Are you wondering where the best places to live in Malaysia are? You’re in the right place!
Southeast Asia is well known for providing expats a comfortable lifestyle at a low cost. However, every southwest Asian country offers its own unique perks.
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Malaysia is extremely popular among expats and digital nomads seeking to move to Asia.
The top-quality modern amenities, pleasant 82 F (27 C) year-round temperature, and friendly locals are just some reasons why Malaysia is an excellent place to live.
But where in Malaysia should you base yourself? Whether you prefer big cities or laid-back island life, here are the six best places to live in Malaysia for expats and digital nomads.
The bustling city of Kuala Lumpur tops the list of best cities to live in Malaysia for multiple reasons. Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s capital and combines all the usual western amenities with a rich southeast Asian community feel.
As a result, life in Kuala Lumpur can be very comfortable. You’ll enjoy top-class restaurants dishing up every type of cuisine you can think of, colossal shopping malls, and an extensive and efficient public transportation system.
The city is highly international with a large expat community. In fact, it was rated as the number one city for expats in the world by CNBC.
The international vibe makes Kuala Lumpur easy to get by when you don’t know the local dialect.
There are plenty of job and business opportunities for foreigners, including IT, education, and even hospitality.
Both high-level and entry jobs are available for expats in the city. Plus, in the district Ampang, there are all the foreign embassies.
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The cost of living is very low in Kuala Lumpur, with the monthly rent on a one-bedroom apartment rarely more than $500.
This, combined with the city’s modern and luxurious facilities, makes Kuala Lumpur a top choice for expats looking to live “the high life” for a low price.
Penang is a well-known island just off the coast of Malaysia, connected to the mainland via two bridges. Penang is extremely popular with expats and has Malaysia’s second largest foreign community, just behind Kuala Lumpur.
Penang is ideal for expats and remote workers who want to enjoy western comforts and luxury amenities but without the hustle and bustle of a big city.
The pace of life is considerably slower in Penang compared to Kuala Lumpur, and it is just as much of a gastronomic hub as the capital city.
Another pro of living in here is the abundant nature at your doorstep. There is a small national park, beautiful botanical gardens, beaches, and lots of great places to go backpacking in Penang.
Most expats in Penang live near the beaches, such as Tanjung Bungah or Batu Ferringhi. On the other hand, Georgetown has recently become a digital nomad hotspot with many new coworking spaces.
The economy in Penang is another thing that draws expats to this Malaysian island. It has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, and there are plenty of jobs for expats too.
Moreover, there are many international schools, so it’s a top choice among expats with children.
The cost of living is slightly lower than in Kuala Lumpur, with the most significant differences in restaurant prices and housing. For example, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Penang is around $250 a month.
Malacca (also spelled Melaka) may be lesser known than Kuala Lumpur and Penang. However, it is still one of the best cities in Malaysia for expats.
The port city is about 2 hours south of Kuala Lumpur. It is home to around 850,000 people, giving it a reasonably small town feel.
The city’s landscape, such as the coastal location and the Malacca River that runs through it, gives Malacca a charming and picturesque look. It is also conveniently located halfway between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, offering some fab weekend city breaks.
There is an established expat community in Malacca, but it is much smaller than in Kuala Lumpur and Penang.
Still, you’ll find enough foreign-owned businesses to make you feel at home. Many buildings have a European look, too, mainly Portuguese, Dutch, and British influences.
The city also has rich Chinese influences with the 17th-century Chinese Cheng Hoon Teng temple and a bustling Chinatown.
While there are not as many job opportunities as in Kuala Lumpur, there are still several international companies, including IT, engineering, and hospitality.
There are also a handful of high-quality international schools. Rental prices typically range from $200 to $300 for a one-bedroom apartment.
Johor Bahru (or Johor for short) is located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, right above Singapore. It is a popular tourist destination among Singaporeans and a shopping, dining, and entertainment hub.
As a result, this lively yet cheap area is one of the best Malaysian cities and an excellent alternative to the high costs in Singapore.
Johor Bahru has an active expat community, with most foreigners living in East Ledang, Puteri Harbor, and Horizon Hills districts.
Expats here enjoy the city’s vibrant modern side and the beautiful Asian architecture from the Chinese and Indian temples and Malay mosques.
There are sufficient job opportunities in Johor, such as finance, HR, manufacturing, and construction. Plus, housing is cheaper than in Kuala Lumpur; you can typically find a one-bedroom apartment for $200 to $300 a month.
Langkawi is undoubtedly one of the best places to live in Malaysia for anyone who wants to enjoy a laid-back beach lifestyle. Langkawi is a duty-free island located about 30 km from the coast in northwestern Malaysia, close to Thailand.
The reasonably remote island is popular with tourists who stop by for a few days to relax on the beach and buy cheap alcohol, cosmetics, or designer clothes.
However, as Langkawi has rapidly developed over the last few years, more and more expats living and working in Malaysia are choosing to base themselves here.
Because of the recent development, there are many new and super spacious sea view condos and villas available to rent to buy.
Thus, Langkawi is ideal for groups of digital nomads wanting to spend a few months by the sea and retirees looking to buy a luxurious property in paradise.
However, the downside to Langkawi is that there is less to do here compared to the big Malaysian cities. Langkawi has a village feel where life is slower.
And talking about speed, the internet is also slower in Langkawi compared to other parts of the country, which remote workers should bear in mind.
Ipoh is another fast-growing Malaysian city that is incredibly popular with tourists and thus, is now becoming favored by expats too. There is much to discover here, from limestone hills to cave temples to intriguing street murals.
Expats are also increasingly choosing Ipoh because the city is immaculate with very little traffic and the locals are very friendly to foreigners.
The old town is very walkable, too, so you can stroll around admiring the architecture while taking advantage of the vibrant street food scene here.
Ipoh is the fourth-largest city in Malaysia, so while it is possible to find jobs for expats, there are fewer opportunities than in the bigger cities.
Still, for remote workers and retirees who are looking for a green, clean and peaceful place to stay, Ipoh is delightful.
Final Thoughts On Best Places To Live in Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur and Penang have the largest expat communities, so they are naturally the most popular choices for those moving to the country.
However, these two cities are not the only best places to live in Malaysia, as the lesser-known towns of Malacca and Langkawi can offer an equally wonderful yet alternative experience.
Not sure if Malaysia is the right place for you? Read one of the following guides: