If you’re heading to Kuala Lumpur, you might have the Batu Caves on your bucket list. Hostel guests always ask a few different questions about the Batu Caves, so here’s a quick guide with everything you need to know about heading to the Batu Caves for a half-day trip!
What…Are…the Batu Caves?
I had that same question on the train over. The caves themselves have been around for 400 million years. Explorers and naturalists have been fascinated by the sight and written about them since the 1800s. They’re really stunning. Back in the day, the mouth of the cave was said to look like the head of a spear, so it was dedicated to Lord Murugan (also known as Kartikeya), the Hindu God of War. He used a spear. (My interpretation of the mouth of the cave would have sent Sigmund Freud reeling, but I didn’t write about the cave in the 1800s, did I?)
The 140-ft (42.7 m) Lord Murugan statue that you see in all of the pictures was built in 2006, and there are many temples dedicated to him scattered throughout the area, but the Batu Caves have been the center of Hindu pilgrimages and rituals for years. One such ritual is piercing your body as an act of penance. It’s called Thaipusam, if you’re interested.
If you’re not interested in piercing yourself or praying at temples, you’re not too different from a good chunk of the tourists at the Batu Caves. Many backpackers – myself included – go for the monkeys, the picture, and because it’s a top bucket list item in Kuala Lumpur. So if this is a sight that you would like to see, read on, friends.
How To Get To The Batu Caves
If you’re staying in Kuala Lumpur, it’s pretty easy (and cheap) to get to the Batu Caves. Just hop on the train from KL Sentral or Kuala Lumpur station…the Batu Caves is the last stop on the line and only cost MYR 2.50 for a one-way ticket.
You can also grab an Uber or a Grab (the top Southeast Asia rideshare company) to the Batu Caves for less than MYR 20, but you may have to work to find wifi around the area to get back. Whatever you do, don’t take an unmetered taxi back to Kuala Lumpur (or anywhere around Malaysia). You’ll get ripped off, and at an attraction that can cost you less than MYR 10 for the whole day, you might as well keep costs low.
Yup, there’s a dress code. The dress code is a bit more strict for women than for men, and requires that you cover your shoulders and knees. A few male guests got up to the caves a-okay with shorts that exposed a bit of knee (and a backpack full of beers, which was a bit odd), but an older woman wearing a dress the same length did not have the same luck. Guests who don’t abide by the dress code can rent proper attire for MYR 5.
The Main Attraction
It’s free to visit the main cave and the Lord Muragan temples, but you will have to walk past a bunch of attractions with admissions fees, including the Dark Caves. You will also have to walk up 272 steps (right). At the bottom of the steps, you may be offered a bucket of rocks. Bringing the rocks up the steps helps the construction of the Batu Caves attraction (which is ongoing). No one told me that, so I did not carry a bucket of rocks up 272 stairs. I did, however, let myself skip the gym on the day that I went to the Batu Caves.
At the base of the stairs, you can stop and take pictures with the attraction itself. You can also buy souvenirs, have your palms read, or grab some lunch. Now that I think that I’m some kind of food blogger or something, I grabbed food before heading up to the caves. I was really procrastinating the journey with some Masala Tosa, also known as Masala Dosa or Masala Dosai. Masala Dosa has potatoes and clears my sinuses, so I give it an A-plus. The MYR 6 price (around $1.50) is also good in my book.
Once I arrived at the top of the stairs, I didn’t find the overall journey too taxing, due to the fact that every other step I was stopping to take pictures of monkeys. The cave is nice to explore and provides some cool relief in the hot Malaysian sun. I will admit that I felt like I was missing out by not knowing anything that was going on, religion-wise. Malaysia is like that sometimes. Hence the blog post. And context or not, the sight of the caves is quite beautiful.
Alright. Let’s talk about monkeys.
Watch Out for the Monkeys
Many tourists head to the Batu Caves just to see monkeys running around. Sure, the monkeys are cute, and it’s cool to see monkeys up close, but they come so close to humans because they’re hungry and they’re used to humans having food. They’ll take food you give them (you can buy food before you get to the caves), but they will also look for food. And they’re smart. I’ve seen monkeys take water bottles and open backpacks in the hunt for food. I did not let my reusable bottle leave my site, and kept everything else in a bum bag.
This is your warning. They will try to take your stuff.
In Addition to the Batu Caves…
Tourists and backpackers can experience more than just the main Batu cave. As you ascend the stairs, you may notice signs for the Dark Caves. Visiting the Dark Caves requires an admission fee (MYR 35 for adults); it’s worth a tour if you have some extra cash and time to spare. (The trip to the Batu Caves can take a half an hour, so why not stay a little longer?) The educational tour at the Dark Caves provides context and information about the formation of the caves that you may not hear in the main caves.
How Did You Like the Batu Caves?
The Batu Caves is just one of great sights to see in Kuala Lumpur; keep your eyes peeled for more posts on what to do when visiting KL! In the meantime, grab a comment with your photos and thoughts of the Batu Caves!