Big & Small spent a month in Malaysia’s gleaming, bustling capital of Kuala Lumpur. Our intention here was not only to take in the city’s spicy food and melting-pot culture, but to be true “digital nomads,” i.e. save money and focus on our online work.
Before arriving, we’d heard a lot of bad reviews about internet in Malaysia.
But we personally never experienced a problem. Most places are well-connected (even the many malls), and for extra coverage, it’s cheap and easy to get a local SIM card right when you land (we went with Maxis, and the whole transaction took under five minutes).
We booked an AirBnB in the outskirts of the city, and while the location wasn’t too terribly ideal, the apartment was. The space was clean, comfortable, and spacious, and it had fast internet, a large (often empty) pool, a yoga deck, a small gym, and a stunning rooftop view.
Still, we often felt the need to escape such luxury living quarters to refresh and refuel.
Fortunately, Kuala Lumpur is teeming with cafes perfectly primed for the digital nomad. Here are our reviews of 7 cafes located in Bukit Bintang, Chinatown, and Bangsar.
- Aku Café & Gallery – No. 8, 1st Floor, Jalan Panggong
Situated in Chinatown, just around the corner from the the chaotic Petaling Street, Aku is a quiet, charming respite with some refreshing quirk and character. Cutesy traditional music plays in the background, a bookshelf and reading area sit in one cozy alcove, and funky art lines the walls. This was our personal favorite café, for the intimate feel, the attentive staff (who even tested out a new dessert on us—see our 7 Reasons to Visit Kuala Lumpur video to see more!), and the fine food.
We had no problems with the internet connection, but the seating can be tricky and not the most comfortable if crowded—which it rarely was. They only do pour-over coffee (we personally prefer Italian-style), but the tea selection is fairly extensive. We loved the food, particularly the Turmeric Chicken with Rice and the Hainan Toast (a decadent toast with butter and kaya—a coconut jam that Small became obsessed with!), and it was all reasonably priced.
Hours: Tues-Sun 11am-8pm, Closed Mondays
Pros: Cute, Intimate, Fantastic Food, Good Internet, Great Staff
Cons: Only Pour-Over Coffee, Uncomfortable Seating
Must-Get: Hainan Toast
- VCR – 2, Jalan Galloway
Located on a quiet street just outside the party center of Bukit Bintang, this spacious spot is at the top of many digital nomad lists for good reason. (Note: There’s another smaller location in Bangsar, but we preferred this one.) Given the name, we were expecting to see some rad ’80s décor, but VCR is very much a sleek, modern café with just a touch of wicker.
You’ll see plenty of laptops in the upstairs section, which includes separate tables surrounding a large communal one. It serves well as a space for meeting others, but we found it just as good for a productive few hours online.
You’ll want to get your caffeine fix here, as their big draw is their artisanal espresso and coffee drinks. The food menu is just as impressive with a selection that I can best describe as global fusion comfort food. The VCR Big Breakfast is a popular plate, while vegetarians will want to go straight for the Avocado Toast or House Salad. The prices here are significantly higher than your average Malaysian eatery—expect to pay roughly $10 (USD) on average for food and drink.
Hours: Everyday 8:30am-11pm
Pros: Comfortable Seating, Good Internet, Digital Nomad Hotspot, Good for Meeting Friends, Great Food Selection, High-Quality Coffee
Cons: Expensive, More Social (Can Get Loud)
Must-Get: Cappuccino, VCR Big Breakfast
- Tea Press in Bangsar – Jalan Telawi 2
In hip Bangsar, we happened across this serene tea spot that offers premium Japanese tea and a quiet, comfortable space to get some quality work done. The tea sommeliers will help you pick the perfect tea for your tastes and then carefully prepare your drink in the traditional Japanese manner. Come at the right time and you’ll get complementary Japanese treats like Daifuku Strawberry and Mochi.
From our experience, the staff was lovely—helpful and attentive—and the space was never crowded. While it’s not intended to be a pure digital nomad spot, the Zen-like ambiance works well for keeping your focus. It’s a good place to work for an hour or two.
If you’ve worked up a hunger, you can pick from a small food selection. There’s a little Japanese, of course (the curry rice), alongside pasta dishes and quiche. It seemed like a strange combination with the tea, so we didn’t try the food, though the small mochi treats are a must.
Hours: Tues-Sun 8am-10pm, Closed Mondays
Pros: Serene Space, Good Internet, Superb Tea, Great Staff, High-Tech Bathroom!
Cons: Small Food Selection
Must-Get: Green Tea, Daifuku Strawberry
- LOKL Coffee Co. – 30 Jalan Tun H.S. Lee
Like VCR, LOKL attracts a younger scene– it’s attached to a hostel, after all. This means a slightly louder, more social vibe, but you’ll still see plenty of keyboard-tapping among the crowd. It’s a bit outside of the more touristy areas, but easily accessible from the city center.
The design here is fresh, open, and modern. However, the tables are small and the overall space a little cramped. For us, LOKL didn’t provide the most comfortable working conditions.
That said, the staff were helpful and friendly and we found it to be a good spot to meet fellow travelers. Also like VCR, you’ll find a creative fusion-style menu with Western classics like Chicken and Waffles and modern Asian dishes like the Balinese Chicken Bowl. The espresso-based drinks are on point, but if you’re feeling adventurous, ask for the local “Kopi O” black coffee (just maybe skip the added sugar).
Hours: Everyday 8am-6pm
Pros: Great Food and Coffee Selection
Cons: Can Get Crowded, Cramped Seating, Pricey, Early Closing Hours
Must-Get: Espresso, Breakfast Salad
- OJO Café in Bangsar – No. 23, Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar Baru
Also in Bangsar, OJO boasts a warm, wooden space and a lengthy selection of specialty coffee and tea-based drinks. The vibe here can be more eat, drink, and chat then eat, drink, and laptop, but the internet is reliable and you’ll find plenty of power sockets to keep your devices juiced.
Overall, the space is fairly accommodating, especially during less-busy periods. If you’re a night-owl worker, this could be a good choice, as it’s open until midnight most nights (and 1am on Fridays and Saturdays).
Along with single-origin coffees and signature lattes, OJO offers some great food options no matter your diet. Choose from inventive salads, flatbreads, sandwiches, waffles, and baked goods. We dug the Superfood Salad, Croque Madame with Roast Beef, Lebanese Pizza, and artisanal chocolate.
Hours: Mon-Thurs 9am-12am, Fri 9am-1am, Sat 10am-1am, Sun 10am-12am
Pros: Great Food Selection, Plenty of Seating, Late Hours
Cons: Can Be Loud at Certain Times
Must-Get: Single-Origin Coffee, Lebanese Pizza
- Feeka Coffee Roasters – 19, Jalan Mesui, Bukit Bintang
Just a few minutes’ walk from the buzzing Bukit Bintang center, Feeka offers a quieter refuge for laptop-lugging nomads. This was the first café we visited in the KL, but our least favorite as a dedicated work spot. For us, the internet was spotty (lots of people streaming videos seemed to slow things down severely), and the overall seating felt a bit cramped.
However, like many of the city’s cafes, the food on offer is a fun fusion of heartwarming Western favorites, like the Lemon & Ricotta Pancakes and the Duck Confit Pasta, and the specialty, single-origin coffee drinks are made with care. The prices here run about the same as VCR and LOKL, so expect to pay quite a bit more than the average KL café.
Hours: Everyday 8am-11pm
Pros: Great Food and Coffee Selection, Good Location, Late Hours
Cons: Spotty Internet, Can Get Crowded, Cramped Seating, Pricey
Must-Get: Seasonal Cold Brew, French Toast w/ Matcha Custard
- Illy Caffe at Petronas Towers
If you happen to be visiting the Petronas Towers with laptop in hand, head on in to the attached shopping mall (the Suria KLCC) and make your way to the Italian espresso giant Illy Caffe.
Because of its location and its name, don’t expect a great deal, but do expect some good standard Italian-style coffee. We recommend skipping the overpriced food, though. It may be tough to find seating, but if you do, you’ll find the internet works surprisingly well for a cafe situated in the center of a busy mall.
Hours: Everyday 10am-10pm
Pros: Good Coffee Selection, Great Location, Late Hours
Cons: Expensive, Crowded, Mall Traffic