The cost of living in Malaysia is far cheaper than most Western countries and several other Asian countries such as Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Cars, international schools, alcohol, and imported foods can be expensive. However, expats on a foreign salary should find it fairly easy to save money during their assignment and still enjoy a good lifestyle. Even those working on a good local salary should do well.
Prices for groceries are also fairly reasonable, depending on where you shop. Malaysia has many supermarkets and hypermarkets and you can also buy food at the various outdoor markets at very attractive prices. As an example the current estimate on basic items are about RM3 for a loaf of bread, RM6 to RM7 for a litre of milk, and about RM60 to RM95 for a kilogram of premium imported steak.
Read more: Expatriate Compensation in Malaysia
Cost of Maids in Malaysia
A maid will cost you somewhere between RM850 (for an Indonesian maid) and RM1,400 for a Filipina, perhaps more depending on the agency fees. If you pay for your own electricity you will need to keep a watch on the air-conditioning costs. Fuel costs about RM2.20 a liter and the price will fluctuate weekly, but Malaysia still has one of the cheapest fuel prices in the world.
Cost of Food in Malaysia
Food in restaurants is relatively cheap and if you are happy to experiment by eating in one of the many food stalls and local non air-conditioned restaurants, you can eat your fill for under RM10 a head. Drinks tend to be disproportionately expensive in these restaurants, curiously enough. You may pay RM6 for your meal and RM4 or more for your drink.
Expensive Products in Malaysia: Cars and Alcohol
The most expensive items in Malaysia compared to many western countries are motor vehicles and alcoholic beverages because of the heavy import duties on both these items. A locally produced car starts around RM30,000 and imported cars start at around RM75,000. As an indication of luxury car prices a Volvo S80 costs around RM295,000
Alcohol is heavily taxed but is widely available. It is hard to find any wines priced under RM35 per bottle in the stores, and for that price it will be pretty basic. A mid-range wine will cost around RM50 to RM70. Australian wines are very popular and probably the best value. In an air-conditioned restaurant, the price is usually doubled or tripled, with it being uncommon to find a bottle for under RM100 in restaurants – hotel restaurants will generally cost even more. A can (small, 325ml) of locally produced beer such as Anchor or Carlsberg will cost around RM8-9 in a supermarket and a glass of beer in a restaurant will run between RM12-18, with locally brewed beer cheaper than imported beer. Cocktails in restaurants and night clubs are around RM30-40 each.
It is worth noting that the popular holiday island, Langkawi, is duty-free and many goods can be acquired cheaply there but there are some restrictions on bringing them back to the mainland.
Check out other cost of living comparisons:
- Cost of Living Comparison: KL and Bangkok
- Cost of Living Compariosn: KL and Jakarta
- Cost of Living Comparison: KL to Australia
- Five Financial Planning Steps in Order of Priority
- Cost of Living in Kuala Lumpur
- An Expat’s Guide to Banking in Malaysia
- The Ultimate Guide to Tax Deductions in Malaysia