About This Guide
Arriving and Leaving Kuala Lumpur
Where to Stay in Kuala Lumpur
My Travel Gear
Common Durians Varieties in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur durian Stalls
Other Things To Do
How To Get Around
Malaysia Durian Map
I admit it; Malaysia stole my heart five years ago and hasn’t yet given it back. It means I spend a lot of time in its largest city, Kuala Lumpur, either in transit to another part of the country or to meet up with friends and have a durian party.
K.L. has only 1.5 million people, and it’s diminutive size compared to other Southeast Asian cities like Bangkok give the city a cozier feel than Bangkok or Jakarta. Sidewalks and streets are narrow and colorful. Each little neighborhoods has a strong personality, and you can easily wander from Chinatown to Little India to the Arab district while admiring the varied architecture and smelling all the wonderful food.
Speaking of smells, the city is littered with durian stalls for KL’s foodies to easily abate their durian cravings. Read on for more information about types of durians usually being served and where to find them.
The Visa Situation
One of the reasons I spend more time in Malaysia than Thailand is that for most of us, the tourist visa situation in Malaysia is much, much easier. In Thailand you get 30 days on entry; in Malaysia it’s 90 days. That means I can easily spend 6 months of my life in Malaysia, no questions asked, no money spent on visas.
From the Airport to the City
There used to be two airports in KL; now there is one, but it has two terminals (KLIA1 and KLIA2) which are not internally connected. KLIA2 is sometimes called the “budget” terminal, it’s where most Air Asia flights depart.
Bus from KLIA2 to Downtown
This is the cheapest option and the one I regularly utilize. The bus departs every 15 minutes from the lowest level of KLIA2 or the lowest level of KL Sentral in downtown Kuala Lumpur. It takes anywhere from 40 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on how horrible the traffic on the highway is. As of writing, it costs about 11RM ($3 USD). If you’re flying on Air Asia, you can often buy your bus ticket as an add-on with your flight. The cost is the same either way.
When my Mom and Dad came to visit me, we considered taking the “KLIA Ekspres” from the airport. It also goes to KL Sentral, but takes only 30 minutes, has WiFi, and some lovely views as you approach the city. However, it also costs 55RM ($13 USD) or 100RM roundtrip and departs every 15-20 minutes.
Taxi or Uber
There are plenty of taxi drivers who will call out for your attention as you approach the exit to the KL airport, but Uber is cheaper and works really well in Malaysia. Grab a SIM card at the airport or use the free Wifi and be on your way with a friendly, English-speaking driver. Using Uber costs about 80RM from the city center.
KL is a massive city, with many neighborhoods. These are three areas you should consider when looking for somewhere to stay in Kuala Lumpur. Unfortunately, none of them (except Chow Kit) are very close to the really good durian stalls.
Bintang is more upscale, with plenty of flashpacker choices and close proximity to massage parlors, glitzy malls, and the famous food street, Jalan Alor. You can buy some shamefully overpriced durian there.
Chinatown is a bit more rundown, but it’s where I typically stay because of its proximity to the Lake Parks (good for a jog) and the ease of getting to the airport and around the city. The durian options are more affordable than Jalan Alor, but still not good prices.
Chow Kit If you’re a fruit lover or someone who makes fruit the predominant source of your calories, you might consider staying near Chow Kit Market. This is a great place to pick up all sorts of fruits, coconuts, and plenty of reasonable quality durians. There aren’t many budget places here, but the midrange Regency Hotel is just across the street.
Where I Stay As a budget backpacker, I usually stay at the Grocer’s Inn on Jalan Sultan. You get what you pay for, and that’s a warning. If I have friends in town or I need an air conditioned, quiet space to work, I stay at Hotel Geo. It’s a mid-range hotel right next to the LRT station (you can’t hear the trains inside) with great views of the city and very comfortable, Western-style rooms. I’ve also had the opportunity to stay at the Majestic Hotel, a luxury 5-star hotel right next to the Islamic Museum that I would definitely recommend.
Note: Links to hotels are affiliate links, meaning that if you make a booking, at NO extra expense to you, I’ll receive a small commission. Thank you in advance for your support, much appreciated!
Here are a few of the things I carry with me when I’m in Malaysia and pretty much everywhere (these are Amazon affiliate links). For more of the stuff I pack, see What’s in My Bag.
Kuala Lumpur Durian Guide
Now for the aim and focus of your trip to Kuala Lumpur — how to get your fingers plunged into some satisfying durian heft asap, no, faster than asap.
Kuala Lumpur has a lot of good places to buy durian. Some are simple trucks that pull up to the same spot every night for decades, others are comfortable indoor cafes with fans, protection from the elements, and refrigerated drinks. Some are open all year, some are seasonal. Some places cater to connoisseurs, others to durian lovers who are just hungry, plain and simple. Pick your stall/restaurant based on your needs, using the map below to help you get oriented.
Durian is seasonal, and typically Kuala Lumpur experiences 2 seasons: a big crop in late June to early September, and a smaller season in December to January.
This should be your biggest consideration when choosing a durian stand. Many of KL’s stalls and durian restaurants simply pack up and go home when durian flow is low, so pick a place that is known to be open all year if traveling on the off-season. Typically the worst times for durian in KL are October and March or April. If that’s when you’re planning your trip, check out 3 Places to Find Durian All Year (plus Donald’s, below).
There are over 130 varieties of durian in Malaysia, but some are nationwide phenoms while others can only be found in specific villages. A few places will import regional specialities from as far away as Penang or Thailand, but the majority of durian stalls in Kuala Lumpur focus on durians grown closer to home.
These are the five varieties you are most likely to encounter on your forays into Kuala Lumpur durian.
D24 is still one of the most widly available durians, although it’s not quite as wildly popular as it was in the 80’s and 90’s. Back then it was the only durian grown on a commercial scale. Today, it’s star is on the wane as Musang King becomes the most widely sought after durian for export to China and Singapore. Being the old faithful doesn’t mean you should neglect D24 on your trip to KL.
One of the densest, stickiest durians, eating D24 is a lot like biting into cookie dough. It’s sweet and medium-firm, with a pleasant caramel-sweetness and a slight bitterness. It’s also typically one of the most affordable durians.
If this photo looks pretty much exactly like the D24 photo above, that’s because most connoisseurs agree that XO is just a fancier name for D24.
What makes it different from D24 is whatever the durian seller has decided makes it better quality. Maybe it’s from an old tree, or maybe the tree was in the highlands, or maybe it’s just very fresh. Whatever the cause, XO is often better quality than D24, and it might be worth paying extra for XO. Keep your eyes (and nose) open.
D101 is an exception. Most Malaysians will swear up and down they don’t like sweet durians, that sweet durians are the swill of Thailand, and in the same breath will pledge their love to Musang King. D101 is one of the few Malaysian durians beloved for its sweetness, mildness, and total lack of alcoholic punch.
A good quality D101 will have a fine, fluffy texture and a rosy yellow color — a bad one will be firm and fibrous. D101’s are often the favorite of families or those who rarely eat durian. They’re big, meaty fruits with plenty to share. The catch is that so many durian n00bs love D101, durian sellers may be a bit more lax with quality when serving. Buyer beware.
Musang King / Raja Kunyit / Mao Shan Wong
This durian has 3 names; one in English, one in Malayu, and one in Chinese, although Mao Shan Wong is more commonly used in Singapore than Malaysia.
Musang King is famous for its dry, sticky texture and waxy skin that peels neatly off very thin, flat seeds without even getting your fingers sticky. It’s sweeter than most durians and less pungent than D24. It’s the durian my parents preferred on their trip to Malaysia. It’s usually a good one for beginners.
Unfortunately, it’s also the most expensive durian in Malaysia. Last summer, prices rose as high as 80 RM/kilo in the off season, and hovered around 50 RM/kilo on the regular season. Since it’s so expensive, it’s important to be able to identify it so you don’t get ripped off. Use this Identification Guide to save your wallet and your tastebuds.
Red Prawn / Udang Merah / Ang Hae
Red Prawn is growing in popularity in KL. It originates in Penang, in the far north of Malaysia, but has been more widely planted in Johor, the southern state. Today almost all the Red Prawns in KL come from Johor, not Penang.
These Johorian Red Prawns have a totally different flavor than the Penang ones, so don’t expect the same deal if you are already a Penang Red Prawn addict and have a hankering.
What remains the same is that the flesh is very soft and fiberless, they have a tendency toward cherry-flavor, and either a dark yellow or orangey color inside. You can learn to recognize Red Prawn with this Identification Guide.
When it’s not durian season in Malaysia, some stalls will import durians from Thailand or the northern Malaysian provinces. The most common variety to find in the off season (October or March and April) is Chanee.
Be aware that the most unscrupulous will try to pass this durian off as a Musang King. It’s not, and even when it’s the durian off-season it shouldn’t cost as much as Musang King either.
It’s usually a solid choice — it’s hard to find a truly bad Chanee.
You can find a lot more information about Thai durians in this big, fat Thailand Durian Guide (234 ePages).
“Kampung” is the catch-all term for a durian that doesn’t have a varietal name. Either the durian came from a tree grown from the seed of unknown genetics, or the tree’s owner forgot what it was and just lump it in with the kampungs.
Kampungs are a wild card. They are most often have white flesh, but some have yellow or even orange. If Forest Gump had served in Malaysia, he might have said “Life is like a basket of kampungs. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
Some people find the element of surprise addicting, like opening Christmas presents, and there are plenty of sworn kampung devotees who won’t touch a durian with a name. It’s convenient that kampungs tend to be the cheapest durians available, so if you don’t like the taste of one, you can chuck it in the basket and try for another.
I’ve included all of these stalls in a Google map below (scroll to bottom). Click each stall to go to a blog post about my experience eating durian there.
Chow Kit Market I ate my very first Malaysian durian at one of the durian stalls at Chow Kit Market. It was a D88. There are 2-5 durian stalls at this market depending on the time of year, with tables and chairs where you can sit down and admire the furious amount of activity and traffic puttering through the market. The selection of varieties aren’t as impressive here as at other stalls, but there’s always durian here, any time of year, and they’re open incredibly late and early. Chow Kit Market is in the downtown area of Kuala Lumpur. Open Hours: some stalls open nearly 24/7, but more stalls open from 3PM-11PM. Address: 3, Jalan Raja Alang, Chow Kit. Park at the Regency Hotel and walk.
Donald’s Durian Cafe Probably the best choice for durian connoisseurs, Donald’s is a classic, founded over 30 years ago. Donald himself has passed away, and it’s now run by his wife, Cindy, daughter Sue, and all of the old staff. It’s a comfortable indoor eaterie in Section 19, only a 600 meter walk from its old location in SS2. I’ve found Donald’s to have some of the best selection of varieties, and the durian servers really seem to know what they’re doing. When I went during the low season this year, they had the standard D24 and Musang King, but also D18, D78, D99, and D101, at a time when other durian stalls were nearly dry. Open Hours: 1pm-12am Address: 15, Jalan 19/29, Seksyen 19, Petaling Jaya.
Wai’s Durian Stall (SS2 Durian Station) This was the only stall not asked by the KL government to move from the old SS2 Durian Street and it’s still there. I’ve visited this outdoor, covered stall many times, and I’ve always found it to have a good selection of durian varieties, including Horlor, Jantung, D24, XO, Tekka, Musang King. They also serve durian gelato and sweet Thai coconuts. Open Hours: 12pm -12am Address: 193, Jalan SS 2/24, SS 2, 47300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
Say Heng Durian Stall Located in a KL suburb called USJ-14, getting to Say Heng takes some adventures on Kuala Lumpur’s serpentine highway toll system. The stall is a sparsely covered strip of durian stalls in a Petronas Petrol station parking lot. The durian servers were some of the friendliest that I’ve encountered in KL, and the durians they served were solid quality, even though it wasn’t the main durian season. We had Jantung and a durian called Margarine. Open Hours: 12pm – 12am Address: USJ Pedak 11 & 12, Kiosk USJ 14, Subang Jaya, Usj 14
Soon Huat Durian Stall This stall is easily accessible by public transit compared to others, even if it’s not in the city center. I took the LRT train to Cempaka Station and walked the 500 meters to a row of white tents housing durian restaurants. I thought this stall was spacious and they had a good supply of durians, so the quality was decent. The varieties available were basic. We had D24, D18, Tekka, and Musang King. Address: Jalan Cempaka 3, Taman Cempaka.
King of the King This small outdoor stall behind the Police Station in SS2 is one of my favorites. The guys are really friendly and let me stick around with my surveys and bother their customers for days when I was doing some research for the ISHS Durian Symposium. I haven’t been back to check out their stall since the government asked all the durian sellers in SS2 to move location, but the report from other durian hunters is that they are still there. I had my first D78 at this stall, which remains one of my favorites. Address: Corner of Jalan SS 2/65 and Jalan SS 2/24
Sri Hartamas Durian Truck This durian truck has parked in the same place every night for the past 16 years, regardless of the season. When I visited in early May, clearly not the durian season yet, they were still selling Puangmanee and Chanee from Thailand under pseudonyms. Located in one of the more upscale neighborhoods, it’s a fun, trendy area to spend a (rain-free) evening. Seating is open air on low stools along the street. Open Hours: around 4pm – 11pm Address: Across the street from Coffea Coffee at 1, Jalan 26/70a, Desa Sri Hartamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur.
Chinatown Durian Truck This truck filled with packets of durian, usually D24 and Musang King, parks downstairs of the Grocer’s Inn in the evenings around 5pm to 11pm. It’s manned by Emile and his mother. Prices are usually around 20RM per packet, which is about double what you can find elsewhere in the city but worth it for the convenience. No seating areas are associated with the truck, but the many street restaurants around don’t mind if you borrow a chair. Open Hours: around 5pm – 12pm Address: In front of the Grocer’s Inn at 78, Jalan Sultan, City Centre, Kuala Lumpur.
Durian Kafe (Durian souvenirs) This durian-themed cafe near the Pasar Seni shopping complex in Chinatown sells everything durian for you to take home as souvenirs. You can get durian coffee, cookies, freeze-dried durian, various little cakes and durian-flavored biscuits, t-shirts and key chains, and more. They also sell some desserts made on-site, like durian popiah, durian cendol, and durian crepes.
Little Yum Yum (Fresh durians and Food) Dan Kit is a durian fanatic with a restaurant, and when durians are in season he makes sure to be well stocked with interesting varieties and good quality fruits. He is also guerilla-gardening in the parking lot to stock his menu with fresh herbs and greens and in another 9 years or so, his DIY durian. Open Hours: Tues-Sat 11pm – 2:30pm and 5pm to 9.30pm. Dinner only Sundays and closed Mondays. Address: E-G, 45, Jalan Teknologi 3/9, Kota Damansara, Selangor
Durian Durian (Desserts) This is a chain that you can find at a lot of different malls in KL, including the Midvalley Megamall, and Suria KLCC beneath the Petronas Twin Towers. Speaking of..
Not hungry yet or too stuffed to devour more durian? The best thing to do in Kuala Lumpur is work up an appetite by walking the relatively pedestrian friendly streets and just taking it all in. There’s so much just to look at.
Architects, artists, and historians will love the many different styles of buildings with influences from all of the cultures that make up Malaysia today. Nature lovers can escape from the traffic in one of the many large parks, or head to the outskirts to visit a forest parks like FRIM.
Petronas Towers The buildings that make the iconic KL skyline used to be the highest in the world. They stand at 452 meters (1,483 feet) tall. You can buy tickets to stand on Skybridge and Observation Deck, but the number of tickets are limited per day so its probably best to buy them online in advance. The towers sit on a huge glitzy mall (Suria KLCC) and a large, pretty park. Cost: 85RM ($20.50 USD) Open Hours: 9am-9pm Tues- Sat, also closed mid-day Fridays.
Batu Caves This Hindu pilgrimage site is on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in Gombak. There are several temples built in and around the caves. I’ve been three or four times now with friends and family visiting Malaysia, and they’re always impressed. Go early as it can get oppressively hot, then head down to the foot of the stairs (literally) for some coconuts or Indian vegetarian food. Just watch out for monkeys. You can travel here by city train, bus, or Uber. Cost: Free, or whatever the monkeys take.
FRIM (Forest Research Institute Malaysia) This agroforestry research center turned nature park is an easy way to pass the morning or afternoon in the jungle. There’s hiking, a rope-and-board canopy walk, views of the city, and in the right season, wild durian. Cost: 5 RM
Chinatown Night Market All your rip-offs are for sale here, from Prada to Nike, but what you really visit Chinatown for is people watching. This is the heart of KL’s tourism, and people come from all over the world. In the evenings, the narrow lanes get intensely crowded and you’ll see tall blonde Danes in hiking boots accidentally trodding on the hems of Saudi women’s burkas while her husband smokes a cigar and wears board shorts. Smoke from all the things roasting and charring and stir frying waft over everything. There are two sugarcane booths and a guy near the flowers who sells really good jackfruit. Open: Breakfast stalls begin opening around 8 or 9 AM but the main market doesn’t really get going until 4 or 5 PM. Cost: the effort of bargaining for things you probably don’t need.
Lake Gardens (Perdana Botanical Garden) My personal favorite hang out is the Lake Gardens, where I go nearly every day to run. It’s about a 1.5 miles from my Chinatown hotel and a quiet spot to take some down time or watch the Chinese elderly do walking Tai Chi. Cost: Free
Bird Park This outdoor aviary is very close by to the Lake Gardens. With 21 acres they claim to be the largest free-flight outdoor aviary in the world. I visited in March with my parents, because my mom is a bird lover. It took us about 2 hours to see everything, and we took our time about it. Open hours: 9am to 6pm daily Cost: 50RM
Islamic Arts Museum This gallery is housed in a gorgeous marble building with two domes and tons of intricate fillery work. It’s also air-conditioned and really quiet, which makes it an excellent place to take a break from the tropical heat and traffic. The bottom floor has a lot of extremely old copies of the Koran, and some basic history about Islam in Malaysia. Upstairs is mostly sparkly plates and tabestries which were beautiful but didn’t manage to hold my attention. Open: 10AM-6PM Cost: 14RM
Kuala Lumpur has an awesome public transit system, most of it well covered by Google Maps. Even the slightly dodgy bus system has a pretty reliable schedule. Need to go somewhere? Use Googlemaps to figure out how.
Trains – there are three train systems, each run by a different company, which until recently didn’t play nice enough together to let you change from one train to the other.
Taxi — Red taxis are prevalent and not hard to find. The cars are usually a bit old, and for whatever reason, usually driven by Indian men wearing white t-shirts.
Uber — if you sign up using this link, you’ll get a free ride. Since I usually have an internet data plan through my SIM card, I frequently use Uber. Typically prices are cheaper than using a taxi, and the drivers are usually friendlier. Because Uber is still getting established, they frequently run special prices or giveaways so pay attention!
Grab — this is also popular in Kuala Lumpur. I used it once because they were offering a special price. It’s like Uber, but you pay in cash rather than by credit card. My driver was nice. I prefer Uber.
Internet and Mobile Phone
I always have internet on my phone while in Malaysia which I often depend on for hotspotting when my cheap hotel’s internet sucks, using Googlemaps to walk get around by myself, calling Ubers, or watching Youtube on the train.
I use Digi because they typically have the best internet packages, but Maxis has better coverage and offers faster data.
Use this map to navigate to posts about other places you can find durian around the country.