Ahhhh here we are! Almost neighbours, hubs for budget travel, shopping, bright lights and more, well, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, looking on from an outsider’s perspective, seem naturally to be rivals. I wonder if people living in either city feel that way (yes, cue for comments!).
I’ve been through Kuala Lumpur a couple of times, and Singapore a few more. I’ve flown the budget carriers from both – Air Asia and Tiger, as well as the main carriers too. This shapes up to be a hell of a battle for South East Asian supremacy!
Let’s start with the budget airlines. Because of the cheap fares, one ends up on Tiger or Air Asia as a matter of course when traveling the region from time to time. For me, I prefer Air Asia over Tiger, however Tiger flies into Changi Airport whereas Air Asia uses KLIA2 which although better than the old budget terminal is not a great place to transit through.
And both cities are great cities in their own right, although they are also two of the world’s biggest transit cities.
Where would you rather eat? I think Singapore has Kuala Lumpur covered here. Both have an amazing array of Asian, Chinese and Malay food to try, however I’d have to say that if you want more than that, if you do want a little western food for example, then Singapore has far more choice.
Pricewise, although it has caught up a lot in the last 20 years, Kuala Lumpur still remains a cheaper place than Singapore. That extends to food, transport and accommodation. Both cities are well served by public transport, and are an example of how to do a good metro system in my humble opinion.
Both have amazing buildings of course. Singapore has the historical Raffles Hotel, the buildings along Orchard Road are very modern, but then Kuala Lumpur has the Petronas Towers. It’s really an amazing building. What Kuala Lumpur doesn’t have is Sentosa Island, with chairlifts to get there, bright colours, and Universal Studios Singapore. For family attractions, Singapore definitely wins.
Outside the main citiy, well, Singapore has some amazing botanical gardens worth a visit, and a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the city of course. There are a number of beautiful buildings and temples in the garden itself. Outside Kuala Lumpur though are the amazing Batu Caves, a very holy place for Hindus. Once a year, Thaipusam is held and there is a procession to the caves with men carrying things on their backs held on by sharp hooks! It’s something quite different and was the highlight of my visit to Kuala Lumpur many years back now.
Shopping is definitely good in both places. You’ll probably get a better deal in Kuala Lumpur, and if you’re looking for bootlegged stuff (naughty naughty!) Then Kuala Lumpur does have the better shopping malls for that sort of stuff. It should be noted that in the last ten years or so, that’s really been cleared up though. For designer stuff and state of the art purchases, probably Singapore is still the better bet for what they have.
All in all though, I’d have to say that Singapore simply has more to offer the visitor than Kuala Lumpur, which is why I give it the gong. However, the good news is that they are not that far away and if you have the time to visit both, well, that’s not a hard task. What do people think? Which do you prefer?
Next week’s City Rumble takes on a slightly different sort of rivalry. The historic rivalry. The ancient cities of Angkor in Cambodia and Bagan in Myanmar. Until then, may the journey never end!