The cost of living in Malaysia for International Tax Expats

Singapore twin towers within the busy business district

From a small tin-mining village to world-class infrastructure. While business behaviour is similar to the West, Malaysia can provide an intercultural experience, an affordable lifestyle and a 25% increase in income for international tax expats. The only country to hold territory on both mainland Asia and the Malay Archipelago, Malaysia is home to rainforests, beaches and islands.


Tax or transfer pricing expats and their families may enter the country on ‘social passes’ and secure a work permit thereafter. There are strict laws surrounding illegal workers, so it is suggested that work does not commence until a Work Permit has been received. The process can be extensive; however, it is possible for future employers to obtain visas. Foreign nationals intending to work in Malaysia must exceed the age of 27. An exception has been put in place for the IT sector with a minimum age of 23.

For extensive information regarding tax expat Visa’s CLICK HERE

Property Market

Unlike Singapore, it is possible to find affordable living within Malaysia, in many aspects prices are considerably lower than the UK. In upscale communities such as Kuala Lumpur you can expect to pay around RM1500 for a one-bedroom apartment. However, it is possible to find properties at half the price in rural areas. It is advised that access to transport should be researched by international expats as road traffic can be extremely heavy during rush hour and sudden thundershowers.

Terraced and detached housing can be found outwith cities while it is more common for condominiums and apartments to be found within. These can come at as low as RM1000 per month and long-term leases can last for up to two years. Utility expenses exist at extremely fair prices throughout the country, meaning bills for utility usage could be fairly low for tax expats who have relocated. Further information can be accessed at Instarem.

You might find our blog on the Top Three Places to Live in Malaysia helpful.


The cost of overall transport in Malaysia is relatively low which is a huge plus for tax and transfer expats. Owning a car is fairly common, however, it is not necessary and it is possible to get around without. Public transport passes can be purchased monthly at approximately RM100, the most popular being buses. When it comes to purchasing a car, it can be more expensive than in Europe. Locally made cars will be more cost-effective and are sold for much less than imported vehicles which carry 100% tax. Taxis are largely used within cities and legally carry a meter. These tend to start at RM3 and cost approximately RM2 per km.

Singapore traffic commute international expats

Schooling and Childcare

Due to an ever-increasing tax and transfer pricing expat community, there are many highly distinguished international schools. Education costs for children vary. International school fees at primary level can be found at around RM22,000. For secondary education, you should be prepared to pay between RM30,000 and RM80,000. Different schools use varied curriculums, the most popular being the British and IB programmes. Leading schools include The International School of Kuala Lumpur and Garden International School both situated in the capital. For younger children, private daycare and Kindergarten nurseries charge upwards of RM300 per month. However, some families may opt to employ a foreign domestic helper to help with combined childcare and housework. The use of an agency is recommended and the cost ranges between RM12,000 and RM18,000.

Other costs

Water and electricity can cost between RM180 and RM300, you can expect to pay less than RM 200 for internet. Tax rates for residents vary between 0% and 28% with a fixed rate of 28% for non-residents.

There are a large number of sports and leisure clubs throughout Malaysia, a great way for expats to meet fellow expats or new friends. These provide a wide range of sporting activities from golf and yoga to watersports. For one adult, a monthly membership will cost around RM150. These are a great way to meet people and have large expat communities attached.

singapore golf

The opportunity to travel in Asia from Malaysia is endless, with budget flights flying daily to a number of different locations. Explore an up-to-date summary of the costs of living in Malaysia and allow price comparisons to be made with other cities.

If you are interested in a move to Malaysia or anywhere else in the world and would like to speak to Kingpin International about International Tax Opportunities, please contact a member of the leadership team. Alternatively, please browse our current international tax vacancies.

Keen to find out more about life in Malaysia? Explore our articles below:
Top three places for tax expats to live in Malaysia
Relocating to Malaysia: Expat communities
Malaysia as a great international destination choice