How about starting your day with a warm or cold cup of locally grown coffee, fresh organic eggs, toast with coconut jam, and delicious fresh fruit, before you head to the crowded shopping district where you can shop the latest fashion. And what better way to end your day than enjoying the sunset with a glass of wine and fresh seafood at a beautiful tropical beach just a 20 minute drive from your home.
Now open your eyes and get ready, cause you can do all this for about one-third the price it would cost you back home. Say hello to Malaysia!
Of all the amazing destinations in Southeast Asia, Malaysia is the most popular among retirees. There’s nothing new about Malaysia as an expat and digital nomad destination, people have been migrating to the country since the 1920’s.
Country is divided in two parts. Most people moving to Malaysia head to Peninsular Malaysia but there is also Malaysian Borneo. Malaysia is conveniently located to Thailand in the north and Singapore in the south with Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Borneo, the Philippines, China and Taiwan being just a few hours of flight away. Whether you choose to be in Malaysia’s largest city Kuala Lumpur or somewhere a bit quieter like Langkawi, you’ll find yourself enjoying a fun and active lifestyle.
One of the most attractive things about Malaysia is its amalgamation of cultures. Malaysia was first colonized by Portugal in 1511, then subsequently by the Dutch, and the British. This has resulted in most Malay people being able to speak English, a plus of emigrating to the country, no language barrier! The country’s multicultural society is predominantly made up of Malays, Indians, and Chinese. This has resulted in the fascinating synthesis of an array of cuisines, communities, and religions. Head to Kuala Lumpur and you will instantly feel this happy collision of cultures. In one street you can see Chinese restaurants, Indian street sellers, hear the Malay language, and view European architecture.
Malaysia is blessed with perfect weather, stunning beaches, and a more appealing work-life balance. Malaysia has a multitude of incredible natural vistas. From the crustal clear waters and beaches of the Perhentian Islands and Redang Island to Kota Kinabalu on the northern tip of Borneo, Malaysia is an endless white sandy beach paradise.
In addition to beaches Malaysia boasts some of the best jungles and rainforests in the world and is a hotspot for ecotourism and ecolodges. The Malaysian Peninsular is home to Gunung Kinabalu, Banjaran Titiwangsa, and Taman Negara Pahang, these are just some of the area’s diverse jungles. It is believed that around 20% of the world’s animals can be found in Malaysia along with the beautiful Malaysian Tiger, Sumatran Rhinoceros, and the Bornean orangutan. Malaysia really is an outdoor lover’s paradise and nature enthusiast’s dream. If that’s the life you are imagining, then keep investigating Malaysia as your potential retirement destination.
One of the reasons many choose to retire abroad is to change their life for the better. Retiring and having to depend on savings and a pension can be a little intimidating at first. So, moving somewhere where the cost of living is cheaper is definitely going to put your mind at ease. The cost of living in Malaysia can be anything from cheap to affordable depending on your priorities and expenditures. Eating simple, local food can save a ton of money and tastes incredible too. Just knowing there is so much to do on your doorstep that costs a fraction of the price of things in the U.S. is a rewarding feeling.
Malaysia has a tropical climate just like most of Southeast Asia. Malaysia’s dry season is between January and August. From August the humidity begins to hit, and the monsoon rains begin. The rainy season sees average daily temperatures of around 85 °F (29 °C) which increases to around 95 °F (35 °C) in the dry season.
The rainy season downpours in August usually see around 16 days of rain per month and they mostly happen in the mid to late afternoon. September and October are the wettest months with around 21 to 25 days of rain and up to 15 inches of rainfall.
Your Malaysian way of life is what you make of it, you can live an extravagant Kuala Lumpur (KL) lifestyle or a modest, simpler life. Major cities like KL, Penang, and Johor Bahru offer endless opportunities for entertainment and decadent dining. These cities always have large expat communities so you can easily find yourself socializing with fellow countrymen and women.
Malaysia is a much more affordable destination than Europe or the U.S. so having fun is something that can be done even on a budget. There are also a ton of free things to do throughout the country, especially by the coast and in cities.
One of the things that will change most about your lifestyle in Malaysia is what you eat. You will be hard-pressed to find an expat who says they don’t like Malaysian food. That’s because the country’s melting pot of cultures has resulted in the birth of exquisite delicacies. Try mee goreng mamak, and Indian Muslim noodle based dish served with beef or chicken. From Indian influences to traditional Malay, nasi lemak is considered the national dish of Malaysia. The rice of this dish is soaked in coconut cream and wrapped in a banana leaf. It’s served with peanuts, cucumber, and anchovies in a shrimp paste and chili sauce. Not to sound too dramatic but eating Malaysian food may change your life. Imagine getting to retire and explore the unquantifiable amount of dishes this nation has to offer!
Compared to other parts of the world, Asia generally feels very safe. Malaysia is a very safe country that ranks at number 18 of safest countries in the world according to the Global Peace Index. Of course, there are crimes and thefts but generally speaking Malaysia is a place where you can easily feel very very safe. In tourist areas it is always good to be cautious and be on the lookout for potential pickpockets.
Over half of the population belongs are Malay -technically Muslim- and practice a moderate form of Islam and Malaysia prides itself on modernization and tolerance, Malay women are liberated by Islamic standards and are able to drive cars, have jobs, and enjoy equal rights with male citizens.
The cost of living in Malaysia ranges from cheap to affordable, though living in the big cities does cost more and offers plenty of high-end accommodation options for a luxurious lifestyle. Food is pretty cheap, whether you buy it from the store or the local market. Either way you’ll find it’s far more cost effective than back home.
Being able to retire and not have to worry about finances brings great peace of mind. Retiring to the Malaysia island, Penang is a cost effective option. A couple can live very well on $2500 a month. This would include renting a nice three or four bed apartment building with a pool. Renting a place like this can cost between $750 and $1000 a month. If you are not so bothered about ocean views and high end finishes, perfectly nice apartments can be found for $550 to $650, lowering your monthly costs.
Buying local and seasonal fruits, vegetables, and meat will dramatically reduce your food bills. Street-style food in Malaysia, and especially Penang is shockingly cheap. Many places serve hearty portions of noodles with chicken and vegetables for as little as $2 a plate.
Malaysia is considered to be a tax friendly place for expats. For those on the popular MM2H visa you can easily open a bank account and transfer as much money as possible into the account, tax-free. If you are receiving your pension from abroad, you will not be taxed on this income.
Malaysia’s retirement visa is one of the best around and will certainly give you peace of mind for settling down. The MM2H ‘Malaysia My Second Home’ visa grants expats a 10 year multi-entry visa that is automatically renewed when it expires after 10 years. This means you can happily retire in peace with no visa related issues to worry about in the future.
To qualify for this visa those aged 50+ must deposit the equivalent of RM150,000 (around $32,000) into a Malaysian bank account or prove that they have access to RM10,000 (around $2100) a month from an official government pension. The only additional requirements include a health check upon arrival in Malaysia.
Malaysia offers good quality and affordable health care with the added bonus of doctors being able to speak English. A lot of the hospitals in Penang and KL are also JCI accredited.
Seeing specialists is much easier in Malaysia than in the U.S. There isn’t the same level of red tape and appointments are a matter of showing up, registering, and waiting your turn. What’s better is the extensive availability of doctor’s surgeries for minor issues. Usually, the fee to see a doctor is around $10 and this is quicker than going to the hospital.
There is both a government-run universal health care system and private facilities too. Depending on the type of insurance you have or how much you are willing to pay out of pocket you can choose which is more suitable to your needs.
Malaysia has been enticing real estate investors for a while now. Firstly, Malaysia has some of the most liberal regulations in Asia with regards to foreigners buying real estate. It’s one of the only places where foreigners can purchase property freehold, giving retirees greater flexibility.
The government’s MM2H program creates incentives for foreigners to buy property in Malaysia. Holding this visa allows foreigners to experience different price caps and facilitate a wider variety of loans if needed.
Generally speaking, purchasing real estate in Malaysia starts with finding a real estate lawyer and signing an offer letter. At this time a 3% down payment is required on the property. It takes another two weeks for the Sale Agreement to be signed where a further 7% deposit will be paid in the following 3 months. After the purchasing agreement is officially stamped the buyer is liable to pay stamp duty. Finally, the property’s change of ownership should be finalized at the Land Office Registry.
There are a variety of excellent places to live in Malaysia, it simply depends on what you are searching for. Do you want to live in a concrete jungle? Do you want to wake up to views of the sand and sea?
You can’t discuss moving to Malaysia without mentioning Kuala Lumpur or KL as the locals call it. With a population of 6 million there’s no doubt this is a thriving metropolis. If you want access to all the best bars, restaurants, and nightclubs, whilst also being able to explore quaint suburban streets this is the place for you.
A lot of MM2H visa holders decide to live in Penang. If you want an expat community, remarkable ocean views and a UNESCO World Heritage Site this is a great place to live. Rent in Penang is much cheaper than in KL, another attractive feature. There is also a strong village feel and sense of community on Penang, perhaps that comes with more intimate island living.
For somewhere completely laid back why not try the white sandy beach paradise of Langkawi. Local life is laid back, but it is a busy tourist destination. Picturesque palms lining the beach and sparklingly clear waters are Langkawi’s biggest draws. Langkawi isn’t just one island, it comprises 99 diverse islands. This means there are plenty of watersports and nature-based activities to enjoy.
Now, Malaysia isn’t exactly close to the U.S. A move to Southeast Asia is a big commitment in terms of distance. Flight times from New York to KL are between 21 and 24 hours usually with a layover in Japan. It should also be noted that there is a 12 hour time difference with New York and a 15 hour time difference with California. This can sure take some getting used to when trying to contact family back home.
Finding something active to do in Malaysia is never hard. There is always something going on, whether it be horse racing, football, cricket or sepak raga (a type of badminton). In the larger cities there are a whole array of sports clubs and teams that you can join. If you decide to settle down in KL there are a number of senior citizen clubs that offer fun activities and a sense of community. If you are interested in golf, then you’ll be packing your bags already. With 175 courses nationwide there’s fun to be had no matter where you live.
Hiking is another popular activity, particularly among retirees. Whether you hike through jungle paths or Penang’s national park you’ll be keeping fit and taking in Malaysia’s sensational natural scenery.
In short, Malaysia is a very friendly and enticing place to settle down. The multicultural nature of the country will always make you feel welcomed and accepted. There’s no denying that Malaysia is breathtakingly beautiful, the sandy beaches are enticing enough. However, Malaysia provides a lifestyle that is hard to turn down, one which embodies culture, diversity, and a good time.