Best neighbourhoods for families in KL

This is the time of the year when the expat communities particularly are in transit – families preparing to move to new countries, new schools, new neighbourhoods. Us who have been here for a while, start getting messages from friends of friends asking for advise on where to settle down. We took an unofficial poll among friends and listed pros and cons of the most popular neighbourhoods where expats with families tend to land and make their homes.

The most important factor when deciding where to stay is the holy triangle of work, school and home. If you have school aged kids in KL it is likely that at least one member of your family is likely be sitting in the traffic jams on daily basis. It is obviously up to each family to decide who that person should be. Google maps is your best friend in doing the maths: use the tool of choosing the time of travel to get an idea of travel times during peak hours. Most international schools run school buses if can’t do the school run yourself.

Another thing you may want to consider with kids is to live where other families attending the same school are living. Traffic makes it tricky to drive anywhere after school, so living locally may make it easier for the kids to make friends.

When reading this list, remember than most things are subjective: living among other expats is a plus for some, minus for others. Same goes for vicinity of highways or busy areas. KL is a great place to live with kids, have look around and pay attention to things that matter to you and your kids!

KLCC

City centre is perfect for urbanites: the services, restaurants and nightlife are at your doorstep but so are other people, construction noise and tiny green areas.

helipad feb 4

+ All services nearby! Many family-friendly restaurants to choose from.
+ Lots of activities for kids (especially young kids).
+ Pedestrian-friendly (on KL terms): pavements and walkways make walking easy, even with a stroller.
+ Easy access to public transport: LRT and MRT and easy to find taxis.
+ Many good pre-schools and buses from most condos to international schools.

– Apartments, common areas and pools of condos are often smaller than further out and prices are higher.
– Sometimes the crowds may get tiring.
– You will have to make an effort for outdoor activities like cycling.
– Very urban environment with not much greenery. KLCC park gets very hot and is often crowded and not relaxing with young kids.
– Large supermarkets are far away.

Mont Kiara, Sri Hartamas & Sri Hartamas

Mont Kiara is a true expat enclave. It is high-density, but also offers a great range of services and schools – making it convenient to settle in. Many love Mont Kiara, many loathe it – see it for yourself before you descide. Around the edges there are more quiet options, like in Sri Hartamas or the gated compounds of Duta Nusantara and Duta Tropica near Publika.

kl 5 (2)

+ Lots of expats and easy to meet people.
+ Many daycare centres, schools, and children’s activities like Ibu.
+ Lots of restaurants and cafés in the malls, Desa Sri Hartamas and Solaris.
+ Easy access to most other areas in the city but only by private car.
+ Good grocery stores nearby.

– Traffic can be bad, especially at school drop-off and pick-up. If you are not living within walking distance from the school, the school run may take longer than you think.
– Not easy to walk outside the central part thanks to terrible pavements.
– Malls are small and have for example no cinemas.
– No parks or public transport.

Bangsar

Bangsar is a mature neighbourhood with a mix of bungalows and condos, and great services in the shopping centres and the bustling lanes of the Telawis. If you like your baguettes fresh, this may be your place. It is not an obvious choice for families with school aged kids thanks to lack of international schools but families that we know are perfectly happy with the short drive.

+ Good services, access to many shopping centres. Many independent restaurants and cafés and specialty shops
+ Many daycare centres and preschools, international schools within an easy drive.
+ Range of housing from bungalows to condos in all price ranges.

– No international schools in the neighbourhood.
– LRT station is not centrally located.
– Busy area with few green areas.

Damansara Heights

Exclusive Damansara Heights, or Bukit Damansara, is a leafy hill sandwiched between Bangsar and Mont Kiara. Most houses in this exclusive neighbourhood are bungalows, with a few low-rise condos.

+ Walkable area with little traffic. Shops and restaurants nearby at Jalan Batai or Plaza Damansara. Opening of the new Ben’s supermarket will improve the services greatly.
+ Easy access to the city, Sentral and the highways.

– Bungalows not always as safe as condos.

Desa Parkcity

This gated community further out of the city centre is like a village with most services. It may feel a bit isolated – however, being able to cycle to school is like gold dust in KL, and many families opt for living in Desa Parkcity. Opening of the new shopping centre, Arcadia, in the next year or so will increase the level of services – and traffic.

dpc bike ride HGKL

+ A safe neighbourhood with most amenities. One of the few places in KL where most things are within walking/cycling distance. Safe for older children to move independently.
+ Choice of houses and condos in various price ranges. More space for lower prices than the areas closer to town. Those on a budget should look into the older developments and Sunway SPK just outside Desa Parkcity.
+ International school and hospital in the area.
+ Community feeling.
+ Easy access to shopping malls: The Curve and 1Utama are 10 minute drive away.
+ Sports facilities at the club house.

– No public transport. Commute during peak hours can be painful.
– Local services are limited.
– Not a great selection of pre-schools in the area.
– Not much to do for older kids.

Bangsar South

A new area across the highway from Midvalley with swanky condos with great city views and a growing number of services. No international schools in the immediate vicinity but everywhere is within an easy drive from here.

+ Nexus and Sphere shopping complexes with many restaurants within walking distance.
+ Well connected: off Federal Highway and LRT Universiti close by.
+ Near the expat enclave of Bangsar with all its services, as well as Pantai hospital.
+ A few preschools in the area.
+ Near Bukit Gasing with its walking/hiking paths.

– Still being developed: construction noise and dust are common.
– Virtually no pavements: walking and especially with a  stroller difficult.
– Not many services yet. Local supermarket has limited selection.

Ampang, Ukay Heights and Taman TAR

Ampang is home to the diplomatic crowd, and home to international schools. Many families opt for the high-end gated communities of Ukay Heights and Taman TAR.

+ Close enough to the city but enough removed to escape the crowds.
+ Vicinity to international schools, daycare centres and top-end healthcare facilities.
+ Some parts well-connected by public transport.

– Jalan Ampang is a traffic nightmare.
– If your social circle or the school is on the Bangsar/Mont Kiara side of the city, traffic may drive you nuts.

You may also like to consider:

– Seputeh, Kenny Hills and Federal Hills with easy access to KL Sentral.
– Gated communities of Sierramas and Valencia for golf resort style living, convenient for IGB and ELC schools.
– TTDI, an older residential neighbourhood with many small independent businesses and a lovely feel to it.
– Tropicana, Damansara Mutiara and Damansara Perdana with new and modern developments and for example convenient for the British School.
– Gated communities of Gita Bayu, Country Heights or Bluewater Estate for easy commute to AISM.
– Green neighbourhoods of Tropicana and Ara Damansara for easy access to the new St. Joseph’s school, highways and Citta Mall as a neihgbourhood mall.

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  1. Very useful article! Thank you…
    We have being living in KL for 3y. We are living in Bangsar close to Bangsar Shopping Center, in a private bungalow… We have a golden retriever dog and the fact that dogs are not allowed is condominiums in KL had an impact on our choice, as we were looking for a place where we could walk our dog, which is very limited in KL!
    Desa Park city was another option, but it was too far and too isolated for us (25mins minimum by car from KL city center), and only a few restaurants around. Jalan Telawi (Bangsar) has lots of cafes, restaurants, bakeries, bars.
    Of course, we first looked at Mont Kiara (as advised by our agent), but we found it to be too much of a concrete jungle… The traffic in MK is quite bad and the construction sites are everywhere at the moment with the construction of 4 new condos (each one with 2 or 3 towers of 30+ floors), which means even more traffic to come! The good point of MK is international schools are at walking distance.
    So, the choice was easy for us, as Bangsar is one of the few remaining green areas in KL (with Damansara) which is conveniently located between KL Sentral and Mont Kiara, where our kids’ school is.
    As you mention, traffic in Mount Kiara is really a pain at school pick-up/drop-off time and also offices time (7:30/9:30am – 5pm/8pm).
    My kids are older (11y/13y) and take the school bus from our home (25mins by bus including all drop-off/pick-up).
    My humble and personal opinion on various areas:
    = KLCC = Great for couples – Condos only – Used to have a nice park 10y ago, but they built offices towers in it 🙁 Can be challenging with young children as streets are not “pram” friendly – only one tiny park in KLCC area. Tons of restaurants, bars, clubs, shopping and grocery places.
    = Mont Kiara = Great for families, if you don’t mind the concentration of high-rise condos. A few gated communities with bungalows available too. Schools: MKIS (american/IB) and Garden International School (British curriculum) at walking distance – Activities in condos – No public park in that area. An expat “ghetto”, only a few Malaysians living in MK – Great for restaurants and grocery shopping. More bars and restaurants at Desa Sri Hartamas (walking distance from Jalan Kiara).
    = Sri Hartamas = Direct neighbor to Mont Kiara – Gated communities with bungalows – Condos – Good for families – Desa Sri Hartamas is quite famous for its restaurants/bars (very popular with local people), while Solaris and Publika shopping mall (Dutamas) are more popular with expats.
    = Damansara = Good for families – Older area with only bungalows and gated communities (jalan beringin) – Very green – Can jog, walk the dog, good for strollers – Quiet but just half way between MK and Bangsar which means schools and restaurants are reached in 5mins – Mixed community with some expats and mostly local people. New Grocer (Ben’s) and restaurants (jalan Kasah). Restaurants and bars at Damansara Plaza. Close to Bukit Kiara Equestrian club, Royal Selangor club and KL golf and country club.
    = Bangsar = Good for families, but only a few condos, mostly bungalows. No gated communities. If you have young kids, it may be less easy for them to make friends than in a condo/gated communities. Play dates with school friends will involve car transportation. Green area – good for sport, walking the dog, meet you neighbor. Mixed community with some expats and mostly local people. Great for restaurants, bars, cafes and grocery shopping (most exclusive KL grocery shopping is Jasons’ at Bangsar shopping center). Bangsar village 1&2 on Jalan Telawi is quite popular with expats too. A few Montessori pre-school there. No international school. 15mins KLCC – 10 mins drive to MK – 5mins drive to Mid-valley / KL Sentral (KLIA express train to airport).
    = Bukit Tunku = Very isolated – Very green area (most condos and houses are surrounded by the rain forest) – Mix of bungalows, gated communities and a few condos – Close to the city, especially Sentral – You must own a car to live there – Mixed of expats and local people – No restaurant or grocery shopping available there.
    = Ampang = Area in constant evolution/construction – Heavy traffic even in the middle of the day sometimes! If your kids are going to ISKL you might consider this area, but personally, I find it to be one of the ugliest part of the city, even though you might find a few streets with lovely colonial type bungalows. Close to KLCC area though, which has one of the highest concentration of restaurants/bars and one of the best shopping mall in town.
    = Desa Park city = Very green area – For families who have children going to the Desa Park city International
    School. Green place in a very quiet environment – Condos and gated communities – Few restaurants/shopping/grocery options – 25/30mins by car from the city – 10/15mins from Mont Kiara- 5-10 minutes from Utama (ikea, 1 Utama shopping mall) – Safe environment – The development is guarded 24/7 (gates and security officers). Children can bike, your can jog, you can walk your dog. Heard some condos are accepting dogs over there.
    = TTDI = A complete mess at the moment, as they are building the MRT (metro). Traffic jams, even in the middle of the day! Would wait to move there when works are complete. Close to the British International school of KL.

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to write this great list!! Spot on analysis, good info for anyone thinking of moving to KL or to a new neighbourhood. Thanks for also pointing out that if you have dogs there are less options, one is limited pretty much to bungalows or Desa Parkcity.

  2. Thank you for the neighborhood description. Very helpful! Do you have any thoughts on Sierramas / Valencia area? I am considering living near IGB school, but I’m not finding much about the surroundings.

    • Sierramas and Valencia are upscale developments practically next door to the IGB. If that’s your school of choice they would be logical places to live and surely many other families from school live there. I have not been to Sierramas but Valencia is a beautiful gated community, resort style with houses sitting on their individual plots, around a golf course. The houses have good sized gardens and the residents are a mix of expats and locals. The have nice walking paths and kids seem to roam around freely. They have a club house with swimming pool etc, and a small restaurant. People that I know love it there with their only complaint being the traffic. The road leading there is very congested during peak hours, but hopefully the new MRT will help a bit. There is a Jaya Grocer supermarket next to the schools. There are local markets and eateries within a short drive, but the surrounding area is a bit industrial, so for any Western style shopping, eating or outings with the kids you’d have to drive further.

  3. Great article. Thank you for this useful overview. Is there by chance anything you would share on Subang – Sunway proximilty with kids close to Sunway International? (Ss12, South Quay, etc?) Hoping to read more 🙂

    • Unfortunately we are not very familiar with those areas but will try to ask around! If anyone else has good tips on any of those areas, feel free to share!

  4. We are considering moving to KL and given that it’s all new to me, I’m so confused! We have 3 kids (13,10,8), currently attend a British school, love golf, eating out, shopping, soccer (football), and fencing. I’ve heard that it’s better to be in condos or gated communities because of home burglary issues. Can anyone help narrow down areas to research? Do you have to have a car? What’s the pollution like? We are an academic focused family and prefer schools that challenge and prepare kids to attend university. Which international schools might fit this description? I know it’s asking a lot, but I’d also love to know if any of the areas have Pilates studios.
    Thank you so much!!

    • Condos are more common in KL but many expats live in houses either in residential areas or in houses in gated compounds. Burglaries do happen but don’t seem to be rife at the moment. You can read our post http://happygokl.com/best-neighbourhoods-for-families-in-kl/ on areas to live in KL. Generally there is a lot of choice of areas, and you should narrow down areas based on the school and place of work.

      Getting a car is recommended – public transport is generally pretty poor outside certain well-connected routes.

      Pollution has been a serious issue recently when they have been burning land for palm oil plantations in the region and last time it lasted for a few months and made life very hard. Outside those times air quality has been as good as it gets in and Asian big city.

      There are many reputable international schools: Alice Smith, Garden International, British International School and ISP in Desa Parkcity follow British curriculum. I’d recommend a visit to the schools to get a feel whether their style fits your family’s wishes.

      There are quite a few Pilates studios, typically in areas like Mont Kiara, Damansara Heights and Bangsar. My friend recently joined one in Damansara Heights and was very happy with it.

      Hope this helps and let us know if there is anything else you’d like to know!

      • Hi Lattemama, can you suggest a good area to live in that is close by to the British International School?

        • Hi! It depends really how you want to live; in a condo or a house, in a busy urban setting or a more residential area. Most areas where expats typically end up are within 30 minutes drive from BSKL (Mont Kiara, Sri Hartamas, Bangsar, Damansara Heights). Desa Parkcity is also within reasonable distance, and perhaps even Valencia (not sure about traffic on that stretch – you can use google maps and set the time around your pick-up/drop-offs). TTDI and Damansara Perdana are very near BSKL. Apparently many parents live in Bukit Utama very close by, but I don’t know much about that – but I often drive past a gated community called Effingham, that looks very upscale, and there are some condos too. Tropicana may also be an option, but it feels a bit remote, say some friends who live there.

  5. Hi, this is an very useful article for someone planning to move to KL for a posting…but I am a bit confused about the gated community concept. I understand that some condo or townhouse have their own guard house on their enturance, but they are mainly for guarding one particular condo or town house development right? When people talk about Parkcity for example, they always like refer it as a gated community….but to my understanding parkcity consisted of a number of condo and townhouse development..so does it mean that the whole parkcity is begin guarded and with the individual development have their own guardhouse in he same time? If so, is it like double guarded??? I would really love the idea, and are there any other community like that in KL with good international school within the community? Sorry about having so many questions, hope someone can help clear those confusion for me. Thank you

    • Yes, your description of double guarded is exactly what it is! Valencia and Sierramas are similar concepts with international schools in the vicinity. They don’t have condos, just houses, but also have less services. Good luck in finding a place!

      • Lattemama, thank you so much for your reply! This is really helpful, as I can now narrow my selection of property to those areas. Thanks again and an early happy new year to you and your family!!

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