There’s so much to love about island life in Penang, Malaysia, that it’s hard to know where to start. My wife Lisa and I spend just $1,719 a month to live here, and that’s renting with an ocean view and eating out regularly in the island’s amazing restaurants.
There are plenty of sandy beaches to stroll on, jungle trails to explore, and the historic colonial architecture is unique, seen nowhere else in the world. Plus English is widely spoken and there’s a friendly and open expat community.
But one of the things we are most grateful for is the health care, which is among the world’s best—and cheapest. It’s rare we need to use it, but when we do, it’s good to know we’re dealing with the very best doctors and at very low prices. There’s a reason four plane-loads of medical tourists land in Penang every day.
A visit to the dentist for an annual checkup was never a pleasant experience at home, but here it actually is. The staff are friendly, professional, and genuinely happy to see you. My dentist is a lovely Chinese woman who was trained in the U.S and the U.K. Her studio is state-of-the art and, as the seat reclines, a flat-screen TV showing Animal Planet episodes magically appears from the ceiling. Your mind is immediately someplace else as you feel yourself instantly relaxing.
A checkup costs $9, and if you include a cleaning, $15. The last time I was there I needed a filling and a cleaning, and that visit came to just $22.50. In the U.S. this would set me back around $180.
Prescriptions here cost a fifth of what we pay at home. But it’s not just the cost that’s attractive; it’s the service. The pharmacists, like the rest of the medical staff in Malaysia, are well-trained and informed. Malaysians are a friendly people, but it’s the genuine interest that they take in you, no matter how small or large the issue, which impresses.
It takes you back to a time when service meant something. When bank managers used to have a coffee with you and actually cared about your well-being. That same service is alive and well here!
See the current issue of International Living magazine for my full report on Malaysian health care.