The cost of living in Malaysia is relatively low compared to neighbouring countries. In Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2023, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru ranked 180th and 212th respectively out of 227 cities surveyed worldwide. This puts even Malaysia's most expensive city, the capital, well below nearby Singapore (2nd). Other regional capitals such as Manila (133rd) and Jakarta (151st) also have significantly higher costs of living.

Accommodation will most likely be the largest expense that expats will need to cover. It's possible to save by living outside the capital and avoiding renting in city centres, opting for somewhat less convenient but much cheaper suburban options.


Cost of accommodation in Malaysia

Malaysia offers a range of accommodation options at varying prices that are highly dependent on the type of home an expat is looking for, as well as its location. When viewing a property, it's always good to enquire about the local traffic in the area and to double-check possibilities for daily routes, as a short distance can become a long commute during rush-hour traffic. Easy access to public transport is also often a lifesaver but will push up the cost of rent.

Household running costs can vary, and on top of the basic rent, expats will need to budget for utilities such as electricity, water and gas.


Cost of groceries and eating out in Malaysia

Food prices are generally quite low, particularly if buying local products. Expats moving to Malaysia will also have fun exploring local markets where they can find cheap fresh produce. 

Those looking for a taste of home will have to fork out a little extra to enjoy imported Western products. Supermarkets such as déMarket in Kuala Lumpur offer a range of speciality products, but this comes at a cost. 


Cost of entertainment and eating out in Malaysia

Malaysia has a fine range of cuisine from across the world, and this is reflected in the many types of restaurants available. Indulging in some Malaysian street food is a great experience and makes for a cheap night out, and even restaurant meals can be reasonable. Alcohol is expensive, though, so drinks can increase the bill substantially.

Malaysia, like the rest of Asia, has a range of affordable and good-quality electrical products. Therefore, it goes without saying that shopping is one of the biggest pastimes in the country. Cameras, computers, mobile phones and other items are all inexpensive. There are often sales and special deals, particularly around religious holidays, so shopping around does have its rewards.


Cost of transport in Malaysia

Malaysia boasts comprehensive and efficient public transport networks that are easily accessible at reasonable prices. Expats living in the Klang Valley can use the integrated transport system, comprising buses, Light Rail Transit (LRT) and a monorail to get around in Malaysia. Taxis and ride-hailing services are also available but at a premium. 

New arrivals will likely need a vehicle outside the Klang Valley as public transport is fairly limited. Expats who choose to drive in Malaysia will need to account for the cost of petrol, road tax and insurance. 


Cost of healthcare in Malaysia

The cost of healthcare in Malaysia will depend on whether expats decide to access public or private medical facilities. Foreign workers in Malaysia will have access to government-mandated medical insurance that allows them to be treated at public facilities at a low cost.

Still, as Malaysia is a booming medical tourism destination offering relatively low consultation, hospitalisation and treatment fees, most expats opt for international medical insurance to access private facilities in the country. 


Cost of education in Malaysia

Public schools in Malaysia are typically not an option for expats moving to the country with older children or those staying for the short term, as the language of instruction is Malay. Expat parents who would like to integrate their children into the local culture can send them to public schools at a low cost.

Most expats will send their children to private or international schools as these offer a wider range of curricula in a familiar language. Although international schools are infamous for their steep tuition costs, these schools offer high teaching standards and quality facilities. It is advisable for expats relocating to Malaysia for work to negotiate an education allowance to offset some costs associated with private and international schools. 


Cost of living in Malaysia chart

Note that prices may vary depending on product and service provider, and the list below shows average prices for Kuala Lumpur in May 2023.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

MYR 2,200

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

MYR 1,310

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

MYR 4,420

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

MYR 2,400

Groceries

Milk (1 litre)

MYR 7.75

Loaf of white bread

MYR 3.68

Rice (1kg)

MYR 6.24

Dozen eggs

MYR 8.19

Chicken breasts (1kg)

MYR 18.32

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

MYR 18

Utilities/household

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

MYR 0.46

Internet (uncapped per month)

MYR 118

Basic utilities per month (electricity, gas, water)

MYR 225

Eating out

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two people

MYR 120

Big Mac meal

MYR 18

Cappuccino

MYR 12.27

Local beer (500ml)

MYR 18

Coca-Cola (330ml)

MYR 2.94

Transport

Taxi rate (per km)

MYR 5

City-centre public transport (one-way ticket)

MYR 3

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

MYR 2.07

Expat Health Insurance

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