For years, many people from surrounding countries, like Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Singapore, have come to Malaysia for affordable, high quality healthcare. All the doctors speak English and most were trained in the UK, U.S., or Australia so they are familiar with Western standards of care. Also, many of the hospitals in Kuala Lumpur and Penang are JCI accredited, meaning that they are considered to meet the gold standard in healthcare throughout the globe.
More than 800,000 foreigners seek treatment in the hospitals in Penang and Kuala Lumpur every year. There are specialists in every hospital, but unlike in the U.S., you don’t have to wait for months to get an appointment. Just turn up to the hospital, register, then take a number and wait your turn. If you are then referred to another doctor, or need to get an X-ray or scan, that will also happen on the same day in the same place.
Prescriptions in Malaysia cost a third of what you pay at home. But it’s not just the cost that’s attractive; it’s the service. The pharmacists, like the rest of Malaysia’s medical staff, are well trained and informed. Malaysians are 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 personal service meant something. That same service is alive and well here.
There are doctor’s clinics throughout the country, which are perfect places to get treatment for something minor like a cold, flu, or sinus infection. They usually charge $10 and because these are small clinics you won’t have to wait as long as you would in a busy hospital. But for anything more serious, it’s best to go to a specialist or general practitioner in one of the many top-notch hospitals in the country. A first-time doctor or specialist visit is usually between $15 to $65 with follow-up visits around $11 to $28. If you are admitted, the overnight stay will cost roughly $55 to $200 for a private room per night.
Many of the hospitals offer health screening packages which include a physical, chest X-ray, ECG, blood work (43 different tests), abdomen ultrasound, and a vision test. More specific tests can be added on but the basic package starts at less than $120.
Dentistry in Penang is just as high quality. Just like the doctors, most are schooled in the West and speak English. The technology is the same, and in some cases more advanced than at home, depending on the office you go to. Cleanings start at $22 at a modern office with state of the art equipment, and it’s only $29 for a filling. Porcelain crowns start at $400, all just a fraction of the cost in the U.S.
There is a two-tier healthcare system in Malaysia; government-run universal healthcare and a co-existing private healthcare system. Expats can choose whatever hospital they want and pay out of pocket if they don’t have insurance. Most expats choose to go to the private hospitals (which tend to be more expensive) instead of the public ones and will still save money when they pay out of pocket for most minor visits. Private health insurance is available, and many expats take out policies for any major health issues. International insurance companies like AIG, BUPA, and Cigna offer various plans for expats—some include medical coverage while you travel as well.
Great Health Care at a Low Cost in Malaysia
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!