This article is not so much a list of my ‘best recommendations’. Nor is it an overview of where Kuala Lumpur is at in terms of sustainability practices. Rather, it is a shortlist of activity ideas and tips for Kuala Lumpur (affectionately nicknamed ‘KL’) that could be useful to conscious travellers. Obviously this is not an exhaustive list. I’ll keep updating this every so often with different things, but here are a few ideas to get you started!

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Kuala Lumpur tips for the sustainable foodie traveller

This would not be a true Malaysian guide if I didn’t begin with ideas that have something to do with food! There is a mind-blowing diversity and availability of food in Malaysia, throughout the country. I would say that most of our repeat visitors tend to return for the food.

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As the capital city, Kuala Lumpur is a great example of this culinary cornucopia. But what if you’re looking for a little more than deliciousness from your culinary experience? 

Picha Project

Picha Project is a local social enterprise that caters and organises meals cooked by chefs from KL’s many refugee communities. Malaysia receives many refugees from the region as well as internationally. Picha Project is a Malaysian enterprise that aims to provide livelihood for refugees sheltering in Kuala Lumpur, while introducing the culture of the refugees’ origin countries through their food. 

Volunteer for PERTIWI Soup Kitchen

Thinking out of the box – suppose the foodie experience is not about your meal? PERTIWI runs a volunteer-driven soup kitchen to deliver basic food aid to the society’s disenfranchised. You can contact PERTIWI to assist in soup kitchen activities at several locations within central Kuala Lumpur. 

PlateCulture

PlateCulture was a platform, basically like the Airbnb/Couchsurfing but for home dining. However, the initiative did not seem to have survived the Covid19 pandemic. Nonetheless, I add this defunct tip anyway in case the idea revives in Kuala Lumpur someday.

The concept is, you select the local home chef that you want to visit. Then they make you a home-cooked meal and host you for a pleasant dinner evening. I’ve tried this myself in Kuala Lumpur with a couchsurfer, and lucked out with a wonderful hostess. 

Kuala Lumpur tips for the zero waste traveller

If you’re in the city for only a short period, you probably won’t need to replenish zero waste supplies. However, if you’re here for a week or more, or intend to use KL as your ‘rejuvenating’ base in the middle of a longer trip, that’s a different story. The good news is, you can get zero waste supplies in Kuala Lumpur.

Photo by Anna Oliinyk on Unsplash

Zero Waste app

Places to get secondhand goods, bulk/not plastic-packaged groceries, recycling locations, etc. can be found on the Zero Waste app, downloadable from App Store and Google Play. Choose ‘Malaysia’, pay $1, and access the geo-referenced information. 

Zero Waste toiletries

I’d point tourists in KL to Pavilion mall in Bukit Bintang as being the easiest location for a re-supply. There is a Lush there, for those sustainable travellers who feel more comfortable with a known brand.

Additionally, on the same floor as the Lush store, on a cross bridge to the other side of the mall, is an Olive Tree kiosk. Olive Tree is an Australian-Malaysian brand selling organic and personal care products. They do refills for some products.

For those who are more mobile or staying in more residential areas of KL, The Hive in Bangsar has a wider range of zero waste goods

Low carbon transportation tips in Kuala Lumpur

Most Malaysians still live very car-centric lives. However, visitors to KL typically stay around the city centre hubs. This makes the train system perfectly viable for the climate conscious traveller. 

Public transport payments in Kuala Lumpur are cashless. The primary payment method is a Touch ‘n Go card, which you can buy at most public transport stations, petrol stations, and Watson’s pharmacies. These are typically also authorised reload points. Other cashless payment methods (e.g. credit cards, QR codes) are still being rolled out.

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RapidKL public transport

RapidKL is the public transport entity that runs the three metro networks in Kuala Lumpur: the LRT, MRT, and Monorail. They also runs the citywide bus service, and the feeder buses for the metros. Look for the most up-to-date information on the RapidKL website.

GoKL city bus

GoKL is the inner city bus service run by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall. The service is free for locals, but there are plans to charge foreigners a nominal fee. Some of the buses are electric, part of the ongoing plan to electrify the bus fleet. The official website is not online anymore, but this webpage shares the current bus routes and a description of what areas they pass through.

e-Scooter

oBike used to operate around the Kuala Lumpur city centre. This is an app-based, dockless bike sharing platform, with yellow bicycles distributed across the city. (‘Dockless’ means you don’t have to return the bike at any particular location. Just leave it. Location tracking enables its recovery and re-arrangement.) However, around 2018 it went defunct, probably for the same reason it didn’t take off in other cities. Taking its place almost immediately, are electric scooters.

By scooter, I mean the hipster standing-up kind, not the la dolce vita Vespa kind. There are two main companies, Beam and Tryke. Beam is a Singaporean company operating across Asia Pacific, and first on the scene. Tryke is Malaysian, and its scooters have slightly larger wheels and thicker body – perhaps reflecting better awareness of the more ‘boisterous’ operating environment of Kuala Lumpur.

Although scootering is pretty much the most sustainable transport option, bear in mind that Malaysian traffic can be unpredictable (you have travel insurance, right?). Even though there are (sort of) bike lanes in some places, they are sometimes on the side of proper roads without a barrier. Also, motorcyclists often commandeer these lanes as ‘shortcut’ routes to bypass traffic on proper roads. In the inner city, motorists are used to the scooters, but be careful nonetheless.

Uptake seems pretty good – I think even more than oBike – and it seems to annoy people less. Maybe because they’re less bulky than bicycles? It’s also more accommodating of non-pants attire like skirts and dresses, and as they’re motorised as well, there’s also far more uptake by women and office workers, and couples out on dates.

KTM Komuter train

The Komuter train is not run by RapidKL, but by the KTMB, the Malaysian railway service. The Komuter services routes across the Greater Klang Valley, rather than being a Kuala Lumpur metro service. However, it does have many useful stops within the city centre, and is how you get to Batu Caves from the city centre.


Kuala Lumpur tips for the culture-conscious traveller

The majority tourism content for KL point you to the Chinese and Indian communities, who are often more prominent in cities and towns across Malaysia because that was where the migrant communities congregated in the long years of our history. I don’t think there’s any point for me to list out well-known places like Petaling Street, Changkat Bukit Bintang, or Chow Kit. Here, I will add lesser-known culture tips, or activity ideas that can help more overlooked or marginalised communities in Kuala Lumpur. 

Also see this article for tips to iconic artsy attractions in Kuala Lumpur, and this one for Downtown Kuala Lumpur.

© Ravindran John Smith | Dreamstime.com

Kampung Baru

Whenever I take guests to Kampung Baru, they’re always surprised that it doesn’t feature in the standard travel tips. I don’t know why this is, since it’s not exactly obscure to locals, and there’s no shortage of local content about it, and even tours.

Kampung Baru is the last remaining Malay village in the heart of KL. Come here for Malay street food and a glimpse of the old Malay wooden houses. Generally, people tend to go to Kampung Baru from Chow Kit. However, you can also go there from the KLCC area across an iconic pedestrian bridge called the Saloma Bridge.

Saloma bridge

Mah Meri Cultural Village

Although not in Kuala Lumpur, this little cultural village complex is an easy half-day road trip from KL. The Mah Meri are an aboriginal people of the Malaysian peninsula, belonging to the Senoi ethnic group. They live in the coastal areas of Carey Island, in the state of Selangor. Known for their surreal wooden statuary and intricate nipa origami work, the Mah Meri Cultural Village tries to keep alive these cultural elements in the face of modernisation. 

In the early part of the year (around late January to early February), they celebrate two Ancestor festivals. Both are about honouring their ancestor and guardian spirits. I attended it twice with Lokalocal, once with a coastal Mah Meri village and the second with a different village. It’s great to see that now the cultural village organises and hosts its own tours.

Mah Meri wood sculpture | seni ukiran kayu | aborigine art | Malaysian aborigine culture | budaya orang asli | Malaysian culture | Malaysia tourism | Selangor tourism | Mah Meri of Pulau Carey | Carey Island | Hari Moyang Mah Meri | Teja on the Horizon blog
Mah Meri sculptures

The School of Hard Knocks

This is a pewter workshop activity that you can sign up for at the Royal Selangor Pewter visitor centre in Kuala Lumpur. Accessible by public transport as well as via numerous shuttle pick-ups from major hotels, you get to fashion your own little piece of lead-free pewter item which you can take home.

Royal Selangor Pewter is the royal pewterer of the Sultan of Selangor, having received their warrant in 1979. Their pewter pieces range tremendously in style, and are retailed in major Malaysian malls as well as airports. Their stores always include collections that showcase its Chinese migrant roots as well as its Malaysian-grown history. 

Kuala Lumpur tips for the conservationist traveller

Malaysia has many fabulous nature destinations, spanning rainforests, wetlands, bird congregation areas, coral reefs, cave complexes, and more. Although there has been a great deal of development pressure on/near natural heritage areas, there is also a long history of naturalist and conservation activity in the country. Here are some tips for where you can learn more about it in Kuala Lumpur.

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Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM)

For the outdoorsy traveller in Kuala Lumpur looking for a little bit more than light walks in a green park, FRIM is a great option. It is the location of the oldest forestry institute in Malaysia, whose grounds are open to the public. It is also the site of the oldest and largest reforested rainforest, for which it has been submitted for UNESCO World Heritage consideration.

Check out their website for activities that you can do on its grounds, or this article on my blog. 

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS)

MNS is the oldest environmental society in Malaysia, founded by British naturalists during colonial rule. Drop by their office at Bukit Persekutuan – the HQ is a quaint old early-Kuala Lumpur building. Or shop for back issues of the Malaysian Naturalist magazine or The Malayan Nature Journal which you can find on their online store along with other nature-related books. Another idea is to volunteer with the adjacent Bukit Persekutuan Urban Community Forest project.


Pin this for your Kuala Lumpur trip! Or comment below to add your suggestions!

Kuala Lumpur sustainable traveller tips page on sustainable travel blog Teja on the Horizon | foodie traveller | culture traveller | zero waste traveller | conservationist traveller | outdoorsy traveller | Kuala Lumpur socially responsible tourist guide

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