Expat & Retiree Life In Ipoh, Malaysia

This Top Haven Is Eclectic, Easygoing, English-Speaking, And Exceedingly Affordable

Ipoh is a popular retirement haven among Malaysians, who claim that its fresh air, clean water, and relaxing lifestyle not only improve their quality of life but also promote longevity and health,” writes Asia Correspondent Wendy Justice in this month’s issue of my Overseas Retirement Letter, in the final stages of production as you read this.

“And it should be every bit as popular among foreign retirees, as well.

“Known as ‘The City Built on Tin,’ ‘The City of Millionaires,’ and ‘The City of Bougainvillea,’ Ipoh offers many advantages for Westerners interested in relocation to this part of the world. The health care is First World, the infrastructure modern, the visa program flexible, and there’s ample opportunity to mingle with friendly, English-speaking locals.

“In Ipoh you can savor the history of Britain’s Colonial heyday, wander the maze of narrow streets and alleyways in the city’s Chinatown, or head to one of several modern malls to enjoy a first-run Hollywood movie and international-standard shopping. Ipoh also boasts one of Malaysia’s finest regional cuisines, including the city’s internationally famous ‘white coffee.’

“Perhaps the best part is that you can enjoy everything Malaysia’s fourth-largest city has to offer even on a very modest budget. A retired couple could live comfortably here on less than US$1,000 per month.

“Ipoh (pronounced “ee-poe”) is located on the banks of the Kinta River at the confluence of the smaller Sungai Pinji and Sungai Pari rivers. The Kinta River Valley is surrounded on three sides by picturesque limestone cliffs and hills, granite mountains, and dense, tropical jungle. The Kledang Mountains stretch from north of the city toward the east as the land gradually rises to the lofty altitudes of the central highlands. There are caves, natural lakes, and wild rivers within an hour’s drive of Ipoh, making this one of Malaysia’s best locales for trekking, spelunking, and white-water rafting.

“Ipoh’s location is one of the most convenient in all Malaysia. A two-hour drive along the controlled-access North-South Expressway takes you north to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Georgetown or south to Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur. A 90-minute drive takes you west to Lumut, the gateway to the beach resorts of Pangkor Island, or east to Malaysia’s central mountains, the town of Tanah Rata and the Cameron Highlands.

“One important reason the cost of living is as affordable as it is in Ipoh is the cost of renting here. You can rent a comfortable two-bedroom place for as little as US$200 or US$250 per month.

“Although it is possible to find a fine rental through personal research and word-of-mouth, using a property agent is the best way to see a variety of homes, condos, and apartments with a minimum of hassle. A Malaysian agent will have a much better understanding of the culture and of the nuances of the local real estate market than you will. And an agent’s negotiation skills can make his or her services invaluable.

“Further, a property agent’s fees are paid by the property owner when a buyer or renter is secured, so using one comes at no cost to you. It also means that most agents are motivated to find properties that satisfy your requirements. It is to their advantage to find you a place that you like.

“Rentals can be fully furnished, partially furnished, or unfurnished. Typically, fully furnished places supply all household items including dishes and linens. They might advertise something like, ‘All you need is your suitcase,’ and this is accurate. Partially furnished places generally come with all major household furnishings, but you’ll need to provide your own household items. Unfurnished apartments might include a refrigerator, a range, and air conditioning, but little else. Very few places come with an oven. It’s an appliance that most Malaysians just don’t use.”

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. If you’re an Overseas Retirement Letter subscriber, watch your e-mailbox tomorrow for this month’s special issue featuring Wendy Justice’s full report on expat and retiree life in eclectic, easygoing, English-speaking, and sublimely affordable Ipoh.

If you’re not yet an Overseas Retirement Letter subscriber, what are you waiting for? Sign on here.

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