South East Asia is a popular section of the world for frequent visa run travelers, both long term backpackers and remote workers alike, or more commonly known as Digital Nomads. It makes total sense if you have an online based business, work as freelancer or teach English. The weather is always hot, the food is second to none and living expenses are drastically cheaper than that of most other destinations in the world.
Chiang Mai in the North of Thailand for example, is currently home to the biggest expat community in the world, full of co-working spaces, networking events and offers one of the best vibes in Asia. I called the North of Thailand home for 2 months and thoroughly enjoyed it, the only reason I left was due to travel obligations.
But it’s not only Thailand that offers environments like this, Indonesia and Vietnam are another couple that spring to mind. I have spent time in both the island nation of Bali, living and working in the laid-back town of Canggu, and the entertaining city of Hanoi, Vietnam. Both of which have huge expat communities. If you are one of these people, you know the word ‘Visa Run’ all too well. Likewise, with long term travelers, it’s common to fall in love with a place, and never want to leave apart from the necessity of a visa run.
For those of you who do not get the concept of a visa run, it goes something like this. Depending on what country you have been working/living in your visa will be limited. For example, in Indonesia, you get a 30-day V.O.A (visa on arrival) you can then extend it internally for a further 30 days. Following that you must do a visa run to “renew’ your visa, get a fresh one. Each county offers different periods of stay before you are required to leave the country.
Depending on what country you are in there is always a few destinations to which you can make a visa run. The popular cities include Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, these always seem to be the top three because they are massive transit hubs. I have been to all of these cities and have found Kuala Lumpur by far the most enjoyable to spend a few days.
There are multiple airlines within Asia that offer flights to and from all the countries mentioned above. But the best value for money and overall experience is by far AirAsia. AirAsia has been voted for eight consecutive years the world’s best low-cost airline, meaning traveling to Asia has never been so affordable. No airline has the reach that AirAsia has across Asia and now further afield. Find out how my experience flying with AirAisa was here.
When arriving in Malaysia the visa on arrival process is very simple and stream line like a lot of other South East Asia countries. No prior documents or return flights, just arrive and get 90 days. The ideal situation.
Even if you are simply passing through Kuala Lumpur onto the likes of Langkawi, I would recommend extending a few nights to really experience and get immersed with what is on offer. I have never experienced such a vibrant and culturally diverse city. The energy is contagious and there is more than enough to keep you entertained.
Listed below are the activities I have done over a 3 day period so whether you are in Kuala Lumpur for 1 day or 3 I have you covered, although I would highly recommend staying for a least 3.
The Petronas Towers are located in the heart in the city and arguably the main attraction or landmark in Kuala Lumpur. The two towers are a modern-day representation of the Islamic culture. Two towers rise out of the ground making them one of the tallest structures in South East Asia. The two towers are connected by a sky bridge. You can stand at the base in complete bliss or make your way up to the sky deck if you choose.
The KL tower rises out of the ground as a thin needle like structure and can be seen from anywhere in the city. The easiest way to get there is either by Uber or public transport. I did the classic look at the big structure in the sky and walk towards it, however this did not work as I walked around in circles for over half an hour. The tower itself has multiple top levels floors you can choose from including restaurants and bars. The top floor has an open observation deck where you can get 360-degree views of the city.
KLCC is located on one side of the Petronas towers. The better side of the towers in my opinion as the other side is a busy road full of traffic. The park has a couple of man-made lakes lined with lush green grass and trees. This is the perfect place to chill out for the afternoon and is a common place to see both tourists and locals embracing the nature like feeling in the middle of a metropolis. There is also a paddle pool and playground which is perfect to entertain kids if you have them.
Get lost in the Public Transport
Kuala Lumpur is a massive metropolitan with one of the best public transport systems that I have seen in a city. Offering a mono rail, train, and buses to name a few that will take you around the main attractions and areas of the city. Alternatively, you can use Uber or grab a taxi, but you never get a feel for the city in my opinion. Going through the process of buying your mono rail ticket, locating where to get on and off, and getting packed into the mono rail with the locals is an experience in itself. Give it a go, it’s a bunch of fun.
Kuala Lumpur’s Bird Park is unlike anything I have seen before. A massive enclosure that will take you best part of 20 minutes to walk from one side to the other. The Bird Park is home to hundred’s of birds from all corners of the globe. Including tropical birds, flightless birds even flamingos and a pelican. Walking around the park is calming, with the feeling that you are walking through a jungle, with trees hanging out over the paths and multiple waterfalls, it seems the hundred’s if not thousand’s of birds are just a bonus.
Check out the Architecture
Kuala Lumpur simply blew my mind. One thing I like to do when I get to a new city is just to wander around and see what the vibes are like. The city itself is very culturally diverse and this carries over into the architecture of the city. You have modern day skyscrapers immersed in both traditional and contemporary mosques, along with Indian palaces and its very own distinct China Town. The city offers the perfect balance between concrete and nature, which is even more relevant when you go up the KL tower.
Kuala Lumpur is a very culturally diverse city and almost a quarter of its population is Chinese. It is no wonder that it has a very prominent Chinese influenced suburb. Spreading across multiple streets you can get a real taste for the Chinese culture. Shopping for unique items and food then ducking down into the back streets where you feel like you have completely changed countries or walked through a time machine.
Located a short 15 – 20 minutes out of the city center, dependent on traffic, are the Batu Caves which is home to a giant statue and beautiful caves. The big golden structure that represents Tamil Hindu sits at the base of the Batu caves. Steep stairs make their way up the cliff side to the two caves, the dark cave which you can go into and explore deeply for 35 Malaysian Ringgit (RM). The main Batu cave is only a short distance further, taking only 10-15 minutes to walk up. A big open cave full of South Indian religious structures and beautiful scenery. It would be my number 1 recommendation if you have limited time in the city.
Shopping is a very common leisurely activity for both the locals and tourist to partake in. Kuala Lumpur offers a range of upscale shopping centers and malls right down to localized markets. One of the most popular markets is Central Market which was established in 1888. It has both an indoor mall like structure that seems to never end with an outdoor walking street included. Both offering a balance between classic tourist items and genuine excellent quality items.
The night market reminds you that you are in Asia and brings the city back down to earth. The market street goes for as far as the eye can see, lined with food. From traditional Malay food, right through to other Asian cultures and classic BBQ. You can indulge in the likes of Frog and Stingray or just stick with what you know. The street also offers incredible vibes with musicians playing live music everywhere you look. There is something here for everyone and would recommend it even if you were only in Kuala Lumpur for one night.