From a skyline dominated by post-modern architecture — most notably the Petronas Twin Towers — to the rainforests, gardens and parks that occupy the ground, Kuala Lumpur boasts some of the most beautiful vistas in the world.
But for expat parents about to move there, Kuala Lumpur offers more than just its towering buildings, lush nature and the hot — but humid — weather that attracts millions of tourists each year.
As the capital of Malaysia and its largest city, Kuala Lumpur is a hub of economic, social, and cultural development; it’s one of the fastest-growing metropolitan regions in Southeast Asia and ranked among the 10 most-visited cities in the world in 2019.
The standard of education is also great; Kuala Lumpur offers a broad range of public, private and international schools to cater to the diverse needs of expats that call the city home. So don’t worry about finding your children places at private or international schools.
And let’s not forget the entertainment and culture, both of which are guaranteed to amaze your children.
Without a doubt, Kuala Lumpur is an incredible, fun-filled and culturally diverse city that’s growing at an almost exponential rate — and shows no signs of slowing down soon.
However, as with any city, you need to know the details before you decide to move. So in this guide, we’re going to provide you with all the information you need before moving to Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia is one of the most popular destinations for expats in the world and is considered a cultural heartland. The island climate, incredibly low crime rates and eclectic mix of cultures make it unmissable. Here are six tips to help you make a successful start in this education, commerce and technology hub.
According to the most recent weather and climate data for Kuala Lumpur, temperatures are often between 23 and 33 degrees and rarely below 21 or above 35 degrees.
The “hot season” lasts for 3.3 months — from February to May — with an average daily high temperature above 33 degrees. The “cool season” lasts 2.0 months, from November to January, with an average daily high temperature below 32 degrees.
Also, given Kuala Lumpur’s tropical climate, expect heavy and intense rainfall that clears up quickly throughout the year.
The city can be busy. The roads and streets are often overcrowded (cycling is a definite no-go) and buses make frequent stops due to heavy traffic. According to the TomTom Traffic Index, last year, drivers lost 126 hours (or 5 days, 6 hours) due to being stuck in traffic.
So if you want to get around quickly, using the comprehensive rail network is your best bet. The RapidKL light rapid transit (LRT) and KTM Komuter trains service over 100 stations, while the KL Monorail connects 11 more stations dotted around the city centre.
If you come from a major city, one of the most obvious cost-savings you’ll see is on your monthly expenses.
According to Numbeo, Kuala Lumpur is 52.68% cheaper than London (without rent) and rent is, on average, 81.41% lower than in London.
And given that the Pound is the strongest currency, that’s food for thought.
Furthermore, new buildings keep popping up while there’s already a wide variety of large, empty houses available for rent.
As the cultural centre of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur has an eclectic mix of traditions, histories, religions and ethnicities.
All of these cultures co-exist, resulting in truly unique experiences that can’t be found anywhere else — from the food at markets and the clothes people wear, to the festivals, art and other influences from cultures along the way.
At the same time, all of this is juxtaposed with the modern, well-developed infrastructure of the city; from the modern, towering skyscrapers and rapid-transit systems to old colonial buildings constructed centuries ago.
As a parent, you’ll no doubt feel guilty about uprooting your children and moving them away from familiar routines, friends and other relatives, as well as the effect this might have on their education.
Our advice? Pick the right school — one that’s close to where you plan to live and allows your children to play with other kids outside of school. This will allow them to build friendships as they go.
Secondly, don’t focus too much on their grades for the first few terms. The aim here is to let your children settle into their new lives and to make new friends in the process.
Related: Thinking about sending your child to preschool? Our blog will help you to decide!
The White Lodge curriculum is deeply rooted in modern theory and research on early childhood education practices. Most specifically, we create a blended curriculum based on the principals of HighScope and Reggio Emilia approaches, informed by Howard Gardner’s theories of child development.
Careful consideration is given to our children’s shared interests, developmental needs and milestones. As such, we focus on activities and subjects that help them to grow and succeed, including:
The White Lodge Mandarin curriculum is based on the Singapore Kindergarten and Primary School frameworks. Our fun-filled Mandarin programme aims to provide children with maximum exposure to the language, culture and history — it also includes twice-daily Mandarin lessons at all White Lodge centres. Classroom activities include storytelling, singing, play-acting, art projects, reading and writing and more.
Find out more about our curriculum, and how it’s designed to foster key qualities like a love of learning and interest in the world, on our information page on The White Lodge Way.
Moving to Kuala Lumpur with young children is a big decision, and finding the right preschool or childcare will play a huge role in helping you all settle in. Watch the video below to discover more about one of our campuses in Bangsar South, and listen to what our parents love about White Lodge in Kuala Lumpur.
Attracting more than 12 million international visitors each year, Kuala Lumpur ranks among the top cities for expats and tourists. It’s a beautiful city that offers amazing food, connectivity, excitement, entertainment and in the suburbs, tranquillity.
So when it comes to choosing the best place to live in Kuala Lumpur, it can be a challenge — but we can help. Here are a few of the best places that expats and their families choose to live in KL.
The city centre is the most popular place to stay in Kuala Lumpur. Staying here will put you in the heart of everything — malls, restaurants, entertainment venues, lush parks and nature reserves.
The apartments in the city centre are spacious and fully furnished. Most have on-site fitness facilities and swimming pools.
These apartments are great for families, couples or expat singles that want to be a part of the fast-paced city life (and close to some of the best shopping malls and entertainment in the world), and still live comfortably.
However, be warned — expect congestion and potential noise from the construction that’s constantly going on.
Located near Bangsar and Midvalley in a green, leafy neighbourhood — and within 15 minutes from KLCC — Damansara Heights is one of the best neighbourhoods in Kuala Lumpur for families.
Damansara Heights is full of gated communities and public and international schools. It’s also home to wealthy local communities, neighbourhood cafes and quality restaurants.
As for housing, typical accommodation ranges from bungalows and small houses to low-rise apartments.
But despite being a coveted residential and commercial suburb, it’s still surrounded by nature. There are many parks in the vicinity for families to visit when they want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
Bangsar is considered to be the best neighbourhood for expat families looking for peace and tranquillity in Kuala Lumpur. It’s also hugely popular with middle and upper-class locals due to its trendy eateries and bars.
But that’s not all. Long-term expats prefer living in this part of the city because of its community and active neighbourhood. Furthermore, it’s only 2.5km away from the city centre and close to other western suburbs.
The area also has plenty of kindergartens and nurseries — often operated out of houses — as well as tuition centres, primary schools and secondary schools.
In terms of accommodation, there are bungalows, houses and condos — all of which give this serene neighbourhood a distinct style.
A newer township on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Desa Park City is a popular choice for expat families.
Most people move to the area because it’s affordable, quiet and spacious (children can roam about to their heart’s content). Learn more about the facilities here.
Embellishing the typical ‘suburban lifestyle’ and offering a well-respected selection of international schools, this area is attractive among expat families.
In terms of accommodation, there are more high-rise condos here than in any other suburbs, but townhouses, semi-detached houses and bungalow-style homes also feature throughout.
The area also offers plenty of restaurants, shopping centres and other entertainment activities to keep you and your family occupied.
Located right next to Mont Kiara — and not to be confused with Desi Sri Hartamas — Sri Hartamas is an affluent residential township located just 15 minutes’ drive from the Kuala Lumpur City Centre.
The area has enjoyed broad appeal with expats, resulting in a diverse local community — one full of different cultures, cuisines and activities.
That said, it manages to retain the charm of a quiet suburban area, including plenty of green spaces, country clubs and spa facilities.
Accommodation consists of low-rise condos and townhouses, and childcare facilities are also available.
A stone’s throw away from the city centre Ampang is perfect for suburban living and has been a popular expat location for decades.
Ampang is home to the American International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL), which is a short distance from the city centre, and many families choose to live here for that reason.
Plus, despite being so close to the city, it’s leafy and spacious. There are also a few parks, lakes and jungles that line its perimeters, as well as loads of local attractions to please the family.
The accommodation in Ampang is predominantly low-rise, and while many of the wealthier residents live in huge gated mansions, there are plenty of bungalows and condos.
As for food and drink, Ampang offers plenty of delicious fine dining options (including European restaurants), so you’ll feel right at home.
Overall, the quality of education in Kuala Lumpur is excellent and you won’t struggle to find a suitable school for your children.
However, while public schools can be attended free of charge by both expats and locals, lessons at these schools are taught in Malay, Tamil or Cantonese, so this is often a dealbreaker for expat families.
As a result, most expat parents opt for international schools, preferring a curriculum that’s more familiar to their children and taught in their home language. Several schools also offer the International Baccalaureate programme, while others teach the Australian, American, German and French curricula.
Some of the top international schools considered and/or chosen by English-speaking expats include:
Both the primary and secondary Alice Smith schools are among the best in Kuala Lumpur. All of the classes are in English by overseas teachers.
The primary school was shortlisted at the 2019 International School Awards, winning the Pastoral Initiative Award and is an accredited member of the Council of British Overseas Schools (COBIS).
Located in Mont Kiara, Garden International School is the first private school (founded in 1951). Around 80% of the teaching staff or English or Australian.
The school is also academically excellent, with 40% of A-Level students consistently achieving a minimum of three A-A* grades. The school is accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
Featuring a brand-new, state-of-the-art campus, IGB International is one of the only schools in Malaysia to offer all four International Baccalaureate programmes.
It’s accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
Now on a brand-new campus opened in 2018 — which has been awarded a platinum Green Building (GBI) status — the International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) has become known as a centre of excellence in the world of international education.
Comprising students from over 40 different nationalities, this school achieves the best New South Wales High School Certificate results outside Australia.
It’s also accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and a “visible learning” school.
A privately funded international school, St. John’s International School (or SJS) delivers excellent education not just in Malaysia, but in 82 other countries.
The school offers the most affordable Cambridge UK curriculum, along with a well-rounded, world-class education, including sports and extracurricular activities.
"The play-based and enquiry-based approach to learning helped our son settle down in his new school. He was also well-versed in Mandarin (thanks to the Mandarin curriculum at White Lodge), when he joined the new school. We feel that the White Lodge curriculum is very good, very wholesome and prepares kids for the next phase very well."
As the gateway to the Southeast Asia region, there are so many opportunities for you and your family to explore — from weekend getaways to the coast of Malaysia to visiting other provinces — but what can you do in the city? Here are some ideas!
These suggestions don’t even scratch the surface of what’s available. If you’re looking for more activities you can do with your children in KL, check out this blog.
Kuala Lumpur has a lot to offer — culture, scenery, architecture and even opportunities for you and your children.
It’s affordable, fun and has established expat communities in every region of the city, so you’ll never feel out of place.
As for education, Kuala Lumpur boasts some of the best international schools around — and we can help prepare your kid(s) for them.
Our aim at White Lodge is to liberate, empower and motivate children to use their individual gifts with confidence, creativity and generosity in loving and responsible service. At White Lodge, we work hard to give the children the opportunities to develop as intelligent, confident, wise and lovable young people.
We strive to provide an education with “something more” — and to that end, we work continuously to be recognised as one of the most inspirational and nurturing preschool establishments in the region.