Cost of Living in Malaysia 2022 Including Sample Monthly Budget

When looking for a place to retire, the cost of living is the biggest concern for a lot of people. Most people, and it doesn’t matter if you are single, a couple or a family 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, an island just off Malaysia’s northwest coast is that place.

On $2,500 a month, a couple can live extremely well, rent in a modern highrise with a pool, a gym, 24-hour gated security, covered car space or two, a shared communal area with a barbecue, and it will cost between $750 to $1,000 per month. For that price, you will get a modern 2,300-square-foot condo with three or four bedrooms, three to five bathrooms, and a balcony overlooking the ocean. If you don’t care to live with a view, or by the beach, you can rent a two or three-bedroom place for about $550 to $650, which means you could easily live on less than $2,000 a month.

A large component of the cost of living revolves around your lifestyle. If you eat out at expensive restaurants and drink expensive wines on a regular basis, you will obviously have to budget for it.

Of course 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, and eat local meat like pork and chicken, it’s much more affordable than anything that is imported.

Keep in mind that Penang is known throughout Southeast Asia for its food. Eat where the locals eat. It is safe for foreigners, it’s delicious, and you will only pay about $2 for a plate of noodles with chicken and vegetables,  and up to $10 for a whole steamed fish—plenty of food for two people.

The cost of healthcare in Malaysia is so low that few expats have health insurance, and most people prefer to pay out of pocket. There are seven hospitals on the island of Penang, so there are plenty of doctors and specialists to choose from. Most of them were trained in the UK, the U.S. or Australia, and the quality of care and standards in most of the hospitals are the same as they are in the Western world. All of the doctors and medical staff speak English, and that makes understanding the issues and dealing with foreign patients easy. And from a patient’s point of view, you have peace of mind, knowing that you can communicate with the doctor dealing directly with you.

If you wanted to splurge you could get a cleaning lady for $5 per hour, a pedicure for about $10, or even a foot massage for $5. With those prices, why not indulge. One American couple here has a masseuse come to their apartment once a week. For a two-hour full body massage, she charges in the comfort of your own home, just $25 per person. That’s great value no matter where you are in the world.

Here’s a sample budget for a couple living in Penang, Malaysia:

Expense U.S. $
Rent $900
Groceries $200
Electricity $100
Water $.50
Cell phone $18
Internet and landline $35
Pay TV (Astro) $45
Butane gas (for cooking) $0.90
Fuel for car $25
Maid (four hours a week) $80
Entertainment (eating out five nights a week, local and western food, alcohol not included) $300
Monthly total: $1,704.40