Having a hard time deciding between Kuala Lumpur vs Jakarta? Both are stunning cities in Southeast Asia, so it’s understandable if you can’t make that decision without help. That’s where we come in, with this detailed comparison of Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.
Both are bustling cities with loads of fun things to see and do, but one is a much better option for first-time visitors. Read on to see which city that is, as well as everything else you need to know before you travel to Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta!
If this is your first time traveling to either of these cities, choose Kuala Lumpur. It’s a beautiful city with a lot of fun things to do and see, and it’s much easier to navigate.
Jakarta is bigger, more crowded, and a lot more hectic. It’s nearly impossible to fall in love with the city the first time you visit, due to the number of people who live there and the chaotic (and traumatic) traffic. So, if you just want to have a good time, it’s better to visit Kuala Lumpur. But, if you can deal with a bit of chaos and you want to explore a vast city in Indonesia, Jakarta is certainly on the table.
The most notable difference between these two cities is that they are in different countries. Jakarta is in Indonesia and Kuala Lumpur is in Malaysia – depending on where you’re from, you might need a visa or there could be certain travel restrictions in place. Also, Jakarta is a much bigger city, both in area size and by population.
Jakarta is almost three times bigger than Kuala Lumpur, and there are about five times as many people living in the city. It’s much more hectic than Kuala Lumpur, which is exactly why it’s so hard to fall in love with Jakarta when you first visit. On the other hand, people are much friendlier towards strangers in Jakarta.
They will often interact with strangers, which can be a good or a bad thing, depending on what you prefer. In Kuala Lumpur, locals are more likely to mind their own business and let you do your thing.
Traffic in Jakarta is the stuff from nightmares. There are a lot of cars on the streets, most people don’t obey traffic laws, and rush-hour congestions can be traumatic. It’s not uncommon for locals to spend 4-5 hours in the car while commuting to and from work, so don’t even consider renting a car in Jakarta. If you want to drive around the city, you’ll get around much faster on a motorcycle or just a standard bike.
Public transport in Jakarta is also faster, but it won’t get you everywhere. People get around with trams and buses, and there is a dedicated bus lane that is usually traffic-free. However, in certain parts of the city, the bus lane is shared with private cars, and this usually results in extremely slow public transport.
Getting around Kuala Lumpur is much less stressful. It’s a smaller city, so you’ll be able to explore more of it on foot. Also, there are trams, trains, and buses that are very affordable and go to nearly all parts of the city, making it very easy for tourists to explore Kuala Lumpur. The traffic is still pretty chaotic, but it’s not as nasty as in Jakarta.
Congestions are less frequent and locals usually spend less time in the car, but it’s worth noting that people obey traffic rules even less. At least in Jakarta, you’re moving so slow that it’s pretty much impossible to get in a serious accident, but in Kuala Lumpur, it’s common for people to drive erratically, turn suddenly, text while they’re driving, and more.
Another reason why Kuala Lumpur is the better city to visit is that it’s cheaper. Both cities are very affordable and perfectly suitable for travelers on a tight budget, but Jakarta is generally the more expensive city when it comes to restaurant and shop prices. It’s cheaper only when it comes to public transport, but that’s because public transport is much worse in Jakarta than in Kuala Lumpur.
Also, even though Jakarta is 50% more expensive when it comes to public transport, the price of a bus ticket in Kuala Lumpur is still just $0.60. And it’s worth every penny, consider just how efficient and quick public transport is in Kuala Lumpur.
Tall towers, stunning parks, and historical landmarks are just some of the things you can expect to see in Kuala Lumpur. Read on to see the top things to do in the city and start planning your travel itinerary!
Petronas Twin Towers are the most iconic Kuala Lumpur sight. The 88-story skyscrapers were once the tallest in the world, and they’re still the most popular attraction in the city. The two towers are connected with a sky bridge, which offers the best panoramic views in Kuala Lumpur.
The skyscrapers are also famous for modern Islamic architecture, and they remain the tallest twin towers on the planet. It’s worth noting that you’ll need to buy a ticket to get to the sky bridge with spectacular views, and it’s best to buy that ticket a few days in advance. The city’s most iconic landmark gets a lot of visitors and same-day tickets are rarely available.
Chinatown is a district in Kuala Lumpur and one of the most famous parts of the city. It’s home to the Central Market, as well as countless stalls that sell everything from cheap souvenirs to Chinese food.
Chinatown’s Central Market is a covered market with an Art Deco façade. It’s popular for shopping, eateries, and an outdoor stage that often hosts cultural events. The entire place is classified as a Heritage Site, due to the cultural and historic significance of the market.
Menara Kuala Lumpur is another iconic city landmark. The tower is one of the tallest in the world, and it offers mesmerizing scenic views of Kuala Lumpur’s skyline. There’s even a revolving restaurant in the tower, which is the perfect place for a delicious romantic dinner with a side of spectacular panoramic views. The tower even lights up in bright colors for certain events and holidays, and it looks absolutely phenomenal.
Perdana Botanical Garden is a gorgeous botanical garden in the western part of the city. Here you will find rare fruit trees, all sorts of tropical plants, and even a charming waterfall. There’s also a café in the botanical garden, so you can sit down for a cup of coffee and admire the beautiful plants and flowers from afar.
KLCC Park is a vast public park in Kuala Lumpur. It features walking paths, a wading pool, playgrounds for kids, and a choreographed fountain display that’s mesmerizing to watch. The public park is an oasis of lush greenery and bodies of water right between the city’s tall skyscrapers, and it’s an excellent place to escape if you wish to spend some time surrounded by stunning nature.
The National Museum Of Malaysia is a must for all travelers who want to learn more about the history and culture of Malaysia. It’s an interactive museum depicting the country’s history from prehistoric times until today, and it’s absolutely fascinating. Best of all, the tickets are just 5 RM a pop, which is equivalent to just $1.2 for a single entrance ticket!
Batu Caves is a set of limestone caves a little outside Kuala Lumpur. The caves sit at the top of steep steps, and they are home to Hindu temples, shrines, and a massive deity statue. This place is extremely popular with foreigners and locals, so it’s definitely worth making the trip even if it’s not in Kuala Lumpur proper.
Merdeka Square is one of Kuala Lumpur’s most important historic landmarks. The historic square is the site of the first-ever Malaysian flag rising, and a 96-meter flagpole marks the exact location of the event. The square is beautiful whether you visit it during the day or at night, and it offers a stunning view of the city’s tall skyscrapers.
Lush public parks, fascinating museums, and incredible historic landmarks are just a few of the things that Jakarta offers to its visitors. Keep reading to see all the top things to do in Jakarta, and figure out which are the most fun for you!
National Monument Park is a large public park that’s home to the National Monument, the famous obelisk that was built to mark the independence of Indonesia from the Netherlands. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Jakarta, and its central city location makes it a sight you simply can’t miss.
It’s also worth noting that the famous park is close to both the Istiqlal Mosque and the National Museum of Indonesia, so it’s certainly not the only interesting sight in this part of the city.
Suropati Park is an urban public park in Jakarta, best known for its many sculptures and fountains. It also features walking paths, as well as plenty of benches you can use to take a break from all the walking and sightseeing. Visit the park during the day to witness the beauty of all the colorful plants and flowers, or at night to admire the illuminated fountains that shine bright in changing colors.
Istiqlal Mosque is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, which is why it’s such a popular attraction. It’s very close to the National Monument Park, and it’s so big that you can’t miss it if you’re ever in the area. The mosque is famous for its contemporary exterior – if it wasn’t for the minaret, you wouldn’t even be able to tell that it was a mosque!
Taman Impian Jaya Ancol is a beachfront resort and theme park in Jakarta. It’s the best place for families, thanks to all the different rides that can keep your kids entertained for hours. There are multiple hotels within the resort, as well as a golf course where adults can relax while the little ones have fun on all the water rides.
Additionally, this resort features the cleanest beach in Jakarta, so it’s worth visiting even if you don’t have any interest in the rides. It’s also worth noting that the entire resort is pretty much like a mini-town on its own with restaurants, cafes, stores, and more.
Taman Mini Indonesia Indah is a theme park that features miniature and life-sized replicas of famous landmarks in Indonesia. It’s also home to museums and gardens, making it the perfect place for all travelers who just can’t get enough of Indonesian culture.
Additionally, the theme park is a great place to get a glimpse of all the attractions Indonesia is known for, allowing you to explore some of the top sights in the country without ever leaving Jakarta!
The Wayang Museum features exhibits on Javanese puppetry, which is a big part of Indonesian culture. Wayang is a form of Indonesian puppetry that originated in Java, and it refers to the entire puppet show or just the puppet.
The museum is the best place in Jakarta to really get a sense of the importance of puppetry, plus you get to see all the different types of puppets that are used in Wayang shows. It’s an awesome place to experience, and it’s equally fun and educational for both children and adults!
Fatahillah Square is a bustling plaza in Jakarta. The city square is surrounded by monuments and famous buildings, and it often hosts various street performances. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, mostly because it’s a very Instagrammable spot in Jakarta.
It’s worth noting that there aren’t that many things to do at the plaza, so you don’t need to plan your day around this Jakarta attraction. Stop by if it’s on the way, take a few photos, and continue exploring this fascinating Indonesian city!
Menteng Park is a small public park close to Jakarta’s Suropati Park. It’s 30 hectares of public gardens, absorption wells, and sports courts, so it’s the perfect place to visit if you need an escape from the crowded city streets.
The park is also popular for jogging, football, and other sports, plus there’s a nice café/restaurants nearby if you’d rather spend your time just enjoying the views instead of playing ball.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.