Retire in Malaysia - Part I

Cost of Living * Climate * Infrastructure

How to retire in Malaysia: learn about cost of living, traveling the country with public transport, Internet availability and the Malaysia climate.


Cost of Living

A great thing you'll notice when researching Malaysia is that all the materials are in English language, even the Government's web portal, although the country's official language is Behasa Melayu or Malay. This makes it much easier to find out whether you can live on a monthly budget of $1,200 in Malaysia.

The currency in Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit (RM). 1 U.S. $ = 3.23 RM, May 2014 exchange rate.

Many things are considerably cheaper in Malaysia than in most Western countries, including housing, domestic help, communications, local food, clothing, medical expenses and entertainment.

A filling meal in a local restaurant will set you back $2.90, fuel costs $0.50 per litre (about $2 per gallon) and a live in maid charges between $120 and $240 per month. Furnished 3 bed room apartments outside of Kuala Lumpur can be rented for as little as $250. In prime residential areas of KL (as the locals call their capital) rent for an apartment of the same size can be as high as $3,000.

Apart from living in KL's city centre, there are also other things that drive up cost of living in Malaysia: cars, imported foods, alcohol and international schools are more expensive than in Europe or the United States.

So, depending on where you live and how much you drink (he he, just kidding), it is well possible to live comfortably on a monthly budget of $1,200. And, great news for us UK and Irish folks, they do have Tesco stores in Malaysia! Their web site looks just like the one back home, amazing. Only the on line shopping isn't offered (yet).

To get a feel for the rental property market, I would recommend you try the following sites:

Penangproperties.com: Specialized in properties for sale and rent on the Penang Island. Lots of very affordable apartments and condos, but most listings come without photos.

iProperty.com Malaysia: Lists rentals and sale properties across all Malaysia. Pages load a bit slowly, but the search function is good and many listings feature photos.

PropertyGuru.com.my: Huge selection of properties all over Malaysia. Site has an excellent search function and allows you to list the results either by price, date added or size.

Climate

The Malaysian Meteorological Department summarizes the Malaysia climate in two short sentences:

The characteristic features of the climate of Malaysia are uniform temperature, high humidity and copious rainfall. Winds are generally light.

Although winds are generally light, it is the change in wind flow patterns that determines the Malaysian seasons: the southwest monsoon brings slightly dryer conditions from June to September, and the northeast monsoon from November to March brings the heaviest rainfalls. The two shorter periods in between the monsoons lack the cooling monsoon breezes, which makes the temperatures feel hotter than they actually are.

Average day time temperature in the lowlands are around 30°C (86°F). The highlands are considerably cooler, but also wetter. Depending on where you read about the Malaysia climate, you will hear that there is "no large daily range of temperature, so night-time temperatures are oppressive" (bbc.co.uk) or "the daily range of temperature is large ... and the nights are reasonably cooling everywhere" (met.gov.my).

Well, the average night time temperatures are between 21°C (70°F) and 24°C (75°F) - I am leaving it up to you to decide whether this is oppressive or reasonably cooling!

The rainfall is indeed copious, with an average of 250 cm (100 inches) of rain per year, and 150 to 200 days with rain almost everywhere.

Infrastructure & Internet

Malaysia's Internet infrastructure is growing rapidly and is - compared to other countries in the region - incredibly advanced. Dial-up connections are everywhere where you have a phone line. The capital and all major cities have broadband coverage.

You'll have the choice between several broadband providers, all with impressively well structured web sites. Telecom Malaysia, the national phone company, is one of them. They offer dial-up, wireless and wired broadband. With their 'Streamyx' packages you get up to 4Mbps connections (this value refers to the download speed which is always higher than the upload speed - thanks to Streamyx great site I finally understood this difference!). Their 1Mbps package, which is sufficient for most Internet uses, costs RM110 ($34) per month, and includes a phone flat rate.

Celcom.com.my offers even better deals. Their 'Celcom First Data Advance' plan promises speeds of up to 3.6Mbps for a mere RM98 ($30). Just be aware that all Celcom plans come with a monthly  usage volume limit.

Maxis.com.my is a third provider. Their 1Mbps service costs RM78 ($24) with unlimited data usage and a 12 months minimum contract.

Like the country's Internet infrastructure, the Malaysia transportation system is well developed too. All major towns and cities are served by air-conditioned buses and trains as well as by several domestic and regional air lines.

Almost 80% of the roads are paved. Well maintained Expressways with rest and service areas make overland journeys by car a pleasant experience.  Just remember that you need to drive on the left!

To get a taxi at the Airport or Central Rail Station it is best to buy pre-paid taxi coupons at the provided counters. Cheaper and hassle-free than paying the cab driver directly.

With the excellent public transport system in Kuala Lumpur you might rarely need a taxi. But if you do, you should know that taxis in Kuala Lumpur are on a metered rate, outside the city they operate on a fixed rate depending on the distance.

The most well known airlines for domestic and international flights are Malaysia Airlines, the national airline and an "official 5 star carrier", and AirAsia Malaysia. The latter claims to be the world's best low-cost carrier and serves over 70 destinations in 18 countries.

A return trip from Kuala Lumpur to Penang Island for example starts at RM111 ($32) at AirAsia, and costs with RM228 ($66) more than twice as much at Malaysia Airlines, for the same flight dates.

Retire to Malaysia - Part II

Retire in Malaysia: Learn about Education & Schools * Safety  * Real Estate

Retirement in Malaysia - Part III

Retire in Malaysia: Get the facts about Visa & Benefits * Health Care * Culture & People

Learn more about how to retire in Malaysia with the "Malaysia My 2nd Home Program" (MM2H), a great retirement program for everybody. 

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