Tourism Malaysia

Why you should move to Malaysia in 2016

By Lloyd Green

Good news! If you’re thinking of relocating to Malaysia — maybe to volunteer, work at an NGO, study, join a big company, intern or simply enjoy your gap year — now is the best time. According to the 2016 global Cost of Living Index report collated by Numbeo, Malaysia is the 29th cheapest country to live.

Despite boasting one of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant economies, Malaysia is an incredibly affordable place to live, retaining a Consumer Price Index of just 37.47. Remarkably, this is lower than neighbouring Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

 So, if you’ve just graduated, have the time to do something life changing, or are looking for that extra zest in life, why NOT come to Malaysia? We’ll tell where you get cheap food, eat out for less and rent a house for next to nothing?

What’s Cheap In Malaysia?

Johor Bahru is Malaysia’s cheapest city on the Cost of Living Index table with a CPI of 40.61. A one bedroom apartment here averages MYR1,325.00, while out of the city it drops to MYR833.33. JB also has the third least expensive McDonald’s combo meal in the world at MYR10, which is equal to $US2.50. In fact, Malaysia is one of the cheapest places in the world for eating out with Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur all polling in the Top 50 on the Restaurant Price Index list.

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On average you can get a meal at an inexpensive restaurant for MYR8 or $US2. Coffee is also cheap averaging $US1 in most places. Do expect to pay more at fancy shopping malls and outlets like Starbucks.

Is KL Really That Expensive?

shutterstock_150586619Kjersti Joergensen /

The cost of living in Kuala Lumpur is slightly higher compared to other Malaysia cities, but with a CPI of 44.48, it’s still 54 per cent cheaper than Singapore and has roughly the same CPI as neighbouring Asian capitals like Jakarta, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.

You will likely need at least $US400 to $US500 per month to cover all of your expenses in KL, with a room to rent as low as MYR800 ($US200) per month. This price can vary drastically depending on your location, with a one bedroom apartment in the city averaging MYR2400 per month, while out of the city the median drops to MYR1200.

Kota Kinabalu is the cheapest city in Malaysia for accommodation according to Numbeo, with its Rent Index at 7.63 (37th in the world), compared to JB at 12.24 and KL at 18.55.

The cost of transport in Kuala Lumpur is very competitive with a one-way ticket using the LRT or KTM less than $US1. If you commute every day, count on $25 per month for transportation.

Get Me Out Of The City

Transport between urban cities in Malaysia is also affordable, ranging between $5 and $15 for a bus ride, depending on the destination. A bus or train ride can take you to the green mountains of Cameron Highlands or the heritage listed cities of Georgetown, Malacca and Ipoh.

For Ipoh, catch the train as Ipoh Railway Station is located in the centre of town, whereas the coach terminal is some 15 minutes away. The tickets are MYR25 to MYR30 and you’ll only save five ringgit if you catch the bus.

The bus from KL to Penang is the best option as it takes you directly to the island and within five minutes of George Town. Tickets at MYR37 to MYR42.

Flying to Sabah and Sarawak can be expensive, but Air Asia offers deals all year round. Right now you can fly from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan for $US16 with the airline.

blogjun22Kota Kinabalu, Sabah 

Staying Long Term

Most people can enter Malaysia on a Short Term Social Visit Pass, which can be obtained upon arrival at the airport. Normally, this visa is valid for three months, but the visa conditions vary depending on your nationality.

If you plan to volunteer in Malaysia for longer than three-months, you might wish to apply for a Professional Visit Pass (PVP). This must be requested by the NGO you intend to work for while you are still in your home country

If granted, this visa is valid for up to 12 months and can be renewed for another 12 months, but only after a three-month break in between.

Contacting Home

Internet and mobile packages are also relatively inexpensive in Malaysia, with a minute of prepaid mobile averaging RM0.26 and 10 Mbps Internet with unlimited data priced at RM160.

So, whatever it is you decide to do in Malaysia, your time here be an exciting time in your life, and a great chance to stretch your own limits and discover your potential!

Check out the Top 30 Cheapest Countries to Live in 2016.

About the Author

Wonderful Malaysia

Coffee places in Malaysia

There are several coffee shops in Malaysia. Most fall under one of the big chains, you see those coffee shops all over the country. Every shopping mall has at least one or several coffee shops; this also applies to airports within Malaysia. The most popular coffee in Malaysia are: Starbucks, Coffee Bean Tea Leaf, Dôme, San Francisco and Espressamente illy. Although the coffee from big chains such as Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Dôme are fine, you’ll drink better coffee at a different coffee shop; San Francisco Coffee. Sadly, you do not often see this coffee shop inside shopping malls, but more at the bottom of the business premises.

We really appreciate a good coffee ourselves and therefore we drank coffee several times at the above mentioned coffee shops for the past few years. In our opinion, Espressamente illy has the best coffee, closely followed by San Francisco Coffee. The other shops have pretty good coffee; not super good, but certainly not bad. In our opinion, Starbucks has pretty good coffee, and there is always a pleasant atmosphere in a Starbucks coffee shop. Starbucks’ disadvantage is that they have no breakfast or lunch menu card. Coffee Bean also has pretty good coffee, and they also have an extensive menu of non-coffee drinks, aside from a pleasant atmosphere. Their breakfast and lunch menu card is also very extensive. Dôme has mediocre coffee, but a good lunch card with delicious western dishes and on top of that, they have amazingly tasting shakes.

The nice thing about the many coffee shops in Malaysia is that they always have a pleasant atmosphere. They are excellent places to go and relax after a long day full of activities. For example, if you’ve walked through the center of Kuala Lumpur for a long time, nothing is better than relaxing at a Starbucks or Coffee Bean. Even if you simply don’t enjoy ‘watching people’, it’s nice to sit at one of these places.

Apart from the coffee and ice blended shakes, all coffee shops offer a wide range of tasty snacks, such as cakes, brownies and muffins. The coffee shops are therefore also the perfect place to eat sweets (eg. after dinner, for a coffee and a ‘dessert’).

Espressamente illy

Espressamente illy is a coffee shop established by the internationally known coffee brand illy. Currently, there are more than 200 establishments worldwide, including some in Malaysia. Espressamente illy is not very well represented in Malaysia yet; with only one establishment in Pavilion KL and in Bangsar Village I. You will find the establishment in Pavilion KL just outside of the mall, directly to the left of the main entrance. It is a popular terrace; a nice place to watch people. Sometimes they hire an Italian band that plays great jazz music. The coffee is fantastic, the service is excellent and the snacks are of high quality. Besides the sweet snacks, they also have snacks such as cheese, olives, etc. Espressamente illy is our number 1 coffee chain.

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San Francisco Coffee

San Francisco Coffee is one of our personal favorites, and ranks second place for the best coffee chains in Malaysia. Although there are fewer establishments of this chain in Malaysia, they have fantastic coffee. In addition to the standard coffee, they offer a wide range of shakes. The lunch menu card is simple, but it contains a few dishes that are well worth it. San Francisco Coffee establishments can be found especially within business premises; and during lunch (and in the morning) there are sometimes long queues of people who come to get their coffee there. In total, there are more than 25 San Francisco Coffee establishments in Malaysia and Singapore.

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San Francisco Coffee also sells coffee beans or ground coffee in their shops; perfect for your own coffee machine. Loyal customers can ask for a savings card at the checkout. You show this card with every order and when your card is full with stamps, you will receive a free coffee of your choice. In the city center, you will find the coffee shop in Suria KLCC, amongst other places.

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Starbucks is the most popular coffee shop in Malaysia. You will find one or multiple establishments in any mall. There are more than 115 Starbucks coffee shops in Malaysia. The first shop opened its doors in 1998 in KL Plaza (now Fahrenheit88). In Kuala Lumpur, you can find them on every corner; sometimes you look from one establishment right into the other. The atmosphere is always great at Starbucks; it’s a place where many employees come to relax during their work or break.

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The coffee is fine, but not super, compared to better alternatives (though I have to admit it also depends on who operates the machine and how busy it is in the store). Although they don’t have a breakfast and lunch menu card, you will find a wide range of snacks such as muffins, cupcakes and brownies. They also have bagels, wraps and the very tasty ‘Chicken Melt’. Starbucks also actively works for a better future and environment in a fun way. For example, you will receive a substantial discount when you bring your own mug or thermos. To promote this, they have a wide range of mugs and thermoses for sale in each establishment.

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The Coffee Bean Tea Leaf

Herbert B. Hyman launched the coffee shop: ‘The Coffee Bean Tea Leaf’ in 1963. His commitment to excellence and quality made him the founder of the coffee in California. The Coffee Bean Tea Leaf has since grown to be one of the largest coffee and tea companies in the world. Years ago, the first Coffee Bean in Malaysia was opened. Since then, many establishments have been added, totaling more than 50 throughout Malaysia, where it is almost as successful as Starbucks. The company operates primarily in America and Asia.

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You can find the Coffee Bean and Starbucks together in a field of view in pretty much every mall. Starbucks has fine coffee, but a small selection of other products. The Coffee Bean has a much wider variety. There’s nothing like a delicious breakfast consisting of a tasty ‘focaccia sandwich with chicken and dressing’ and a large ‘coffee of the day’. This breakfast is a perfect alternative to the sometimes mediocre breakfast of the hotel or guesthouse where you stay (aside from fantastic breakfast at luxurious 5 star hotels). They also have delicious ice blended shakes, where the ‘Malibu Dream’ is one of the tastiest, and various tasty snacks (such as brownies, muffins and fresh cakes).

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Dôme is a coffee shop with a very luxurious appearance. The prices are also a bit higher than those from Starbucks or Coffee Bean. Dôme also has a very extensive lunch card which even contains a number of dishes for dinner. And they have an extensive range of deliciously unhealthy shakes; the Espreski. Although it should pass for an ice blended shake, it’s more like an extensive dessert. The dishes on the menu are all very western-inspired; each dish comes with some fries and mayo. In total, there are 14 Dôme coffee shops in Malaysia; including in Suria KLCC, Pavilion KL and The Gardens.

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Other Coffee Places in Malaysia

There are a few other coffee places worth mentioning. There are a few branches of the Pacific Coffee Company, and they serve a good cup of coffee. Unfortunately, there are only a few shops and most are not located conveniently for tourists. Another place with good coffee is Gloria Jeans. Again, Gloria Jeans is usually located within office buildings in the bigger cities (mostly KL). Austin Chase also have a few branches, but up until now we never had a good cup of coffee there.

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Baristas in Malaysia

Besides the well-known coffee chains, there are several baristas in Malaysia with real coffee experts at work. Most baristas can be found outside the city center, usually in trendy suburbs. A famous barista in the center is RAW along Jalan Ampang (Wisma Equity). Artisan Roast is famous outside of the city, within the TTDI area.

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Loyalty Cards

Most coffee shops have a savings card. With every order (sometimes over a certain amount) you get a stamp on the card. When the card is full, you can order a free coffee or ice blended shake. Starbucks and San Francisco have such a savings card. The Coffee Bean has the ‘Coffee Bean Card’. The card costs RM25, the balance on the card is RM30 after activating it. For each ringgit you deposit afterward, 15% of the deposited amount will be added to the balance (minimum deposit: RM20). Additionally, you will get another 10 points for each ringgit you spend. These points can also be exchanged for products at the coffee shop.

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Free wireless Internet

Almost every coffee shop in Malaysia offers free Internet. Of course, you will need to bring your own laptop or smart phone. You can easily log onto the wireless network of the coffee shop. Per establishment, you often need a different username and password. This information can be obtained from the shop counter. At some establishments you may need to register on a website, and then you’ll be able to log onto the wireless network using your own name and password. Do not be surprised if almost every visitor is sitting at a table with a laptop. In Malaysia, many people work ‘outside’ of their home, while enjoying a large cup of coffee.

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Wonderful Malaysia

Touch ‘n Go

It was way back in 18 March 1997 that the first Touch ‘n Go service was installed and it was used at the Jalan Pahang Toll Plaza. Other toll plazas were soon installed with the Touch ‘n Go service such as the toll plaza in Jalan Cheras as well as the East-West Link Expressway. Towards the end of the year, the system was brought to the 848 km North-South Expressway; this was made possible when the northern sections of the expressway were fitted with the technology.

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Touch ‘n Go makes the electronic toll payment one of the longest in the world as travelers will be able to use the smart card and travel from Jitra in Kedah to Kempas in Johor or all from the north to the south without using cash. The launch of the services was held as the Sungai Dua toll plaza where Datuk Dr Ramli Mohamad the then chairman of Rangkaian Segar Sdn Bhd officiated the event.

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Today, Touch ‘n Go is not just for payments at toll plazas and public transport. A number of popular malls such as Sunway Pyramid, Subang Parade, Bangsar Shopping Centre, Sungei Wang Plaza, Tropicana City Mall and Mid Valley Megamall have started accepting payments by Touch ‘n Go for parking. Simply touch your card at the entrance point and your time of arrival will be captured. At the end of your visit, the time spent and subsequently the parking charges will be tabulated and deducted from your card.

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Your Touch ‘n Go is good for dining too. Have some fast food at AW, Japanese fare at Sakae Sushi, dessert at Baskin Robbins or a cuppa at Starbucks and pay with your Touch ‘n Go card. Your card is as good as a debit card now. You can also grab some munchies at 7-Eleven before catching a movie at Cathay Cineplexes, both retailers accept payment by Touch ‘n Go.

All in all, Touch ‘n Go still provides a convenient cashless system especially to those who travel daily on the highways as well as those who commute by KTM, LRT, Monorail and Rapid KL buses. Drivers and commuters need not carry around or store loose change and they also save time from not having to queue at the cash lanes. Touch ‘n Go is indeed convenient to use, on top of having numerous value top-up centers and banks that can perform the reload transactions.

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Travelers love using Touch ‘n Go because of its convenience. You don’t have to get in line for LRT or monorail tickets every single time. Just buy the card and use it throughout your stay in Malaysia. A new card without balance costs RM10. You can immediately add balance to the card, with RM10 as minimum charge. The card will never expire. After your holiday in Malaysia you can always make someone else happy with your card, or you just take it home as a souvenir.

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Read more at the official Touch ‘n Go website.

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