Malaysia is a regional and a global hub—for trade, for business, and for cultures.
The diversity of its people, who comprise an assortment of Malay, Chinese, and Indian ethnicities, creates a unique culture. As a result, foreigners invariably find Malaysia to be an extraordinary place to partake in a diversity of traditions, foods, and festivals.
Malaysia actively welcomes foreigners, offering incentives like the Malaysia My Second Home visa program, granting 10-year long-stay visas. And foreigners are eager to be accepted. Malaysians are friendly and gracious, the cost of living is some of the cheapest in the world, the health care is world-class (and affordable), and, to boot, Malaysia is a world-renowned foodie haven. In 2014 George Town was ranked the top food destination in the world by Lonely Planet.
Kuala Lumpur, located in the heart of the Malaysian Peninsula, is a city of contrasts. It is also one of the world’s most affordable, exotic, and, at the same time, fully appointed and comfortable places to retire.
George Town on Malaysia’s Penang Island (called the “Pearl Of The Orient”) is Asia’s premier city for expats. This colonial, UNESCO town is a thriving cultural center and a major hub for expats in the region. Founded by the British in the late 1700s, this historic city offers some of the world’s best overseas living.
Cost Of Living In Malaysia
Live and Invest Overseas offers monthly cost of living budgets (for a couple) for our favorite destinations in Malaysia:
Infrastructure In Malaysia
Infrastructure in Malaysia is excellent and constantly improving. It is arguably one of the most well-developed countries in Asia, making it a great choice for both lifestyle and for business or investment.
Malaysian infrastructure has always been good due to its colonial history, but also unevenly distributed throughout the country for this same reason. While towns colonized by the British inherited a skeleton of infrastructure, these were but oases in a desert. When the country gained independence in the 1957 the new government actively invested in national infrastructure, expanding and connecting highways, railroads, seaports, and airports.
In the past couple of decades the government has focused on modernizing the country, encouraging technological advancements in the country to improve satellite, Internet, and general communications.
The road systems in Eastern Malaysia are less developed than in the rest of the country.
Climate In Malaysia
Malaysia has an equatorial climate which is dominated by the monsoon season.
The temperature in all areas of Malaysia typically ranges between 70°F and 90°F throughout the year. Average annual humidity is around 80%. Mountainous regions and any area above sea level may experience cooler temperatures and lower humidity. Malaysia receives plenty of precipitation during monsoon season, but the rest of the year stays fairly dry. The average annual rainfall for Malaysia is about 100 inches, but this is distributed throughout the country and occurs mostly during monsoon season.
Overall Malaysia’s weather is warm and tropical (and suffers almost no natural disasters), but the unrelenting heat and humidity are not for everyone.
As in any country, weather depends on your region, but generally Malaysia enjoys a warm, sunny climate with little temperature fluctuation from season to season.
Malaysian Rainy Season (monsoon season): May to September in the Southwest; November to March in the Northeast.
Malaysian Dry Season: April to December in the Northeast; October to April in the Southwest.
Residency In Malaysia
U.S. citizens may enter Malaysia without a visa and remain in the country as a tourist for a maximum of 90 days per trip. Tourist visas are granted upon arrival at local immigration. The typical allowance is 90 days, but this is not guaranteed; check your visa stamp before leaving the airport to be sure of your allotted time. If you wish to stay longer than 90 days, you need a “long-stay visa” which typically extends your visa for two additional months. Malaysia actively polices visa overstays; if you overstay your visa, you could be subject to fines or detention followed by legal action.
Unlike other countries in Southeast Asia, though, Malaysia actively encourages foreign residents to relocate here—they just don’t want you staying illegally. Excellent incentives are available if you qualify for the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program. Permanent residency is offered and comes with a host of incentives to entice foreigners here.
The government’s MM2H program, easy place to live or retire. The MM2H program provides you with a retirement visa that is valid for up to 10 years, duty-free importation of personal belongings, a duty-free allowance to import or purchase an automobile, and a reduction in the required minimum purchase price of a home in the state of Penang.
To qualify under the age of 50, you must show liquid assets of at least 500,000 ringgits and an offshore (non-Malaysian) income of at least 10,000 ringgits per month. In addition, you must open a fixed-deposit account of at least 300,000 ringgits at a Malaysian bank. To qualify over the age of 50, you must show 350,000 ringgits in assets and an offshore income of at least 10,000 ringgits per month. You have your choice of opening either a fixed-deposit account of at least 150,000 ringgits or showing proof that you have a pension paid out by a government source of at least 10,000 ringgits.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of MM2H status is the tax status it gives you. As a MM2H resident in Malaysia, all your foreign-source income, including pension, interest, and dividend income, as well as foreign earned income, is exempt from Malaysian taxes. Note, though, that income from employment or business within Malaysia is taxable.
Residency in Malaysia can lead to naturalization in this country, but there are several requirements, including renunciation of prior citizenship and “an elementary knowledge of the Malay language.”
Health Care In Malaysia
Malaysian health care standards are high, and costs are low for any critical health services (a doctor’s visit often costs less than US$10), wellness counseling, cosmetic care, or elective care that you may seek. In all, the health care system in Malaysia is modern, efficient, and one of the country’s greatest bargains.
It’s not unusual for Westerners to come here for a medical or dental “vacation,” then recuperate in low-cost leisure while enjoying the many other attractions of the area. The Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council has a great deal of information about the excellent medical care available you can expect when you come to Malaysia.
Due to the country’s colonization, Western medicine and health care standards were imported to Malaysia in the 18th century. Since becoming independent, the Malaysian health care system has been largely controlled by the government who make sure a high standard of health care is available throughout the country.
Malaysia does not have any doctorate-level medical schools of its own, so all physicians practicing in the country have acquired at least part of their education overseas. Hospitals employ medical personnel educated in Europe, Australia, the United States, and Canada. As a result, whether you go to a small neighborhood clinic, a public hospital, or a major private hospital, it is quite likely that your doctor will speak fluent English.
Hospitals are modern, clean, and furnished with all the equipment that you would expect from a hospital in the U.S. or Canada. Local “kliniks” offer good treatment for minor illnesses at extremely reasonable prices. A visit to one of these kliniks usually costs around US$5. The general practitioners working there tend to be foreign-educated and proficient in English. Specialists may have their own clinics or have offices located in hospital medical complexes. A visit to a specialist costs around US$30 for an initial consultation, and follow-up visits are often included at no additional charge. If you have a condition that requires hospitalization, you will be pleased at how affordable high quality health care can be.
Most medications prescribed by Western physicians can be found in Malaysia, often at much lower prices. Many drugs, including most antibiotics, can be purchased over the counter in Malaysia, though some routine medications—mostly painkillers such as ibuprofen—require a prescription. If you must take a specific medication, you may want to confirm that it is available in Malaysia.
Narcotics are illegal in Malaysia and cannot be prescribed, purchased, or imported. Illegal importation of narcotics can carry the death penalty.
Health statistics in Malaysia compare favorably with the United States and Western Europe—numbers like infant mortality rate (10 in 2005) and age expectancy (74 years in 2005).
Real Estate In Malaysia
Malaysia is also one of the few countries in Southeast Asia that allow foreigners, regardless of whether they are permanent residents or not, to purchase land, houses, or condominiums for their primary residence or to produce income. Nonresidents who meet the bank’s qualifications can receive financing for up to 60% of the total value of a property. Those who participate in the MM2H program, which grants permanent residency to foreigners, can receive financing for up to 80% of the total property value. Local banks will usually require that the loan be repaid by the time the borrower reaches 65 or 70 years of age.
In early 2014, the government changed the housing laws. For the first time, MM2H visa holders could take advantage of a reduced minimum purchase price for real estate in some Malaysian localities. Although a minimum price of RM1 million (click here for currency conversion) has been established, some states and municipalities offer incentives to foreign permanent residents.
Foreigners can purchase property for a minimum of 250,000 ringgits (click here for currency conversion). Foreigners can own no more than two condominiums (no more than 50% foreign ownership within a block) or can own one condominium and either terrace or linked houses above two stories (limited to 10% of the total number of units built of this type) or bungalows and semi-detached houses (limited to 10% of units built of these types).
English In Malaysia
English is widely spoken throughout the country; it is taught in schools and is the primary spoken language for many Malaysians. You could easily live here operating entirely in English, without ever learning a word of Malay.