What's it really like?
A large and sprawling city, Kuala Lumpur is often described as a cultural melting pot of Malay, Chinese and Indian influences, combined with Islamic religion. While gay Kuala Lumpur may not be a gay Asian capital like Bangkok or Tokyo, that is not to say the city doesn’t have a gay side. As KL has become more international, a small gay scene has built up, despite the fact that homosexuality remains illegal.
Gay Kuala Lumpur has a handful of gay bars and clubs, with the biggest nights held at straight bars and clubs hosting gay-friendly nights. There is also a large number of professional fun gay saunas and gyms in Gay Kuala Lumpur. If the gay nightlife scene leaves you wanting more, there are plenty of other reasons to visit, including some of the world’s cheapest 5-star hotels, great shopping, even better food and, stunning natural wonders only an hour outside the city.
We’ll be honest: gay nightlife in Kuala Lumpur has nothing on some Asian cities like but there is still a scene. Weeknights are quiet, but come weekends there’s plenty action. For gay bars in KL check out Blue Bar and iBLUE Bar.
Kuala Lumpur has a surprisingly large and active gay sauna scene. Or, it is perhaps not surprising at all, given the conservative approach to homosexuality that the country still maintains. Gay men in Kuala Lumpur rely greatly on saunas to meet other men for both cruising and conversation, so you are likely to meet a few locals during most trips to the sauna.
Kuala Lumpur is in the top 10 most visited cities in the world, which has created a great choice of hotels at surprisingly good prices, especially for luxury options. A 5-star hotel can cost about RM250 (about $65) a night, and prices can become even lower during weekdays and low season.
Stay within KL’s Golden Triangle to make the most of your visit, as this places you conveniently close to most tourist attractions, as well as a few of the gay nightlife venues. The most popular area is KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Center), next to the iconic Petronas Towers.
A conservative Muslim country, Malaysia has an anti-sodomy law that dates back to its British Colony days. This is accompanied by several other anti-LGBT laws, including a law forbidding cross-dressing (and thus transgender identities) and one banning any media containing gay characters in a positive light. This is unlikely to change anytime soon, and other rights like gay marriage are an unlikely prospect.
In day-to-day life, this manifests itself in a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Homosexuality is begrudgingly tolerated by most of society, as long as it is remains confined to the country’s few gay spaces, all of which can be found in KL. The sodomy laws are highly unlikely to be enforced, particularly on foreigners, so while you are not in danger of being arrested or visibly discriminated against, discretion is important. Public displays of affection, straight or gay, are best avoided entirely.
Getting an HIV test in Kuala Lumpur is not difficult. The PT Foundation, a Malaysian HIV charity, offers anonymous and confidential testing with results within an hour: find all the information here. STI and HIV screening is also available in clinics throughout the city, although this is likely to be more expensive.
Despite the country’s views on homosexuality, HIV has become more of a visible issue in Malaysia. The country has a 0.45% prevalence rate (seventh in Asia), and as of 2016 was home to 99,338 HIV-positive men. Men make up 89% of cases, and though the government’s official stance is that transmission is predominantly caused by heterosexual sex with female sex workers, it is not difficult to imagine that these figures are skewed by cultural attitudes to homosexuality. Officially, it is estimated that 8.9% of men who have sex with men have HIV.
Golden Triangle – This is the beating heart of Kuala Lumpur as a modern metropolis. It contains many of the city’s most famous sights, including KLCC, a combination of park and urban development that contains the famous Petronas Towers. Bukuit Bintang, an upmarket commercial area full of great shopping and restaurants, sits south of KLCC. The Golden Triangle is home to BlueBoy gay bar.
Colonial Quarter – This area was developed in the early days of the city, and contains some of its most interesting colonial architecture. The mix of Western, Chinese, and Islamic influences seen in and around Merdeka Square make it one of the city’s main tourist attractions.
Chinatown – Just southeast of Merdeka Square is KL’s Chinatown, another big tourist draw. As The area is crammed with Chinese shophouses, temples, and food stalls, the latter of which serve delicious specialties until the late hours of the night.
Little India – A small enclave of KL’s Indian population, including street food stalls with Indian specialties.
Chow Kit – A popular market for clothes, including some great deals on secondhand brands if you know where to look. Chow Kit is just north of Little India, following large avenue Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, known locally as Jalan TAR. One of KL’s most popular gay saunas, OTOT2, is in Chow Kit.
Bangsar and Midvalley – Residential suburbs of the city, popular for restaurants, straight clubbing and the midvalley MegaMall.
The tourist areas of Kuala Lumpur aren’t too far apart from each other, so you may be tempted to walk between destinations. While this is possible, you should be aware that heat and humidity tend to make this an uncomfortable experience, and confusing road infrastructure can make it a frustrating one. A combination of walking, train, and taxi works best for most visitors.
From Kuala Lumpur International Airport – The easiest way to get to the city center from the airport is to catch one of the rail links, KLIA Ekspres Transit or KLIA Transit. The express takes about 30 minutes to get to KL Sentral station, while the other makes a few stops and is marginally slower. Both cost RM35 (approx $8) and run 5 am – midnight.
From KL Sentral, you can catch a monorail or taxi to your final destination. There are also coach services to various points in the city, but they are only marginally cheaper and three times as long. If you prefer to get a taxi, buy your ticket at the airport counter to avoid aggressive haggling with your driver. An hour-long ride into KL should cost about RM70 (approx $16).
Train – The main train station is KL Sentral, which is connected to the monorail by an external station. From there, you can catch a long-distance train to Singapore and Thailand, as well as domestic services. Aside from the airport lines, there are three types of train serving the city and its extensive suburbs: LRT, KL Monorail, KTM Komuter. Together, they make up quite an efficient system, but they are not designed to coordinate well with each other: you need to buy separate tickets for each network, and changes often involve a physical change of station. If you are planning on using the trains quite a bit, it will be worth your time investing in a Touch’nGo card, sold at a few major stations. Last trains are at midnight, so public transport is not necessarily an option for nightlife.
Bus – KL has a large bus network, but little signage makes it challenging – and borderline impossible – for tourists to use. The KL Hop-On Hop-Off sightseeing tour buses are a good option to see all the tourist sites, and it also comes with free WiFi for those important Grindr updates while traveling across the city.
Taxi – Taxis are everywhere in KL, and you will not struggle to hail one from the street or find a taxi rank. You may, however, struggle to get your driver to turn on the meter. As a general rule, taxis are inexpensive, about RM6 ($1.60) for a journey from Chinatown to KLCC. Yellow “Premier” taxis and Enviro 2000 (eco-friendly) taxis will be nicer, but more expensive. It is a good idea to have a map or the address of your destination written in Malay, as drivers may not speak English.
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