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Your First Month in KL: What Will It Cost?

For expats, few cities in Asia deliver the value of Kuala Lumpur. With first-month costs of roughly a third that of regional powerhouses Hong Kong and Singapore, expats in KL find their paycheque goes much further here.

The first month in a new city isn’t just about the uncertainty, apprehension, and excitement of discovering your new home. There are real costs associated with it. First up, what will the moving bill cost? How much will that apartment deposit set you back? What about the first month’s rent? What will it cost to get your internet and phone going? Will you rely on public transportation? And what about the cost of eating out during those first few weeks before you really get settled in?

Hong Kong city skyline from the top of Victoria Peak

An analysis published in January 2017 by German firm Movinga revealed some good news for expats newly arrived in Kuala Lumpur: In a list of 75 global cities studied for their Relocation Price Index 2017, the Malaysian capital ranked all the way down at number 59 for first month’s cost, even coming in slightly cheaper than nearby Jakarta and Bangkok, and far, far cheaper than Asian pacesetters Hong Kong (#6), Singapore (#8), and Tokyo (#9). In fact, Kuala Lumpur has the least costly first month’s expenses of any city in Asia, with the exception of Hanoi, Vietnam, which scored slightly cheaper and was ranked #64.

How good is it for expats in KL?

Well consider the data first: The methodology for the full ranking is based on the following equation: (one month’s rent) + (average living costs (phone + food and drink + transport)) = (first month’s cost). Obviously this isn’t all-inclusive, but by standardising a simple set of data, it’s easy to compare cities. For 75 cities across the globe, including cosmopolitan epicenters like Tokyo and fast-growing startup hubs like Berlin, The team at Movinga researched the four main factors contributing to the total cost of an expat’s first month in a new home: the rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre, the cost of mobile phone set up and data plan, the price of a monthly public transportation pass, as well as food and drink for 30 days. The list was then ranked based on the total average cost for each city.

View of KL city and suburb | Credit: BroNrw / Shutterstock, Inc.

For KL, the first month’s total cost came in at $788, good enough for 59th place overall – or 17th-cheapest, if you prefer your glass half-full. Compare that to New York ($3,086), Hong Kong ($2,265), Dubai ($1,988), Singapore ($2,148), and Sydney ($2,163). Also delivering low costs in the region are Jakarta ($866) and Bangkok ($852).

It’s further worth noting that many of the cities ranked less expensive than KL on this list are of dubious desirability for an expat’s chosen home away from home. Lagos, Nigeria (#68), Riga, Latvia (#67), Cairo (#73), Sofia, Bulgaria (#70), and Mexico City (#65) all offer a cheaper first month, but probably not as comfortable a life as expats enjoy in Kuala Lumpur!

For the full list, visit movinga.de/en/relocation-price-index. (Note: Data correct as of 2 January 2017. Currency conversions calculated on 2 January 2017. Small differences in costs may exist due to recently fluctuating markets.)

This article first appeared in the 2017 Expat Welcome Guide, published each year by TEG to help expats settle in to their new home away from home. For a free subscription to its parent magazine, The Expat, click here.

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