Saturday, March 24, 2007

Cost of Living in KL

After 4 months living in Malaysia, I was able to finally tally our expenses and come up with some kind of "average" cost of living. I quickly shared the total to my hubby, who very much appreciated and thought: it's definitely one of the advantages of moving from Singapore to Malaysia!

Don't get me wrong, we love Singapore. We super love the place. Efficiency, cleanliness and shopping malls everywhere! Plus the number of work opportunity is H-U-G-E as long as you have good work experience. I would say expats who are coming from Europe or USA will easily fit and adjust into the lifestyle of Singapore, if they did move to Asia because of professional reasons. But of course, with efficiency comes the price tag -- based on my experience, the cost of some things are DOUBLE (compared to Malaysia), if not more!

Malaysia is a great place after all. I had my hesitations at first, only because I didn't know the country as well as I did Singapore. Given the time frame to learn and live the life in KL, I realized the advantages (and disadvantages) ... plus of course finding out our own interpretation of cost of living in Malaysia.

Now back to cost of living...

Most often than not, people who work in KL actually don't live in KL. The "town" next to KL is called Petaling Jaya (PJ), and that is where we live. Just to give you a picture, it takes 30-60 minutes drive to the heart of Kuala Lumpur twin towers from my house (depending on the traffic). There are many, many residential areas to choose from outside KL, and some of the popular ones for expats are:

- Mont Kiara (which is quite populated with condominiums and high rise)
- Bangsar (the hangout of expats -- bars, restaurants, and lots of different residential units to choose from whether condo or bungalows)
- TTDI (probably 30-60 mins drive to KL, lots of residential units to choose from)
- Damansara Perdana (for those who prefer to have peace & quiet, with green surrounding backdrop against a serene community)
- Damansara Heights (those with big budget and prefer to live in a big house with 4-7 rooms and a garden

Those are just some of the many places which expat can adapt well into their new environment. The space will be limited to how much you are willing to pay, but like I mentioned, it is definitely cheaper than in Singapore.

As a personal example, we lived in Caribbean at Keppel Bay in Singapore. It is one of the nicest property in town, and set right next to the newest shopping mall called Vivo City. The location is also prime because it is beside the famous Sentosa, which is a must-visit when you go to Singapore. Sentosa is a small island connected to the city, which houses different entertainment elements like views, beach, rides & more. The rent we paid for year 2004 to 2006 was at Singapore Dollars $2,200 / month. That's pricey already as you can get a nice 2-bedroom condo (bigger than our 90-sq ft) at just Sing$1,400 - $1,800. That is based on our own research and survey from our friends from Singapore. By the time we left Singapore last Dec 2006, they rented out the condo we stayed in for Sing$3,500! Imagine that! When we paid Sing$2,200 we occupied the condo as brand new! Oh well, I guess that's the price you pay if you want a prime location plus the rising great economy of Singapore.

Moving to Malaysia, I had the chance to visit quite many places (which I mentioned above). Prices can range from Malaysian Ringgit (RM) 2,500-7,000 depending where you stay and how big the area is.

For a newly-wed couple like us, no kids, the 90-sq ft we used to have in Singapore was quite ok. But I didn't realize what luxury we can actually get when we got to Malaysia! Now we are renting a brand new condo at the size of 1,832 sq ft at the price of Sing$1,200! So for almost half the price, we have a much bigger place. That's definitely one of the plus!

Going back to cost of living, I'll give a simple breakdown of our own rough estimate so that expats out there who are planning to move to Malaysia will know what's in store for them.

RM 3,500 Average condo rental of nice 2-3 bedroom brand new units
RM 1,300 Installment payment per month of our Honda City car, we paid 50% downpayment
RM 150 Electricity per month, aircon usage every night for 1 room
RM 77 Broadband monthly expense
RM 200 Our own estimate of gas expense for our car
RM 1,000 Groceries for the month, believe me that is more than enough for 2 person
RM 50 Cable TV (without taking the HBO / Cinemax since DVD's are cheap here!)
RM 30 Our home phone line via TMnet
RM 320 Maid expenses coming to clean our house once a week

Roughly to live a comfortable and good life in KL, you must be ready to spend at least RM6,000 for your living expenses. That does NOT include yet your restaurant bills, parking expenses and lifestyle (massage/pedicure/etc) expenses.

I hope this gave a better picture for people who plan to come to Malaysia. Me and my hubby happily calls it our new home.


  1. Hi, I was looking around for information about moving to KL. My husband's company is relocating him to KL in a month time and we don't have an opportunity to visit the country to have a feel of where to live, etc... as I'm expecting to deliver our first child in 2 weeks time :-) We've been to KL in 2005 for couple days then straight to Cameron Highlands so we don't really know much about KL. We are not able to find good websites about KL so your blog about cost of living in KL is quite interesting. Btw, we're also a mixed couple. My husband is British and I'm Vietnamese. We're currently in Australia, been here for over 2 years. We're probably based in KL for another 2 - 3 years. Is is possible that I can contact you for more questions about KL?

  2. To make it easy, my questions are:

    1) Between condo and house (bungalow), which one would you recommend us (a couple with a new born baby)? My husband is looking after Malaysia and Singapore companies so he might have to travel a bit.
    2) My husband's company is located in Jalan Tengah, Menara MPPJ, Selangor, Petaling Jaya 46200, Malaysia. Which location do you recommend we should look at? In your blog, you are living somewhere in Selangor and it's a good place to live? I thought it's more a commercial area? How safe is it?
    3) Can expat like us buy property in Malaysia?
    4) We may need to rent a furnished appartment for the first couple months while waiting for our furnitures, etc... to be shipped over from Australia. Any recommendations?
    Well, i guess that's all I have for now. I hope you don't mind helping a desperate housewife like me.


  3. hi nhu nguyen,
    glad that my article helped a bit. so far, we are enjoying our stay in KL! I have no regrets leaving Singapore behind, though I still love that city!

    You can always email me directly at and maybe we can even meet up when you get to Malaysia!

    To answer some of your questions....

    1) Between condo and house (bungalow), which one would you recommend us (a couple with a new born baby)? My husband is looking after Malaysia and Singapore companies so he might have to travel a bit.

    >> For safety reasons, I really would suggest you guys to live in a condo. My condo is currently big, it's a 3 bedroom + 1 maid's room. Total is 1,832 sq.ft. and I believe that is big enough. With condo you will have good security. I have heard first hand stories of robbers/thieves going into bungalows and stealing & tie up the owners! Horror!!!MY husband travels a lot too... so it's best to live in condo with nice neighbors, plus tight security. You will feel safer.

    2) My husband's company is located in Jalan Tengah, Menara MPPJ, Selangor, Petaling Jaya 46200, Malaysia. Which location do you recommend we should look at? In your blog, you are living somewhere in Selangor and it's a good place to live? I thought it's more a commercial area? How safe is it?

    >> Selangor is a big place. But it seems your husband place is nearby my house bec it is PETALING JAYA where a lot of offices are. There are nearby residential areas maybe 10-20 mins drive. Some suggestions are areas:
    - TTDI : many residents live there
    - Damansara Perdana: i live here!
    - MOnt Kiara: many expats live here but many construction going on so i didnt like it.

    My condo is super peace and quiet everyday, which is important to me.. esp for you also bec you are housewife. If you live in condo, you all will be safer.

    3) Can expat like us buy property in Malaysia?

    Yes, expats can buy property. We didnt buy yet. My suggestion is come live and rent for 1-2 years. When you realize you like it then buy. At least "test the waters".

    4) We may need to rent a furnished appartment for the first couple months while waiting for our furnitures, etc... to be shipped over from Australia. Any recommendations?

    The problem is if you will rent a fully furnished first few months, it will be difficult to find someone willing to rent out a few months only. The idea is maybe to live in a "service apartment" which is fully equipped before your stuff arrive. We lived in a hotel for a few weeks before our stuff arrived.. hotel was paid by the company. Suggest your husband negotiate that too!!! Email me directly so I can hook you up with my agent. She is a very nice person who will drive you around in different condo so you can get a "feel" and look-and-see at the condos around! No charge, bec she get commission from the owner when you guys close the rental deal. That's the nice thing about KL! I had 7-8 agents driving me around when I got here!! Ha ha =)

    Hope this helps.

  4. Hi Nhu Nguyen,

    I'm fairly sure that your husband's company will be assigning a real estate agent for your housing needs. What they will do is send you a form/checklist so you can specify your needs and the agent can get the properties which most suit your requirements. With your husband's position, I doubt if you'll have any difficulties in finding a house (I also work in Menara MPPJ, and I believe that your husband will soon be my company's big boss ;)

    Hello, chinesepinkaddict.

    I'm also a Pinoy, just moved to Malaysia this April. So far, so good. Nice people, good food, plenty of things to see and do.


  5. Hi,

    I have gone through some of ur blogs....they are very very useful. I am single ( male) planning to come to KL to work in advertising agency. I am indian age 27.

    I have specifically read ur blog cost of living. Can you suggest with 8000RM per month i can survive and live comforably in KL.


  6. Hi,
    Your blog is very useful. Can you pls mail me some more details thru email.
    Thanks in advance.

  7. hi people,
    im local malaysian. wanna wish you all.. WELCOME TO KL. KL and Selangor are actually very close to each other. It's actually kinda hard to differentiate KL and Selangor's borders since both are just side by side.But of course KL town is soooo much happening if to compared with other towns.

    As a married female who worked in KL city centre (where the twin tower is) area, i never feel unsafe walking or driving alone. But you must always beware of snatchers. Especially walking along busy road. Just beware of unexpected snatchers who ride on motorbike. but i must say that i dont actually prefer to go out alone at night (after 10pm). i dont think it is safe to be out of home late at night. maybe it's just typical me. :)

    my point here... dont worry, KL is a safe city. But of course u have to always beware.:)

    have a nice stay in KL :)

  8. Hello all and thanks for the interesting info.

    Could somebody clarify for me what a "snatcher" is? Do they snatch bags, or do they snatch PEOPLE?

    Thanks :)

  9. Here in South East Asia... when we say "SNATCHER" it means people who come to snatch your handbags / mobile phone. Sometimes they are on a motorbike and they pass by so fast and they just grab your bag / phone so that you dont have time to react. You should be careful when walking on the roadside especially when it's not a high-secured area. This is a rule of thumb wherever you go -- Manila, Kuala lumpur, bangkok, etc....

  10. Hello.

    Thank you for all the wonderful information. I was just offered a teaching job in KL. I may move at the end of August, but first comes the research.

    This doesn't have to do with cost of living...I was wondering if anyone could shed light on the culture. I've been told by a friend that the Muslim Sepratist Movement is something I should be warry of. I also heard, though it is a modern city, I may consider covering up or wearing a head scarf. I'm aware that these comments may seem naive/ignorant, but I'm an outspoken single woman, and I wouldn't want to get myself accidentally in a bad situation.

  11. Hello and let me correct that "backward" notion about KL.
    It may be a country with majority Muslims in terms of religion. But it is such a modern city where you will find wonderful -- in a restaurant you can find a group of friends together -- Chinese, Indian and Malay altogether enjoying a meal. They are very open and accepting of other cultures! Some of the Malay girl-friends that I have are so modern they do not wear the head scarf. They are so modern you will be surprised! plus the expatriate community is so big that they dont even give a second look if you are foreigner (american/european). I feel so at home here and I wear whatever I want whenever I want. In the same way as living in New York -- there are places you go to and wear anything... and there are few dark areas you avoid (where there could be high crime rate, etc). Every country has this. So if you are a single woman who is out to live in KL for a career move... do not fear! Just make sure you make a wise choice in terms of accomodations (good location + security). In terms of culture, you have nothing to worry about. The only experience I had where the "cultural" difference will settle in (and I need to be more cautious about my outfits) is when I go outstation (which is to the provinces where life is simpler -- rural areas). You may get some stare if you wear to revealing outfits.. but apart from that Kuala Lumpur itself is a great city!

  12. Thanks so much for the feedback. I'm starting to get excited and less fearful for my move.

    BTW this blog kinda rocks! I'm gonna have to go back and do my reading.

  13. Most welcome and happy to help out those people who are coming to Malaysia. Do try to add yourself as a "follower" if you dont mind ... so that you get the updates regularly. I usually like updating information which expats may find useful. All the best on your move! Your next concern will be which area to live in & rental prices, car price (if you will drive), getting a GPS will be useful getting around, also... some considerations like international health insurance, opening a bank account, etc.

    Best of luck!

  14. Most welcome and happy to help out those people who are coming to Malaysia. Do try to add yourself as a "follower" if you dont mind ... so that you get the updates regularly. I usually like updating information which expats may find useful. All the best on your move! Your next concern will be which area to live in & rental prices, car price (if you will drive), getting a GPS will be useful getting around, also... some considerations like international health insurance, opening a bank account, etc.

    Best of luck!

  15. Hello . My Husband and i and our two dogs will be moving to Malaysia in Feb 2010. I am looking forward to the move , We are from Texas , So i will be needing some help ..

  16. Hi. I must say this post is very helpful though I am still confused which condo to pick. I'm a 25 year old female and will be living on my own. I don't want to spend much on my accommodation since I'd rather save up money for trips. However, I think I will have a good deal getting this studio unit at the Verve suites for 2500/month. But my problem is I might end up spending a lot on cab fare going to my office at Menara Millenium. My other option is at 10 semantic for only 2000/month for a 2-bedroom unit. It's simpler and decent and nearer the office. However, the location may not be as convenient e.g. shopping complex etc. I hope that you could enlighten me on this one. Thanks!

    1. Sorry. That's 10 Semantan.

    2. hi Anonymous, Verve Suites is nice however you are right you may find it hard to get to your office. the 10 semantic is closer to your office place. sorry i can't comment on the quality of both places bec i have never been up there myself, though i have a friend who purchased Verve Suites as an investment and she said it is of good quality (and i believe very new). The 10 Semantan is a bit near the main road which may mean more dust and some car noises, depending where your unit is facing. That is also near to BANGSAR which a lot of expats live, so that means access to imported items and groceries and nice restaurants is easy. WHile Verve is close to ONE MONT KIARA which will give you the same neighborhood luxuries like beautiful groceries, restaurants, etc. What you need to look at really is your budget and priorities in life. RM500 savings a month is a big thing after you multiply that by 12 months! Cab fares are not too expensive here in KL compared to other countries... and for 1 year my hubby and I shared 1 car at the beginning... he took the cab every morning via call-a-cab service which charged RM2 more on the meter (called PUBLIC CAB 03-62591195, 03-62591203). TRaffic is also another consideration depending on your office hours. If it is flexible hours then you should be okay either condo you choose. But if you office hours is strict then you will want to consider travel time, hence choosing something closer to the office. Did you try to explore older condos at Bangsar area? they are older but may be cheaper and bigger space or maybe owner maybe more willing to give additional stuff (e.g. nice TV, sofa, etc). Good luck and hope you make the best decision :) based on your priorities in life.

    3. Thank you very much for your insightful response. After much consideration (thanks to you) and cost scenarios on excel, I've decided to go for a studio unit at 10 semantan. It is at the corner so the view is great and the light is conducive. Moreover, since I want to save for trips and other things, I think this can be my best choice. It is much closer to my office as well and I can afford to be on time without waking up too early. I went to Bangsar this weekend and I had a relaxing time. I bought some gourmet food and fresh produce. I think I will have a great time in KL based on my experiences so far.

      I now read your blog regularly so I can maximize my time in Malaysia. :) Kudos!

    4. hi Anonymous,
      Most welcome and thanks for dropping by to read my blog. Happy I could help out other expats in Malaysia. You will surely enjoy your stay here. It won't be perfect ... but it will be a good one. Be aware of snatch theft in Bangsar (very rampant) when walking on the street. Be cautious when walking around anywhere .. just extra precaution don't be too naive. Bangsar Shopping Centre and Bangsar Village are some of my favorites in that area!

    5. Hi Pink Addict,
      I am NZ expat, living in KL since 2008. Wish I had read you article of 2007, much earlier. Really Good Advice.
      Some things, that I learned: Buying property here is costly and mind boggingly bureaucratic, and something to definitely avoid. Condos are in oversupply and quality of construction and fit out is poor. Not built to earthquake standards.
      Security is definitely better in condos and this is a definite recommendation for expats.
      Beware of child kidnappers. Don't let your kids walk alone to school.
      Living costs: for 4 bedroom rental can expect to pay USD1500 to USD3000 for good area near international school.
      Power costs: USD230 per month. Food (basics) for family of 6: USD700 per month.
      Condo (2600sqft) to buy in good area near international school about USD500,000
      Maid cost - Filipina = USD500 per month

      Cars are expensive in MY due to 100% govt duty to protect local carmaker. For instance, second had car such as Toyota estima 7 seater: 2004 is about USD35000. Better to buy second hand Japanese import rather than local second, as locals do not maintain cars and poor road conditions increase wear and tear. Don't buy local made car. Poor quality and reliability.
      Small corner workshops are better value for car servicing, but costs are still high, as they just swap out parts. Average service: oil change, filters and tire rotation, etc: USD450. Always ask to see the old parts they swapped out.
      DEfinetly get FULL medical insurance as part of expat package, as expats can only access private hospitals, and these are hellishly expensive.

      Eating out: local cuisine in shopping mall: USD6 (no drinks). Western cuisine in shopping mall: USD20 (no drinks). Alcohol is double cost - basic bottle of cooking quality wine USD20.

  17. Hi PinkAddict,
    Thank you very much for your article. I'm moving to KL within 2 months (Aug 2012. And your arcticle (and blog) gives me nice picture about KL
    Just wondering whether this living cost are still valid? can you please advise how much roughly the imcreament since 2009? Is it a big difference for 2012?
    Thank you in advance for your response.

    1. hi, happy that my blog was able to help give you an idea. Inflation since then would probably be around the 2-3% range. Some things have increased (especially imported goods like cheese, which i often buy)... but other things stayed affordable like petrol and electricity. Rentals roughly stayed the same , if not better , because of over- supply of condominiums in certain areas. The interest rate (if you will buy a car or house) roughly stayed the same and in an "okay" range. If you will buy a car the interest rate is about 2-4% depending if brand new / used car. good luck and welcome to Malaysia soon...

    2. Thank you for your reply PinkAddict. I'm moving from Singapore, like you so hopefully will have a good time in KL too. Tara

    3. I am sure you will enjoy it here. Cost of living and quality of life is much, much better! Good luck !

  18. Hi Pink Addict,

    I am 4 years experienced Business Analyst working in India. I got an offer in Malaysia with all the expenses of my Visa and travelling taken care by them. The offer is of MYR 5k a month with 2 year contract and 10% hike. I am a Bachelor thinking of saving money to send back to India. I am not a spender simply..a single bed room and will cook my own food and a beer twice or thrice a week. Please suggest whether this offer is acceptable


    1. That sounds like a decent offer, it is all relative to how much you will spend for rental and food. That is considered an average pay and decent enough to get by here in KL. I know of people with less salary and they can still survive here. Good luck!

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. Thank you..made the decision easy..

    1. welcome.. happy that in some small way i was able to help. all the best!

  21. Hi Pink Addict,

    I came across your blog when searching for living experiences in KL since I may need to move from Singapore there with my Hubby because of his job. Since you guys were from Singapore as well, I'd like to get a rough idea from you about the differences of living in Singapore and KL. We just got married earlier this year and I like Singapore very much for its efficency, cleaness and safety, I am somehow hesitate about the move. So would appreciate very much if you can share with me your experience and thoughts on living in this two cities. Moreover, moving means I need to give up my stable job in Singapore. Given that we are young and without kids at the moment, I do want to continue working if possible. So may I know how is job market in KL and how much is the average pay there. Lastly, we do plan to have kid soon, with the move, I can't imagine about having kids in another country since our parents are in Singapore. Is it possibe to apply visa for foreigners to stay in KL so that my mum can come and help me out?
    Sorry for asking so many question...cos too many questions are running through my head...
    I do see you are enjoy your life in KL, so would be great if you can help me to clear some thoughts!

    Thank you very much!

    1. hi there. Singapore is superb, loved living there. However, when i moved to KL, i knew in my gut that i cannot go back to Singapore. Condos there are beautiful yet small. We didn't own 2 cars there, unlike here. And cost of living is superb here in KL. However, i must admit that Singapore is superb for its safety, which I wish we could have more of in KL. LIfestyle is superb here especially for couples without kids. Lots of spas, beaches, cheap flights and services are great. Unlike Singapore, we queue up for everything, here restaurants and services aplenty. Depending on what field of industry you are in, the salary ranges will be diverse. I think Singaporeans have an easier time finding a job that real expats (e.g from other countries....) so your chances are probably high... but do you research beforehand by browsing job availability of your field. I was lucky bec my expertise was well-needed here in KL. There are possibilities for you to work in terms of permit, so don't let that stop you. Salaries can be VERY VERY good as well, depending on the field you are in. Just make sure your husband's job can be enough for both of you when you start off here. Yes, you can also apply for a pass for your mom to come in any time, and stay for long term. Either under the WORK PERMIT or the RESIDENT PASS. Your husband's company should be able to assist you with all these. All i know is that life in Singapore is okay, but i much enjoy living here that we cannot imagine going back there (at this point of our lives). One the 8th month we were living here, i found a job, bought property and had 1 car. On the second year we bought our 2nd car already. Pretty sure you will enjoy the life here. It is not as bad as how some of the Singaporeans pointed it out to me (back in 2006 when i was about to move). I guess they have such a different perspective of KL. For us, we love it.

    2. Thank your very much for giving me such great information! It indeed gave me another perspective of life in KL. In a much encouraging way:) one more thing i'd like to know from you is how much do you think it is necessary to have decent lifestyle in KL per month? The breakdowns you mentioned in this article are based on a fee years back's standard. I am sure it has gone up through out the years. Once again, thank you very much for taking your time to help:)

  22. Hi Pink, great blog and very informative. I hope you don't mind yet another question for you :)

    I'm a 49 year old single male. I need a condo near the KL Golf and Country Club, as I won't have transport for a while. I am happy to eat local food. I don't really do much social activities but do enjoy a few beers on the weekends but not overdone.

    Would you think a pay of 10,000 RM per month is ok to be able to save a little considering I would like a decent 1 bedroom condo near the golf club and be able to go to a bar maybe once or twice a week for some relaxing ales?

    If you need more info just let me know. Thanks in advance for your help.

  23. Hello!

    Thank you very much for this blog entry! I am single, female, in my twenties, and is set to fly to Malaysia for work. I am currently looking at studio units in PJ as I will be working in the same area. I'm excited about this move, but worried that my utilities would cost so much and that I might not be able to afford to live on my own. I am also kind of scared of the the thought of living on my own, in a city I know no one.

    I am happy to read from a fellow Filipina :-) and that despite having written this four years ago, it still remains relevant up until now. Thank you very much and I hope to meet you when I move there next month!

    1. hi Angelique, all the best to your move to KL and don't worry about the utilities... the bills here are much cheaper than in Manila.. you will find out soon enough!


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