The Berjaya Times Square Hotel is one of the most unique accommodation options in Kuala Lumpur, but how good is it really? Should you add it to your options of where to stay when travelling through Kuala Lumpur?
I always love visiting Kuala Lumpur. I think it is generally such an underrated city and have come here quite a few times over the years on both short layovers and longer trips. This trip was a little more special though as we were celebrating a pretty significant event, and as a result I decided to forego the usual hostels and cheap guesthouses in Chinatown and opt for a little bit of luxury instead. At least that was the plan.
Wanting a bit of luxury with a private room, a nice pool, and all the amenities we could ever need for just a few days of rest and self indulgence, we decided on the Berjaya Times Square Hotel. This is certainly a unique place to stay. Attached to one of the largest shopping malls in Asia, if not the world, the complex is so big it even boasts an entire theme park inside its walls! So taking leave from my normal backpacker modus operandi and heading directly into flashpacker territory, I booked one of their rooms well in advance and looked forward to some luxury and comfort to celebrate in.
We arrived in Kuala Lumpur a little later than planned from Singapore thanks to Air Asia, so we were already tired and got a taxi straight to the hotel. Things appeared to get off to a great start as we arrived at the hotel. The lobby was huge, well appointed and the blast of air con was a welcome respite after a long and hot journey. Unfortunately after our immediate arrival, things went rapidly downhill.
“The room, the service or the overall experience of the stay didn’t do anything to really excel itself.”
No staff greeted us at the entrance nor even at the reception desk, no one offered to help us with our bags or even smiled or acknowledged us as we entered. It took me a moment to find the oddly placed reception desk, but once I did I put our backpacks down and joined the long queue preparing for what ended up being the endurance test that is the check in process.
I’m pretty tolerant most of the time, a couple of decades of travel has given me a lot of patience and it actually takes a lot for me to flip that switch in my head to make me put my foot down. Unfortunately I wasn’t really prepared for the sheer level of incompetence or unprofessionalism displayed by the staff at every level and opportunity, and it left a sour taste on what should have been a warm, first class welcome.
Staff were trying to serve more than one guest at once and ending up serving neither as a result, ignoring us for long periods as they answered phones and then promptly forgetting they were dealing with us at all. Meanwhile other staff were just stood round seemingly busying themselves with mundane tasks.
There was a huge mix up with my booked room and it appeared for a moment that they had no idea I had even booked with them. It was only after I showed them proof myself that a room was found, but I was informed that it was not yet ready, a full two hours after normal check in time. See, this is why I rarely pre book anything.
We were directed to have a seat while we waited and to be fair were given a free complimentary drink, which then took 45 minutes to arrive.
I have stayed in budget hostels, home stays and zero star guesthouses with a level of service that far surpasses what they offer here. The whole operation felt like a fast food chain run by untrained school leavers when the manager has stepped out, no leadership, no training, no discipline and no service. It was awful, and it did not improve throughout the length of our stay.
After a long wait at reception where nothing seemed to be happening, it took a strong but polite formal complaint to the highest level manager we could track down there and then to get us checked in and into our rooms. The whole process was even more exhausting than the flight and long car journey we had been on to get here, and we were looking forward to getting to our room.
Thankfully what greeted us when we got there immediately made us forget the tiring check in.
Finally we were getting somewhere!
After finally getting in our room and dumping our bags, we started to relax. This was more like it. Much more like it. The room was huge, clean and was a huge surprise after the grueling check in we had just been through. Two whole bedrooms, a small kitchen area and large lounge was more suited to a family than a couple, but we loved the space and lived it up! The showers were fantastically hot and powerful which is always a nice little luxury for an aging backpacker more used to cold waterfalls and dodgy shared hostel showers like me! The views were pretty spectacular too, especially at night when the Petronas towers were lit up.
The room wasn’t perfect, the wifi was spotty at times and the satellite channels didn’t always get great signal, these weren’t a huge inconvenience of course and to be honest on their own merits I wouldn’t have even raised them as issues, but when you are staying in a hotel that boasts high standards and charges for them, you do expect them to at least meet basic requirements.
Breakfast was mostly an average buffet fare, but was kicked up a notch by the choice of a chef who whipped up really good eggs or omelettes any way you liked them right in front of you and they were genuinely delicious.
The pretty large restaurant would have had a nice ambience if it was big enough to accommodate the amount of people at the hotel. It was an impressively designes space but was always absolutely packed out though throughout the small breakfast window, and there were people waiting in line on more than one occasion with waiters subtly trying to hurry breakfast goers up to clear the tables. When you are on a supposed romantic, relaxing break, you really don’t need to feel rushed at breakfast.
This was at least offset by a relaxing morning by the rooftop pool, nicely maintained to a decent standard, attractive and big enough that it didn’t feel crowded during the time we spent there. The facilities were clean and sufficient and were exactly what we needed for a little relaxation. They did have poolside security, presumably to stop anyone but hotel guests using the facilities. This was a good thing on the whole but far too often the guards would stand just a touch too close to the loungers, act just a touch too overbearing to make the experience completely comfortable. A little training in subtlety could go a long way.
Unfortunately during our stay the level of service provided by the staff we had dealings with continued to completely let them down. They had no idea who we were when we rang down, or what they were doing when asked simple questions. Calls for assistance with our room (such as to fix the broken TV) were met with confusion and a conveyor belt of different staff who were no improvement on the last and a call for room service has never been so frustrating or comical and led to me simply wandering down to the conveniently located 7/11 in the mall instead. I can imagine the pleased shopkeeper gets a ton of business this way!
The absolute best thing about staying here is the location, that is perhaps the one thing the Berjaya Times Square hotel can never be faulted on. The unique fact that you can get a lift down from your floor straight into a huge mall, complete with Imax theatre and theme park is just pretty awesome, and I’m not even a big fan of shopping! The mall gives you plenty of options for eating if you don’t fancy the hotel breakfast with some decent food courts, and there is a lot to do here to stop you getting bore or keeping the family entertained, including a cinema, archery range, and – again – that theme park! It is located close enough to any of the major sights you would want to see in KL and Petaling Street is just round the corner for a bit of tourist market fun.
In conclusion, as great as some aspects of the room were, they were no less than what I would expect at this price range and the room, the service or the overall experience of the stay didn’t do anything to really excel itself. It is a huge shame, as this otherwise unique hotel has the potential to be really memorable.
Berjaya Times Square is a hotel that has relied on its name and location to supply continued business and has let service and standards slip to such an extent that it will be increasingly difficult for them to compete with the boutique hotel market that are increasingly excelling in this area at a much cheaper price.
The room we got an upgrade to after complaining may stretch all but the most generous of budgets, but with good budgeting or a little splurge, basic rooms in this hotel are not out of the reach of most backpackers pockets. Unless you want the specific experience of staying on top of a shopping mall though, quite frankly there are much better options in this price range or even below throughout Kuala Lumpur and next time I will definitely stick to the better and just as unique boutique or budget options.
The Berjaya Times Square Hotel is located at Times Square, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Ready to book? The Berjaya Times square’s website can be found here.
Absolutely no incentives or payment were offered or given in return for this review or any links used. The author paid his own way. Any views and opinions expressed are entirely the authors own based on personal experiences when travelling and are honest and factual without any bias.