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Are the Batu Caves Worth Visiting | Ummi Goes Where?

Is Batu Caves Worth Visiting or Overrated?

You have probably seen this place on Instagram — the humongous golden statue and the 272 multi-colored steps leading you into the gaping mouth of a dark cavern.

Batu Caves is one of the most popular attractions for those visiting Kuala Lumpur. Located approximately 15 kilometers away from the city, it is a limestone hill comprising three major caves and some smaller ones.

But is there more to it than that? Recently, I’ve come across a few different articles saying how Batu Caves is not worth visiting because it’s too crowded, too artificial, and there are too many ‘kitschy statues ruining the natural cave’.

So, what’s so special about Batu Caves? Is it worth visiting? I’m Malaysian and this is my honest review:

What’s all the big fuss about? Why does it get thousands of visitors every day and millions every year?

Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. It has the tallest statue of Lord Murugan (Kartikeya) in the world. The 43-meter-tall golden statue took 3 years, 350 tons of steel bars, 1,550 cubic meters of concrete, and 300 liters of gold paint to build. It is the world’s third tallest statue of a Hindu deity.
  2. There is a temple inside one of the caves that is over a century old. It was built in the late 19th century during the British colonization. You might have seen Hindu temples before, and you might have seen caves too. But how many times have you seen a century-old temple inside a cave? Best of all, it’s not merely a relic — it’s still a functioning temple where local and foreign worshipers come to pray every day. This is why it remains free to enter.
  3. It’s where the Thaipusam festival is celebrated every year. During this festival, hundreds of thousands of devotees, from all over Malaysia (and the world!) would walk in a procession from the city center to Batu Caves. Some of them would carry urns of milk or large metal structures with spikes and hooks piercing their skins. They consider this as a pilgrimage and penance for all their sins.
Thaipusam festival Batu Caves Malaysia
Credit: Peter Gronemann / Wikimedia Commons

How to Get to Batu Caves from Kuala Lumpur

There are a few ways to get to Batu Caves from Kuala Lumpur:

  • The easiest is by taking a Grab (Southeast Asian version of Uber). The journey from the city center will take around 20 – 30 minutes and cost about RM25. But this, of course, depends on the traffic. If you go during rush hour, it could take much longer and cost more.
  • The second option is by taking the KTM Komuter train. From KL Sentral, the journey takes approximately 40 minutes and costs RM2.30. The train is hourly. Check the train timetable here to plan your trip.
  • There is also a bus (#713) that goes there from Masjid India, but I’ve never personally taken it, so I can’t comment on how reliable it is.
  • If you come during Thaipusam, you can join the procession and walk!

Note that I didn’t mention taxis. Click here to read about the things you shouldn’t do in Malaysia and why taking taxis is one of them.

The Best Time to Visit Batu Caves

Kuala Lumpur enjoys consistently warm weather all year round, although it may sometimes rain. If it rains, it’s usually in the evening.

The opening hours are from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. To avoid crowd, some people visit very early in the morning. By 9 a.m., the place would already be crowded. In my personal experience, there are more people in the morning (9 a.m. – 11 a.m.) than in the afternoon, as they want to escape the afternoon heat. So, go either very early in the morning or in the afternoon. Avoid weekends and public holidays.

If you’d like to witness the Thaipusam festival, visit in late January or early February. Google the exact date because they use the lunar calendar, which changes every year. The place normally stays busy for a week leading to the festival and a week after.

What You Need to Know Before Visiting Batu Caves

  • Ladies have to cover their legs, otherwise they won’t be allowed to climb the steps or enter any of the temples. If you’re wearing a short skirt/dress/shorts, make sure you bring a sarong. Alternatively, you can rent one at the entrance.
  • Stay hydrated. To get to the temples inside the cave, you need to climb 272 steps. This in itself is not a very challenging feat for the average person. However, the midday heat can be unforgiving. Bring at least half a liter of water. Wear a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and comfortable clothes. If you’re not used to physical activities, go slow. Have a light meal before climbing and take a few short breaks along the way.
  • There are lots of pigeons and monkeys. You’re not supposed to feed them, but people still do. Because of this, the monkeys have become overly familiar with humans and start begging for food. If they don’t get any, they will steal. Do not carry plastic bags even if they don’t contain any food. The monkeys are going to assume they do. Do not carry water bottles. Do not carry flowers or wear them in your hair. Keep everything in a zippered bag.
Monkey at Batu Caves
Credit: MithunAhamed / Wikimedia Commons
  • Due to all the animals living here (monkeys, pigeons, bats, and roosters), it doesn’t always smell nice. Although for the most part, it is masked by the smell of jasmine and incense, sometimes you can still get a whiff of guano, which people collect to make fertilizer.

Is Batu Caves a Tourist Trap?

Is it touristy?

Yes, since they painted the steps in 2018, there has been a significant increase in the number of visitors, particularly young travelers and Instagrammers. It is said that some 5,000 people visit every day, and they tend to linger longer on the steps to get the perfect shots.

However, the people you see there are not all tourists. Many of them are actually locals and visiting Hindus who come to pray.

Is it a tourist trap?

In my opinion, no, it is not. I think a tourist trap is something that is built solely with tourists in mind, and for the sole purpose of making tourists spend their money. And this is not the case for Batu Caves.

True, there are some souvenir shops around the caves, but there are no organized tours that will force you to go into any of the shops. There are some smaller caves in the complex that charge a fee, but the main cave (where the temples are) does not.

Thaipusam celebration
Credit: William Cho / Wikimedia Commons

And most importantly, whether there are tourists or not, it will still remain a temple, and locals will still go there to pray and celebrate their festival.

The Verdict on Batu Caves

So, is Batu Caves worth visiting?

Well, it depends.

If you’re looking for an untouched, secluded cave where you can do some real caving activities away from people, then this is probably not it. There a lot of other caves in Malaysia (and the world) that you can visit for that purpose.

However, if you want to witness first-hand the local traditions in one of the most important Hindu sites in the world, then the answer is yes. If you simply want to enjoy the colors and the sight of the big statue, also yes.

Batu caves sky opening
Credit: Allan Jay Quesada / Wikimedia Commons

In short, people go to Batu Caves for the culture. Although I’m not a Hindu, and not a believer of religions in general, I do find the comments about the ‘tacky statues ruining the view of the cave’ somewhat disrespectful.

You wouldn’t go to the Taj Mahal or the Great Walls of China and criticize the locals for building them, would you? Similarly, you wouldn’t go to Manhattan and complain about the skyscrapers ruining the view of the sky.

As for it being crowded, well, like I mentioned earlier, many of the visitors are actually local Hindus. I don’t think it is fair for us to visit a country and then complain about there being too many locals at their own place of worship.

It is important to know the history and the significance of the place before we pass any unnecessary judgment.

What’s your take on this? Have you been to the Batu Caves? Do you think it is worth visiting?

Posted in Malaysia

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    • ummi

      That’s just the way it is, I suppose. I live in Kuala Lumpur, but there are still so many tourist attractions here that I have yet to visit. 🙂

      • Richa

        Very interesting post and thanks for sharing your thoughts. I always think it’s the tourist are quick to call a place a trap after making it super famous themselves and I couldn’t agree more that the locals will still keep visiting because it’s still a functional temple. In any case, I’d love to visit Batu caves now more than ever 😃

        • ummi

          Well said, Richa. It’s ironic how we sometimes complain about a place being too touristy when we are actually one of those tourists contributing to the problem. Well, I hope you’ll get to visit this place once it’s safe to travel again. 🙂

  1. Rawlins GLAM

    I have been in Selangor for more than 20 years and my very first visit to Batu Caves was 2 years back. Why? My fault entirely. And then I make it a point to go there annually just because I love to walk up and down the stairs. And the stairs are pretty now

    • ummi

      Hey, I don’t blame you. I had been working in KLCC for almost a decade and it was only last year that I went on the Skybridge 😀 We tend to take things for granted when we have easy access to them.

    • ummi

      Hehe, it’s actually intended for international tourists. Sebab this place has gained so much popularity in recent years, after they painted the steps.

  2. Nina Mirza

    Batu Caves dekat sangat ngan rumah kita tapi sampai la ni belum ada feel nak naik. Hahaa…. Mungkin perlukan sokongan kengkawan sebagai peneman kot. Sebab kena ada full energy dan fitness kena mantap jugak nak sampai atas tu…

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  4. Jamie

    It’s so fantastic to have a local’s perspective on the sites in their region. I especially appreciate having the instructions on how to get there from someone who knows it in detail! It’s all very clear and helpful, and the details about the timing is huge too. It’s such a beautiful site, touristy or not, I’d love to see it. And I definitely would agree with the author that it doesn’t consitute the term “tourist trap” in the slightest.

    • ummi

      Thank you, Jamie. I hope the information shared here will be useful for your future visit. I’ll try to update this page from time to time if there are any changes in the details. And when you have visited it, do share with us what you think 🙂

  5. Danik the Explorer

    I have been to Malaysia twice but never visited the Batu Caves. I have heard it can be a tourist trap and you have confirmed that for me. I still want to check it out but maybe when there is no crowds (not sure what time of day that would be). Not sure if I like the idea of the locals colouring the steps, i can see the attraction for visitors but for me, I prefer natural places and adding this to the entrance, it doesnt look appealing to me. But that is just my view. 🙂 Great tips here, and I still hope to get out there, still has to be ticked off once in Malaysia again. 🙂

    • ummi

      To avoid the crowd, you’ll have to go very early in the morning. Most tourists use the train, so if you could get your own transport, try to be there before the first train arrives (latest schedule can be found on KTM official website).

      I think coloring the steps is another display of their culture. If you noticed, most Indians (especially South Indians) like to have bright colors in their daily life. This can be seen in their clothes, their temples, and even their food. Again, Batu Caves’ main draw is its culture, not so much the natural cave itself. Anyhow, I do hope you’ll visit it on your next Malaysian trip.

  6. Chloe Beaver

    I loved the Batu Caves, but I remember being annoyed with the amount of tourists there who only seemed to be worried about getting the perfect instagram photo. It definitely took away from the natural beauty and the culture that the Caves also represent. I think the best way to avoid this is to go as early as possible, just like you mentioned. But in my opinion it is worth it because the temples, statues and steps are still so beautiful!

    • ummi

      Hi, Chloe. Yes, it can be annoying to see the tourists blocking the way on the stairs to get perfect photos for their instagram. I may even have been one of the culprits. As a freelance tour guide, I take my clients there almost every day, and some of them do want to get several shots on the steps, to which I’d happily oblige.

      But I agree with you– I think Batu Caves is still worth a visit despite the crowd.

  7. Mayuri Patel

    I haven’t been to Malaysia yet but as you said, have seen umpteen no’s of Pics of Batu caves all over social media. The Place is now famous with Instagrammers to get the perfect photos and it is ruining the charm of this place. It represents the culture of the place and thank you for sharing all the tips to visit it. The Place is touristy or not I’d love to see it one day. Great Post.

  8. Paul Healy

    I’ve seen those colourful stairs on Instagram before but I didn’t know what it actually was, so thanks for filling me in. I guess a lot of places are becoming touristy now but seeing a thousand year old temple in a cave sounds like a pretty special experience.

    • ummi

      You’re welcome, Paul. Yes, it is a pretty special place despite the crowd. And you’re right — a lot of places are becoming touristy these days, I guess that’s just something we can’t run away from as travel becomes more accessible to everyone, including us.

  9. Raksha

    I visited Batu Caves a few years ago and I must say I really liked it. I loved those colours and the temple at the top. It was definitely worth a day trip from KL. Other than the monkeys, I enjoyed everything, especially those caves that are so old.

    • ummi

      Glad to know that you enjoyed your visit, Raksha. Yes, despite the crowd (and the monkeys), I still think Batu Caves is worth a day trip from Kuala Lumpur.

  10. Subhashish Roy

    Cave temples have always fascinated me and it would be interesting to have a look at the statue of Lord Murugan in person. Although I do not love crowded places yet I would love to visit Batu Caves as we missed it last time we were in Malaysia.

    • ummi

      I hope you’ll get to visit it on your next trip to Malaysia, Subhasish, especially if it has some religious/cultural significance to you. Perhaps you could go very early in the morning to avoid the crowd.

  11. Ami Bhat

    I so regret not having to get to visit these caves. Saw them en route to Genting but since we were on a tight schedule I could not stop. Ideally I would love to get here around Thaipusam and see the festivities. I sure would love to explore the smaller caves too.

    • ummi

      Oh no, that’s too bad, Ami. I hope you enjoyed Genting though. You should definitely come back around Thaipusam, although I’m not sure how the festival would be like post-Covid.

  12. Yukti Agrawal

    I would surely visit Batu caves as I believe a lot in Lord Murugan. Not only this place has religious importance, but also has wonderful backdrop of hills. I loved 272 colorful steps here. I really respect your viewpoint on respecting religion. I too think that statue is not ruining the view of caves and we cant judge or pass comments on such places. Many places are built sometimes due to traditions or beliefs by ancient people.

    • ummi

      Thank you so much for saying this, Yukti. A lot of archaeological discoveries — all those cave paintings, ancient temples, and other historical remains are considered national treasures and are treated with the utmost care and respect. I wish people would give the same kind of respect to local culture and traditions when they visit a particular place.
      Anyway, I hope you’ll get to visit Batu Caves someday, especially since it has a religious importance to you. 🙂

  13. Alma

    Great post and very valid points and information. I think those steps, the golden statue and the cave must be quite impressive to see in real life.

  14. Lina

    You’re right, I’ve seen hundreds of photos from this place already due to the colorful steps. It does look really nice and it was great to read more of the cave itself. If I ever make it to Malaysia, Batu Caves will be on my list but I would love to visit the smaller ones too 🙂

    • ummi

      That’s great, Lina! I hope you’ll get to visit Malaysia and the Batu Caves once it’s safe to travel. Do bookmark this page for your future reference 🙂

  15. Stefanie

    Great to read a local’s opinion about this popular spot. In my opinion only the tourists themselves might make it feel like a tourist trap in the end, but for sure not the statues and historical sights located there. I wish more people visiting such popular spots would be more curious about the history and meaning to the locals before complaining about temples, caves etc. being overcrowded. In the end they are part of the problem…

    • ummi

      Very well said, Stefanie. We’re often too quick to complain without acknowledging the fact that we may be part of the problem. I do hope tourists will be more aware and respectful to the local culture before they pass any judgment.

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