Currency in Kuala Lumpur
What currency is used in Kuala Lumpur?
Fun fact: ''ringgit' actually means "jagged" in the Malay language. The word was originally used to refer to the serrated edges of silver Spanish dollars that circulated widely in Southeast Asia from the 16th and 17th centuries during the Spanish colonization.
One of the first things you'll notice about Malaysian money is how colorful it is.
The colors and varying sizes aren't just art, they are designed to serve a useful purpose: you'll quickly learn which colors match which denominations and visually challenged people can judge amounts based on the size of the denominations!
You will find pictures of 'Tunku' (the first prime minister, and up until now the most important one, from 1957 to 1970) on one side the banknotes and on the other side you'll see drawings of Malaysia's economic and technological pride: oil rigs on the 50-ringgit note, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur on the 5-ringgit note, and even its train, its airline, and its commercial boats on the 10-ringgit note.
What is the exchange rate?
At the time of writing this 1 USD= 4,47 MYR, but please remember exchange rates are constantly changing, so it's best to check it yourself again before your trip to KL.
Is Kuala Lumpur expensive for tourists?
Compared to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur is definitely a lot cheaper but when you compare it to Thailand, it's more expensive. In general, food, travel and everyday expenses don’t typically cost as much but it depends on what kind of experience you want! If you stick to local food and skip high end hotels, KL is definitely a very affordable city!
On average, travelers spend RM45 ($10) on meals for one day and RM23 ($5.12) on local transportation. Also, the average hotel price in Kuala Lumpur for a couple is RM263 ($59). So, a trip to Kuala Lumpur for two people for one week costs on average RM3,048 ($686)
Our top money (saving) tips for Kuala Lumpur:
- Don’t get your money changed before you get to Malaysia, you’ll get a better rate buying ringgits once you arrive. However, avoid changing money at the airport, as the rates will be pretty high there.
- Malaysia’s alcohol tax rate is the third-highest in the world, so you may want to think before you splurge on your favorite margaritas.
- Save your cash for taxi's or for street food of the world-famous street vendors and only use your cards for hotel bookings and larger costs (such as shopping in one of the many malls)
- Don’t haggle too much with the vendors for a bargain as it is not a part of Malaysian shopping culture.
- Use public transportation instead of taxis.
Using ATMs in Kuala Lumpur
ATMs can be found all throughout Kuala Lumpur and withdrawing money fees are notably much lower than Thailand's brutal 220-baht fee (around US $7 per transaction).
Safety tip: try using ATMs that are physically inside or attached to bank branches. You stand a better chance of recovering your card if it is captured, and there is less chance that a card-skimming device is installed on the machine.
A lot of ATM's give RM100 banknotes. This large amount is less convenient to break on the street as many vendors won't have change on hand. To avoid a hassle for both parties, try to find ATMs that issue cash in denominations of RM50, or enter an amount that requires the machine to dispense smaller denominations.
Tipping etiquette in Kuala Lumpur
Generally, in Malaysia, tipping is not expected, but if you really enjoyed the good service you can choose to tip after. In hotels, tipping housekeeping or bell boys is considered polite however. In restaurants, donating the change or a reasonable sum is appropriate. again, only if you get good service.
If you do decide to tip, these tips make come in handy:
- Housekeeping, leave maybe RM5 on the pillow before you go out.
- Porters, Bell Boys, Butler, Room Service RM 5-10 depending on your mood
- Restaurants, generally not needed unless exceptional service or a fine dining establishment
Hawkers (food courts)
- Not a common practice to tip.
- Common to leave a 10-20% tip for the waitress, bartender..etc
- Ask how they share the bill. If the service staff don't get the tip, don't bother
- Fine dining, maybe 10% on top of the bill? The bill would have included 10% service charge already
- Others, only if service is exceptional. Also ask if they get the tips.
- Massage Services - do leave a tip for your masseur
- Tour Guide - also common to tip the guide
- Taxi - No necessary unless you find a honest, safe driver, then do encourage him by tipping
We hope that we have given you some insight on Kuala Lumpur and the way money is handled there! With all these points in mind, an amazing trip to Malaysia awaits you!
Enjoy your trip to Kuala Lumpur!
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