The world is getting smaller and retiring abroad isn’t uncommon anymore. Why wouldn’t you retire elsewhere if you could create a better lifestyle, lower your cost of living, embark on an incredible adventure or make shoveling snow a thing of the past? Whatever your reasons, Malaysia might be the place for you.
There are so many benefits to moving to Malaysia. The climate is tropical; think hot and humid with rainy and dry seasons. Almost everyone speaks English, so it’s easy to communicate. You’ll have your choice of large chaotic cities, small, mellow beach towns, and everything in between.
The Malay, Chinese, and Indian ethnicities that make up Malaysia uniquely blend together to make a harmonious cultural soup. With each group’s various festivals, there is no end to the celebrations happening almost monthly. If you are an adventurer, there are mountains to climb and oceans to dive in.
Malaysia is known for its delicious street food scene and coffee culture. If you like to travel, there are direct flights to more than 30 different countries from Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia has a retirement visa option that is one of the best in the world. Malaysia My Second Home, or MM2H, grants expats 10-year multiple entry visas. Anyone over 50 years old must deposit RM150,000 ($33,715) into a Malaysian bank or prove they have a monthly income of RM10,000 ($2,247) from a pension or investments, and any money you bring into the country is tax exempt. You also must be in good health and not have a criminal record.
With this visa, you can import your current car or buy a car locally, both tax-free. After one year, you can withdraw RM50,000 ($11,238) for the purchase of a car, children’s education, medical expenses, or to buy a home. It is one of the few places in Asia where you can buy property freehold.
The cost of living in Malaysia is a fraction of what it costs in most Western countries. And that isn’t because you live in a grass hut without air conditioning in the middle of nowhere…quite the opposite. On $2,500 per month, a couple can live large, without sacrificing life’s little luxuries like massages and eating out. An hour massage starts at $15, a pedicure at $13, and a cleaning lady is $3.40 an hour. A 2,300-square-foot, modern three-bedroom condo with a pool and small gym, overlooking the Straits of Malacca rents for only $628.
You’ll get a bargain if you go local and buy most of your groceries at the markets. A large bag of local bananas, mangos, papayas, pineapple, and watermelon will only cost about $6. Eating out is a pleasure and can be done for as little as $1 for a plate of noodles and $10 for a whole steamed fish. Even the fancy international restaurants are more affordable than home. In Penang, an island off the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, you can find set menus with three courses starting at $11.50 and fresh homemade pasta and pizzas from $6.
For years, people from all over Asia have traveled to Malaysia for top-notch healthcare at affordable prices. It’s high-quality healthcare at a low cost, so most expats pay out of pocket unless it is something major. And many of the doctors were trained in the U.S., UK, or Australia. An overall health screening which includes a physical, blood work (43 different tests), exercise stress test, ECG, chest X-ray, abdomen ultrasound, BMI, and a vision test, starts at $125—just the blood work alone would cost more than that in the U.S. A general doctor’s visit is $15 with prescriptions costing even less, and a dental cleaning at a modern office starts at $22.
There are plenty of international grocery stores around so you won’t have to forfeit your little tastes of home, like good cheese and French wine. In all the major cities, there are movie theaters playing the latest Hollywood flicks and fantastic shopping malls to get your retail fix.
Making friends and meeting new people in Malaysia is easy. The locals are kind and curious about what expats and tourists think of their country. They are proud, and second to asking where you are from, is the question, “have you eaten yet?” Food is a crucial part of the culture all throughout the country, so it isn’t uncommon for your taxi driver, store clerk, or hair stylist to tell you where to go for the best plate of noodles.