City Rumble – Singapore versus Kuala Lumpur

city rumble sing klAhhhh 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!).

Angry Birds at Changi Airport, Singapore

Angry Birds at Changi Airport, Singapore

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.

Streets of Singapore

Streets of Singapore

Kuala Lumpur from above.

Kuala Lumpur from above.

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.

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Kuala Lumpur

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.

Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur

Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur

The Island of Sentosa, Singapore.

The Island of Sentosa, Singapore.

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.

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Didn't expect to find these guys in Singapore!

Didn’t expect to find these guys in Singapore!

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.

Botanical Gardens Singapore

Botanical Gardens Singapore

Thaipusam at the Batu Caves near KL.

Thaipusam at the Batu Caves near KL.

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.

Heavens open on Kuala Lumpur.

Heavens open on Kuala Lumpur.

Old and new, Kuala Lumpur

Old and new, Kuala Lumpur

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!

7 comments

  • Haha…I like how you make your comparison…looks like this round goes to Singapore…👍😆

  • I didn’t spot the word ‘juxtapose’ anywhere!!! :p

    I loved Singapore, it was my first overseas destination way back in October 2004. However to really get under the skin of a city, I still preferred KL… it was just a little more chilled out of something. I must go back to Singapore some time though, I haven’t been there since 2004, and from what I’ve heard it has changed a lot in that time (cultural sights etc).

  • I like Singapore a lot – love the food there too much. I have been to KL and I had lousy travel experience in KL that made me think twice to visit KL again – so maybe my view when comparing of these cities would be biased 😀
    I like your reviews – fair and complete!

  • Shikha (whywasteannualleave)

    I haven’t been to KL but went to Singapore for the first time last year and found the food to be absolutely amazing! I’m not usually a big shopper but it would have been an absolute haven if I was and I did find one shop I liked and uncharacteristically bought quite a lot in there, oops! The only thing though was that we went after going first to Bali and then Thailand so Singapore felt SO expensive in relative terms!!

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