Bustling Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur with its busy streets, narrow alleyways, and grungy charm is a favorite base for travelers to Malaysia. With Chinese people accounting for more than 40 percent of the population in Kuala Lumpur, it is no surprise that Chinatown has become one of the most lively and electric places to explore in the city.
Sitting amidst the swirling chaos of daily business while enjoying a delicious bowl of Chinese noodles is infectious and highly addictive - a keen reminder of just how far away from home that you really are!
Chinatown is strewn with budget places to eat and sleep, making it the most popular place to stay in Kuala Lumpur for budget travelers. Situated very close to the two largest bus stations in Kuala Lumpur and the Perdana Lake Gardens, Chinatown is easily accessible and very convenient for transportation to other parts of Malaysia.
Petaling Street is unquestionably the heart and soul of Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur. Pedestrians clog the walkway while browsing through a myriad of goods offered from hawker stalls on both sides of the street. Red lanterns and vibrant signs compete for space overhead while noodle carts and eateries fill the air with tempting smells.
Although Petaling Street has gained a reputation for pushing pirated goods and name-brand counterfeits, many legitimate goods can be purchased cheaper here than in other parts of the city. Good haggling skills and lots of patience are necessities for getting a decent bargain.
Read about how to haggle prices in Southeast Asia.
Eating in Chinatown - Kuala Lumpur
Budget eateries abound and an almost overwhelming number of food carts and street foods make choosing where to eat a pleasant challenge. Many food stalls are open all night; you can enjoy the small, low-cost portions any time you feel the craving.
- Petaling Street Food Court: This open-air square of metal tables has just the right amount of options and is a comfortable place to try various noodle bowls or delicious steamed Jiao zi dumplings. Meals can be found as cheap as US $1; a pot of hot Oolong tea - perfect at breakfast - is only 50 cents.
- Yook Woo Hin: Located on Petaling Street, this local favorite has been around for decades and serves up the best dim sum (mornings only) in town.
- Chinatown Pavilion: At the junction of Petaling and Jalan Hang Lekir, this popular and cheap restaurant offers great prawn noodles and curries; open until midnight.
- Chinese Vegetarian: With only a sign advertising "vegetarian", this tiny eatery on Jalan Cheng Lock (not far from Central Market) is run by two friendly guys that serve delicious and street-priced food.
Malaysian noodle dishes aren't the only option in Chinatown, you will also find great eateries serving Malay, Thai, Malaysian Indian food, and Indonesian food. Even the Western favorites such as McDonalds and KFC have moved in.
Hotels in Chinatown
From backpacker hostels to boutique hotels, there are accommodation options in Chinatown to suit any budget. Despite the large number of rooms, places book fast on weekends during the busy season - check ahead.
- Red Dragon Hostel: This sprawling hostel has both dorms and private rooms, free wireless, and a 24-hour desk. The hostel is easily found on Jalan Sultan, just around the corner from Petaling Street and a short walk from the Puduraya bus station.
- Grocer's Inn: Just off Jalan Sultan, this hostel has been a favorite low-cost option for decades.
- Chinatown Boutique Hotel: Right in the center of Chinatown, this colorful building can't be missed. The 47 rooms cater to mid-budget clientèle.
- Tune Hotel: This new chain of budget hotels offer clean, modern rooms for under US $20. Following the same business model as budget airlines, perks such as wireless or towels cost extra.
- Swiss Inn: This popular and massive upscale hotel occupies a strategic position directly in the center of Chinatown.
Bedbugs have made appearances in some of the Chinatown budget dives; learn how to avoid bedbugs before it is too late!
- Petaling Street: Other than a scattering of small shops and stalls along the streets, the primary choice for bargain hunters in Chinatown is Petaling Street. Haggling is the name of the game - and expected - with the many vendors on both sides of the street; never pay the first price!
- MyDin: Located just opposite the McDonalds on the outskirts of Chinatown, this sprawling, multi-floor Muslim supermarket carries everything you can think of.
- Central Market: This behemoth indoor shopping complex is only a short walk from Chinatown and caters mostly to souvenir hunters and tourists. The prices may not be great, but the air conditioning draws a crowd on hot days!
Nightlife in Chinatown - Kuala Lumpur
Still relatively expensive, but cheaper than options in KLCC, there are only a few decent options for nightlife in Chinatown.
Most people begin the night with drinks at metal tables set up on the street in front of restaurants on Petaling Street.
Around 11 p.m. the nocturnal crowd wanders down to either the Reggae Bar for dancing or the chilled out Beatles Bar for reclining on couches with hookah pipes. Both bars are located on Jalan Tun H.S. Lee at the far end of Petaling Street.
Getting Into Chinatown
Chinatown is easily accessible by bus or the LRT train.
- From LCCT Airport: Take a bus to the Puduraya bus station, exit the station and turn left - Jalan Sultan is an easy 10-minute walk. If you are dropped at the lavish Sentral Station, take the LRT monorail train one stop to Pasar Seni.
- By LRT Train: The Pasar Seni station is located on the southwestern edge of Chinatown. Exit the station onto Jalan Sultan and begin walking north. Read more about making sense of Kuala Lumpur trains.