Malaysia Expat Guide

Useful Information for Living in Malaysia

Introduction to Malaysia - Contents

Introduction to Malaysia

For expats who want to live in Asia and perhaps want a little more predictability and organization than its neighboring Thailand and Indonesia, Malaysia can be a good choice. The Malaysian government has always seemed keen to attract expats to its country with programs like Malaysia My Second Home. Infrastructure is constantly being developed and Malaysia can be a great hub to live and explore the region and all it has to offer.

Facts and Figures

Malaysia is comprised of two separate regions separated by the South China Sea, Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo’s East Malaysia. East Malaysia is home to country’s capital Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia has a population of over 32 million people, with an interesting mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and indigenous people.


Malaysia has a federal constitutional elective monarchy, which means it is ruled by an elected monarch, in contrast with a hereditary monarch, where roles are passed down in the family to the next generation. Due to its British colonial rule, the system of government is based on the Westminister parliamentary system. The king is head of state and is elected to a five year term from several rulers from different Malaysian states. The role of the King is largely a ceremonial one. The government is led by a Prime Minister who must also be a member of the House of the Representatives.


While Malaysia is officicially a secular state, Islam is the main religion and around 60 of the population are Muslims. Another 20 per cent are Buddhists and Christians make up around 9 percent of the population. Religion is generally tied to ethnicity with most Malays being Muslim, Chinese being mostly Buddhist and the majority of the Indian population being Hindu.


The official language of Malaysia is Malaysian, a form of the Malay language. English is the country’s second language and is widely spoken in the country and is often used in business.


Malaysia has a tropical climate, with temperatures around 20-30 centigrade all year. The south west’s monsoon season is from around May to September and around November to March in the country’s north-east.


The currency is known as the Ringgit. Its symbol is RM and the currency code is MYR. Ringgit means ‘jagged’ in Malay and refers to the jagged edges of the Spanish silver dollars that were used in the 16th and 17th centuries.??The banknotes include RM1, RM5, RM10, RM20, RM50 and RM100.

Popular Places for expats to live in Malaysia

Perhaps not surprisingly, Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur has the biggest expat population. Kuala Lumpur is known as being an expat friendly city. Due to its proximity to Singapore, Johor is another popular expat destination. The island of Penang also has a good sized expat community and it is easily accessible to tourist destinations like Langkawi Island. Ipoh, which is known for being the cleanest city in the country is another tourist and expat destination famed for its laid-back riverside location with modern amenities.

Jobs and Salaries

Malaysia actively recruits skilled expats to work in Malaysia. They even created a government entity called Talent Corp to attract skilled foreigners to work in the country. You can see more information here.

Residency and Visas

An Employment Pass (EP) is a work permit which enables foreigners to work in the country for a company. You need to seek government approval before the visa is granted. The visa is only good for a specific company. If you change companies then you need to resubmit the application. The Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) is a program which allows expat to live in Malaysia for a period of ten years. You need to show a certain level of assets and have a certain amount of offshore income. See more info here:

Cost of Living in Malaysia

While Malaysia might have a slightly higher cost of living than some other countries in the region, infrastructure tends to be better and the country does seem more open to foreigners living there. It is still cheaper of course than Singapore.

Healthcare in Malaysia

Healthcare in Malaysia is gaining a reputation in the region for being efficient and reliable. Many doctors have trained overseas and can speak English.

Schools and Education

International schools in Malaysia have a good reputation in the region for having great teachers and modern facilities. Different schools will follow an Australian, British or US curriculum, which can help families decide which school will suite their needs.

Interesting Facts about Malaysia

Malaysia is home to the largest cave system in the world, located in the?Gunung Mulu National Park on Borneo Island.

Caning is legal form of punishment.

Malaysia has one of the oldest sultanates in the world.?

Teh tarik, which means “pulled tea” is the country’s national drink.

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