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Kuala Lumpur Nightlife - Best Nightclubs and Bars in KL (2016)

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars) →
I would not recommend going to KL specifically for partying, but if you happen to be in town, there are enough good venues to have fun. The following review will guide you to the best bars and nightclubs in the city as of late 2016.

Comments, criticism and questions are much welcome, just write them below at the end of the article.

KL Nightlife
Nightlife in Kuala Lumpur has a poor reputation as Malaysia is considered one of the most conservative countries in Asia. Authorities often cancel high-profile concerts due to religious and cultural issues, such as Beyonce in 2007 or Ke$ha in 2013. Lady Gaga is banned from performing as well. More recently, Islamist militants protested against the venue of Elton John because he was homosexual and Selena Gomez for being "too sexy".

The government is actually rather hypocrite. While flirting with Islamists, the current prime minister, Najib Razak is also the grand-son of the cofounder of Genting Berhad, one of the largest casino operators in the world and also the owner of nightclubs like Zouk. It is not surprising that in March, his son was able to replace DJ Fadi in Zouk Singapore, causing a backlash from fans

The low-point of KL nightlife for me is the generally poor atmosphere within nightclubs. Communities don't seem interested to mix. Chinese go to Chinese clubs, Arabs to Arab Clubs, Indians to Indian clubs, etc. Within nightclubs, party-goers will stay in groups around tables and avoid any interactions with others. Expat hangouts seem more diverse and open though.

Even worse, you can feel racial tensions from time to time. Just last week, I was on Jalan Changkat Bukit Bintang having a drink when a group of rich Malay teenagers started to bully an Indian guy because he was staring at one of their girls. They made him beg for forgiveness on his knees. I had the impression it was racially motivated. The same evening, I received a copious amount of insults, again from very young Malays, because I had let my glass on their table. This contrasted with the rest of the Malaysian population that I found really friendly in general.

Nightclubs in KL also have a disproportionate percentage of males, and few unattached ladies. Malay girls are a rare sight: By law, they are not allowed to drink alcohol and they cannot sleep with a guy they are not married with. This means the girls you'll meet in KL are often Malaysian-Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino or Indian. There are also quite many European, American and Australian girls, both tourists and expats.

The price of alcohol drinks is higher than in Bangkok, Saigon, Phnom Penh or Manila, but still cheaper than in Jakarta at around 7$-10$ for a cocktail and 3$-5$ for a beer. Bottle service is almost always the best option if you are a group of more than 4 people.

In most nightclubs, you need to be at least 21 to enter. They will check your ID if you look young. Many venues close at 3-4am, Zouk at 5am. 

Nightlife Areas in Kuala Lumpur

TREC
Many of the trendiest nightlife spots in KL are located in a new complex called TREC, just outside of the city. It is huge, drawing several thousands visitors on weekends, and consists of nightclubs, bars and restaurants. Each of them comes with a different stereotyped theme. You have a hipster bar, an Irish bar, a speakeasy, a small rooftop, a wine bar, a comedy club, a piano bar, an electro bar, an exotic bar, a shisha bar and an artsy bar.

The whole place feels kind of fake, but it is efficient and practical. To go there, it's only a short taxi ride from the city center. You can then just move from one bar to the other very easily. Many clubbers in TREC are Malaysian-Chinese, and foreigners are still rare. You should dress up to avoid looking like a tourist: Shoes, pants and shirts are a must.

The bars/clubs I recommend are Como (Tapas, lots of techno DJs), Arte Bar (non-commercial dance music and hip hop, hot girls) and Le Noir (great live music, older crowd). On a Saturday, almost all venues are crowded and happening actually. You can check TREC's Facebook for the complete list.

It is also in TREC that you have the city's largest and most famous nightclub, Zouk (see below), as well as smaller ones like Vibes or the boutique club Red Room.

Zouk:
I don't really like Zouk but it is still a must-try if you go to TREC. It is the most crowded nightclub, the best designed and the one with the most happening events in KL. The sound and lighting system is also really impressive.

It is made of several rooms:
- The main one where guest DJs play, ACE (hip hop and R&B)
- Phuture (EDM and Mash-Up)
- Velvet Underground (House)
- Apex Lounge (Retro)
- Imperial (VIP room).

Bottle service costs from 95$ up to 120$ depending on the time, the day, the event and the kind of entry you choose (premium or normal). A bottle gives free entry to 4-6 pax. Alternatively, a single entrance with 1 drink costs between 5$ and 10$. They enforce strict dress code and strict age verification.

City Center
The city center of KL is not that big. I visited all the areas below by foot and it didn't take so much time. If you need a nearby hotel you can check: Hotels near City Center Nightlife in Kuala Lumpur.

Jalan Changkat Bukit Bintang
This is a small and lively street in downtown KL with numerous bars and nightclubs. It is more messy than TREC, with traffic jams, street sellers and a constant flow of people on the sidewalk. You'll find more foreigners, particularly backpackers. There are also many Middle-easterners due to the proximity of Arab Street (Bukit Bintang). It is not a very stylish area and you'll be fine wearing shorts and sandals.

Some of the most crowded bars are Havana (Latin music), Gypsy (retro) and Movida (for dancing). The nightclub Zion was also recently opened in the street and features 3 rooms (Hip Hop, Dance Music, Reggae).

In nearby streets, Nagaba is supposed to be popular with tourists but it was rather quiet when I visited. It is built on 3 floors including a Hip Hop room, an EDM room and a rooftop. Next to it is Pisco bar (same owner as Como) and the jazz club No Black Tie.

Near Jalan P Ramlee
Though near from the Petronas towers, this street is rather seedy with two famous freelance prostitute bars: The Beach Club and the Thai Club. Both are institutions among foreigners looking to pay for sex. Girls are most often from Vietnam, Indonesian, Thailand or the Philippines.

The Thai Club is on the ground floor of Cabana Inn (which seems to act as a short-time hotel.) Nearby, there are a few other venues such as the nightclubs Liquid Room (Malay/Indian/Arab crowd) and Bollywood Night Lovers (Indian crowd).

Pavillion Mall
This mall has a high-traffic F&B area with many popular venues, usually part of larger chains. These include La Bodega (Tapas Bar). Weissbrau (German Bistro), Malone's (Irish Pub) and Tom, Dick and Harry's Live (with live band). Even though alcohol runs free flow, it is a family and Muslim friendly area.

The Row
Formerly called Asian Heritage Row, this complex on Jalan Doraisamy is your typical hipster/hippy hangout. It has a few restaurants, pubs and live music spots (Timbré). Walking distance, you have two nightclubs from a previous era: Main Room (local crowd, freelance prostitutes) and Echo (currently closed for renovation).

Other spots in the city center
Under 9 also called U9 is a trance, techno and minimal underground club. It is only open on Saturdays until 3am and packed with expats.

Zeta is the bar of the Hilton Hotel. It is the only one with daily live imported bands. Quite a few freelancers inside (it was on my list of Prostitute Bars in Asian Hotels.

Club Kyo is not open yet but it might become the best nightclub in Kuala Lumpur if it keeps the same standards as its sister Singaporean venue (more information about it: Singapore Nightlife Guide).

Outside  KL Center

Bangsar
This is an area where many Western expats live. You have several pubs and bars in Jalan Telawi 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. A new nightclub called Jiro has good music but it is still quiet. Other venues like the nightclubs Echo Bangsar and T Club & Bar (Bhangra music) target mostly Arabic and South Asian customers. You also have a rooftop bar called Mantra.

Petaling Jaya
I haven't been to Petaling Jaya as it is a suburban town 15-20 kilometers away from KL. Some of the nightclubs are apparently worth the expedition like the flashy Play Club at the Roof complex (young and rich local crowd) or Soju in Sunway Resort.

Rooftop Bars with Views on Petronas Towers
One of the cool things to do in KL is to have a pre-party drink in a rooftop bar with a view on the Petronas towers. They are usually upmarket so you should wear nice clothes.

Perhaps the most famous is the very average Sky Bar inside the 4-star Shangri La Traders Hotel. It has indeed a great view (and an indoor swimming pool), but likes in sophistication.

The Heli Lounge Bar is more impressive as it offers a 360° view from a helipad and hosts regular live bands (the photo above was taken from there).

Marini on 57 is a chic Italian lounge/restaurant very close from the towers. It is rather expensive but perfect for a date.

Frisky is an alternative bar with regular movie nights and non-commercial techno and deep house music.

The trendy Elysium Bar + Terrace is my personal favorite. They have excellent guest DJs, friendly staff, reasonable prices (especially during happy hours from 5 to 9pm) and a rather eclectic crowd. Part of the same group and just one floor below, you have an upscale and intimate nightclub called Prime Touch Luxury that targets younger Malaysians. It is one of the few where you might see sexy dancers and Russian hostesses in Central KL.

Other:
MarketPlace, which has a view on the Petronas towers is the main gay club in KL.

Prostitution in KL: Hostess Bars, Gogos, Karaoke, Spas
Prostitution is rather common in Kuala Lumpur. Apart from the venues mentioned above such as Thai Club, Beach Club and Zeta, you'll be often offered "young girls" by taxis drivers around Jalan Changkat Bukit Bintang. In the area, some smaller bars have hostesses like Tiger Tim's Pub or the very basic Carmania Drinking Studio (African).

Most locals visit "Thai clubs" (not necessarily with Thai girls). These venues have either live music, a DJ or a live show (sexy dancers, fashion show, models, etc). There are always pretty hostesses to whom you can buy flower garlands or lady drinks in exchange for company (they might go home with you as well depending on your generosity). There are dozens of them in the city, especially outside KL city center (Mount Kiara, Hartamas, Petaling Jaya, Brickfields) and they target wealthy Malaysian-Chinese or other Asians. The famous ones are Paramount Club, OSS, Sense Club, Level Club, Kingsway Club, T-Ruc, W Club, Onyx or OS3.

In the city center, you have several luxury karaokes/KTVs that have prostitutes: De Vegas or Bintang Palace.

Finally, the famous massage parlours "plus plus" are Bond Spa and Genesis Spa (that also has a small lounge called Livello).

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In case you heard about them, the nightclubs Providence, Rootz, Modestos, Sultan Lounge and Gravity are closed.
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