Kuala Lumpur

Best Places to Live in Malaysia | 10 Cities for Expats & Families

Malaysia is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Its multi-ethnic population is home to various cultures, delicious cuisines, and unique languages. Complimentary to that is the tropical weather, with hot temperatures and high rainfall making it a perfect rainforest country.

Malaysia’s wildlife is a nature lover’s dream, with over 300 mammal species, 600 bird species, and over 300 amphibian species making it a vibrant and unique ecosystem. Not to mention the vibrant nightlife that the cities offer. Let’s take a look at places that make Malaysia one of the leading destinations in the world to live in.

For information on living in Asia, read here: Best Places to Live in Indonesia

Best Places to Live in Malaysia for…

  1. Expats: Kuala Lumpur
  2. English Speakers: Penang Island
  3. Digital Nomads: Kota Kinabalu
  4. Solo Travelers: Miri
  5. Couples: Malacca
  6. Groups: Kuching

Top 10 Places to Live in Malaysia

1. Kuala Lumpur

  Best Place To Live For Expats

Petronas Twin Tower

Cost of Living: $$

Kuala Lumpur is the capital city of Malaysia and its most populous city as well. The world-famous Petronas Twin Towers represent the economic prowess of the country, while the Batu caves represent the cultural depth that Kuala Lumpur has to offer. The plethora of shopping malls, restaurants, hotels, and bars make it the commercial hub of the country and a perfect place for expats.

Tip: Take a tour of the Petronas Twin Towers

Who Would Like to Live There: Expats, Solo Travelers

Pros:

  • A diverse culture
  • The convenience of a modern city
  • Relatively affordable compared to other major cities

Cons:

  • Congested traffic during peak hours
  • Lack of traditional western cuisine
  • Freedom of speech under threat

2. Penang Island

  Best Place To Live For English Speakers

Georgetown Penang Island

Cost of Living: $$$

Penang Island offers a traditional South East Asian vibe with a beautiful coastline and humid weather, making for hot days and cool nights. Cultural events are in abundance, with the state officially recognizing four religions (Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity). Georgetown is the center of commercial activity, and it’s where most economic opportunities lie. English is also one of the most widely spoken languages on Penang Island, making it an excellent location for those who speak the language.

Tip: Look for property away from the coastline for protection against flash floods

Who Would Like to Live There: English speakers, Expats

Pros:

  • English is a prevalent language
  • A balanced weather climate
  • Diverse expat community

Cons:

  • Susceptible to flash floods
  • Prices are more expensive for foreigners
  • It may be too laidback in some instances

3. Malacca

  Best Place To Live For Couples

Malacca Christ Church

Cost of Living: $$$

Malacca is the historical capital of Malaysia. Its history of Portuguese, Dutch, and British rule makes it a melting pot of cultural architecture as A Famosa Fortress, St. Johns Fort, and Christ Church are notable monuments. The city district is beautiful chaos, where you’ll be exposed to the multi-linguality of the locals and the busy transport network. It is the perfect location for couples to enjoy the addictive cuisine as they learn about the culture.

Tip: Visit the weekly night market for rich options on weekly groceries.

Who Would Like to Live There: Couples, Solo Travelers

Pros:

  • Great local food
  • Affordable residential properties
  • Educational experience in culture

Cons:

  • Congested traffic
  • Poor quality roads
  • Questionable standard of medical care

4. Kuching

  Best Place To Live For Groups

Orangutang in Kuching

Cost of Living: $$$

With an average annual rainfall of 4 200 millimeters, Kuching is considered the wettest city in Malaysia. That has made it the perfect location for the blossoming rainforests that the city is famous for. If you’re not hiking in the Bako National Park, you can feed Orangutans at the Semenggoh Nature Reserve. The intimate cafes that line the streets are where you can socialize with the locals, making it an ideal place for nature lovers.

Tip: Getting a motorcycle or car is the most convenient way to travel around the city

Who Would Like to Live There: Groups, Nature Lovers

Pros:

  • Great wildlife ecosystem
  • Low cost of living
  • A peaceful environment

Cons:

  • Excessive rain
  • No western cuisine
  • English is not well-spoken

5. Ipoh

  Best Place To Live For Retirees

Old Town Ipoh art

Cost of Living: $$$

As a former mining city, Ipoh retains its heritage with the Edwardian-style architecture that characterizes the railway station and municipal buildings. A visit to The Old Town will show you the beautiful art murals that compliment the tin mining museum of the city. Those who want to do their shopping can travel to New Town, where there are plenty of malls, hotels, and schools.

Tip: Download Grab to move around the city with ease.

Who Would Like to Live There: Retirees, Artists

Pros:

  • Magnificent local art
  • Rich in architectural variety
  • Strong local heritage

Cons:

  • An elderly community
  • Very few modern developments
  • Fewer job opportunities compared to other cities

6. Johor Bahru

  Best Place To Live For Entrepreneurs

City Coastline in Johor Bahru

Cost of Living: $$$

Situated next to Singapore, Johor Bahru is a bustling border city that has turned into an attractive metropolis in recent years. It’s a logistics hub between the neighboring countries, allowing for the high trading activity that has overseen the development of residential and commercial buildings in the area. This is a great location for entrepreneurs who are looking for emerging markets.

Tip: Take advantage of the logistics hub and set up your business.

Who Would Like to Live There: Entrepreneurs, Expats, Workers

Pros:

  • Perfect location for commerce
  • An attractive commercial investment
  • Rapid overall development happening

Cons:

  • The rising cost of living
  • Increasing population density
  • Not very family-friendly

7.       Shah Alam

  Best Place for Families

Sunset over a Mosque in Shah Alam

Cost of Living: $$$

Shah Alam is the charming capital city of Selangor, Malaysia. Famous for one of the largest mosques in South East Asia( Blue Mosque), it’s a conservative community that is very open and welcoming. The presence of several private and public schools along with high-quality hospitals make it a reliable location for those looking for stability. A lack of nightlife is a perfect situation for families.

Tip: Respect everyone’s beliefs and conservative lifestyle.

Who Would Like to Live There: Families, Solo Travelers

Pros:

  • Many high-quality schools
  • Great healthcare
  • Respectful and conservative community

Cons:

  • Lack of nightlife
  • Lack of entertainment options
  • Not very accepting of other religions

8. Kota Kinabalu

  Best Place for Digital Nomads

Building Sabah Kota Kinabalu

Cost of Living: $$$

Kota Kinabalu is a tropical paradise that has developed into a well-functioning city. Its small islands have picturesque beaches that attract the most skilled divers. Residents stroll the busy street markets for their favorite local cuisine. Overall, the dynamic yet quiet neighborhoods here appeal to anyone looking to live like a local.

Tip: Learn a few local Malay phrases to interact with the community.

Who Would Like to Live There: Digital Nomads, Couples

Pros:

  • A young population
  • Fast internet speed
  • Easy to walk through the city

Cons:

  • The local community is not as receptive to tourists
  • More socials rules to follow
  • Locals can be stereotypical

9. Petaling Jaya

  Best Place To Live For Wealthy Expats

Cars in a busy street in Petaling Jaya

Cost of Living: $$$

Petaling Jaya is one of the few modern cities in the country. Retail is the city’s biggest industry as it attracts some of the country’s wealthiest spenders. Along with that are the luxury property developments that are happening within the city district. The public bus system is a reliable way to explore the city and visit the famous Sunway Lagoon.

Tip: Use the local transport to save on the cost of living.

Who Would Like to Live There: Wealthy Expats,  Groups

Pros:

  • Well-developed retail centers
  • Free public bus rides
  • Many options in grocery stores

Cons:

  • Petty crime is prevalent
  • Upcoming property developments are expensive
  • Developments are disrupting residential communities

10. Miri

  Best Place To Live for Solo Travelers

Coco Cabana Miri City Malaysia

Cost of Living: $$$

Miri is a holiday resort city and a tourist favorite. A hike up Canda Hill will give you panoramic views over the city center. Residents visit the Handicraft center for the best local furniture from its skilled artisans. Miri is also famous for being the foundation of the petroleum industry in Malaysia. Nightlife lovers can watch the sunset while drinking their mimosas from the Miri Sky Bar and partying into the sunrise.

Tip: Purchase your furniture from local artisans for lower prices.

Who Would Like to Live There: Solo Travelers, Nightlife Lovers

Pros:

  • Beautiful views over the city
  • A solid nightlife scene
  • Great access to oil

Cons:

  • Traditional accommodation is hard to find
  • High prices for tourists
  • The airport only has domestic flights

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