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.
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