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 3? Is it worth hiring a car in 3? Should you rent a car in 3? Should you rent a car in 3?

Kuala Lumpur Car hire summary

Overall drive rating

Based on a weighted score across all factors, including driving roads, hire and fuel costs, road safety etc. [Full notes - drive rating]


Cheapest rate for one week

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



  • 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.
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 "whynot" section for more suggestions.
Free parking score Based on the number of hotels which offer free parking.Total 1113 - of which 400 have free parking. [full notes - parking]




  • During the peak holiday season, public transport is often better value, as many train and bus fares are fixed throughout the year. See our "whynot" section for more suggestions.

Kuala Lumpur public transport quick facts

"Top trumps" train score

Higher scores go to the systems which take you to the most amazing places.



  • [full notes - top trumps trains]
  • A good rail system doesn't mean you shouldn't hire a car, but it often means you have a decent range of options.

Overall public transport score

This is a more practical rating based on bus and rail travel.



  • [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?

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

This overall rating considers walking and cycling in and around Kuala Lumpur



Take to the waters!

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


Need, 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:

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.

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?

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?

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?

Why should you rent a car in Kuala Lumpur?

What are the main reasons for hiring a car here? Do you just want to drive locally? Do you want to go further afield, or should you even look at taking a road trip?

In terms of factors like the cost of the hire itself, fuel costs, road tolls and parking charges, is it worth hiring a car in Kuala Lumpur?

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 Kuala Lumpur?

  • 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.

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

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