but you'll spend about an hour-and-a-half in the car.

Instead of hailing a taxi, hop on the KLIA Ekspres from the airport to Sentral Station, the all-purpose transportation hub in the center of the city. The ride is under half an hour with departures every fifteen minutes at peak times, and the cost around ten dollars. An added convenience is that when leaving the city, you can check your luggage and collect your boarding pass at KLIA's City Air Terminal at Sentral Station. For travel around town, there is a network of light rail systems; owned by different companies, they don't always intersect efficiently, and it may seem as if you're traveling too far to reach a destination nearby. The Monorail, on the other hand, offers a convenient way to get around the main hotel and shopping district. Rail fares rarely exceed sixty cents.

Car Rental:
Hertz, Avis, and Europcar all have counters at KLIA, with lowest rates starting around 35 dollars a day. Car and driver combos are available through the concierge at top hotels.

The New Straits Times is the newspaper of note in KL. Although pro-government in its national coverage, it offers objective international reporting. The Star Online offers stock market updates and tech news alongside coverage of current events, sports and entertainment.

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Where to Stay -
Kuala Lumpur Business Hotels

Hilton Kuala Lumpur
13 Jalan Stesen Sentral
A guest room at Hilton Kuala Lumpur

Don't judge this hotel by its cover — a typical, unimaginative, urban skyrise. Who would have thought that Hilton would be the group to up the hip factor in KL? Located at KL Sentral (certainly a convenience when taking the Ekspres in from the airport), it sits across from the National Museum; inside, it boasts approximately 2,500 pieces of original artwork of its own. Flowing lines and subtle colors in the guest rooms provide a relaxing contrast to the city. All accommodations come with 42-inch plasma screen TVs, as well as plenty of business amenities, and executive rooms and suites give you access to freebies and gorgeous views in the 33rd floor executive lounge. A nice touch: separate smoking and non-smoking lounges. For recreation, there's a terrace pool, tiered fitness room and spa that would look right at home in Bali. You'll have a hard time finding such a smart collection of dining venues under one roof anywhere else in the city; with its stunning, stained-glass, domed ceiling, the Hilton's Studio complex houses a variety of restaurants and bars serving up an eclectic array of cuisines. Business spaces are equally design oriented, from meeting rooms whose floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the city to a lovely ballroom with skylights and Art Deco finishings.

Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur City Centre
A guest room at the Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur

The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group's subtle, Asian-inspired style, blended with traditional western décor, allows this hotel to fit right into East-meets-West KL. It's in a great location, adjacent to Petronas Towers and Kuala Lumpur City Centre Park. As for the business-friendly factor, it caters to traveling execs with seven Mandarin Oriental Club executive floors. The private Club Lounge has a pair of dedicated conference rooms, an executive business center and wireless access; perks also include up to five pieces of laundry per room daily. Don't expect dreary corporate colors. Jewel-toned silk accents add drama to these beautiful accommodations. Even if you stay in a standard room, you'll still enjoy plenty of amenities, including data ports, high-speed Internet access, two dual-line IDD phones plus a phone in the bathroom and personalized voicemail. There are also two- and three-bedroom apartments with fully-equipped kitchenettes. Among the facilities are a full spa, a swimming pool overlooking the fifty-acre park and numerous restaurants and lounges. Large conferences can be accommodated with two grand ballrooms, seventeen function rooms and catering for up to 2,400.

The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur
168 Jalan Imbi
603-2142 8000
A guest room at The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur

With just 365 rooms, The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur is almost a boutique, especially when compared with the other hotels in this guide. And although the three-level conference facility with 25 meeting rooms boasts "only" 30,000 square feet (it's all relative), the sense of intimacy — and the calm that comes with it — is worth it; colorful, action-packed Bintang Walk is close by. Another nice aspect of this service-oriented hotel is that you don't have to stay in a club-level room to get club-level treatment: Even standard rooms provide butler service and complimentary broadband Internet access. Suites come with complimentary breakfast and afternoon tea, complimentary limousine service, personalized stationery and access to a club lounge. Don't expect major surprises with the décor. It's lovely, but very European and traditional, accented with nineteenth and early twentieth-century artwork. There are four on-site restaurants and a spa "village," offering indoor/outdoor treatments and a pool with waterfalls.

Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur
11 Jalan Sultan Ismail
A guest room at the Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur

Against a backdrop of gardens and busy commercial avenues, Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur offers 662 guest rooms, including 101 suites. The rooms are simple and elegant. Horizon Club rooms on floors 20-23 offer Horizon Club Lounge access and are equipped with private fax machines, personal voicemail, international adaptors and broadband Internet access. The hotel offers plenty of extras for both business and leisure travel: tennis courts, a full-service spa, fitness center, swimming pool and shopping arcade whose offerings range from flowers to wine. A choice of dining options includes a Cantonese "palace" and Manhattan-style bar and grill. For large meetings and events, the pillar-less grand ballroom hosts up to 1,800 guests. Spread across lush, landscaped gardens, the Shangri-La makes for a calming retreat from the city.

Sheraton Imperial, Kuala Lumpur
129 Jalan Sultan Ismail
A guest room at the Sheraton Imperial, Kuala Lumpur

Those seeking an appealing, reliable business hotel will appreciate the Sheraton Imperial, Kuala Lumpur. Offering the tasteful style we've come to expect from Starwood's Luxury Collection, this property complements its residential look with traditional Malaysian accents. The 385 accommodations include executive rooms and suites, providing high-speed Internet access, laundry or pressing each day and access to the club lounge; suites also come with CD libraries. The hotel is situated in the Golden Triangle, with the Asean Heritage Row dining and entertainment area right outside its front door. Along with business facilities such as 23,000 square-feet of meeting space and the Nusantara Ballroom, which can host cocktail parties for up to 1,000, there is also the Imperial Spa by Mandara, a fitness center, a landscaped pool area and five restaurants and lounges. If you're looking for a place to sip a Bellini, grab a table at the Italian country-style Villa Danieli restaurant.

Where to Dine -
Kuala Lumpur Business Dining

Kafe Ceylon Hill
19 Jalan Damai

Kafe Ceylon Hill sits in a peaceful corner off Jalan Tun Razak near the U.S. Embassy in a sixties-style bungalow. Its al fresco atmosphere is enhanced by a lush tropical garden and fish ponds. This is definitely an insider's place, so head here with clients or colleagues to enjoy a quiet atmosphere and some great food. We recommend the Langkawi soft shell crab, salted duck pasta, spiced lamb shanks and Ceylon Hill Laksa Lemak. For dessert, grab a spoon and dig into New Zealand bread and butter pudding, traditional Italian tiramisu or pear and ginger upside down cake.

Satay Kajang
Kajang District

Every foodie in KL knows about satay, and every satay lover knows about Kajang, an area on the outskirts of the city off the Seremban Highway that is famous for its satay — locals call it Satay Kajang and there is a particular recipe that comes from this small area. If you're looking for a fun break from conference madness, head for one of the many informal, outdoor dining spots in this district. As few facilities have air conditioning, pull up a bench or table on a second-story terrace. Satay sticks run around one dollar apiece, and are nice with fresh sliced cucumbers, onions and small balls of sticky rice. All satay is served with peanut sauce, and Kajang's is memorable. If you're the type who needs a destination to aim for, Restaurant Kajang Satay in Kajang Town is the place.

Tamarind Hill
1 Jalan Kerja Air Lama
The bar and dining room at Tamarind Hill in Kuala Lumpur

Welcome to the plantation experience. Located in Ampang, near the center of Kuala Lumpur, this property was built by an Englishman in 1921 and is big on atmosphere. High on the list of venues for Southeast Asian fare, it serves Thai-Burmese cuisine. This is a great place for relaxing after a long day of meetings. At dusk, cane-shaded lamps illuminate the veranda, where diners lounge at rustic wooden tables. Surrounded by dense foliage and the chirp of cicadas, you'll have a hard time believing you're still in the city.

Top Hat Restaurant
3 Jalan Stonor
Top Hat restaurant is housed in a 1930s bungalow that once served as a schoolhouse

Looking for an education in fine dining in KL? Check out this 1930s bungalow, which once served as a school. The colorful furnishings are cheerful, without being over the top, and the warren of rooms gives a nice feeling of intimacy. Consider this restaurant for wooing clients or giving that expense account a workout. Dining here will also teach you about local flavors, such as Malacca Portuguese, traditional Malay and Thai; there are Western and vegetarian options available, as well. Wine tastings with the resident sommelier and a cigar bar offering fine Cubans top off the experience. The menu changes quarterly.

Shangri-la Hotel Kuala Lumpur
11 Jalan Sultan Ismail
The sushi bar and dining room at Zipangu at the Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur

This is where locals head to get their fix of Japanese cuisine in KL. Created by Tokyo-based Super Potato, this design-savvy brasserie greets diners with a floor-to-ceiling, glass-encased wine-and-sake cellar. If you're staying in town over a weekend, check out the Saturday and Sunday brunch, an extravagant display of more than 70 Japanese delicacies. Hot dishes are served in small portions on clay plates. A cigar lounge with a humidor and live piano performances add to the ambience.

Off the Clock -
Kuala Lumpur Business Entertainment

Petronas Towers
Kuala Lumpur City Centre

The Petronas Towers rise nearly 1,500 feet above ground

This obvious attraction is a fun place to spend an afternoon when it's just too hot or rainy outside. At 88 stories, they were the tallest towers in the world until a financial center in Tapei dwarfed them in 2004. The towers are based on the five pillars of Islam and feature a double-decker skybridge between their 41st and 42nd floors — from here you'll marvel at one of the best views of KL possible. Get in line for an elevator time early, as lift reservations for the day often fill up by 10 a.m. Suria Mall, at the base of the towers, is one of the best shopping options in the city. Among its offerings are two bookstores, electronics shops, swanky boutiques and even a massage machine store with chairs that "read" your body for acupressure points. Along with a food court selling excellent Malaysian and Indonesian fast food, there is plenty to keep you occupied while you wait your turn for the elevator.

The Westin Kuala Lumpur
199 Jalan Bukit Bintang

Qba is a popular spot for Spanish-style tapas and Latin music

A fair share of nightlife districts keep things lively well past the midnight hours in KL. But if you're looking for a little sophistication, head to Qba. This ornate venue features tapas, grilled Kobe beef steaks, a great selection of boutique wines from Spain and South America and salsa dancing to lively Latin American music. Feeling frisky? Order a mojito or caipirinha in the al fresco Latin Courtyard. As for the Havana cigar selection, it will appeal to both novices and well-heeled connoisseurs.

Saujana Golf & Country Club

Saujana Golf & Country Club is world-renowned for its scenic yet challenging links

As if the aggravations of the boardroom aren't enough, we suggest you challenge yourself on the fairways, as well. Considered one of the finest golf destinations in the world, Saujana Golf & Country Club features two courses dauntingly nicknamed "The Cobra" and "The Crocodile." Vijay Singh played here during the 2001 Malaysian Open. When you're not teeing off, you can unwind with a game of tennis, ping-pong or snooker.

Batu Caves
68100 Jalan Batu Caves

Visitors from all over Southeast Asia make the pilgrimage to the Batu Caves to worship and have their babies blessed

Located just eight miles outside the city and easily accessible by cab or bus, this impressive series of limestone caverns is one of the most important sites of Hindu worship outside of India. Dedicated to the popular Hindu deity Murugan, whose 140-foot presence greets visitors at the complex's entrance, the caves are home to a number of ornate shrines and statues, all of which are overseen by priests dressed in the traditional sacred threads. Rising 30 stories in height, the site's focal point is Temple Cave, an awe-inspiring natural cathedral illuminated in the daytime by soft rays of sunlight pouring in through holes in the cave's ceiling. Before making your ascent up the 272 steps to the entrance, be sure to buy some bananas from the many vendors in order to feed the gregarious gang of macaques that hang out along the stairs. Hold on tight to your belongings, though, as the mischievous monkeys have been known to snatch cameras, keys and other shiny objects.


The Perdana Putra in Putrajaya houses the office complex of the Prime Minister of Malaysia

Like its counterpart in Washington, D.C., Malaysia's purpose-built federal administration center is a shining monument to democracy — with a bit of the Southeast Asian flair that characterizes Kuala Lumpur and its environs as a whole. A 25-minute train ride from the capital, Putrajaya has been the country's seat of government since 1999, and is dominated by a picturesque network of tree-lined boulevards and administrative buildings displaying a 21st-century take on traditional Islamic architecture. Before heading back to KL, make a stop at the ultra-modern Putrajaya International Convention Centre, which commands 180-degree views of the entire city from its hilltop perch.

Istana Negara
Jalan Duta

Completed in September 2011, Malaysia's Royal Palace is the official residence of the king and a visually arresting reminder of the constitutional monarchy that guides the country. Having cost an estimated 800 million Malaysian Ringgit (that's roughly $263 million), the massive palace incorporates both Malay and Islamic architectural elements, and features 22 bright yellow domes along with its own mosque for the private use of the royal family. Similar to the Queen's Guard at Buckingham Palace, the soldiers on duty at Istana Negara wear steely stares and traditional, colorful garb. While it may be tough to get a smile from this stern crew, they do make for a fun photo-op.

Street Markets

The Petaling Street Market in Kuala Lumpur

A night out on the town for many locals still involves a visit to a bustling pasar malam (street market), where the focus is more about people watching than shopping for socks or scarves. The predominantly Malay street food is excellent at the markets, and the beer is ice cold. The Saturday market on Jalan Raja Muda is a highlight, although Jalan Petaling in Chinatown closes itself to traffic nightly and remains a local favorite. Pasar Minggu, or Sunday Market, is in fact a top spot on Saturday nights, with action going into the early hours of Sunday morning. If you want to pick up a treasure, check out the designer watches, earthen pots, embroidered songkets, prayer books and Malay baskets.

Foot Massage

KL is a paradise for tired feet, and if you've been sitting in an office chair all day, this is the ideal way to get the circulation going again. Whether at the airport, your hotel spa or on the busy sidewalks of Jalan Ismail or Jalan Bukit Bintang, you'll find a place to drop in for a reviving foot reflexology session. For seven to ten dollars an hour, you can sit in a comfy chair and let a local practitioner pamper your soles. The hour often includes a little shoulder time, too. Shops are usually open daily and well into the evenings.

Related Content:
Malaysia Travel Guide

For more information, visit the Official Website of Malaysia Tourism

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(Updated: 09/11/13 SG)

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