Both Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok are cultural hubs that have multiple travel options at their doorstep. Sometimes we've got limited time and need to make a call on which one we're going to visit, and when they're both so great, it makes the decision that much more difficult.
This is a breakdown and comparison of price, things to do, food to eat and more, for these two fantastic cities. So let's start with price. Which one is cheaper?
The average cost per day in Kuala Lumpur is $41, while the average cost per day in Bangkok is $38. So Bangkok is slightly cheaper by $3. This includes accommodation, food, entertainment and transport. The cost is on a backpacker budget so accommodation prices are based on hostels, and there are a few other factors that lead to these figure - full breakdown below.
Kuala Lumpur vs Bangkok Expense Breakdown
|🍕||Food & Drink||$12.5||$12.5|
|💰||Total per day||$41||$38|
|📅||Total per week||$287||$266|
- Accommodation is calculated through averages using prices listed on Hostelworld.
- Note that for Kuala Lumpur there are quite a few really cheap hostels and quite a few expensive ones, so the average price in this domain might be slightly higher than what you'd actually pay as a budget traveler. You can pay as low as $4 for a hostel.
- Food, drink and entertainment data is gathered from Nomadlist, government data, and traveler experiences/recommendations
- Entertainment has alcohol included in it, and as Malaysia has heavy tariffs on alcohol, the entertainment figure is higher (if you don't drink, decrease that figure).
- Transport costs are calculated through Grab and average public transport figures.
- Daily budgets don't include allocation for souvenir/clothes purchases.
Should I go to Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok?
Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok are similar prices that can be changed based on your preferences in accommodation, entertainment and experiences.
If you're looking for a crazy food culture, temples, and a busy big city feel, go to Bangkok. If you want more relaxed and clean, cool architecture, and still want delicious food but not venturing too far on the crazy scale, Kuala Lumpur is for you - details below.
Food culture - Bangkok is a hotbed for food culture (especially street food) and from what I've seen, researched and experienced, it has a world of tastes that put other places to shame. It trumps KL in this variable, even though KL is almost equally delicious.
Bangkok just has spicier tastes, more variety in terms of meat, and a wide range of traditional dishes.
Attractions - Bangkok has many more temples, and higher end experiences than KL, but when looking at higher end experiences in KL, the prices there are cheaper - so keep that in mind.
Feel - Bangkok's population is 4.5x more than KL, so it's truly a big city feel, compared to KL which is more relaxed. Depending on your preference, this may be a big factor.
Where you want to go next - Are there places in Thailand you're going next? Or are you more excited for places in Malaysia? Keep in mind, they border each other and if for instance you wanted to go to Penang (North of Malaysia) and Phuket (South of Thailand), it might be better to go to KL in that particular instance.
Kuala Lumpur | Things to do
If you're looking for a combination middle-eastern and Asian food, Kuala Lumpur is the place to be, and in terms of things to do, you've got a lot of options. Bukit Bintang is one of the entertainment/shopping districts that's quite popular - staying there is a fantastic option as it's central to everything you'd want to do.
Kuala Lumpur is one of those destinations that you can get a luxury experience on a budget. With high end shopping, crazy contemporary architecture, bars atop heli-pads and single room/private accommodation for the same price as higher end hostels - it really doesn't feel like the SE Asia in terms of expectations from travelers who've never been.
Some things to do:
- Visit the Batu Caves - Amazing rainbow staircase overlooked by the worlds tallest statue of Murugan, a Hindu diety. Climb to the top and explore the caves embedded in the limestone.
- KLCC Park & Petronas Twin Towers - Lovely green park with fountains and plenty of areas to relax while in full view of the towers.
- Jalan Alor Night Food Court - Bustling food market in the middle of Bukit Bintang serving all types of Chinese, Malaysian and international cuisine for very good prices.
- Enjoy a cocktail at sunset at Heli Lounge Bar - A bar atop a helipad that has a 360 degree view of the city, absolutely stunning during the sunset. The cost to go up is one drink, well worth it.
- Fill up on delicious middle eastern food & shisha at The Roof Cafe
- Relaxing afternoon at Perdana Botanical Gardens - Huge relaxing park, perfect for running, exploring, picnics, and more. Encompasses Malaysia National Museum and The National Mosque. Two places also worth checking out.
- A day trip to Malacca - Malacca is a coastal town in Malaysia and has a fair few things to do. It's known for it's Chinese architecture and night markets - it's 2-2.5 hours away from KL.
Bangkok | Things to do
Bangkok is the gateway to Southeast Asia and one of the most important cities of the world on account of how central it is. It's a bustling city with more things to do then there's time in the year.
From markets, to temples, and nightlife to shopping - Bangkok has the goods. Bangkok has 4.5x the population of Kuala Lumpur. So you'll definitely get the crowded city feel in Bangkok, a lot more than in Kuala Lumpur, which is more relaxed.
Some things to do:
- Have a night out on Khaosan Road - The more time passes the more touristy it becomes but it's a right of passage and will always be a fun gritty night out.
- Visit Lumphini Park in the morning/afternoon - great for relaxing when it's not too hot, go for a run, hit up an outdoor gym for the experience.
- Visit Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn, right on the river - You can cross back to see it lit up for a beautiful site in the evening over some food and drink at one of the many perfectly located restaurants.
- Go to Ratchada Rot Fai Train Night Market - Have a delicious night of food, beer and treats at this massive market located right next to the train station. Easy access, easy days.
- Visit one of the largest Chinatown's in the world - Eat an array of Chinese/Thai fusion cuisine, shop around for cool souvenirs and other bits and bobs.
- Climb atop Golden Mount - This temple has a 360 degree view of the city.
- Have a cocktail at the famous Sky Bar - This rooftop bar is from the movie, The Hangover Part II, the views are phenomenal.
- Visit some of the largest malls in world like Centralworld and ICONSIAM.