Malaysia Country Profile - Cost of Living

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Geographical variation

The cost of living in Malaysia is considered to be very low compared to neighbouring countries such as Singapore, although major cities like Kuala Lumpur and Penang can be pricier. Many people assume that the cost of living in Peninsular Malaysia will be higher than in East Malaysia, but this tends not to be the case due to a controversial cabotage policy designed to benefit the Malaysian shipping industry. Although successful in this respect, the reduced competition has led to higher prices in East Malaysia.


Lease agreements in Malaysia are typically two year contracts, so it is recommended that foreign nationals have a so-called ‘diplomatic clause’ written in to allow them to terminate early should they leave the country. Rents can be very reasonably priced, but you may pay a premium if you choose a short-term let. Be aware that the term ‘unfurnished’ in Malaysia can be very literal, with unfurnished properties sometimes even rented without kitchen equipment!

If you wish to buy a property in Malaysia, there is certainly no shortage of choice. In the past, Malaysia restricted the rights of foreign nationals with regards to purchasing property. Today, these restrictions have largely been removed and the Malaysian government actively encourages foreigners to invest in property by offering incentives through the Malaysia My Second Home (MMSH) scheme. There may still be a minimum property purchase value which applies to foreigners, and deals are subject to approval by the state authorities, which can take up to six months.

Rental deposit

Tenants are frequently asked to pay several rental deposits in Malaysia. Firstly, you pay an earnest deposit of one month’s rent to reserve the property, although this payment is usually taken as the first month of rent in advance. The security deposit is usually two months’ rent, while some landlords will also ask for a utilities deposit of between half and one month’s rent.

Council tax

Locally-levied property taxes in Malaysia are known as Local Council Assessments. Although significantly cheaper than in many European countries, these rates do vary between states, so make sure you check the local government website for details.


The cost of utilities in Malaysia can be surprisingly high compared to the rents. Water and electricity supplies are administered by local companies or authorities, while mains gas supplies are only available in Peninsular Malaysia. The majority of properties use bottled gas, which is heavily subsidised. For telephone and internet providers there is more choice, so shop around for the best prices.

TV licence

Malaysia no longer has a TV licensing system, so terrestrial channels are free to view. However, not all of these are available in East Malaysia, and paid satellite services like Astro are increasingly popular.

Healthcare and medical costs

The Malaysian healthcare system is a combination of public and private services. Although there are some exceptions, in general only Malaysian citizens or permanent residents (holders of the MyKad and MyPR identity cards) can access state-funded healthcare, which is why foreign nationals are usually required to have private medical insurance. Foreigners who are employed by a Malaysian company may have access to public services but will usually have to pay treatment charges, although some services may be covered by the employer-funded Foreign Workers Hospitalisation and Social Insurance Scheme (SKHPPA).


With the temperate climate providing good farming conditions, many fresh foods can be sourced locally in Malaysia and therefore prices remain quite low, with the exception of imported good in East Malaysia. Foodstuffs are also subsidised, so the grocery shop can be done quite cheaply. Clothing and other everyday purchases can also be made relatively inexpensively.

Goods and services tax

Malaysia currently charges two types of sales and service taxes, but a new goods and service tax system is scheduled for implementation in 2015. For more information visit the Royal Malaysian Customs Department’s Goods and Services Tax website.

Price guide

  • Rent on 1-bedroom apartment in city centre – MYR1,570.22 (≈£290.99) per month
  • Rent on 1-bedroom apartment outside city centre – MYR841.79 (≈£156.00) per month
  • Price of apartment in city centre – MYR6,830.00 (≈£1,265.74) per square metre
  • Price of apartment outside city centre – MYR4,027.44 (≈£746.37) per square metre
  • Loaf of bread – MYR2.97 (≈£0.55)
  • Milk (1 litre) – MYR5.73 (≈£1.06)
  • Bottled water (1.5 litre) – MYR2.17 (≈£0.40)
  • Draught beer (0.5 litre) – MYR10.00 (≈£1.85)
  • Packet of cigarettes – MYR12.00 (≈£2.22)
  • Petrol (1 litre) – MYR2.07 (≈£0.38)
  • Cinema ticket – MYR12.00 (≈£2.22)

Source: (accessed July 2014)

 Budgeting and savings

For money saving tips and budgeting advice, as well as the best deals on a range of relocation costs, consult a Malaysian consumer website such as


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