Cost of Living in Malaysia?

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Cost of Living in Malaysia

The cost of living in Malaysia might seem low at first glance and especially when compared to some other countries, but the living costs have been on the rise lately. Our article covers basic living expenses, average monthly income, and the problem of a rising cost of living in Malaysia.
For well-to-do expats, Malaysia might still be an affordable destination.

Average Monthly Income

In recent years, the average monthly income in Malaysia has steadily increased, with the average working person earning around 7,400 MYR a month. At the same time, however, the cost of living in Malaysia has increased too, with luxury items and eating out being particularly harsh on the wallet.

To help residents cope with these rising costs, the government proposed in 2018 that as of 1 January 2019 the minimum wage should be raised to 1,100 MYR. While this is progress for lower-income workers, it does not help loosen the belt for the middle class, who struggle the most with the spike in prices.

Starting with the Basics

Whether you find the cost of living in Malaysia rather low or you struggle to get by will depend largely on your living situation and on where you come from. Expats from industrialized countries often tend to find Malaysia an affordable place to live. However, those who come with their families need to factor in additional expenses, such as school fees.

If you like to go out for dinner, you can expect to pay approximately 70 MYR for a meal for two at a mid-range restaurant. Basic utilities for an average apartment are around 220 MYR monthly and an internet connection might set you back an additional 124 MYR. The amount you will need to factor in for rent varies considerably depending on the city and neighborhood you live in. A one-bedroom apartment usually costs between 955 MYR and 2,400 MYR, while you might spend up to 4,500 MYR on a 3-bedroom apartment.

If you will be sending your children to an international school in Malaysia, expect to bear expenses of around 27,000 MYR per child annually.

Comparing Different Cities

Metropolis Kuala Lumpur and popular tourist destination Penang are quite similar when it comes to cost of living. The popular tourist destination Penang used to be the most expensive city in the country, but the prices have stabilized in recent years.

On 1 April 2015, the Goods and Service Tax (GST) was implemented in Malaysia. The GST is a value added tax, set at 6%. Jobstreet stated that a quarter of the respondents to their survey were already facing problems with their expenses before the GST was implemented. After the implementation, employees considered changing jobs to be able to better cope with the new tax, 47% started packing food from home and 56% minimized the number of lunches with colleagues. Only 19% of the respondents said that the GST had not affected their work routine.

The Struggling Middle Class

As mentioned above, the cost of living in Malaysia has increased significantly in recent years, which has led the population to tighten its belt. While low-income families receive support through different welfare programs and highly paid professionals benefit from a reduced income tax, it is the middle class that struggles the most.

Imported goods, food, transportation, housing, and everyday expenses are on the rise and add to the cost of living in Malaysia. To help counter this, the government will be rolling out subsidies for lower engine capacity vehicles from the second quarter of 2019, granting eligible car owners up to 100 liters of fuel each month and motorcyclists up to 40 liters a month.

At the same time, many people have received a pay raise to cope with the rising living costs in Malaysia. Non-executive workers, in particular, should receive a bonus from their companies to help them cope. Unfortunately, the sharp rise in Malaysia’s living costs is incredibly overwhelming for many people and the slight pay increase (at around 20%) is often not enough to make a difference.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

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