Kuala Lumpur or Singapore: Which City is Better for a Stopover?

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Kuala Lumpur or Singapore: Which City is Better for a Stopover?

Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are two of the major airport hubs in South East Asia. If you’re travelling in the region you’re bound to end up passing through one of these cities at some point on your journey.

 

But, if you’ve got a choice between Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, which should you choose for a stopover?

 

Singapore vs Kuala Lumpur Which City is Best for a Stopover

 

We recently passed through both cities for stopovers of three to five days so I thought I’d weigh up the options for you and let you know which city is best in which categories.

Let’s find out!

Airport

Both Singapore and Kuala Lumpur have big, efficient, modern airports. It’s hard to make a judgement call on this one. Singapore’s Changi airport is closer to the city (about 20kms from the central business district) and the subway system makes it a snap to get to. KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) is much further from the city centre (almost 60kms) so you need to factor in a lot more time to reach the airport. If you’re flying on a budget airline you’ll also need to go through the low cost carrier terminal (LCCT) which is quite far from KLIA and rather crusty.

Win: Singapore

 

Luxury Hotels Cost Less in Kuala Lumpur

Accommodation

Both Singapore and Kuala Lumpur have some world class hotels but you’ll pay through the nose for accommodation in Singapore while Kuala Lumpur is one of the most affordable places in the world to stay in 4 or 5-star luxury. We just stayed at the Shangri-La in Kuala Lumpur for US$200 a night…. the Shangri-La in Singapore is more like $450 a night. If your looking for guesthouse and hostels, Kuala Lumpur is definitely a better choice. If you do plan on staying in Singapore have a look at my tips on how to save money on hotel in Singapore.

Win: Kuala Lumpur

 

Getting Around

Singapore definitely wins on the public transportation front. The SMRT is amazing. There’s no need to taxi anywhere in Singapore as the subway system is great and only costs $2-3 a ride. While KL has public transport options, they don’t cover the entire city or intersect with each other in an easy manner. Taxis are cheap in KL but traffic can be a nightmare in peak hours.

Win: Singapore

 

Singapore Food Collage

Food

The food in Singapore has got to be some of my favourite on the planet! I’d travel there over anywhere else in the world just for the food. Give me a bowl of noodles and I’m happy. Unlike the accommodation, the price of food in Singapore is actually more in line with the rest of South East Asia. You can eat a delicious meal in a food court or hawker centre for just a few dollars. Kuala Lumpur does have a good range of food options too. I’m not a fan of Malaysian cuisine though – I find it too greasy and MSG laden for my tastes. I do love the Indian food in KL but you can get that in Singapore too.

Win: Singapore

 

Things to Do

There’s a lot on offer in both Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Singapore has a lot of leisure activities like the zoo, night safari and all the fun stuff on Sentosa Island. It’s a bit more Westernised feeling than Kuala Lumpur and some say it lacks a bit of charm or feels sterile. I don’t agree and think it has it’s charms such as the shop houses around Chinatown. Kuala Lumpur has the edge when it comes to iconic buildings. The Petronas Towers are beautiful and quite amazing from afar and close up. Sure, Singapore has the Marina Bay Sands now but it’s not in the same league as the Petronas Twin Towers. There are quite a few fun things to do in Kuala Lumpur… there’s even a theme park inside a shopping mall. There are a few popular culture activities like the Batu Caves in KL which Singapore just doesn’t have.

I’d say this one is a draw.

 

Shopping

Singapore is famous for it’s shopping. There are strings of shopping malls on Orchard Road. It’s mostly high end or western chain stores like Top Shop, Esprit etc. Electronics and camera gear have always been popular purchases in Singapore. Kuala Lumpur has plenty of glitzy shopping malls too like the new Pavilion mall. It also covers the cheaper end of the scale. You can buy lots of knock off perfumes, handbags and watches in the night market on Jalan Petaling in Chinatown.

I’d say this one’s a draw too.

 

The Result?

If budget permits, don’t miss Singapore. Even if your stopover is for the food alone. Kuala Lumpur is a great antidote when you feel like you’ve had too long on tropical beaches and in jungles. KL covers pretty much all the same bases as Singapore but at better prices. Both cities are great stopover cities, three or four days in each should suffice. If you’ve got the time, why not do both? It’s a short flight between KL and Singapore and if you buy it right it’ll only cost between $20 and $60.

 

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Bethaney Davies
Bethaney Davies
A traveller for over ten years, Bethaney started blogging here on Flashpacker Family in early 2012. She founded the site to encourage and inspire travel and travel with small children and to share her own stories from the road. Bethaney also runs Go Click Travel where she focuses on travel tips and tricks for smarter travel. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook & Google Plus.
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Showing 21 comments
  • wanderingeducators
    Reply

    What great tips!! Thank you!
    wanderingeducators recently posted..Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Bark RecipeMy Profile

  • Sharon @ Wheres Sharon
    Reply

    I agree! If I wasn’t considering money, I would pick Singapore. KL isn’t far behind though, so unless we suddenly become rich anytime soon, I think the better value in KL is too hard to pass up. I like a good hotel room too much!!
    Sharon @ Wheres Sharon recently posted..Our great stay in a Cabarete vacation rentalMy Profile

  • Dollie
    Reply

    What a great post. Love the comparisons. Haven’t been to KL yet but love Singapore.
    Dollie recently posted..Book Review – Ajaya: Role Of The Dice by Anand NeelakantanMy Profile

  • Bronwyn Joy
    Reply

    Well, of course of the two I’d pick KL for a short break (since we live in Singapore) but sounds like you’ve summed up the choices quite well.

    KL if you have time you can also go a bit further afield – Cameron Highlands, for example – to see something that’s not a city. Technically true in Singapore, I guess, but you have to cross a whole border.

    Don’t forget there’s also the option of an overnight train between the two. But then I would say that :) .
    Bronwyn Joy recently posted..Karaoke MamaMy Profile

  • Val-This Way To Paradise
    Reply

    I think I’d have to pick Singapore for the food alone!! Great comparison…
    Val-This Way To Paradise recently posted..How To Travel The World With MindfulnessMy Profile

  • Vilma
    Reply

    Bronwyn pointed me out to this post, and it’s a great comparison! Thanks for the useful info.

  • Cat of Sunshine and Siestas
    Reply

    Really great article – I would choose Singapore, but only because I have a close friend there!!
    Cat of Sunshine and Siestas recently posted..Rebajas 101: How to Survive Spain’s Shopping MadnessMy Profile

  • Micki
    Reply

    Fantastic tips, Bethaney! It’s been so long since I’ve been to either city that it was very helpful to get the comparison from someone who’s so in the know :)
    Micki recently posted..Win 200 Euros With HostelBookers or Hostelworld For Valentine’s DayMy Profile

  • DJ Yabis
    Reply

    It’s so difficult to choose but I would choose KL over Singapore for food ;D
    DJ Yabis recently posted..An Insider Guide to Nuremberg Christmas MarketMy Profile

  • Sally@Toddlers on Tour
    Reply

    We spent 5 days in Singapore a few years back staying on Sentosa Island. For me this is why Singapore wins. We got have a resort style break on the beach whilst enjoying all that this city has to offer.

    In saying that I LOVE Malaysian food.

  • Monica
    Reply

    Ooo tough decision but this is such a great post. I’d say KL is best for a quick stopover and save Singapore for a few days. There’s not as much to do in KL and, like you say, nice hotels are cheaper so you can splash out and do and see all there is to do in just a few days.

  • Gran Canaria Local
    Reply

    It’s great to read such an informed post. So, if we were ever facing that decision, we’d be relying on someone in the know. Although we have a Malaysian friend living in Singapore who’s suffering from a serious long-term bout of homesickness.
    Gran Canaria Local recently posted..Gran Canaria Business WeekMy Profile

  • Share Travel Experience
    Reply

    Great Comparison. I would say Singapore is better than KL for stopover. More recreation and activities to do in Singapore.
    Share Travel Experience recently posted..Dukezong Ancient Town Laid in AshesMy Profile

  • Mary @ Green Global Travel
    Reply

    Interesting side by side comparison of the two stopovers. We’ll keep this in mind the next time we travel in Asia.
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..NORTH CAROLINA: The Controversy Behind the Outer Banks Wild HorsesMy Profile

  • NZ Muse
    Reply

    Malaysian food is my favourite in the world, hands down.

    I feel with Singapore, if you’ve been there once, well, once is enough. It’s kinda lacking in a soul. If you’ve only got a day or two that’s enough time for Singapore, and for longer you can get more out of Malaysia.
    NZ Muse recently posted..RTW budget: A six-month trip recapMy Profile

  • Kaitlin Rose
    Reply

    Great breakdown. I generally prefer KL and have stayed in some great hotels there!! However, I’d take Singapore too!
    Kaitlin Rose recently posted..How to Dance MoreMy Profile

  • Kara Brandt
    Reply

    I’d choose KL over SG. There are a lot of things to see in KL and the food is so delish. It’s a li’l bit cheaper in KL but it doesn’t compromise the quality of time you’ll stay in the place. So KL! :)

  • Stacey
    Reply

    Awesome post! I loved KL but haven’t yet been to Singapore. I’d definitely go back and do a stopover in KL as I was only there for a few days and it’s so much cheaper than Singapore, although I’ve heard the food in Singapore is pretty amazing.
    We flew into the LCCT in KL and it’s definitely ages from the city. It took us over an hour each way so that needs to be factored in, especially if you’re leaving on an early flight!
    Stacey recently posted..The Hindu Festival of Thaipusam in Kuala LumpurMy Profile

  • MightyTravels
    Reply

    My fav is clearly KL. Singapore feels way less lively and more ‘unreal’. I always try to through KL if I can…
    MightyTravels recently posted..Airfare Deal – from Newark to Guangzhou, China $916 on United AirlinesMy Profile

  • Cindy
    Reply

    Each city is very different : Singapore has more of a post-colonial western feel to it, while KL feels truly asian. It depends what you are traveling for/looking for, be it culture, food, shopping … and of course, of your budget. I, myself, enjoy KL more than Singapore, but it’s just me !
    Cindy recently posted..Things to do in Phuket, ThailandMy Profile

  • Joan
    Reply

    It seems like you had a great time in both places! Food in Malaysia is generally cheaper. Some dishes in Singapore and Malaysia may be called the same, but have variations in the style of cooking e.g Laksa. Hope you had the opportunity to try many local dishes :)

    Did you visit Bugis Street in Singapore? It’s a popular spot for shopping too

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