Kuala Lumpur at a Glance
Living and Driving in Kuala Lumpur
Affluent Malaysians and expats prefer to live in quiet, residential districts in close proximity to parks and international schools. Aside from the serenity and peace these areas offer, they also provide more space than urban shopping districts. Some of the residential areas expats prefer are:
- Bukit Tunku/Kenny Hills
- Sri Hartamas
- Damansara Heights
- Taman Tun Dr. Ismail
Other areas of interest are, for instance, Bangsar, a mostly affluent residential suburb, or the former satellite city of Petaling Jaya, which is more of an independent town than a neighborhood of Kuala Lumpur. It is often considered Kuala Lumpur’s twin sister due to its close proximity. As the first planned city in Malaysia, it has (alongside Putrajaya) quickly developed into an attractive alternative to settling in Kuala Lumpur.
The restrictions for foreigners purchasing property in Malaysia are no longer as strict as they used to be, but there are several regulations trying to limit the influence of foreign investors and to curb real estate prices. Therefore, many expatriates prefer to rent rather than buy, often relying on a realtor to assist them in their search.
Once you have found the house of your dreams and reached an agreement with the landlord, you have to sign a letter of agreement and pay one month’s rent in advance. This is supposed to seal the deal while the proprietor prepares the rental contract, which you must sign within a week. Most contracts require a down payment of two months’ rent as a security deposit, plus an additional sum for utilities as well as legal fees.
In Malaysia, most rental contracts for expat housing are valid for one to three years. You often have the opportunity to renew the agreement for another couple of years. Make sure that the contract contains a “diplomatic clause”. This allows you to get out of an agreement early (after the first twelve months) if you should have to break off your expatriate assignment for some reason.
Unlike other Asian mega-cities, such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur hasn’t got a very well-developed public transport network yet. For this reason, driving is very popular among locals and expats alike. Before you decide upon a property, always check how easy it is to get there in various traffic conditions.
In contrast to public transportation, the road network in Kuala Lumpur is fairly good, though. It isn’t that difficult to get a driving license, provided you have a residence permit for the country. First, you need to go to your embassy and get a certified translation of your driver’s license from home. Then you can exchange it for a Malaysian one at the JPJ (Jabatan Pengangkutan Jalan – Road Transport Department) if your country is covered by one of the bilateral agreements.
These agreements refer to Australia, Belgium, Brunei, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, the Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, and several other countries. Please bring your license, the translation, the completed application form, one passport photo in color, your passport and a copy, and the processing fee of RM 20 to the nearest JPJ office.
If your original license was issued in a country not on that list, please ask at the JPJ if you can still exchange it, after a slightly more complicated procedure, or if you need to take drivers’ training classes and pass an exam.