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Cost of Living

Malaysia - Cost of Living

The cost of living in Malaysia is generally much lower than that in the UK or USA, but this is all relative. If you will be working when you are in Malaysia, then your wages will be in line with how much everything costs. If you are going to be living off savings whilst you are there then you may find yourself relatively well off, compared to how far your money would stretch back home. Although the country as a whole is relatively cheap to live in, the latest Cost of Living survey from Mercer found Kuala Lumpur the 96th most expensive city to live in the world. The value of the ringgit has been falling against the dollar which will make prices relatively cheaper than before.

Property Prices

Some visas will require you to spend a certain amount on property before you are allowed to enter the country, so you may not be able to make full use of the lower property prices, but you will get more for your money.

Rental income tax is pretty high in Malaysia, the property might not cost you that much to buy but if you rent it out then you will be taxed 26% on the money you receive from tenants. This means that rent is elevated slightly in comparison to house purchase prices as landlords charge more to compensate for these extortionate taxes.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, property prices are highest in Kuala Lumpur, followed by Sabah and Senglaor. Nonetheless, you will be able to pick up a nice detached house, perfect for families, for around RM 375, 000 (US$ 124,000). A terraced house will only set you back about RM 210, 000 (US$ 70,000). House Prices in Malaysia have been steadily increasing for the last 10 years, but they still remain much cheaper than you could hope to find back home.


Many staple food goods are subsidised by the government so that consumers don’t actually pay the full price for the products. Subsidised food products in Malaysia include local rice, sugar, cooking oil and flour. All of these products can expect between 10% and 40% subsidies by the government. According to the Big Mac Index, an informal way of assessing the Cost of Living in different cities, Malaysia offers the 6th most affordable Big Mac, suggesting that food prices are much lower in Malaysia than in the UK and the USA.

Meat products in Malaysia are widely available and are sold fresh and at low prices. Most towns and cities will have a wet market where beef, mutton, poultry and fish will all be available at very affordable rates. Most of the country’s seafood is exported to other countries and is a vital part of the Malaysian economy.

The climate in Malaysia means that fruit and vegetables are grown all year round. The wide availability means that the costs are kept down as products do not incur shipping fees and therefore the prices remain low. In general, food products in markets will cost half what they do in the UK or the US.


Cooking gas is a subsidised product in Malaysia. The government will pay about 45% of the actual cost of a tank, so it ends up being relatively cheaper than in the UK or US. Utilities such as internet, telephone and other television bills offer excellent value for money. There is fast internet available in all major towns and cities, which costs roughly £8-10 ($11-15) per month.


There are no standardised cinema ticket prices in Malaysia, but if you go to the right place, i.e. a cinema which is not in the most expensive district in the city, you will be able to pick up a movie ticket for just RM 5, less than half of the cost in a cheaper cinema in the UK. This pattern is the same across most leisure facilities, golf club memberships are cheaper, as are sports match and concert tickets.


Diesel and petrol are also subsidised in Malaysia, in both cases the government pays around 30% of the actual cost. This makes running a car in Malaysia much cheaper than in the UK or the US. This makes fuel about 40p ($0.60) per litre. Because of the cheaper fuel, public transport costs are also much less as they cost less to run.


Malaysian silk and cotton is very cheap, so the cost of manufacturing clothes is much lower. Malls and shopping centres stock designer labels at prices much cheaper than you would be able to get them in the US or the UK. Typically, the same item in Malaysia would cost 20% less than it would in the UK.

So basically, the costs of living are a lot cheaper in Malaysia than they are in the UK or the US. Many expats have found that whether they are an individual, part of a couple or part of a family living in Malaysia, they incur half the monthly costs that they do back home.

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.