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Calculating the cost of living

According to Numbeo, the cost of living in Malaysia is 40% lower than in the UK, and low compared to neighbouring Asian countries such as the notoriously expensive Singapore.

However, particular items tend to be more expensive than in the West due to high sales tax — particularly alcohol, cigarettes, or luxury items.

Malaysia is classed as having a middle-income economy but is aiming to achieve high-income status by 2020. Malaysia is renowned for being a world-class shopping destination, particularly areas such as Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle. Jalan Hang Kasturi is known to be the best place for arts and crafts and antiques, and Chinatown for a bargain on a wide assortment of products. It’s not uncommon for people to come from Singapore to shop in Malaysia, particularly in Penang, due to its proximity and ease of access. Though in general prices are relatively low, due to the sheer volume of shopping opportunities, immersing yourself in the Malaysian shopping experience can prove expensive if you’re prone to temptation. Malaysia’s Ministry of Tourism run an annual Mega Sale Carnival in July and August, with people flocking to attend.

Food

Overall, food is 44% cheaper in Kuala Lumpur than in London, and 42% cheaper in Penang than in London. Food prices are particularly low if you buy local produce.

As an example, buying a pack of 12 eggs in Kuala Lumpur would cost RM8 (£1.46) as opposed to £3.04 in London; 1kg of tomatoes would be RM4.47 (£0.85), £2.09 in London.

Some food products are marginally more expensive than in the UK: 500g of local Cheese and 1litre of full-fat milk, priced at RM27 (£5.11) and RM7 (£1.32) respectively, in London would be £4.97 and £0.95, but the difference isn't enormous.

The most notable difference, however, is the price of alcohol. Expect to pay RM73 (£14) for a bottle of good quality supermarket red wine, which in London would set you back £10. That’s a 33% price difference. For 0.5litres of beer, again purchased from a supermarket, you are looking at RM12 (£2.19), which you could purchase in London for £1.87. Again, not huge, but enough to potentially increase your monthly food expenditure if you’re not careful.

Street markets and stalls are cheap for eating out, but restaurants won’t break the bank either (unless you’re ordering alcohol along with your meal). A lunchtime menu in the business district of Kuala Lumpur would be in the region of RM17 (£3.26) as opposed to £11 for the same in London, which is a difference of 71%.

The cost will also depend on which kind of restaurant you eat in a three-course meal for two in a local restaurant would be RM75 (£14); at an Italian restaurant in an expatriate area, this would increase to RM140 (£27).

Electrical Goods

Along with the rest of Asia, electrical appliances are cheap in Malaysia and the quality tends to be very good. Computers, cameras, and mobile phones are all available for comparatively low prices compared with what you would pay in the UK or the U.S.

For example, a 40” Flat screen TV in Kuala Lumpur is RM1,543 (£293), whereas in London you buy the same for £356.

Because of this, you may find you come out of the shop with more than you'd planned to buy, so make sure you know exactly what you want and avoid getting side-tracked by the quantity and quality of low-cost goods.

Rent & Utilities

Housing is cheaper than London by 71% in Kuala Lumpur, and by 77% in Penang.

On average, monthly rent for 85m2 furnished accommodation in an expensive area of Kuala Lumpur would be about RM3,102 (£590), as opposed to the equivalent in London costing £2,465. The same in an average priced area would compare as follows: Kuala Lumpur RM1,810 (£344) — London £1,739. Remember, if you choose to live in a gated community, your rent may be higher to cover the extra security costs.

For utilities including heating, electricity, and gas the average monthly bill for two people in a flat in Kuala Lumpur is R201 (£38), which a significant reduction from the London equivalent of £164. The Internet, however, can be more expensive, coming in at RM123 (£23) a month for 8Mbps as opposed to £21.

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