The cost of living in Malaysia is relatively low compared to neighbouring countries such as Singapore. The main discrepancy in prices is evident when buying cigarettes, alcohol or luxury items, as Malaysia places a higher sales tax on these items. Having said that, the cost of living in Kuala Lumpur has gone up a few notches in the last few years to the extend that some expatriates even say that it is more expensive than Singapore or Sydney!
Alcohol and tobacco costs are obviously very high compared to other places for items such as alcohol at a bar, beer, locally produced spirit, whiskey, wine (where alcohol is legally sold) and tobacco related products. This is due to the exorbitant 'sin tax' the Malaysian Government levies.
Malaysia offers a range of accommodation options, and the price is highly dependent on what you are after. Renting a two-bedroom condominium in an upmarket area of Kuala Lumpur can cost up to $1,000 and above per month; however, there are cheaper areas and cheaper options, starting from $300 per month. Accommodation in other cities is sometimes half the price you would expect to pay in Kuala Lumpur. Domestic help can be found at low cost through agencies or recommendations from other expatriates.
Costs for groceries are very reasonable, although the cost of some imported items can be high. Fruit and vegetables, meat and fish can be found at very low prices at the many outdoor markets. There are also supermarkets and hypermarkets throughout the country selling a wide range of local and imported goods.
Toiletries such as toothpaste, soap and hand cream are inexpensive in Malaysia. Perfumes and luxury toiletries are more expensive. A tube of toothpaste costs $2.50. Most international brands are available in the larger cities and at shopping malls or shops. However, clothing costs are high compared to other places for items such as business suits, casual clothing, children's clothing, coats, evening wear, footwear, hats, shoe repairs and underwear.
Malaysia, like the rest of Asia, has a range of very cheap and good-quality electrical products. Cameras, computers and mobile phones are all inexpensive, and expatriates will find that the range of products available is hard to beat. When shopping for electrical goods, it is best to go in knowing exactly what you are looking for, or you may run the risk of leaving with more than you bargained for. There are often sales and special deals, particularly around religious holidays and so shopping around does have its rewards. A decent flat-screen TV will cost about $500, although better deals are available. A portable DVD player, a must have for all subway commuters, usually costs less than $100.
Dining, education, healthcare, transport and recreational costs are also reasonably low in Malaysia.
Communication costs are average compared to other places for various communication costs such as call charges, home telephone rental, internet connection, mobile data costs, mobile phone contract and service provider fees. Like communication, miscellaneous costs are average for items such as dry cleaning, general goods, general services, linen, magazines, maid, newspapers, office supplies, postage stamps and stationery.