Overall, the cost of living in Malaysia is significantly cheaper than most developed nations in both the east and the west. It is therefore little wonder that the country attracts a great deal of expats who are eager to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle at a comparatively low cost. Kuala Lumpur, a city abounding in fantastic retail outlets and exceptional eateries, is one of the more expensive locations on the peninsular to dwell. Klang, for example, is 26% less expensive, and Ipoh 48%! However, this fact certainly should not dissuade anyone considering making KL their new home. It is 50% more expensive to live in Singapore than Kuala Lumpur, and the latter city’s daily food costs, furnished apartment rental averages, monthly internet expenses and personal care prices are more than reasonable. Public Transportation costs within Kuala Lumpur are also significantly cheap, especially for rail commuters.
Despite these perks, there are some goods that will cost you a bundle in Kuala Lumpur. Alcohol and Tobacco products are particularly expensive (though a good beer can still be enjoyed without your having to fork over a price that could have paid for a whole family meal!). For anyone wanting to splurge on spirits and other generally pricy products, the islands of Langkawi, Labuan and Tioman are duty free.
Malaysia is a veritable food lover’s paradise. In many ways, it is easier and cheaper to eat out every night than to cook at home! No matter where you are in KL (or broader Malaysia for that matter), chances are there is a delectable Mamak, Hawker Stall, Banana Leaf or Curry House just around the corner selling top notch meals at jaw-droppingly low prices. The local food in Malaysia is, on the whole, cheaper than western cuisine although anyone hankering for a hamburger is likely to get value for their ringgit (A Big Mac combo in Malaysia costs the equivalent of around USD 2.50).
The wet-markets and ‘Pasar Malams’ (Night Markets) that are found in every major community (KL included) abound with the freshest seafood, meat-products and sizzling satay dishes you will find anywhere (though, more often than not, the stalls are left open to the elements and can attract swarms of flies. Therefore, it goes without saying that the customer should wash their purchases thoroughly.) The fruit on sale at local markets is particularly delectable and affordable to buy in bulk.
KL is also home to a rich variety of decadent upmarket cafes and restaurants. These establishments, however, seldom provide cost incentives and diners are likely to run up a significant (though still marginally cheaper in an international context) bill.
Most Malaysian telecommunications companies provide descent internet and phone services at reasonable prices. The estimated average cost of 8MB worth of internet per month, for example, is only RM177 and most cafes offer free Wi-Fi services.
The Healthcare services offered in KL and throughout Malaysia are excellent. Though foreigners are only able to access private health facilities, and medical insurance is a must, the quality of care provided is among the best found in the South East Asian region. Your everyday visit to the local clinic is likely to cost you around RM50 to RM100, whilst rates for a private hospital start at RM150 per day.
The average electricity cost for the average four-bedroom family home (furnished with appliances and air-conditioning) averages around RM700, whilst the occupants of most smaller two-person flats will have to pay only around RM236 per month for utilities.
The RapidKL monorail, Kelana Jaya and Sri Petaling lines provide a great way of getting to KL’s major destinations at a very low price. These railways, as well as the KTM Komuter and rapid Express Rail Links can (depending on where you want to get to) provide a welcome alternative to the fuel, toll and/or taxi costs that can be incurred for long journeys. Despite the fact that the rail-lines run to a number of major destinations and hubs, owning your own car is a must for long-term expats in Malaysia. Unfortunately, commuting over long distances can be comparatively expensive.
Potential expats will be happy to note that entertainment costs in Malaysia are more than reasonable. Going to the cinema, for example, will cost you only around RM10 to RM13 per person- a price that is far and away cheaper than going to the cinemas in Australia. Bowling, billiards and even archery games can be purchased at a very low price. In addition to this, KL is filled with internet cafes at which, for an exceedingly low price (sometimes a mere RM2.50 per hour) gamers can play to their hearts content.
For anyone looking to do some travelling, more-than-adequate four star hotels will charge an affordable RM200-RM300 per night. Or, for the backpacker on a budget, guest houses can be rented out at around a mere RM70 per night. For a few dollars or Euros a day, a slew of popular destinations (from Batu Caves to Janda Baik) can be thoroughly enjoyed. Though many of Kuala Lumpur’s (and Malaysia’s for that matter) best attractions are free, the ones that charge entrance fees (such as theme parks) are generally well worth the money. One popular example in KL is the Berjaya Times Square indoor theme park, at which unlimited ride access can be enjoyed for RM48 for adults and RM38 for kids.
It is clear to see why Kuala Lumpur remains such a popular choice among expats. Virtually all of the comforts and necessities required to enjoy a comfortable existence in a foreign country can be procured at costs that are sure to delight. Though market prices naturally fluctuate and a variety of imported goods remain fairly expensive, Kuala Lumpur is definitely a city where quality and convenience can be found around almost every corner.
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