From the architectural masterpiece of the Petronas Twin Towers to its shopping malls and nightlife, Kuala Lumpur is a booming city surrounded by rainforests. But Malaysia isn’t as well known of a tourist spot as nearby destinations like Thailand, so it might get you wondering: Is Kuala Lumpur safe?
I felt very safe during my solo female travels in Kuala Lumpur, a theme present throughout my 5-month solo Southeast Asia trip. Here are my takeaways.
Accessibility Note: If you’re a wheelchair user, check out our guide on accessibility in Kuala Lumpur.
First Things First: A Disclaimer
I spent six days in Kuala Lumpur and had an excellent experience safety-wise.
But the information I share here, with the exception of statistics from linked sources, is my personal opinion based on my encounters.
Everyone has unique experiences that shape their perception of any given destination.
So, take what you want from this article and leave the rest. And above all, never let your guard down just because I or anyone else tells you that a destination is safe.
Trusting your gut and following basic safety practices are vital to improving your security in any destination.
Safety in Kuala Lumpur: What the U.S. Department of State Says
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) lists Kuala Lumpur as a Level 1. That’s the safest category. So, the U.S. government gives travelers two thumbs up for visiting Malaysia’s capital.
For reference, here’s a chart that explains all four of the DOS’ safety categories:
|1||Exercise normal precautions|
|2||Exercise increased caution|
|4||Do not travel|
The only part of Malaysia where the DOS increases its warning is in Sabah State, which it labels a Level 2.
A threat of kidnappings-for-ransom. The DOS warns that such kidnappings can happen at resorts and ferries taking tourists to resort islands.
Luckily, Sabah is far from Kuala Lumpur, as it’s located on the eastern island of Borneo.
Safety in Kuala Lumpur: What the Statistics Say
According to Numbeo, a crowdsourcing website that takes data from the general public and official websites, Kuala Lumpur is more dangerous than safe.
Numebo ranks Kuala Lumpur as “high” to “moderate” in most safety categories, with “low” being the city’s safer but non-existent category.
While Numebo’s assessment of there being a problem with corruption and bribery being high in Kuala Lumpur ringing true to what I’ve heard, from my experience and that of other people I’ve talked with, the high crime rates that Numbeo shows for Kuala Lumpur may be an indication that mostly people with negative experiences have responded to their poll.
Visiting Kuala Lumpur as a Solo Female Traveler
I crisscrossed Kuala Lumpur on foot and by metro. Never once did I feel unsafe wandering around as a solo female traveler. I even visited the Petronas Twin Towers by myself at night, walking there from my Airbnb, which was about 10 minutes away. I also visited the Batu Caves via public transportation without worry.
The main religion in Malaysia is Islam, but Hindu and other religious communities are common. Malaysians take pride in their law that everyone can practice their own beliefs. As such, I never felt uncomfortable walking around Kuala Lumpur dressed in Western clothes.
From my experience, the men in Kuala Lumpur were very respectful. I never experienced catcalls or street harassment. On the contrary, I felt the men were more likely to shy away from initiating interactions with me than being gregarious to the point of discomfort.
Safest Districts in Kuala Lumpur
Most visitors naturally choose to stay in safe districts because Kuala Lumpur is so safe, especially in tourist areas. These are some of the best districts in Kuala Lumpur:
- Bukit Bintang
- Kampung Baru
- Damansara Heights
Districts to Avoid in Kuala Lumpur
Like anywhere, Kuala Lumpur has some rough-around-the-edges areas. Some of the districts you may want to avoid, especially at night, include:
- Chow Kit
Is Kuala Lumpur Safe at Night?
I had a very safe experience exploring Kuala Lumpur at night from my Airbnb based near KLCC. That said, I stuck to well-lit, populated areas; like anywhere, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable wandering down random streets by myself at night.
Common Scams in Kuala Lumpur
As in many tourist areas, scams can happen in Kuala Lumpur. Picture-based scams are common. Some locals will let you take a photo of them before demanding money, with no amount you initially offer being enough, no matter how generous.
Another scam is someone asking you to take a picture of them before dropping their phone or camera when you hand it back. They’ll then demand money, claiming it was your fault.
Overall, people from Kuala Lumpur are friendly and honest. But, like anywhere, it’s important to look for potential scams.
Is Kuala Lumpur Safe for Families?
Kuala Lumpur is very safe for families. The city is clean with excellent public transportation. Pickpockets and petty theft can happen, but chances are you’ll have a safe and enjoyable trip with your children there.
Is There a Drug Problem in Kuala Lumpur?
Drugs are an issue in Kuala Lumpur, as they are in so many capitals around the world. Studies have shown that the amount of amphetamine-type stimulants has increased in Malaysia over the years, including in Kuala Lumpur.
Furthermore, Kuala Lumpur’s ideal location as a peninsula has aided it in playing a role in the global drug trade.
Are Protests Common in Kuala Lumpur?
Protests happen in Kuala Lumpur, but they’re not overly common. Keep in mind that it’s illegal for foreigners to participate in protests in Malaysia.
Terrorism in Kuala Lumpur
In June 2016, a terrorist group that claimed to be ISIS occurred in the Puchong, a district south of downtown Kuala Lumpur. To this day, visitors can still feel the impact of Malaysia working to prevent terrorist attacks.
There will likely be several times during your Kuala Lumpur stay when you must pass through a metal detector or security check, including when accessing elevators at downtown high-rises.
Transportation Safety in Kuala Lumpur
Are you wondering whether Kuala Lumpur is safe to explore by public transportation? As a whole, it’s very safe. Here are the details.
Is it safe to take a Grab in Kuala Lumpur?
Taking a Grab in Kuala Lumpur is about as safe as doing so via other ride-share apps like Uber. The most dangerous part about taking a Grab in Kuala Lumpur is if you’re a single traveler that orders a Grab scooter; your driver will give you a helmet, but riding on a scooter is significantly riskier accident-wise than riding in a car.
Is it safe to take a street taxi in Kuala Lumpur?
Although I can’t comment from personal experience, I’ve heard that taking a street taxi in Kuala Lumpur is safe. That said, taxi drivers will sometimes try to rip off tourists by overcharging or not using their taxi meters. Always be sure to carry small Malaysian Ringgit (MYR) currency on you when taking a taxi.
Is it safe to take the metro in Kuala Lumpur?
Taking the metro and other train services in Kuala Lumpur is very safe. Metro was my primary mode of transportation. I found them to be clean, timely, and easy to navigate.
Is it safe to drive in Kuala Lumpur?
Overall, it’s safe to drive in Kuala Lumpur, though being a proactive driver is encouraged. Keep in mind that Malaysians drive on the left-hand side of the road.
Is it safe to take a bus in Kuala Lumpur?
Taking the bus in Kuala Lumpur is safe. But most of the time, you’ll use the metro and train lines to travel around the city should you explore via public transportation. MRT, LRT, and Rapid KL are some rapid rail examples.
Is Kuala Lumpur Safe for Independent Touring?
I found Kuala Lumpur to be very safe for independent touring. There are many group tours solo travelers can join to make it more economical for them and to increase their chances of making friends.
Air Quality in Kuala Lumpur
From my limited 6-day experience, I found the air quality in Kuala Lumpur to be significantly better than all the other Southeast Asian capitals I visited.
That said, many factors impact air quality. So, I recommend checking IQAir to determine the safety of Kuala Lumpur’s air during your visit.
Earthquake Safety in Kuala Lumpur
Earthquakes are very rare in Kuala Lumpur. According to Volcano Discovery, only two earthquakes were reported in the past year, and neither were major.
Monsoon Season in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur receives a double whammy of monsoons; the eastern monsoons hit from October to January, and the western monsoons arrive in March and April.
I visited Kuala Lumpur in early April and can attest to it raining a lot. However, there were large chunks of time each day when I could explore in dry weather; the rain usually arrived in the early to mid-afternoon.
Is the Food Safe in Kuala Lumpur?
I never suffered from a stomach issue by eating the food in Kuala Lumpur, and I didn’t hold back from trying the street food. That said, I’m a vegetarian, which reduces the chance of eating something that will bother me.
When in doubt, it’s always best to wash fruit and veggies in distilled water and eat well-cooked food.
Is the Tap Water Safe to Drink in Kuala Lumpur?
Whether or not the tap water in Kuala Lumpur is safe to drink depends on who you ask. I drank the water from my new-ish Airbnb apartment faucet without a problem. That said, drinking from water bottles is recommended if you’re staying at an older facility, for the water tanks and pipes might be rusty.
Is Kuala Lumpur Foreigner Friendly?
I found Kuala Lumpur to be very friendly towards foreigners. Many people greeted me with smiles, and communication was a breeze since most people speak English in urban parts of Malaysia.
How Dangerous Is Kuala Lumpur?
Kuala Lumpur isn’t very dangerous. While violent crime can happen, the most common crime is non-violent robberies, pickpocketing, and other petty theft.
How To Stay Safe in Kuala Lumpur
Below are some basic safety tips for Kuala Lumpur. As you’ll see, there’s nothing unique about them—it’s wise to practice these tips regardless of where you travel.
- Take a taxi at night
- Don’t walk around showcasing expensive electronics
- Only take out money from ATMs inside a bank
- Never carry around all your credit cards and cash
- Use a money belt
- Don’t wear flashy jewelry
- Ask locals for advice
- Don’t leave an opened drink unattended
- If you’re going to get inebriated, do so with a trustworthy sober companion
Finally, trust your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
The Bottom Line: Is Kuala Lumpur Safe for Tourists?
I had a safe and fun stay in Kuala Lumpur as a solo female traveler and can’t wait to return.
If you have questions about safety in Kuala Lumpur, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help.
P.S.: Trying to figure out where in Malaysia to visit? Check out my guide on Penang vs Kuala Lumpur.