There’s so much to love about island life in Penang, Malaysia, that it’s hard to know where to start. The cost of living has gone down due to the strength of the U.S. dollar and the falling Malaysian dollar, which is great for expats living here. For example, a 2,000-square-foot apartment with sea views that cost $900 a month to rent two years ago is now just $700.
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. English is widely spoken and there’s a friendly, open extensive expat community. Just last week as I was out cycling I came across a group of expat cyclists having a rest by the side of the road. I stopped to talk to them and found out that they were all Norwegian. I didn’t know that there was a community of Norwegians on the island, but I do now. So even after six years of living here I’m still finding out new things about Penang.
One of the things we are most grateful for in Malaysia is the healthcare, 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 best doctors and at low prices. In 2015 over one million medical tourists landed in Malaysia for various treatments, and if history repeats itself that number will continue to increase in 2016 by at least 20%. There is a reason that they are coming here and it could well be that all of the doctors here speak English, and have either trained in the Europe or the U.S. or have completed their post-graduate studies there.
It’s an important factor when considering your options, and a doctor that can converse with you before an operation will help dispel your fears.
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 man who was trained in the U.S. and the U.K. His 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 $10, and if you include a cleaning, $25. The last time I was there I needed a filling and a cleaning, and that visit came to just $35. In the U.S. this would set me back around $180 to $220.
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 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—and that service is alive and well here in Malaysia.
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