Cheapest Places to Live: Malaysia

In this popular cheapest places to live 2009 post I did a while back, I briefly mentioned Malaysia as one of the best deals in Asia for expats. It has distinguished itself from its neighbors by formally welcoming foreigners—well, at least those with some money.

It’s My Second Home program is a clear signal that they want you there and you will not have to make visa runs every few months just to hang around longer than the average tourist.

The program is meant “to allow foreigners who fulfill certain criteria, to stay in Malaysia for as long as possible on a multiple-entry social visit pass.

The Social Visit Pass is initially for a period of ten (10) years, and is renewable.”

So what are those “certain criteria” you ask? As with many of these incentive programs, you are sort of buying your way in. But after you do that you can purchase a house free and clear, bring in your stuff, start a business, and even work part-time legally.

If you’re younger than 50, you need to demonstrate $143K in savings and an ongoing income of close to $3,000 a month. For most people this would require a hefty IRA/401K or proceeds from a just-sold house. But if you’re moving there for good you’re probably selling your home house anyway.

Retirees only have to show savings of about $100K, but the same income level, which is obviously more than Social Security is paying. If you buy an expensive house there, they’ll lower some of the requirements. See the terms here.

The thing is, you don’t have to buy an expensive house since real estate there is quite a bargain. If you go to this real estate site and punch in Malacca, for instance, you’ll find bargains galore. Like a 3-bedroom, 2-bath condo for US$16,600. (Can you put it on a credit card?) Or a 1,540 square-foot house with covered parking for $68,000. For $100,000 here you get a huge resort area bungalow with its own swimming pool and “price is negotiable.”

Or you can just rent a place for a few hundred bucks a month, including maid service.

Malaysia is featured in the book The World’s Cheapest Destinations and it’s known for having good infrastructure, great food, and a population where a whole lot of people speak English. And hey, it’s right next to Thailand.

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  1. Miranda B

    If I had $143,000 in the bank I wouldn’t need to go live in Malaysia. The food is good there though–and cheap. I think I would get fat fast from eating at street stalls all day long.

  2. Colin Wright

    Ah, I hope someone votes for me to go there when I leave Argentina in 4 months! I’ve been hearing so much about Thailand that I completely forgot about Malaysia. So many places to go, so little time!

  3. Giancarlo MUSCHI

    I have only a pension of 1500 usdol a month. Can I go to live in Malasia and received a retirement visa

    • tim

      Giancarlo, Follow the link in the post to the official requirements page.

    • Bob

      Giancarlo, have you managed to move and live in Malaysia since your commented back in Oct 2009? If yes, please input how has everything been?

  4. may

    I’m planning an upcoming trip to Bali and was wondering where I might find out about places to stay for “a few hundred bucks a month.” The cheapest apartments I’ve found online are a few hundred a week! Would be grateful for any pointers. thanks!

    • tim

      You’ve got to get feet on the ground and look around unless you’ve got a line in to a local contact who can help you. Most of what you find on line is geared to people looking for a short-term vacation rental, not for someone looking to move there. In much of the world, real estate is still a face-to-face operation, especially if you want to get anything anywhere close to the market rate.

  5. charles

    hello,i want to leave australia…and live in either malaysia or thailand…willing to correspond with knowledgable p/pl living in either plc….ASAP

  6. charles

    p/s contact me at my email address

  7. Anis Laila

    That’s right, it has good infrastructure, great food, English speaking population and some great Malaysia accommodation.

  8. J Sia

    Its still cheap to live in Malaysia if u are a foreigner with retirement income
    In the capital city u can rent a house for US$400 pm. If u dont mind hawker food or cooking yourself, you can live on US$3-4 per day ,no steak or salad,only local friut at US$ 0.30

  9. Faouzia

    Malaysia is a great place to visit and stay. There are various jobs for those looking for different career and of course, all kinds of food. Welcome!

  10. stanley ho

    r u out of yr mind to choose malaysia as the cheapest place to live ? Try Johore seperated by a causeway from Singapore reachable in 20 minutes. Yes-many homes are cheap by western stNDARDS BUT U EXCHANGE FOR DIRTY STREETS N RUBBISH DUMPS, BAD FOODS, MURDERS N A mALAY SOCIETY WHO WILL JAIL U IF CAUGHT HOLDING HANDS IN PUBLIC. sO IF CHEAP IS YOUR GOA–WHY mALAYSIA. sTAY UP, EAT LESS EXERCISE MORE N FORSAKE MATERIAL THINGS N U WILL BE MUCH HAPPIER AND CHEAPER WHERE U R NOW.

    • Hugh

      I am going to Singapore! Is there cheap monthly rentals in Johore?
      Do you know the prices?

      And I take it you do mean Johore and not Johor Bahru.

      Thanks Heaps.

      Looking forward to my adventure.

    • ...

      You Must be Singaporean…. Stanley ho!!!

  11. SAeid

    Sitting in my beautiful, fully furnished apartment, over looking the sea in Penang. Which by the way costs me 400$ a month.

    One thing the article forgets to mention is how wonderful the people of Malaysia are. Truly, they are some of the warmest and most polite people I have met any where.

    And once you learn your way around, you can have a proper meal for around 2$.

    • Hugh McRae

      Where abouts are you?

      Sounds wonderful, I am planning to take a holiday and find a place to rent as cheaply as possible. I am not a retiree but I am on a pension.

      I am just damn sick of Australia and want to venture into Malaysia somewhere.

      Even if I only get the 3 months Holiday visa. I will make multiple trips, and make a deal with the owner to rent continuosly, while I am satisfying the rules of the Holiday Visa.


      • tim

        I’m living in Mexico, so someone else will have to chime in with specifics. I know Penang and Malacca are popular spots for foreigners.

  12. Ray

    i want to know more about Penang, how can i retire there?

  13. Jun Cpocjin

    yeah? i don’t think so, .30 cents a day is very very cheap but you still end up hungry… where in Zarangani province, you can buy a 50 kilograms of blue fin tuna for only $100.00 and you will consume it for more than a month…plus the beach is clean drinking water are clean, people speaks english and fruits are there whenever you need it, and you will feel like you are in north America. you can build a descent house for only 30,000 dollars or less.

  14. Seem

    I am Executive Chef with great experience in Mediterranean&Western Cuisine and living right now in China,I would like to move to Malaysia for living and work there,Is there chance to get nice offer?


    Would like to live in a small city in Malaysia any one have one?

  16. mr.jerrold frost

    i started going to malaysia in 1992, spent much time in penang my favorite place ; malaka, also for 10 yrs. kept an apt. in klebang. 3 bedrooms 2 baths. $ 250.00 per month; how do you beat that? over looking the straights. no less. i dropped it after the resession hit. but if i can unload my house in america i will go back for the remaining years i have left. all the good things said about malaysia are true. i forgot the best part ; i met and got engaged to a malaysian, chinese girl. from malaka… good luck and selamat pagi

  17. JACK

    I will be moving to Kl next month. Can someone suggest an appartment at walking distance (~ 1 km) near petronas tower for around $1000 p.m.


    Life is short,want to go somewhere calm and quite along with my family,with a sufficient income business.what do you suggest about any cool cheap/decent place to live in Malaysia?

    • Jun chuan

      If you want to live in a quiet town with some activities in the day like playing with friends, looking for things to eat, pherhaps a few bars, i would recommend a small town called Teluk Intan located in perak. It doesnt have as much as the cities or big towns but it is enough to live comfortably. However it doesnt have those big shopping malls and cinemas or theatres you would typically find in a city

  19. rashid minhas khan

    how i live in malaysia

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