A Travel Price Comparison for Malaysia Kota Kinabalu vs. Kuala Lumpur for Vacations, Tours, and Honeymoons

Should you visit Kota Kinabalu or Kuala Lumpur?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Kota Kinabalu or Kuala Lumpur? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

Where Should I go: Kota Kinabalu or Kuala Lumpur?

Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu, originally Jesselton, is the capital of Sabah, which is on the northern part of the island of Borneo. Kota Kinabalu is located just between the western side of the island and Tambunan Rafflesia Forest Reserve. Most of Kota Kinabalu's historic buildings were destroyed by bombing during World War II, so the city had to be rebuilt. KK, as it's commonly called, is a compact, but booming town today, with its new shopping centers, seaside condominiums, and bustling marketplaces.

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur, often referred to as KL, is the cosmopolitan capital of Malaysia. It is also the largest city in the country, having grown out of a small Chinese mining village. Today Kuala Lumpur is a microcosm of the country of Malaysia. The population is split between the Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures which you can see reflected in the city's neighborhoods, cuisine, and entertainment. It's also an incredibly affordable city, even if you're looking for the comforts of a five star hotel or a luxury restaurant. Prices are almost always a fraction of what you would pay in Europe or the United States.

For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best 2-Week Tours from Kuala Lumpur, The Best Family-Friendly Tours to Malaysia, The Best Hiking & Trekking Tours in Malaysia, and The Best 10-Day Tours in Malaysia.


Which place is cheaper, Kuala Lumpur or Kota Kinabalu?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Kota Kinabalu is $49, while the average daily cost in Kuala Lumpur is $63. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Kota Kinabalu $18
    Kuala Lumpur $37
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Kota Kinabalu $36
    Kuala Lumpur $74
Compare Hotels in Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur

Looking for a hotel in Kota Kinabalu or Kuala Lumpur? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Kota Kinabalu


Hotels in Kuala Lumpur


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Kota Kinabalu Hotel Prices and Kuala Lumpur Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Kota Kinabalu $22
    Kuala Lumpur $6.48

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Kota Kinabalu

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Kota Kinabalu:

  • Transfer from Kota Kinabalu Port to Kota Kinabalu Airport (BKI): $28
  • Transfer from Kota Kinabalu Airport BKI to Kota Kinabalu Port: $28
  • Private Transfer- Kota Kinabalu Port to Kota Kinabalu Airport BKI: $32
  • Private Transfer from Kota Kota Kinabalu Hotels to Kinabalu Port: $28
  • Private Transfer from Kota Kinabalu Port to Kota Kinabalu hotels: $28
  • Private Transfer from Kota Kinabalu Port to Kota Kinabalu hotels: $32
  • One Way Transfer from Kota Kinabal Airport to/from Kota Kinabali: $25
  • Monsopiad Cultural Village Visit with Private Transfer from Kota Kinabalu: $31
  • Kota Kinabalu to Kota Kinab Airport: Departure Private Transfer: $23
  • Kota Kinabalu Hotel to Jetty Round Trip Transfer: $52
  • Borneo to Kota Kinabalu Airport(BKI) - Departure Private Transfer: $46

Typical Local Transportation Prices in Kuala Lumpur

Some typical examples of transportation costs in Kuala Lumpur are as follows:


  • Taxi Ride
    $3.18
  • Metro Ride (for Two)
    $0.68
  • Short Taxi Ride
    $3.18
  • Taxi From Airport
    $19
  • Bus from Airport
    $1.70
  • Train & Boat to Pulau Ketam
    $2.54

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Kuala Lumpur

Also for Kuala Lumpur, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Kuala Lumpur International Airport Departure Transfer KLIA1/KLIA2: $13
  • Private Kuala Lumpur Airport Arrival Transfer: $15
  • Airport Transfer Mpv Private From KLIA, KLIA2 : $17
  • PVT Departure Transfer <> Kuala Lumpur to KLIA 1/2: $17
  • Kuala Lumpur Hotels to Sunway Lagoon Theme Park Transfer (1-way): $17
  • Sunway Lagoon Theme Park to Kuala Lumpur Hotels Transfer: $17
  • Sunway Lagoon Theme Park to Kuala Lumpur Hotels Transfer (1-way): $17
  • Kuala Lumpur Airport Transfer to Kuala Lumpur City: $18
  • Kuala Lumpur Hotel to Airport Transfer: $18
  • Kuala Lumpur International Airport Departure Transfer : $18
  • Kuala Lumpur Airport Arrival Transfer En-route Putrajaya Tour: $18
  • Private: Kuala Lumpur International Airport Arrival Transfer: $18

Is it cheaper to fly into Kota Kinabalu or Kuala Lumpur?

Prices for flights to both Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Kota Kinabalu $15
    Kuala Lumpur $15

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Kota Kinabalu

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Kota Kinabalu.

  • Kota Kinabalu K2 Fireflies Sunset River Cruise Tour with Dinner: $86
  • Ethnic Cooking Class & Upside Down House & 3D Wonders Museum: $92
  • Half Day Klias Mangrove Wildlife and Fireflies with dinner: $128
  • Kota Kinabalu Sunset Cruise with Buffet Dinner: $187
  • Kota Kinabalu Sunset Cruise with Buffet Dinner: $187

Typical Food Prices in Kuala Lumpur

For Kuala Lumpur, here are some examples of average food and meal prices for travelers:


  • Dinner at Ding Tai Fung
    $8.48
  • Roti Bread
    $0.21
  • Food Court Lunch
    $3.05
  • Dinner at Indian Restaurant (for Two)
    $4.56

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Kuala Lumpur

For Kuala Lumpur, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • ARAS Restaurant at KL Tower Buffet Dinner: $29
  • Nightlife Street Food Tour with 6 Tastings: $41
  • Sambal Streets Kuala Lumpur Food Tour with 15+ Tastings: $49
  • Street Food Tour with 15+ Tastings: $49
  • Kuala Lumpur Malaysian Cultural Night Experience with Buffet Dinner : $53
  • From Kuala Selangor Fireflies Tour with Dinner: $54
  • Best Local Food Tour by Night at Kuala Lumpur : $55
  • Cultural Night Tour with Dinner: $55
  • Malaysia Cooking Classes: $60
  • Spiritual Healing and Authentic Cooking with Local Host: $61
  • Kuala Lumpur by Night and Malaysian Food Tour: $62
  • Petaling Street Heritage Food Tour: $63

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Kota Kinabalu $5.73
    Kuala Lumpur $14

Tours and Activities in Kota Kinabalu

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Kota Kinabalu are as follows:

  • Sky-Mirror Photographing and Proboscis Monkey & Fireflies Watching River-Cruise: $46
  • Borneo (Klias) River Cruise & Fireflies Tour: $50
  • Borneo Combo Adventure: $200
  • Cowboy Town & Fireflies River Cruise: $62
  • Cultural Night Tour From Kota Kinabalu : $64
  • Discover Engaging City Walk Shared Tour: $84
  • Discover Sailing Experience in Tanjung Aru Beach: $76
  • From Kota Kinabalu : Kiulu White Water Rafting Tour + meal: $59
  • Full Day Bongawan River Cruise with Proboscis Monkey Sightseeing: $40
  • Full Day River Rafting with ATV Adventure in Kiulu : $296
  • Full Day Tour in Mantanani: $140
  • Indigenous Weaving Experience: $236

Typical Entertainment Prices in Kuala Lumpur

Below are a few sample prices from actual travelers for Kuala Lumpur's activities, tours, and tickets:


  • KL Tower Admission (for Two)
    $9.53
  • Canopy Walk at FRIM Forest Reserve
    $1.06

Tours and Activities in Kuala Lumpur

For Kuala Lumpur, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • KL Tower Admission E-Ticket with Options: $3.97
  • Malaysia: KL Tower Entry Ticket: $4.65
  • Jungle Gym KL East Mall Ticket: $6.30
  • Jungle Gym Lalaport Ticket: $6.30
  • Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Bus Pass: $7.87
  • Zoo Negara Instant Entry E-Ticket: $8.15
  • Aquaria KLCC Entry Ticket: $9.92
  • KL Tower Observation Deck Entry Ticket: $11
  • KL Tower Admission Ticket: $12
  • KL Tower Admission Ticket: $12
  • Berjaya Times Square Theme Park Entry Ticket: $13
  • KL Tower Admission Ticket: $13

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Kota Kinabalu $6.40
    Kuala Lumpur $6.28

Typical Alcohol Prices in Kuala Lumpur

Some typical examples of the costs for nightlife and alcohol in Kuala Lumpur are as follows:


  • Bottle of Wine
    $9.53


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur, we can see that Kuala Lumpur is more expensive. And not only is Kota Kinabalu much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Kota Kinabalu would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Kota Kinabalu and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Kuala Lumpur would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Kuala Lumpur than you might in Kota Kinabalu.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Kota Kinabalu Expensive? and Is Kuala Lumpur Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Kota Kinabalu or Kuala Lumpur?

Kuala Lumpur has a larger population, and is about 3 times larger than the population of Kota Kinabalu. When comparing the sizes of Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.


When is the best time to visit Kota Kinabalu or Kuala Lumpur?

Both destinations experience a warmer climate most of the year. Instead of summer and winter seasons, they usually have a rainy season and a dry season. Although in the rainy season, it doesn't necessarily rain every day.

Should I visit Kota Kinabalu or Kuala Lumpur in the Summer?

Both Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu during the summer are popular places to visit. Plenty of visitors come to Kota Kinabalu because of the warm climate and sunshine that lasts throughout the year. Warm weather and sunshine bring visitors to Kuala Lumpur year-round.

Kuala Lumpur gets a good bit of rain this time of year. It rains a lot this time of the year in Kota Kinabalu. Kota Kinabalu usually gets more rain in July than Kuala Lumpur. Kota Kinabalu gets 255 mm (10 in) of rain, while Kuala Lumpur receives 150 mm (5.9 in) of rain this time of the year.

In Kuala Lumpur, it's very sunny this time of the year. It's quite sunny in Kota Kinabalu. In the summer, Kota Kinabalu often gets around the same amount of sunshine as Kuala Lumpur. Kota Kinabalu gets 205 hours of sunny skies this time of year, while Kuala Lumpur receives 200 hours of full sun.

In the summer, Kota Kinabalu is around the same temperature as Kuala Lumpur. Typically, the summer temperatures in Kota Kinabalu in July average around 27°C (81°F), and Kuala Lumpur averages at about 28°C (82°F).


  • Summer Average Temperatures July
    Kota Kinabalu 27°C (81°F) 
    Kuala Lumpur 28°C (82°F)

Should I visit Kota Kinabalu or Kuala Lumpur in the Autumn?

The autumn attracts plenty of travelers to both Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur. Warm weather and sunshine bring visitors to Kota Kinabalu year-round. Kuala Lumpur attracts visitors year-round for its warm weather and sunny climate.

Kuala Lumpur receives a lot of rain in the autumn. Kota Kinabalu gets a good bit of rain this time of year. In October, Kota Kinabalu usually receives more rain than Kuala Lumpur. Kota Kinabalu gets 336 mm (13.2 in) of rain, while Kuala Lumpur receives 280 mm (11 in) of rain each month for the autumn.

Kota Kinabalu usually receives more sunshine than Kuala Lumpur during autumn. Kota Kinabalu gets 192 hours of sunny skies, while Kuala Lumpur receives 169 hours of full sun in the autumn.

In October, Kota Kinabalu is generally around the same temperature as Kuala Lumpur. Daily temperatures in Kota Kinabalu average around 27°C (81°F), and Kuala Lumpur fluctuates around 27°C (81°F).


  • Autumn Average Temperatures October
    Kota Kinabalu 27°C (81°F) 
    Kuala Lumpur 27°C (81°F)

Should I visit Kota Kinabalu or Kuala Lumpur in the Winter?

The winter brings many poeple to Kota Kinabalu as well as Kuala Lumpur. Kota Kinabalu attracts visitors year-round for its warm weather and sunny climate. The warm climate attracts visitors to Kuala Lumpur throughout the year.

It's quite rainy in Kuala Lumpur. Kota Kinabalu receives a lot of rain in the winter. Kota Kinabalu usually gets less rain in January than Kuala Lumpur. Kota Kinabalu gets 129 mm (5.1 in) of rain, while Kuala Lumpur receives 239 mm (9.4 in) of rain this time of the year.

In the winter, Kota Kinabalu often gets around the same amount of sunshine as Kuala Lumpur. Kota Kinabalu gets 181 hours of sunny skies this time of year, while Kuala Lumpur receives 185 hours of full sun.

Kota Kinabalu is around the same temperature as Kuala Lumpur in the winter. The daily temperature in Kota Kinabalu averages around 26°C (79°F) in January, and Kuala Lumpur fluctuates around 27°C (81°F).


  • Winter Average Temperatures January
    Kota Kinabalu 26°C (79°F) 
    Kuala Lumpur 27°C (81°F)

Should I visit Kota Kinabalu or Kuala Lumpur in the Spring?

Both Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu are popular destinations to visit in the spring with plenty of activities. The warm climate attracts visitors to Kota Kinabalu throughout the year. Plenty of visitors come to Kuala Lumpur because of the warm climate and sunshine that lasts throughout the year.

It rains a lot this time of the year in Kuala Lumpur. It's quite rainy in Kota Kinabalu. In April, Kota Kinabalu usually receives less rain than Kuala Lumpur. Kota Kinabalu gets 112 mm (4.4 in) of rain, while Kuala Lumpur receives 240 mm (9.4 in) of rain each month for the spring.

The sun comes out a lot this time of the year in Kota Kinabalu. Kota Kinabalu usually receives more sunshine than Kuala Lumpur during spring. Kota Kinabalu gets 237 hours of sunny skies, while Kuala Lumpur receives 199 hours of full sun in the spring.

In the spring, Kota Kinabalu is around the same temperature as Kuala Lumpur. Typically, the spring temperatures in Kota Kinabalu in April average around 28°C (82°F), and Kuala Lumpur averages at about 28°C (82°F).


  • Spring Average Temperatures April
    Kota Kinabalu 28°C (82°F) 
    Kuala Lumpur 28°C (82°F)

Typical Weather for Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu Kuala Lumpur
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 26°C (79°F) 129 mm (5.1 in) 27°C (81°F) 239 mm (9.4 in)
Feb 26°C (80°F) 64 mm (2.5 in) 28°C (82°F) 200 mm (7.9 in)
Mar 27°C (81°F) 61 mm (2.4 in) 28°C (82°F) 260 mm (10.2 in)
Apr 28°C (82°F) 112 mm (4.4 in) 28°C (82°F) 240 mm (9.4 in)
May 28°C (82°F) 226 mm (8.9 in) 28°C (82°F) 190 mm (7.5 in)
Jun 28°C (82°F) 291 mm (11.5 in) 28°C (82°F) 160 mm (6.3 in)
Jul 27°C (81°F) 255 mm (10 in) 28°C (82°F) 150 mm (5.9 in)
Aug 27°C (81°F) 260 mm (10.2 in) 28°C (82°F) 160 mm (6.3 in)
Sep 27°C (81°F) 285 mm (11.2 in) 27°C (81°F) 200 mm (7.9 in)
Oct 27°C (81°F) 336 mm (13.2 in) 27°C (81°F) 280 mm (11 in)
Nov 27°C (81°F) 298 mm (11.7 in) 27°C (81°F) 290 mm (11.4 in)
Dec 27°C (80°F) 230 mm (9.1 in) 27°C (81°F) 250 mm (9.8 in)