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Living in Malaysia

Our writer from New Zealand spent some time living in Malaysia. She provided us with the following informative article on some of the housing options available there.

Renting and Living in Malaysia

By Tanya Whitehead - 2012

Living in Malaysia, time slows down, and you find yourself looking forward to the next exotic and cheap meal that tantalizes your taste buds, every day. It is a very inexpensive and easy country to live in, especially as the second language is English. Indians, Chinese and Malays live together in harmony, each enjoying each other's foods and religious festivals and holidays. There are two seasons; hot, and monsoon, which is hot and wet.

Where to Live Cheaply

There are many choices about where to live. Here are only some of them.

Kuala Lumpur, the capital, is a large bustling city with some amazing architecture, where East meets West. Houses are called bungalows, and apartments are called Condos. Then you get link or terrace houses, which are usually double story houses joined onto one another in a long line, both sides of the road. I do not recommend these. Huge malls which dazzle, small local tea shops, fancy restaurants, makan stalls (food stalls ) and all the usual fast food chains such as McDonalds, KFC, and a few unknowns such as Kenny Rogers.

Most expats who live in KL live in condos which have swimming pools, a gymnasium, a shop and often a small café. These can be rented for anything between $489-$900 a month. There are many suburbs surrounding KL, like Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya, Damansara Heights, Bangasar and these are quite popular areas to live in. You can rent a very large bungalow, semi furnished, which has three double rooms, two bathrooms, two living areas, maid quarters, and a small garden for between $1,300-$1,600 a month.

The best idea is to search the newspapers or real estate online. If you are on a budget, beware of going to any site that has the words “expatriate” as you will only be shown the really expensive condos and bungalows that start from $5,000 a month.

Another good choice is Penang, renowned for its horse racing, fishing village on stilts, snake temple, beaches and the best hawkers food.

Sabah, which is in Borneo, is where I rented a 3 bedroom, two bathroom, apartment for 3 months in Kota Kinabalu Marina Court Holiday Apartment. It had two swimming pools, gym, squash court, play ground, parking, security. The apartment was beautiful, simply furnished (beds, bedding, curtains, lounge suite, fridge and washing machine out on the kitchen balcony) with a balcony overlooking the waterfront and cost us $978 monthly.

Langkawi is an island on the West coast, a ferry ride from Penang or a ½ hour flight to Kuala Lumpur. This tiny settlement of mostly Malays, has a Thai influence from when the Thai monarch ruled there during WW2. It is a vibrant island. The main town is Kuah. You can live anywhere on the island. Most expats prefer to live near Pantai Cenang (pronounced Chenang) which means Cenang Beach. This is has a long, beautiful beach which has restaurants dotted all along its length and which comes alive at night with all the fairy lights, tables brought out onto the sand, and people dancing away at the local reggae bar, Babylon or eating at the numerous restaurants which range from dirt cheap to slightly expensive.

In Langkawi you can choose between renting a bungalow in Pantai Cenang which is usually quite large, tiled, and has a few bedrooms and the standard bathrooms, kitchen and dining room. Some come furnished. A bungalow like this will cost you between RM800 –RM2000 a month ($260-$650) depending on how basic it is.

The other choice is an apartment and although there are quite a few in Langkawi, there are two that expats choose, which is Perdana Beach Resort, near the airport and the East beaches and only a 10 minute drive to Pantai Cenang, or Chogm Villa in Kuah. Chogm Villa has a lovely layout with all the 2 story apartments facing the large pool and gardens.

Many expats still live on their yachts here. Langkawi’s other draw card is that it is a duty free island, so alcohol (usually quite expensive in Malaysia due to it being a Muslim country and taxed heavily), cigarettes and chocolates are very cheap.

Furniture and Appliances

As Malaysians eat out three times a day, their kitchens are usually quite small and not very well furnished. The most you will get is a fridge, perhaps a microwave, and a gas table top stove. We have always had a washing machine included. If it is semi-furnished this will include beds with bedding, curtains, lounge suites and table and a dining room table.

Most of the apartments are either nicely furnished or very basic, and go for around RM2000-RM2500 a month. With Perdana Beach Resort, it is not well kept, the pool is small, the apartments range from dinghy to beautiful, but they either face the pool and sea which is a 100m walk to the small beach and thai fishing village, or they face out to the sea. Apartments range from RM900-RM1500 a month. Your gas for 3 months is around RM70 depending on how much you cook at home. Your electricity is around RM150 a month. We lived there for 11 months as we wanted to be closer to Pantai Cenang.

You will usually need two months cash deposit which is refunded after they have checked that all is well with the apartment once you leave. This can also be given back to you by cash.

Visas in Malaysia

The law in Malaysia, is that you are allowed to live there, but must do a visa run every 3 months. This entails leaving the country by boat, aeroplane or car, for a minimum of 72 hours. We have friends who have been doing this for 14 years. You are not allowed to work, unless you have a work permit. Getting a work permit means going through an agent, having either a job offer or starting a business with Asian partners that can be sleeping partners. However, they cannot check if you are doing any work online.

The other way of living there is applying for MM2H; Malaysia My Second Home. Promoted by the Government of Malaysia to allow foreigners who fulfill certain criteria, to stay in Malaysia for as long as possible on a multiple-entry social visit pass. The Social Visit Pass is initially for a period of ten (10) years, and is renewable. It can get quite complicated, requires some money, and you are not allowed to work.


Editors Note: RM stands for Ringgit Malaysia, the official currency of Malaysia. As of late April, 2012, 1 US dollar = 3.0662 Malaysian ringgits (but exchange rates change continually, so if you are considering living in Malaysia, look up the latest rate online).

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Houses Under Fifty Thousand | Living in Malaysia