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. In 2012, the government announced a 7.2% rise and a better monthly household income all over the country. Kuala Lumpur was at the top of the list, recording the highest growth rate. Overall, the average monthly income has climbed to 7,400 MYR.

At the same time, however, the cost of living in Malaysia is increasing as well. Especially luxury items and eating out can come at a cost. Malaysians are struggling more and more to make a living and support their families. Let’s take a closer look at the average living costs in Malaysia.

Starting with the Basics

Whether you find the cost of living in Malaysia rather low or you struggle to get by depends largely on your living situation and on where you come from. Expats from so-called industrialized countries often experience Malaysia as a very affordable place to live in. However, those who come with their families need to factor in additional expenses and school fees.

If you like to go out for dinner, you can expect to pay approximately 50 MYR for a meal for two at a mid-range restaurant. Basic utilities for an average apartment are around 176 MYR and an internet connection might cost you an additional 149 MYR. The amount you need to factor in for rent varies considerably depending on the city and neighborhood you live in. A one-bedroom apartment can cost you between 700 MYR and 2,000 MYR, while you might spend up to 4,000 MYR on a 3-bedroom apartment.

If your children are supposed to attend an international school in Malaysia, this can add another 50,000 MYR annually to your cost of living in Malaysia. In addition to other expenses, some typical food items are also becoming more and more expensive. These include shallots, red chilies, and mackerel.

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 on 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 amount 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.

In 2014, more than in the previous years, getting by on your monthly income is a major concern for expats. Imported goods, food, transportation, housing, and everyday expenses are on the rise and add to the cost of living in Malaysia. In September 2013, the government rolled back subsidies for local businesses. These in turn passed on the rising costs to their customers by raising their prices by about 20%.

At the same time, many people have received a pay raise to cope with the rising living costs in Malaysia. Especially non-executive workers should receive a bonus from their companies to help them cope. Unfortunately, the sharp rise in Malaysia living costs is incredibly overwhelming for many people and the slight pay increase 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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