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!


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


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


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.



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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  • wanderingeducators

    What great tips!! Thank you!
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  • Sharon @ Wheres Sharon

    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!!
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  • Dollie

    What a great post. Love the comparisons. Haven’t been to KL yet but love Singapore.
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  • Bronwyn Joy

    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 :) .
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  • Val-This Way To Paradise

    I think I’d have to pick Singapore for the food alone!! Great comparison…
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  • Vilma

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

  • Cat of Sunshine and Siestas

    Really great article – I would choose Singapore, but only because I have a close friend there!!
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  • Micki

    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 :)
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  • DJ Yabis

    It’s so difficult to choose but I would choose KL over Singapore for food ;D
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  • Sally@Toddlers on Tour

    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

    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

    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.
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  • Share Travel Experience

    Great Comparison. I would say Singapore is better than KL for stopover. More recreation and activities to do in Singapore.
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  • Mary @ Green Global Travel

    Interesting side by side comparison of the two stopovers. We’ll keep this in mind the next time we travel in Asia.
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  • NZ Muse

    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.
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  • Kaitlin Rose

    Great breakdown. I generally prefer KL and have stayed in some great hotels there!! However, I’d take Singapore too!
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  • Kara Brandt

    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

    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!
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  • MightyTravels

    My fav is clearly KL. Singapore feels way less lively and more ‘unreal’. I always try to through KL if I can…
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  • Cindy

    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 !
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  • Joan

    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

  • Jen

    This was super helpful & perfect timing. We’re just tossing up options for New Years en route from Canada to Australia, and Singapore & KL are both the cheapest layovers. Think we will check out both as we have a bit of time, but this post was very insightful. Thanks!
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