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!
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.
+ 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.
+ 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 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.
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.
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.
+ 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.
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.