Where Is Kuala Lumpur?

The Location of Kuala Lumpur and Essential Travel Information

Aerial view of Kuala Lumpur, illuminated at night
Martin Puddy / Getty Images

Where is Kuala Lumpur located?

Many people know Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia, but where is it in relation to Bangkok, Singapore, and other famous places in Southeast Asia?

Kuala Lumpur, often shortened affectionately by travelers and locals alike to "KL," is the beating concrete heart of Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia's capital and most populous city; it is an economic and cultural powerhouse in Southeast Asia.

Ever seen a photo of the iconic Petronas Towers? Those twin, sparkling skyscrapers — the tallest buildings in the world until 2004 — are located in Kuala Lumpur.

Night view of the Gombak River in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
@ Didier Marti / Getty Images 

Where Is Kuala Lumpur Located?

Kuala Lumpur is located in the Malaysian state of Selangor, in the massive Klang Valley, close to the center (lengthwise) of Peninsular Malaysia, also referred to as West Malaysia.

Although Kuala Lumpur is nearer to the west coast (facing Sumatra, Indonesia) of Peninsular Malaysia, it is not situated directly on the Malacca Strait and does not have a waterfront. The city is built at the confluence of the Klang River and Gombak River. In fact, the name "Kuala Lumpur" actually means "muddy confluence."

Inside of Peninsular Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is 91 miles north of the popular tourist stop Malacca and 125 miles south of Ipoh, the fourth-largest city in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur is located just east of the big island of Sumatra in Indonesia.

Kuala Lumpur is situated on the peninsula roughly halfway between the Malaysian island of Penang (home to the city of Georgetown, a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Singapore.

More About the Location of Kuala Lumpur

  • Going overland by bus from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur usually takes around five hours.
  • Singapore is approximately 220 miles south of Kuala Lumpur.
  • The Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur contains the city and is one of three Malaysian Federal Territories.
  • The average elevation of Kuala Lumpur is 268.9 feet above sea level.

The Population of Kuala Lumpur

The 2015 government census estimated the population of Kuala Lumpur to be around 1.7 million people within the city proper. The greater Kuala Lumpur metropolitan area, which encompasses the Klang Valley, had an estimated population of 7.2 million residents in 2012.

Kuala Lumpur is a highly diverse city with three major ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese, and Indian. Malaysia Day (not to be confused with Malaysian Independence Day) celebrations often focus on creating a better sense of patriotic unity between the three primary groups.

A government census taken in 2010 revealed these demographics:

  • Malays make up 45.9 percent of the population.
  • Ethnic Chinese comprise 43.2 percent of the population.
  • Ethnic Indians account for 10.3 percent of the population.

Many foreign workers call Kuala Lumpur home. Travelers to Kuala Lumpur get treated to a very diverse mix of races, religions, and cultures. Persian, Arabic, Nepali, Burmese — you can learn a lot about many different cultures during a visit to Kuala Lumpur!

Getting to Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is a top destination in Southeast Asia and the top destination in Malaysia. The city has a solid place with backpackers who are traveling along the infamous Banana Pancake Trail through Asia.

Kuala Lumpur is well connected to the rest of the world via Kuala Lumpur International Airport (airport code: KUL). The KLIA2 terminal, approximately two kilometers from KLIA, is home to Asia's most popular budget carrier: AirAsia.

For overland options, Kuala Lumpur is connected to Singapore and Hat Yai in South Thailand by rail. Long-haul buses run from the city throughout Malaysia and the rest of Southeast Asia. Ferries (seasonal) run between Sumatra and Port Klang, a seaport around 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Kuala Lumpur.

The Best Time to Visit Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is warm and humid — often very hot — pretty much throughout the year, however, evening temperatures in the upper 60s F can feel cool after sweltering afternoons.

Temperatures are fairly consistent throughout the year, but March, April, and May are slightly hotter. The Summer months of June, July, and August are usually the driest and most ideal for visiting Kuala Lumpur.

The rainiest months in Kuala Lumpur are often April, October, and November. But don't let rain deter your plans! Traveling during the monsoon season in Southeast Asia can still be enjoyable and has a few advantages. Fewer tourists and cleaner air, for one.

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is a big annual event in Kuala Lumpur; dates vary from year to year. Don't worry, you won't go hungry during Ramadan — lots of restaurants will still be open before sundown!