Living Abroad - Malaysia
Move abroad. Experience. Grow. And, live happily and cheaply in the process--that's our goal. We also thought we would of course share with everyone what we've found as we make this big decision, akin to the "big chop!" Natural hair sistas will get that..lol
We are considering four countries: Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand. We already discussed Cambodia in depth (hopefully) and next up is Malaysia. As we are exploring, we are realizing there are more things we need or want besides cheap. Well me maybe-- Kat is still stuck on cheap. We've discussed a few things on our podcast. Take a listen!
You ready? Here we go.
Visa- First up, visa or no visa? –There is an e-visa process available for citizens of China, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Serbia, Montenegro. For American citizens, you do not need a visa if traveling to Malaysia on business or tourism for 90 days or less. The following requirements apply for US citizens entering Malaysia:
Your passport must be valid for at least six months.
If you are planning continued travel after departing Malaysia, please note that many other countries in the region require at least 6 months’ remaining validity on your passport to enter.
When arriving in Malaysia, immigration officials will place an entry stamp, known as a social visit pass (visa), in your passport authorizing a stay of up to 90 days. Travelers may apply to the Immigration Department for extensions of up to two months.
This is really a traveler’s dream. Malaysia (and Cambodia) have very smooth and simple immigration policies compared to many other parts of South East Asia. A word of caution: There are stiff fines/fees for overstay, so it is strongly encouraged to stay aware of visa expiration dates and apply for extensions in a timely manner.
If you want to stay beyond 90 days, you have to leave Malaysia before the 90 day visa is up and do a “run.” This is when you leave the country for a while in order to enter and receive another 90 day visa. Because officials can look at quick and frequent visa runs closely, it is best to use that time to stay at least a few days in another country before returning so that the trip does not draw unnecessary attention. For those wanting longer or permanent stay in Malaysia, there is the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) program.
Costs of Lodging/Food - According to Numbeo, rent in Malaysia is 41.91% lower than in United States, which translates to a 2 to 3 bedroom apartment/home in the "popular" expat area, running anywhere from $350 to $1200 and $250 to $650 in the regular sections of town. One-bedroom rentals are considerably less and can be as low as $150. Electricity runs about $45 and Wifi about $40. Kuala Lumpur, the capital city, is a popular destination for expatriates and will be in the higher range, while costs in outlying areas can be cheaper.
Internet/Phone – WiFi is touted to be very good in Malaysia, with little problems. This is because over half of the population has smartphones. The price of a pre-paid plan starts at about $1.50. Top-ups for prepaid plans and SIM cards are available to purchase at most convenience stores.
Pets – Because we have Oreo (dog), this is a consideration for us. The rules right now require a microchip for pets entering Malaysia from the US and all vaccinations/papers must be up-to-date. Even with this, there is a quarantine period of no less than 7 days for pets entering Malaysia.
An example of potential expenses for living in Malaysia is as follows: $300 for a two-three bedroom apartment in an outlying area such as Malacca and Kota Kinabalu; $200 for groceries; $50 for utilities, around $35 a month for an Internet connection and .06 per min for cellphone service; $100 for personal expenses; and $40 for local transportation. (Since, we are moving as a family, this example applies more to living with 2-4 people.) This does not include money allocated toward health care, dining out, entertainment, and savings; so that is a consideration.
The cost of an International School in Malaysia is upwards of $6,000 a semester/child. Schooling, unfortunately, is not where you will see cost savings. If you are used to the public school system in America, then these costs are likely not ones for which you’ve already budgeted. For our family, we are definitely doing in the direction of combining online school and homeschooling. Our sons have different interests and we expect to give them opportunities to practice/get instruction for these overseas as well, such as learning to play instruments, martial arts, etc.
Overall, Malaysia is a good option for a move to SE Asia. As with any locale, research, research, research is key. And joining groups online that include people who are already living there is also very helpful. If we decide not to make Malaysia our first move, it may very well be the next place we decide to go after we are in Asia for a period of time.
Happy Travels, All!
P.S. Pics from Kat's Trip to Malaysia are below. Wanna see more? Click here