Kuala Lumpur

By | 16th January 2018

Is it worth hiring a car in Kuala Lumpur?

Do you need a car in Kuala Lumpur > Should you rent a car in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia > Kuala Lumpur ( KUL ) Do you need a car in Kuala Lumpur? Is it worth hiring a car in Kuala Lumpur? Should you rent a car in Kuala Lumpur?

Kuala Lumpur Car hire summary

Overall drive rating

Based on a weighted score across all cost and quality factors. [Full notes - drive rating]


  • Price alone isn't the only factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Kuala Lumpur but clearly it's an important one. See our "why" section for more figures.
  • Cost factors include - price of car hire (peak and off peak season), car hire extras, fuel, tolls and parking costs.
  • Quality factors include - scenic drives, road quality and upkeep, general safety and congestion levels.
  • A complete index of all 10 factors will be uploaded shortly.

Cheapest rate for one week

Based on cheapest economy car hire deal with no added extras. [full notes - basic costs]



  • This is the very lowest price we could find for a one week car rental period in Kuala Lumpur during the quiet season.
  • You will almost always end up paying more than this figure, but any extra costs or supplementary charges are usually determined by the renter, so we cannot easily compare like with like.
  • In many cases, rental companies will offer a cheap rental and then expect you to take out expensive insurance waivers. There are always ways to avoid this!

How much should I expect to pay in the peak season?

Based on cheapest deal during the summer holiday season. (Unless otherwise noted) [full notes - seasonal variations]



  • During the peak holiday season, public transport is often better value, as many train and bus fares are fixed throughout the year. See our "why not" section for more suggestions.
  • For most featured destinations, the peak season will be during the summer, typically July and August for northern hemisphere destinations. However, peak demand might occur at different times, for example in some ski resorts or winter sun destinations etc.

Free parking score

Based on the number of hotels which offer free parking. Total 1113 - of which 400 have free parking. [full notes - parking]



  • Free hotel parking is very useful to have when you are hiring a car, and it's always worth checking ahead beforehand.
  • If free hotel parking is not available, you might want to consider renting a car for a single day, rather than for your whole trip.
  • The availability (or lack of) free hotel parking can be a really important factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Kuala Lumpur, as it can be a significant extra daily cost which you won't usually be paying at home!
  • Parking costs play a very major part in our consideration of whether or not it's worth hiring a car in each destination.
  • By using public transport, walking or hiring a bicycle, you can avoid having to worry about parking charges altogether! See our "why not" section for more suggestions.

Kuala Lumpur public transport quick facts

Train score

Higher scores go to the systems which don't just take you to the most amazing places, but also to the ones which are easy to use, fast, reliable and frequent. A good train system on its own is usually enough to determine that you don't need to hire a car in many destinations.


  • [full notes trains]
  • Trains include all kinds of urban rail system from trams up to metro and suburban networks.
  • Trains also include mountain railways and cable cars.
  • Generally, places with a good rail network will automatically mean that you don't "need" to hire a car, but you can still might find that on balance you are better off by having one.

Water travel score

This is a general rating for all types of water travel, including scheduled ferries, sea / rivers cruises and excursions in Kuala Lumpur


  • [full notes - water score]
  • The water score looks at means of transport on water - it does not consider water based activities like surfing or kayaking.

Overall public transport score

This is a more practical rating based on bus and rail travel, and also including ferries and other boat services, where they are part of the public transport network.


  • [full notes - overall transit] buses | trams | metro | local & regional rail | national rail
  • Is public transport in Kuala Lumpur good value, or is it worth hiring a car just because it is cheaper overall?
  • Even if public transport is cheap and reliable, you might still feel that you should hire a car in Kuala Lumpur because it will still give you more flexibility to reach out-of-the-way places, especially in rural areas.

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

This overall rating considers walking and cycling in and around Kuala Lumpur. It includes factors such as the quality of the street environment, and whether you are likely to feel safe walking or cycling, together with the availability of bicycle hire and the ease of linking walking or cycling routes with public transport.


  • [full notes - active score] walking (city) | hiking | cycling (city /  country).
  • A high active travel score means that you might not need a car in Kuala Lumpur, because you can see everything you need to see using a combination of your own two feet and the public transport system.

Car rental in - Kuala Lumpur Need v worth & should!

Whether you have come here asking "do I need a car in Kuala Lumpur", "is it worth hiring a car in Kuala Lumpur", or whether or not you "should" hire a car here, these are all slight variations on a similar theme. Here we break each one down according to the criteria we use for each question. This is a weighted score based on the values above. These are explained further in the text which follows - [#why] [#whynot]. Do you need a car in Kuala Lumpur?

Do you need a car in Kuala Lumpur?

This is essentially based on whether or not public transport and other "non car" options are good enough to get around and beyond the city. For the lowest "need" score, the destination should have a combination of excellent all-round public transport, great opportunities for walking and cycling, together with poor value car hire or generally poor quality roads. 
  • In destinations where both public transport and car hire options are excellent, the verdict for "do I need a car in  Kuala Lumpur " will swing towards a strong no, because you can do absolutely fine without one).
Is it worth hiring a car in Kuala Lumpur?

Is it worth hiring a car in Kuala Lumpur?

Is car hire good value, especially during the peak season? How does this compare with transit fares? This question mainly looks at issues of cost and practicality.
  • In destinations where both public transport and car hire options are excellent, the verdict for "is it worth hiring a car in  Kuala Lumpur" will swing towards whichever option offers the lowest overall cost for a group of 2-4 people travelling together.
Should you rent a car in Kuala Lumpur?

Should you rent a car in Kuala Lumpur?

Weighing up the above questions, if you are here for the first time AND asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
  • The final "carometer" swing is much more opinion based, and it takes into account which options will give you the truly best travel experience (n our humble opinion of course). Where a destination offers an excellent score with or without a car, the swing will go towards whichever option we feel gives the most truly unforgettable experience.
  • Ultimately, it's your choice whether or not you rent a car here. We're trying to give you something that's sufficiently far enough away from a "maybe" to help you make that choice. Ultimately, people only come to us because they are uncertain, but we don't really know what each person's preferences are. Whether we say you should or you shouldn't rent a car in  Kuala Lumpur, you might also want to look up some of our other cities to see how  Kuala Lumpur compares with other destinations in  Malaysia or  Asia.
  • By using public transport, walking or hiring a bicycle, you can avoid having to worry about parking charges altogether! See our "why not" section for more suggestions.

What does everyone else do?

Do most people hire a car in Kuala Lumpur?

This is based on our observations of (a) car rental facilities and (b) what we think most people will do here. It's not an exact figure, just an estimate of how likely people are to get hold of a rental car here.
  • his is based on the percentage of people "in the market" who we think are likely to hire a car. This includes anyone arriving on holiday here who would usually hire a car on their travels, so it doesn't include people who don't usually drive (or don't drive), people staying with friends etc.


Visitors per year (million)

  • Cities with more visitors are more likely to have more complex airport car rental arrangements, and generally they will also have better public transport, but this is not always the case, especially in North America.


  • [full notes - do as everyone else does?]
  • You may wish to go with the flow, or you might prefer to avoid doing the most popular or obvious option. This will vary according to the range of choice available. This tends to be much higher in destinations which are closer to the middle of the car or no car scale.

Who is travelling?

Your group size and travel budget has a major impact on whether or not getting a rental car is good value compared to using public transport as your main means of getting around. Ultimately, these are all "worth" questions:

Is it worth renting a car in Kuala Lumpur if I am a solo / budget traveller?

Generally, hiring a car is not good value for solo travellers for multiple reasons, especially as most of the costs of renting apply to the car, not the occupants. With public transport, the reverse is usually true! However, there are always some places where you will need a car, simply because they are almost impossible to reach using public transport.

Is it worth renting a car in Kuala Lumpur for 2 people travelling together?

A rental car can be good value for couples or for friends travelling together, but since most cars come with at least four seats, it's often still better value to use public transport. However, if you prefer to keep yourselves to yourselves, then you might still want to rent.

Is it worth renting a car in Kuala Lumpur for families?

Families of groups of 3-4 people travelling together will always get the best value from a rental car. However, you may also be burdened with extra costs for car seat hire, and you well also prefer to use local trains and buses, if they are quicker than getting stuck in heavy traffic.

Where are you staying?

The place you are staying, together with the sort of places you want to see, will have a large impact on whether or not you "need" to rent a car:

Do you need a car in Kuala Lumpur if we are staying in the city centre / main resort area?

Most large towns or purpose built holiday resorts will have some kind of public transport, whereas parking provision will vary greatly from one place to the next. 

Do you need a car in Kuala Lumpur if we are staying on the edge of the urban area?

Typically you may be staying in an apartment or hmall house on the edge of a resort or urban area. These places usually have some level of public transport, but not as much as city / resort centres.

Do you need a car in Kuala Lumpur if we are staying in a rural area?

Rural proprties might include larger villas or apartments, but they can still be within a short walk of a bus stop or local railway station, and the opportunities for hiking and cycling might also be substantial, depending on the destination.

What is your attitude towards driving?

We can give you suggestions based on whatever we consider to be a "typical" visitor to Kuala Lumpur, but ultimately your decision is also going to be influenced by whether or not you ususally prefer to hire a car in the first place.

Should I hire a car in Kuala Lumpur if I prefer not to drive?

This is especially the case when there is only one main driver in the group, and it's based on the attitude of the driver rather than their passengers! The main driver may also simply prefer to use public transport, or they may prefer to take scenic train journeys where available.

Should we rent a car in Kuala Lumpur if we are easy either way?

This is more aimed at the typical visitor who isn't that bothered about how they get around, as long as it is the most convenient / best value option.

Should I rent a car in Kuala Lumpur if I prefer to drive?

For people who usually prefer the freedom and flexibility of having a hire car. Is it still best to rent a car in Kuala Lumpur, or are there good reasons not to?

Do you need a car in Kuala Lumpur? Introduction

When someone asks "Do you need a car in Kuala Lumpur?", this often breaks down to two key questions:
  1. Can you actually get around using public transport, or is a car all but essential?
  2. Is it worth hiring a car in Kuala Lumpur? Is it good value for money, compared with non-car options?
Over the next few sections, we wil look at the pros and cons of driving in Kuala Lumpur as a tourist, and ultimately weigh these up, so we can answer the key question of Should you rent a car in Kuala Lumpur?
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Kuala Lumpur is an intriguing mix of modern skyscrapers and American style suburban sprawl. There’s a healthy balance between downtown and out-of-town places of interest. So what is the best way to make the most of this Malaysian metropolis?

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Why is it worth hiring a car in Kuala Lumpur?

  • Heading up Peninsula Malaysia’s west coast: If you are looking at heading further out, possibly up towards Penang, then hire car might start to look like a reasonable option.
  • Jaunts in the jungle – you don’t have to travel that far in a Kuala Lumpur rental car beyond KL to reach areas which are still carpeted in pristine forest. Be prepared to drive past the palm oil plantations first! Either way, whether you are actually heading towards one of the many national parks, a car is simply the most obvious option here.
  • For a round-Malaysia road trip! Naturally, this would just apply to the peninsula. KL would be the natural place to start such a journey, since it has the best choice of inward flights. Take care right in the north of the country towards the border with Thailand, where there are security concerns.
  • You could also park your rental car in Johor Bahru and head briefly into Singapore. However, it’s not worth the hassle of trying to drive in.
  • Compared to other countries in Asia, Malaysia has one of the best records on road safety.

Ultimately, unless you are already planning on a longer road trip with multiple days on the road and away from KL, the choice about getting a hire car in Kuala Lumpur is still going to be a relatively marginal one.

Why not? Visiting Kuala Lumpur without a car

What is public transport like in Kuala Lumpur? What about local conditions for walking or cycling? Can you rely on public transport and maybe a few taxis for most or all of your trip? Are there some times of year when it's easier to get by without a car than others? When should you rent a car in 3?
  • No need at all to get a rental car in Kuala Lumpur if you are mainly visiting points of interest in downtown locations.
  • Visit Batu Caves by train.
  • Rail and sail (or direct coach) to Penang. It’s easier to manage as a one-way trip if you aren’t having to get a one-way Kuala Lumpur rental deal.
  • Combine a visit to KL with a train journey. Head north to Bangkok or south down to Singapore.
  • Most other major cities in Peninsular Malaysia are easy to reach by train or bus. A rental car is still useful for rural areas (see above).
  • High cost of parking – see below.

If you are looking at options based on using public transport for your time in Kuala Lumpur and then getting a hire car for onward travel elsewhere in Peninsular Malaysia, then look carefully at car-rental prices between the different city centre outlets. However there should be no need to go all the way back out Kuala Lumpur International Airport just to get an decent car rental deal. Instead, you may well find the same deals at Subang airport, which is much closer to the city centre.

Multi-city trips – best by other means!

Needless to say, if you are looking at a multi-destination south-east Asian trip, we certainly wouldn’t advise hiring a car in Kuala Lumpur and trying to drive it anywhere near Singapore, although you might look at a one-way rental to Johor Bahru. We will also not recommend driving across into southern Thailand, where there are security issues around that border. Furthermore, as far as travel destinations are concerned, the peninsular Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah in Borneo are very much separate entities.

James says - a few trip notes:

If you are looking at visiting Kuala Lumpur for the first time, then it would be completely natural to compare the city with other relatively nearby major Asian capitals like Singapore or Bangkok. Your first thoughts of this city may well be of enormous skyscrapers, with the landmark twin Petronas Towers, formerly the tallest buildings in the world, being the most prominent mental image. However, the geography of KL is quite different when compared to some other more densely packed cities in the region.

It’s true to say that Kuala Lumpur does have a sleek and modern metro system, much of it elevated above ground level, but public transport is still relatively poor for a city of this size. Moreover, following rapid economic growth in the 1980s and 1990s, the city of Kuala Lumpur sprawled massively around an extensive highway network, giving it a feel that in many respects has more in common with giant Texan oil cities like Houston or Dallas, than it does with many other Asian megacities.

To the south of the city, out towards the main Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) you will also find the technology focused new town of Putra Jaya, a location which might have some expansive parks, but which is also ultimately built around the car.

Is it worth hiring a car in Kuala Lumpur? So does the way KL is laid out make it a natural place to want to hire a car, especially when the roads are of a generally good standard?

Well this is really going to depend very much on what you are here to see and do – if you are just passing through Kuala Lumpur before heading somewhere else, or if you are simply here to see the major urban attractions that the city itself has to offer, then there’s still really not much point in going to the hassle or expense of hiring a car, especially if you are going to need to leave it in one of the city’s giant parking garages.

One of the most impressive natural attractions in the area around Kuala Lumpur is the Batu cave complex, but these are very easily reached at the end of a brief suburban train journey from Kuala Lumpur.


Our slider ratings range from 0 (it isn't even possible to hire a car, e.g. Hong Kong) through to 10 (you really must rent a car here, e.g. Phoenix, Tampa). However, most places are somewhere inbetween these extremes, and this is where it gets more interesting! Further ratings breakdowns, including a much more detailed public transport rating, are currently being added. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.


What is our final score for Kuala Lumpur on the Carornocar scale?

Remember, this isn't so much a rating of the road network, or a score for what we think of the buses or trains, but it's simply a scale showing the swing between whether or not we think a rental car is a good idea here.


Is it worth hiring a car in Kuala Lumpur? Yes, possibly

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