Skip to content

Cost of Living in Penang: How to Budget for Expat Life

    me in pool with pink floatie, penang in background

    Last Updated on February 21, 2023 by Kirsten Raccuia

    So many people ask us why we moved to Malaysia. 

    The cost of living in Penang is only one of the reasons. But it’s a big one. There are probably other, cheaper places to live in the world, but Penang has a standard of living that is very high. 

    I often joke that the Penang lifestyle is the quintessential champagne taste on a beer budget. 

    Penang is a state, not just an island. I’ll only be addressing the costs on the island. I’ve heard that living on the mainland is even more affordable, but for us, the island is where it’s at. Mainland was never an option. 

    A majority of expats and retirees live on the island as well.

    If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve probably read about the food, the people, the festivals. All those attributes make up the lifestyle that is above and beyond most people’s expectations. Truth is, in the nearly seven years of living in Penang, I’ve only met one person who wasn’t happy.  

    I get loads of emails asking about the cost of living in Penang for expats, which is partly why I’m writing this. But my answer is generally the same. It depends on your lifestyle. 

    Is RM10,000 ($2292) good enough to live a decent life in Penang? For my lifestyle, abso-fricken-lutely. But not for everyone. Most months, we spend between RM7000-8000 ($1600-1833) depending on our social life and travel. 

    Let’s dive into the cost of living in Penang per month for a couple.


    We pay RM2800 ($641).

    You get a lot of bang for your buck in Penang, especially when it comes to rentals.

    Rent will be the largest portion of your budget. Getting that right from the get-go will set the stage for your time in Penang. Don’t rush into renting a place. And for the love of all things holy, don’t buy a home as soon as you get here. There is a lot to see in the Penang real estate market, so take your time to find your sweet spot. 

    There are online platforms for checking out real estate in Penang, but be forewarned, those pictures are deceiving. Sometimes they aren’t even of the actual unit you will be seeing. It is great to do your research, but even better to see it in person.

    No matter what neighborhood you decide to live in, there will be a considerable variance in costs. Like anywhere in the world, the older buildings will be more affordable because they aren’t as swanky. However, there is no shortage of swank in Penang, and they keep building more. 

    Our Home (The biggest hunk of our cost of living in Penang):

    Home view-start a new life abroad

    We love the Tanjung Bungah area, but it’s not the cheapest place to live on the island. That being said, it has all the amenities we want in a neighborhood. 

    We live in an older building with a small pool and no gym to speak of, but we are right across the street from the ocean, close to George Town and the grocery stores, and it costs RM2800 ($641). 

    Admittedly, our amenities kinda suck, but our living space is killer, it was a trade-off. For us to have the space and the views we wanted, with all the amenities, we’d have to almost double our budget. 

    Our place is a low-density high-rise with security guards – not that they are needed here. It’s is fully furnished with 3 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms and is 2300 square feet. We eat every meal on our ocean view balcony while watching the sea eagles circle overhead. 

    We have views to die for from every room – beachfront and all the high-rises along the coast and jungle views. 

    Bedroom with a view of the ocean: cost of living in Penang
    Our bedroom with a view

    I get my daily fix of monkey viewing while sitting at my desk. They come out to play between 4-5 and go crazy in the nearby trees. It’s their happy hour, or monkey hour if you will.

    In case you’re wondering, monkey TV never gets old, and there are never any reruns. It’s a daily break to get me off the keyboard for a few minutes and truly brings me joy and giggles.

    But anyway, back to the housing. 

    Other Options

    We have friends that live in newer, more updated buildings for RM5000 ($1146) and up. The units in those buildings are massive 4000+ square feet, with Olympic-sized swimming pools and state of the art gyms. It’s more like resort living. 

    Those are a dime a dozen. I actually think it is easier to find higher-end rentals than the middle of the road apartments for rent in Penang.

    We also have friends that live in Batu Ferringhi, which is about 20 minutes passed Tanjung Bungah and further away from George Town. There are some very affordable condos there. If you aren’t too picky (unlike us), you can find a small apartment for RM1000 ($229). It all depends on your needs and comfort level. 

    Penang rentals run the gamut from very basic to 5-star living. I suggest you start with a year lease and see how it goes. Yes, you’ll get a better deal if you sign for more years. But money doesn’t matter when you’re unhappy in your home. Trust me. We know.


    All in, we pay about RM2000 ($458) a month on food and booze. 

    There are a lot of living in Penang – pros and cons. Food is def one of the advantages. 

    It’s cheap, plentiful, and delish. Actually, it’s legendary, and I could go on about the food for days, but this is about the cost of living in Malaysia, not the food in Penang. 

    If you go local and embrace Penang’s food scene, it’s one place you can really save money. 

    If you only want to eat western food, not only are you crazy, but you’ll spend twice as much. Even a nice local restaurant is half the price of any western meal. We tend to go out for local fare and cook western at home.

    Local food is super-cheap:

    It’s much cheaper to eat out every meal vs. cooking. I have a lot of friends who live here and cook 2-3 times a week… maybe, and eat out the rest. 

    We do both. For sure, we eat out here more than in Chicago. For the same money as a martini in our fave steakhouse in Chicago, we can have 2 dinners out in Penang, 3 if we don’t have beer, 4 if we just eat street food.

    Street food or hawker stall prices:

    • Char kway teow – a traditional local noodle dish is RM5 ($1.15)
    • Satay – marinated chicken meat on sticks over a charcoal grill, served with peanut sauce …mmmm. 10 skewers for RM12 ($2.75)
    • Assam laksa – tamarind and fish-based noodle soup RM5 ($1.15)
    • Chicken Rice – a big hearty dish of white rice, topped with roasted chicken, all covered with garlic chili sauce. Our fave comes with spicy soup. RM7 ($1.60)
    • Large bottle (660ml) of beer at a hawker is RM18 ($4.12)

    Grocery and wet market prices:

    fruit:cost of living in penang
    This is what $5 worth of local fruit looks like.
    • Large bag of fresh local veg from the market, enough for the week – RM25-40 ($ 5.75=9.15)
    • Fruit: 1 large mango, ¼ of a watermelon, a section of jackfruit, 10 rambutans, RM25-30 (5.75-6.87). We don’t eat a lot of imported fruit like apples or oranges, because we get a fantastic variety of what I used to call “exotic fruits.”
    • Chicken – RM17 ($3.90) per kilo
    • Aussie grass-fed filet – RM98 ($22.46) if frozen, RM130 ($29.80) for fresh, per kilo
    • Pork – RM17 ($3.90) per kilo
    • Soda RM2 ($.45) per can

    Alcohol prices:

    When we are off the sauce, going out to eat is even cheaper. The booze tax (or sin tax) is high, making even the crappiest bottle of wine $10. Think Trader Joe’s $2-Buck Chuck for $10. 

    But being sinners and paying taxes never stopped us from drinking, it’s just part of our Penang living costs. 

    *All spirits come in liter bottles. 

    • Beer: A case of local Tigers is RM96 ($22). 
    • Wine: Aussie or Chilean wines are the most common and the most affordable, starting around RM45 ($10).  
    • Gin: Gordons RM85 ($19.48), Hendricks RM175 ($40)
    • Whiskey/Bourbon: Jack Daniels RM115 ($26), Jameson RM105($24) 
    • Vodka: Absolut and Smirnoff RM70-80 ($16-18.33). We were vodka snobs until we moved here, but not only is Grey Goose impossible to come by, even at the duty-free, the price is stupid. Tito’s or Kettle One? Keep dreaming. 
    • Rum: Captain Morgan RM80 ($18.33), Bacardi is RM90 ($20.62) 


    If you don’t want to buy a scooter or a car, I get it, and the buses will take you all around the island. They are super clean, very cheap, and usually freezing. Depending on the length of your ride, it will cost you RM1.40-4.00 (¢.32-.92)

    We also have Grab, which is our version of Uber. They are super cheap as well and def better than the taxis. I would avoid taking cabs at all costs because they are over-priced and not always the best. We take Grab to the airport, which is about 45-minutes to an hour depending on traffic. 

    It is never more than RM40 ($9.16). If you are just popping around town or heading to the market, it’s only a few bucks a ride. 


    The freedom of having our own transportation is essential to us. 

    We bought a used scooter (aka Scoots) for RM2600 ($596) when we first moved here. Used local scooters are normally between RM1500-5000 ($343-1146). New scooters RM7000-15,000 ($1604-3438). 


    blue boxy car: cost of living in Penang

    When we moved here, I really didn’t want a car. Mostly because people drive like morons here, and I thought a scooter would be enough. But after a few months, I decided to join the army of morons, and now I’m a proud card-carrying member of the team. No signal, no lanes, no looking, no problem. 

    We bought a little local number called a Kanari. I dubbed her the Panty Dropper because she’s a badass, sexy beast – all 89 horsepower. She’s a cobalt-blue, clown car that’s boxy like a toaster, and she’s perfect. She was RM18,000 ($4125) out the door and has served us well. 

    Insurance and road taxes:

    We pay RM450 ($103) a year for the Panty Dropper and Scoots.


    At the moment, gas is around RM5.23 ($1.20) a gallon. But for the last few years, it’s been around RM7.85 ($1.80). The Malaysian government subsidizes the industry, so the prices are very stable year after year. 

    Health Insurance:

    Unlike in America, health care is very affordable. Some Penang expats don’t have insurance and prefer to pay out of pocket. 

    Before we had insurance, I had nasal surgery. I was in a private room in the hospital for 3 days and received excellent care. The whole bill cost me under RM7850 ($1800). I couldn’t even get a series of lab tests done for that in Chicago. 

    We have two different health insurance policies. One for Malaysia and another for the rest of the world, including the US. 

    Our Malaysian health insurance is through Great Eastern and costs me RM1800 ($412) and Mark RM2300 ($527) a year. There is no deductible, and it only covers hospitalizations.

    Our travel policy with AIG is RM789 ($180) for each of us.  

    In 2012, our health insurance in Chicago was RM4799 ($1100) per MONTH. Now we pay RM5678 ($1301) per YEAR, and we have much better coverage. Healthcare is just another reason why so many people consider a Malaysia retirement.

    Cell Phones:

    We pay RM153 ($35) a month for a ton of data, which now that I’m thinking about it, we need to change. We rarely use any cellular data (everything is WIFI), I could probably shave RM20-40 ($4.50-9.16) off our bill. 

    This table breaks down our monthly expenses along with some extras so you can get an idea of all the prices.

    We average about RM7000-7500 a month, more if we travel.

    RentRM2800/$656Fully furnished 2300 sf., 3-bedroom/4-bathroom condo overlooking the ocean.
    Food/BoozeRM2000/$469That is for groceries, eating out, and alcohol.
    InternetRM145/$34 We have fiber optic internet which means it is super-duper fast in laymen’s terms.
    Electric RM250/$57We use the AC at night only and keep the ceiling fans on at all times.
    Car/scooter insuranceRM37.50/$8.79That includes taxes and registration.
    Health InsuranceRM473/$111That is for two of us, with both insurances.
    NetflixRM35/$8Queen of the South, Money Heist, Unorthodox, Ozark. Need I say more?
    Cleaning ladyRM320/$75She is RM20/$4.50 an hour with a minimum of 4 hours. Best $4.50 I’ve ever spent.
    My hair cutRM45.$10.50It’s around RM60 at a salon but I go to my guy’s house.
    Mark’s barberRM15/$3.51Mark splurges for a shave and a cut. It’s only RM8 for a cut.
    Hair colorRM180-350/$42-82It depends on the length of your hair.
    ManicureRM42/$9.85French, fancy designs, and gel colors are more.
    PedicureRM58/$13.60Back home I didn’t get a lot of pedis, here they are a necessity. Hello! Open-toe shoes all year long.
    Foot massageRM212/$49.70That’s for 2 massages each per month. We are doing our part to support the locals 😉.
    Gym membershipsRM238/$55.82For two monthly memberships at a fancy gym with all the stuff I rarely use.
    Cooking gasRM29/$6.80A large canister lasts for about 6-months and is also delivered by scooter.
    Doctor’s apptRM70/$16.42This is with any regular doctor. A specialist could cost you a little more, around RM100.
    Dental cleaningRM130/$30At a very high-end dentist office.

    The Bottom Line

    When you are thinking about moving to Malaysia, the low cost will be a factor.

    If you are a big-city person, Penang might be too sleepy for you. The cost of living in Kuala Lumpur is similar to here, but with more living options. I def suggest you check out KL – the champagne lifestyle is affordable there also.

    The prices in Penang are very affordable, even on a fixed income. A couple can live very well on RM8700 ($2000).

    Working for International Living magazine means I’ve interviewed my fair share of expats who have moved to Thailand, Philipines, and Bali. Out of all the places, nothing beats a Penang retirement for the lifestyle and cost of living. Even though we didn’t come here to retire, the Penang lifestyle draws you in and keeps you here. We are happily caught in Penang’s embrace!

    What’s the cost of living where you live? Tell me in the comments below.


    60 thoughts on “Cost of Living in Penang: How to Budget for Expat Life”

    1. Hi kirsten, I’m glad to have found your blog. I’m actually born and living here in Penang, Malaysia but starting a new journey of a new job and living on my own. I came across your blog while researching on how much budget I need to spend each day, its really helpful.

      I live on the other side of Penang, in the mainland, so if you would like any tips of food around here, please feel free to let me know, we do have some amazing food here that is pretty unique and been for generations 🙂

      It is refreshing to hear stories of people enjoying living in my hometown, thank you 🙂

    2. Super-cool blog. Very informative and well written. My wife and I have 2 children (3 and 10) and we spent about 15 years living as expats in various countries – Now we’ve spent the last 5 years back in the states, but are ready for our next adventure – for the first time without a big corporate employer.
      We have a lot of friends in KL, but have never actually been to visit. We’ve heard wonderful things about Penang as well. We actually had flights booked in late Feb of last year, but COVID happened…We’re waiting for things to open back up again…and fingers crossed MM2H becomes an option sometime in the near future.
      We plan to visit for a few weeks when things are clear and see if we like it.
      Quick Questions:
      1)Any good resources regarding international schools? All of our friends in KL have favorites, but it seems like it’s difficult to get aggregated data that is unbiased. Also, we’re interested in Penang as well, but our network doesn’t extend that far…yet.
      2) How have things changed after COVID? I assume you aren’t able to leave the country (or at least if you did, you’d have a hard time getting back in). Has there been a lot of inflation? As an existing MM2H holder, are you going to be able to renew once your 10 years are up?
      Anyway, hope you are well – it was a lot of fun to read your blog.
      Cheers – Hans

      1. Thank you, Hans! That’s so kind!

        1. For opinions about the schools I’d get on the various expat Facebook groups and ask around. I think you’ll get a bevy of answers about fave schools that way. Otherwise, each school has its own sites but that is purely factual. Not opinion-based.

        2.You are correct. At the moment we can leave but we have no idea when/if they will let us back in. It’s hard to tell if there is any inflation since everything has been closed but I haven’t noticed any difference on the groceries. Yes, we can renew. In fact, that is the only thing the MM2H office is doing right now.

        I hope that helps, reach out with any more questions!
        Fingers crossed we’ll meet on this side of the world in 2021!

    3. Thank you for such a great and detailed article. We are from Oz and US and have lived in Singapore for 10 and 25 years, respectively. Any place has its pros and cons, but in Singapore’s case, those are opposite ends of the spectrum. I think it is the best place to live in Asia – if you are a millionaire. I hate spending the past 25 years with such a pinch on the bank account.

      We have loved Penang the few times that we’ve visited and are looking at it as a place to move because the visa restrictions are getting harder and harder in Singapore. They simply just don’t want foreigners here, period. It seems to be the opposite in Malaysia. Although with MM2H on hold for the time being, I guess it is a waiting game to see when that comes back into play.

      I do have a question (not just a ramble…:-). What is the situation with living on a farm on the West side of the island. I’ve found had some great experiences over there and the countryside is almost like Bali. And from Balik Pulau to the airport is only 20-25 min, 20min drive into Georgetown or so. Do you know of expats living over there on that side of the island and enjoying it?

      Thanks for your time and effort put into this blog.

      1. Hi Alex,

        Yes, I think Singapore is a challenge unless you have $$$. It’s the opposite in here Malaysia.

        I’ve only known one person to rent in Balik Pulau and it was like camping. His rent very super cheap but he had to do a lot of work to make it liveable. It might be ok but it could be very isolating. If you want to live here, have a good social life and be a part of the liveliness that is Penang, it’s def not the first place I would move.

        Everyone we know who lives on the mainland, or even near the airport, eventually moves to the northern part of the island.

        I hope that helps and I didn’t dash your dreams.

    4. Hi Kirsten, and thank you for your interesting and informative blog.

      Has Penang changed much in the last year due to Covid in so much as cost of living and even attitude to foreigners?

      I understand that MM2H has been suspended until further notice. Any rumours around about when/if it will be relaunched? (I keep googling to see if I can see anything!)

      Finally, everything I have read is all about couples. Whilst I am not specifically looking to move to Penang to find my life partner, I just wonder if there are many single people to around to hang out with?

      Thank you for taking the time to write these.. They are super helpful!


      1. Hi Cathy,

        Thank you.

        Nothing has changed here in regards to the cost of living or attitudes.

        MM2H is still a mystery at the moment. No one has any insights that I’ve heard.

        There are some singles here but in my experience here, I’ve met more couples here. It also depends on your age group. There are some single retired females here. And some single expat teachers.
        Also, there are more singles in KL because it’s a larger city with more going on.

        I hope that helps a bit.

        1. Thank you very much.. That’s a great help. I am looking forward to being able to get over there once all of this rubbish is over!


      1. Great stuff, Kirsten. Just a few more years until the kids are in college and Penang here we come! Can’t wait for the fun, food and sun. Hope you’re still around so we can buy you a drink to thank you for your blog. Jumpa lagi.

        1. Hi Sleepless, Can I call you Sleepless? 🤣

          Thank you for being here! Glad you like my blog.

          You are in such an exciting phase right now. Getting all the info and amped up to make the move is so fun!

          Have you visited Penang before?

          1. Went to high school in S’pore as an expat kid and visited Penang a few times in the late 80’s. Also lived and worked in Asia for a few years as an adult, but never made it back to Penang. Will plan a visit next year before we pull the retirement trigger. I’m sure it’s grown and changed a lot in 30 years, but still sounds like a wonderful place to live. Take care!

            1. Yes, Penang has def changed in 30 years. It’s changed a ton in the 7 that we’ve been here. So I can’t imagine how different it will be for you! I look forward to hearing about the differences when you get here!
              Until then, take care!

    5. Hi Kristen,
      Found your blog and we enjoy reading it! Regarding Malaysia, what is the potential work opportunities there either full time or part time as a teacher or the like?

      1. Thank you, Irene. Welcome!

        There are loads of international teachers in Penang at schools like Dalat, Tenby, Uplands, POWIS, and SKIPS. But you have to apply and sort out the job before you get here. Don’t come to Malaysia without a job and start looking.

        Hope that helps and good luck!

    6. This is a really good post, thank you Kirsten.

      We are planning a move to Penang within the year. Can you explain a little bit about how you handle banking and money transfers from the US to Malaysia. Do you hold banks accounts in both countries? What are transfer and withdrawal fees like? Are you on the MM2H program? What types things did you bring from the US and what were the approximate costs?


      1. Thank you, Chris. How exciting for you!

        We have bank accounts in both the US and here. We simply take money from an ATM and deposit it in our local bank. That is the best way to get the best rate. Transferwise is the second best option.

        We are on the MM2H program and sold everything before we came here so I don’t know about shipping costs. But this blog might help

        I hope that helps.

        1. Thank you Kirsten, may I ask what is the bank in the US you have an account with and what is the bank in Penang you have an account with? To the best of our knowledge the two best options is either Charles Schwab because Charles Schwab reimburses the ATM fee or Citibank for the global transfer option. We just want to tap into your experience if you are doing anything differently that is cost effective.

          We are also in the process of selling everything but plan to bring in some personal items via sea freight including our car.

          1. Charles Schwab, Citi, and HSBC are all great options.

            As for the car, we drive on the opposite side of the road here so bringing your car might be a challenge. Also, make sure they will allow you to import it.

    7. I am so glad that I found your blog. We are planning to retire in Penang as well within 3-5 years and was doing research. your blog helps a lot!

    8. Hi
      Thanks so much for the info about the cost of living. We are moving to penang this month and I was a bit worried about how affordable it would be after paying tax and sending money home for our expenses in the UK… but my mind is at ease now. It’s definately do-able!!

    9. Hello Kirsten (the Chicago Lady…), I am from Michigan (next door uh!)… I am about 2 years away from Retirement and hoping to do that in Penang. I have visited the island/state twice before, but love Tangung B and Tanjung T area as well as Gurney. Do you know who to contact for short term rental like for 2 to 3 months before make a long term commitment as MM2h may take over a year and so get in and out while processing takes place? I do not like to go through any unknown agent as I have heard some negative stories. My wife and I would like to stay very close to the ocean with a very nice ocean view! I must say your blog is just so cool, ‘reading with fun’.. Oh one more, did you have any problem adjusting with the humidity and heat? Thank you in advance, stay safe!

      1. Hello Ferdous (aka neighbs),

        How fantastic that you are thinking about making Penang home! And I’m so happy you like my blog!

        More and more buildings and serviced apartments are popping up which are perfect for short terms. However, I don’t know of anyone who specializes in 2-3 month rentals, BUT since you won’t be here for another 2 years that could change.

        As for the heat and humidity – it takes some time. Everyone is different and we still sweat like crazy if we are out and about. But we did get used to it and so will you. You must be patient. It doesn’t happen overnight.

        Let me know if there is anything else I can help with and keep in touch!

        1. Thank you so much for your reply Neighbor! Perhaps you may give me some information regarding health insurance. I am 61 and my wife is 52. Any agent in mind that I can communicate?
          Thank you again,
          Stay Safe!

    10. Another great post Kirsten! We are really feeling the difference whilst ‘stuck’ here in Australia…everything is so much more expensive, and we can’t get hawker style food obviously…we miss Penang so much!

      1. I can imagine how much everything costs there. It a shocker every time we go back to the US. Since the world is upside down right now, all you can do is save as much as you can and get here as soon asap so you can really save some money… and eat all the food!

        1. Hi Kirsten, Wendy & Sleepless Seattle,

          From US to Penang thats other side of the world to move and may I understand the logic for not choosing places lile Portugal, Greece, Spain etc.,?

          1. Hi Vig, Sorry for the delay. We chose Penang because we loved it, not because of its proximity (or lack of proximity) to the US. We didn’t limit our choice to places nearby, we followed our hearts. For some people, proximity will play a larger role in their decision-making. Certainly, the places you mentioned would be much easier.

    11. Hi momma!

      Thank you as always! Your support means everything!

      I can’t wait for you to get back here. It’s been too long. Nothing is impossible but you did just put down some roots that will make it harder to leave the US. Let’s just focus on you getting back here asap.

      Love you!

    12. Hello Kirsten,

      I am so grateful for all detailed info that you shared with us. I am sitting in my backyard listening to birds singing, pool and spa water fountain & and the rain falling from the sky in Dallas. Is Memorial Day morning. Even though it is so peaceful, my mind is in Penang. When the time comes to visit Penang, I can’t wait to see, feel & take it all in.
      It is hard for me to explain about Penang to Mike without going into so much details. He needs to see it for himself to understand. Please continue to share the good & the bad about Penang. Until then, have a wonderful week.
      #1 fan,💕

      1. Hi Sandy,

        You are so funny! Sounds like you had a lovely Memorial Day.

        Have you ever been to Penang or Malaysia?

        You will be here soon enough and hopefully, Mike will feel the same about it as you do.

        Thanks for all the love!

        1. Hello Beautiful Kirsten,

          We have not been to Penang. Is Saturday afternoon in Dallas. I went to 99 Ranch Asian market today to check out Durian & Jack fruit. Truth be told- I am at the Asian market every weekend. I bought one whole Durian & Jack fruit,. Is my way of pretending like I am in Penang. Mike & I are planning to be there a week or longer: I will reach out to you when the time get closer. You suggested that we should stay long enough to see things. I am hoping after Mike realized what we can get for the money, surrounding & etc, we can move there soon. Is like us having a pool & spa. He did not want to build one, but I persuaded him. My strategy to get to Penang is similar to how I got the oasis backyard. Please pray for me. Lol

          BTW – Mike loves Roti curry. I am a big time foodie.

          Thank you for being such a sweet kind person!

          Hugs from Dallas,

      2. Hi Kirsten:

        I just found your blog as I was doing research about retiring in Malaysia. My fiance and I currently live in Northern Virginia and the cost of living here is astronomical. We are planning a visit to Malaysia a few years from now to check things in person, but a question for you:

        How has cost of living increased/changed from your first year to current year? We don’t plan on moving to Malaysia for a good while; has there been a noticeable rate of inflation?

        Also, have you considered putting together your blog posts into a comprehensive book? (Or even self-published ebook?) You have a wonderfully clear writing style that would do so well in book format!

        I’m definitely a fan and will be following this blog, as well as reading all of the back entries. Looking forward to reading more from you!

        1. Hi S. Kim!

          I’m so glad you found me!

          Honestly, I’ve never thought about publishing a book of my blogs, because, well, I’m not sure who would read them…besides you :). And what a lovely thing to suggest and say! THANK YOU!

          It’s great that you are planning a visit in the future. That’s the best way to see if a place is for you. So many people think that if it checks all the boxes, it must be great but, they don’t account for the gut feeling that I think is more important than anything else.

          Actually, I’d have to say that our cost of living is the same or less than it was in 2013 (that doesn’t account for the exchange rate). When we first moved, we had no idea what we were doing, but now we know the ins and outs of buying the things we need. Where to get the best rates, how to go about negotiating etc..

          I’m happy to help or answer any specifics, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

          Plus at the beginning, we needed transportation so that was a chunk of money upfront.

          But the day to day stuff really hasn’t changed.

          1. Thanks so much for replying! I seem to have commented on someone else’s thread, oops. That’s my bad.

            I have so many questions. What’s the garbage situation there? I’ve lived in Japan where they have mandatory recycling with certain trash pickups on certain days. Here in DC Metro recycling is encouraged but not required.

            How long did it take for your stomach to adjust? (Traveler’s diarrhea…) I’ve watched hawker center videos and while I’m not TOO concerned I know food poisoning is a thing, especially in such a hot and humid country.

            Is it walkable (humidity aside; although DC area gets super humid in the upper 90s/100+ in the dog days of summer)? We don’t plan on driving at all. I’m assuming as long as we pick an apartment or condo close to shopping districts we don’t need to worry too much about transportation, with rideshare being widely available now…

            And yes. I highly encourage you to write a book! There’s nothing apart from blogs such as yours, and yours is honestly the most comprehensive I’ve read. With an ebook format you could update as necessary, as well. A regular travel guidebook is just that, a guide book for travelers. But what about people such as myself who are interested in living there? We need to know the nitty-gritty, sometimes the humdrum – like where would we get dishes and silverware? Furniture and electronics? You mentioned you get a gas tank delivered for cooking; is this the norm? What about international moving services? I was a bit intimidated by a possible move until I came across your blog!

            My apologies for the long reply!

            1. Hi S.Kim,

              You can start a new thread if you want to 😉.

              Ok let me start from the top…recycling is kind of done here. They collect it along with the trash and supposedly it gets separated further but who knows. But it isn’t nearly as clean as Japan. Littering is pretty common here with the assumption that someone else will pick it up. It’s maddening. But true.

              I’ve never had food poisoning here, and we eat at hawkers and stalls regularly and often. They are actually better because they go through food so quickly that there is rarely left over. That’s not to say we don’t get upset tummies and at times, even still.

              I rarely walk anywhere unless we are in George Town wandering around. Then I use an umbrella for shade. Grab is super easy and covers the whole island for the most part so I wouldn’t worry about transportation. Also, you will get used to the heat, and then returning back to the US even in summertime, you’ll feel cool. I had to wear long pants and a jacket in June in Chicago!

              Your idea of a book is giving me food for thought!

              I’m happy to answer everything. I’m so thrilled that my blog can make the move a little less intimidating for you. It can be daunting and overwhelming but I promise you its worth it and I’m here to help.

    13. Hey sweetie, Mom here. I loved your article about the cost of living in Malaysia, especially Penang. It’s a beautiful and exciting island. Seeing that I have visited you at least four times in the past I understand what you fell in love with and why. To be honest if I could I would move there in a heartbeat. My biggest motivation is that you and Mark are there. However we know that that is an impossible situation for me at the moment. I love reading your blogs end it always brings back such wonderful memories for me. Hopefully when this pandemic clears up, I will be able to make my way back to the beautiful island in the sun. Until then continue writing your wonderful articles
      They are truly Inspiring. Missing you lots mom

      1. Hi momma!

        Thank you as always! Your support means everything!

        I can’t wait for you to get back here. It’s been too long. Nothing is impossible but you did just put down some roots that will make it harder to leave the US. Let’s just focus on you getting back here asap.

        Love you!

      2. I am so glad i found your articles. I have been traveling the last few years as retirement is only 2-3 years away. Honestly could probably do in less than a year but trying to have everything paid off and a little more savings.
        Reading your posts opens up my eyes a bit more and I would love to visit malaysia again. I may do a dental vacation soon. Thank you for not only great reading but also very informative information.

        1. Hi Joseph,

          Thank you for being here! I’m so glad you found me too!😉

          You should come here for the dental, I have a great dentist I could put you in touch with. We actually started a medical tourism biz when we first got here because the healthcare is so good and so affordable.

          It’s always best to have all your ducks in a row before you take off. But that doesn’t mean you can’t visit for a couple of months for a test drive!

    14. Wonderful summary and exciting to contemplate.

      We visited last George Town last summer and looked at schools for our two kids. Love the whole vibe there. Hope to relocate mid-2021.

      Thank you for such a comprehensive write up!

    15. Rent is indeed very dependent on personal preferences. Renting at Gurney 8 is a lot more expensive than in Tanjung Bungah. Our largest area of expenses is not on rent but on (international) travel. Also that depends a lot on personal preferences. 2020 will see a lot lower expenses in that category though. And, although we don’t drink alcohol, our monthly expenses on food seems to be a bit higher than you. I consider the category “food” to be the combination of all expenses at supermarkets plus eating at restaurants. My estimation is that we spend about RM3k/month on this.

      1. Hi Jeroen,

        Yes, Gurney 8 is more expensive (we don’t live there) but there are plenty of high rentals in TB. We had a budget and stuck to it but it’s easy to get wooed by all the new condos going up.

        Our food total includes groceries, wet markets, eating out, and booze. But we eat a lot of local and hawker food which helps keeps our food costs low.

        As always, thanks for reading!

      2. Hi Kirsten, once again a great article and agree with everything you say. We’ve been caught in Penang’s web for 15 years now and we still love it! There is very little you can’t get here and it’s changed so much over the years for the better! Keep on sharing your valuable information. Love your blog. LPE

        1. Hi
          Thanks so much for the info about the cost of living. We are moving to penang this month and I was a bit worried about how affordable it would be after paying tax and sending money home for our expenses in the UK… but my mind is at ease now. It’s definately do-able!!

    16. As usual Kirsten that was such sn informative, well researched & interesting article. I agree with everything you said about living in Penang. We love it!! In ot situation though we split our time between Australia & Penang due mainly to still working for a few months. This increases our cost of living enormously. Think air fares, maintaining 2 places of residence, cost of food & eating out in Australia ,….& on it goes!! We find that our costs in Malaysia are approx 1/3 of Aust. so if we were to live full time in Penang it would reduce our annual costs enormously. Xx

      1. Thank you, Anne!

        Yes, splitting time between 2 countries changes everything. But you also get the best of both worlds. You get great bubbly, great western food, local berries, better avos, and the “home” comforts of AU.

        At least you are saving some money by being here part of the year.

        Thanks for commenting!

    17. Wow! Thanks Kirsten! Excellent article – you hit all the categories I was interested in finding out about! Love your blog – super informative and fun to read! Keep posting!

      1. Have to say you nailed it again Kirsten ,I could retire now and be well off out there sorely tempting , sounds like my kinda place what’s the fishing like and out of interest is there any cheap moorings out there just to be cheeky lol was going to sail round the world starting this year but covid19 has put it back to next year 🙁 however probably just as well as I have issues that need my attention this year , really love the way you write all the best to you both Brian

        1. Hi Brian!
          Thank you for reading and commenting! The fishing isn’t great right around here, its better in other parts of Malaysia. There is too much construction and since Penang is a cruising port the water isn’t the nicest.

          Take care of you!

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *