Cost of Living in Penang

When looking for a place to retire, cost of living is the first concern for most. Many are on a fixed budget and want to live in a place that has all the comforts of home, without the same high costs. Penang, Malaysia is that place.

On $3,300 a month, a couple can live in luxury. Rent in a modern highrise with a pool, a gym and security guards will cost around $1,000. While that may seem expensive, you’ll be getting a modern three-bedroom, three-bath, 213-square-metre apartment with a balcony overlooking the ocean. If you don’t care to live with a view or by the beach, you can rent a nice two- or three-bedroom place for about $700 to $850—which means you could easily live on $2,500 a month or less.

By embracing the local way of living, you can cut your total monthly costs down even more. At the grocery stores and even at the restaurants, Western food is more expensive. If you eat native fruit, like mangos, papayas and bananas, it’s much cheaper than the imported apples and oranges. Penang is famous for its food, with a distinct regional take on Thai, Malaysia, Korean and Chinese food. Eat where the locals eat and you can’t go wrong. It’s safe for foreigners, delicious…and you can get a filling meal for less than $7.

The cost of healthcare is so low that very few expats have insurance so most people pay out of pocket. There are seven hospitals on the island so there are plenty of doctors and specialists to choose from. Most of them were trained in Australia, the U.S or the U.K, so their quality of care and standards are the exact same as they are in the Western world. And everyone speaks English so there are no worries about communicating.

If you have a little leftover pocket money, why not splurge and get a cleaning lady for $5 per hour, a pedicure for $17 or even a foot massage for $24? With those prices, it’s almost ridiculous not to indulge!

Live-in maids are common amongst expat families here. Expect to pay around $350 a month plus food for such a service. Another popular choice is to have a maid come at about $6.50 per hour.

It’s very cheap to eat out—a meal in a hawker centre will cost you only $2 or $3. A basket of fresh fruit including papaya, mangoes, rambutans, dragon fruit and pineapple will cost around $15. Asparagus (around $3 a bundle) and strawberries (about $4 a box) are grown all year round.

Modern, fully furnished 120-square-metre, three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment$625 a month
Fully-furnished, three-storey, four-bedroom, three-bathroom terraced home$749 a month
Three-bedroom, four bathroom, 213-square-metre apartment with ocean views$839 a month
Maid/Household Helper$6.50 an hour
Hour-long massage$18 an hour
Local meal for two$10
Week’s worth of local, organic fruit and veg for two$14.75
Doctor’s Visit$18
Full-course dinner, cocktails, wine and coffee for two at an upmarket restaurant$125
Gas, Electricity and Water (for couple, per month)$102
Round of Golf (including cart hire)$30

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