The cost of living in Malaysia is relatively low compared to neighbouring countries. According to the 2019 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Kuala Lumpur ranked 141st out of 209 cities surveyed worldwide, placing it well below the cost of living of other Asian cities such as Singapore, Beijing and Tokyo.

Accommodation will most likely be the largest expense that expats will need to cover, but it's possible to save by living outside of 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 with the price being highly dependent on what kind of home an expat is looking for. When viewing accommodation, 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. Using public transport can become a lifesaver.

Renting a two-bedroom condo in an upmarket area of Kuala Lumpur can be expensive, while accommodation in other districts is sometimes half the price one would expect to pay in central KL.

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

Cost of food and eating out in Malaysia

Food prices are generally quite low, particularly if buying local products. 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 provides for a cheap night out, and even restaurant meals can be reasonable. Alcohol is expensive, though, so drinks can increase the cost of eating out substantially. 

Expats moving to Malaysia will also have fun exploring local markets where they can dine on stall food, which is often more authentic, and definitely cheaper, than a sit-down meal. Besides the markets, which are stocked with a range of other products other than food, expats will also be spoilt for choice in the modern malls dotted around Malaysian cities.

Cost of electrical goods in Malaysia

Malaysia, like the rest of Asia, has a range of super affordable and good-quality electrical products. 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 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 2020.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

MYR 1,500 - 2,000

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

MYR 900 - 1,300

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

MYR 3,000 - 4,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

MYR 1,700 - 2,100


Milk (1 litre)

MYR 6.70

Loaf of white bread

MYR 3.50

Rice (1kg)

MYR 3.80

Dozen eggs

MYR 5.20

Chicken breasts (1kg)

MYR 12

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

MYR 17.50


Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

MYR 0.40

Internet (uncapped per month)

MYR 120

Basic utilities per month (electricity, gas, water)

MYR 220

Hourly rate for domestic cleaner

MYR 30

Eating out

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

MYR 65

Big Mac

MYR 15


MYR 12

Local beer (500ml)

MYR 15

Coca-Cola (330ml)

MYR 2.50


Taxi rate (per km)


City-centre public transport


Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

MYR 2.20

Expat Health Insurance


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