Where Do Most Expats Live in Malaysia

Where Do Most Expats Live in Malaysia?

Malaysia is home to thousands of expatriates as it’s filled with career and education opportunities. Pair this with the country’s reputation for being cheap, and you’ll understand why they choose to live here. But where exactly do expats live in Malaysia?

Most expats in Malaysia live in Kuala Lumpur because it offers the most opportunities for education and work. 

Though there are other options, like Penang, Johor Bahru, and Ipoh, KL is home to essentials like malls, restaurants, healthcare infrastructures, and accessible public transportation.

Kuala Lumpur is filled with neighbourhoods that offer amazing value. However, you’ll also find several places outside the nation’s capital that can be great options for residency.

Listed below are neighbourhoods of different price ranges along with their respective advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a closer look at each one!

City Centre, Kuala Lumpur

City Centre, Kuala Lumpur
Photo from: planetofhotels.com

City Centre is considered the main hub of the country. Located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, this neighbourhood offers various apartments nearby or in the CBD itself.

This is where most expats live in Malaysia as it contains all the necessities they need including job opportunities, shops, restaurants and malls. Lastly, since this is in the bustling area of Kuala Lumpur, nightclubs will also be accessible.

Highlights:The main hub of the country
Average cost of living:RM2,226.2/single person (without rent)
Average rental prices:RM4,300+
Pros:• Easy access to essential infrastructures

• Large open accommodation options

• Offers a variety of activities

• Plenty of career opportunities

Cons:• Closed streets

• Heavy traffic

• Costly rent

• Expensive imported goods.

Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur

Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur
Photo from: mansionglobal.com

You can think of Bangsar as sort of the suburban area of Kuala Lumpur. Here, you’ll find different living spaces such as bungalows, condo units and houses that usually have a sense of community. 

Aside from the accommodation options themselves, you’ll also find mid-range restaurants, trendy coffee shops and a few shopping centres. If your office is located in the city centre, you can easily travel using the Kuala Lumpur Sentral transit hub.

Highlights:Sense of community in an urban setting
Average cost of living:RM2,226.2/single person (without rent)
Average rental prices:RM3,500+
Pros:• Variety of accommodation types

• Peaceful neighbourhood

• Easy access to the city centre

• Presence of entertainment hubs

• Impressive healthcare.

Cons:• Lack of daycare centres and international schools

• Area is considered old

• Costly prices

Jelutong, Penang

Jelutong, Penang
Photo from: wikipedia.com

Jelutong is a great neighbourhood if you want to distance yourself a bit from the city buzz and flocks of tourists. This makes the neighbourhood a great option if you’re looking for peace.

This neighbourhood is perfect for young professionals, especially those who are into tech since it’s near the ‘Trade Zone’, the Silicon Valley of the East.

Highlights:Island life
Average cost of living:RM2,042/single person (without rent)
Average rental prices:RM1,400+
Pros:• Peaceful

• Cheaper rent

• Upcoming residential properties

• Safety

• Abundance of fellow expats and digital nomads

Cons:• Subpar nightlife

• Limited restaurant choices

• Expensive imported items

Horizon Hills, Johor Bahru

Horizon Hills, Johor Bahru
Photo from: agoda.com

Johor Bahru is great for expats who are looking to pursue their academics because this is where you’ll find Malaysia’s ‘EduCity’. More specifically, the perfect neighbourhood for expats in this area is Horizon Hills. 

Horizon Hills is one of the many amazing gated communities in Malaysia. It spans 1,200 acres and consists of 11 residential precincts. 

Moreover, it’s filled with various amenities such as hospitals, premium outlets and malls giving its inhabitants a variety of things to do.

An important thing to know in Johor is that it has higher crime rates statistically but since Horizon Hills is a gated community expats can enjoy improved security.

Highlights:Luxury gated communities
Average cost of living:RM2,100/single person (without rent)
Average rental prices:RM900+
Pros:• Nature-centric

• Luxurious properties

• Golf course

• EduCity

• State-of-the-art hospitals

• Cheaper cars

• Improved safety.

Cons:• Steep property costs

• Hassle commuting options

Sunway City, Ipoh

Sunway City, Ipoh
Photo from: Sunway Group

In Ipoh, most expats live in condominiums and gated residential residences. These accommodation options allow them to have 24/7 security and luxurious amenities such as golf courses.

Aside from offering fantastic options for residency, Ipoh is great for exploration too as it houses numerous spots such as limestone hills and cave temples.

Highlights:Laid-back lifestyle
Average cost of living:RM1,300/single person (without rent)
Average rental prices:RM1,030+
Pros:• Minimal traffic

• Pedestrian-friendly

• Beautiful places to explore

• Clean and peaceful

• Spacious living spaces

Cons:• Fewer job opportunities compared to bigger cities

Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu
Photo from: riderchris.com

Expats who are looking to experience the island paradise side of Malaysia choose to reside in Kota Kinabalu. Over the years, this place has developed into an established city with dynamic neighbourhoods and numerous street markets.

Filled with beautiful islands and small beaches, Kota Kinabalu opens up opportunities for leisure activities such as diving and swimming. This breath of fresh air can be appreciated by digital nomads who want to take a break from time to time.

Highlights:Beautiful beaches
Average cost of living:RM1,500/single person (without rent)
Average rental prices:RM970+
Pros:• Speedy internet connection

• Pedestrian-friendly

• Picturesque surroundings

Cons:• Locals aren’t as welcoming to tourists compared to other regions

• Plenty of social rules

Petaling Jaya

Petaling Jaya
Photo from: kayak.com

Wealthy expats choose to live in Petaling Jaya because of its established retail centres and luxurious properties. It also helps that it’s fairly near the city district where several job opportunities are available.

Petaling Jaya is part of the Greater Kuala Lumpur area which means that you won’t be far away from the main hub of the country. Moreover, it offers free public bus rides to help its locals explore the city seamlessly. 

Highlights:One of the few modern cities in the country
Average cost of living:RM2,100/single person (without rent)
Average rental prices:RM1,900+
Pros:• Availability of public transports

• Free bus rides

• Abundance of retail stores.

Cons:• Properties lean toward the expensive side

• Crime is relatively prevalent


Photo from: lavanya-residences.com

Langkawi is one of the most visited places in Malaysia by tourists because of its beach lifestyle. However, over the years, this island has seen rapid development leading to several established properties.

This makes it a great place for expats who are looking to take their work near the sea and retirees who want to live a laid-back beach lifestyle.

Highlights:Breathtaking views of the sea
Average cost of living:RM1,200/single person (without rent)
Average rental prices:RM1,250+
Pros:• Access to the beach

• Sea view properties

• Laid-back lifestyle

• Spacious living areas

Cons:• Slow internet connection

• Slower lifestyle

• Lesser activities

The Bottom Line

These neighbourhoods are some of the best places to live in Malaysia that will give the best value for your money. Each of these areas offers different types of lifestyles, and their respective amenities will surely be appreciated by everyone residing in them.

Moreover, you should weigh down the different pros and cons we’ve listed above to find out which area is the best for your needs and preferences. For instance, Kuala Lumpur is great for city life while Langkawi offers a more relaxed island lifestyle.

Once you find a neighbourhood that fits your standards, you can start working on getting your Malaysian citizenship.

FAQs about Where Expats Live in Malaysia