You’ve got Qs, I’ve got As. After last week’s Q & A sesh, I got loads of emails asking fantastic questions.

So here you go. Let’s do this!

How safe is Malaysia?

sunset landscape over penang

Quick answer = VERY safe.

Look, unless you move to an igloo in the middle of nowhere, crime exists. Malaysia is no different. Things like purse snatchings and home burglaries occur. If someone hits your car, they prob won’t leave a note.

Violent crime, not so much, possibly the odd machete slicing. Probably more in Kuala Lumpur, but still, Malaysia is way safer than the US.

We aren’t walking through metal detectors at the malls or worrying about being shot in our own home while eating popcorn on the couch. Those things don’t happen here.

And most importantly, kids are safe at school.

Can a couple live on 1500USD a month in Malaysia?

Yes, but… it really depends on your lifestyle and where you reside. Check out my cost of living post for more details. We live very comfortably, just under $2000 a month, a bit more if we travel and eat at more fine dining places.

Are there any items that are banned in Malaysia?

monkeys on a wire

The most significant ban is on drugs – not things like Tylenol, but real illicit drugs. Unless you like the idea of living in a Malaysian prison, don’t even try to bring any in.

Also, weapons, porn, wild animals, certain seeds and plants are off-limits.

Other than weapons, you can get the rest here easily.

I found the secret porn shop by accident. I swear.

I was looking for the movie Parasite and walked into a tiny DVD shop enticed by the Hollywood flick on the big-screen out front. Apparently, everyone else knew that TV was just a cover because all the other DVDs were hardcore porn. I’m talking really hardcore.

Once I realized I wouldn’t be able to find that kind of Parasite there, I looked up to find 4 men staring at me in wonder/horror. I lost It and tried to look cool as I ran out.

So yeah, if you are looking for porn, hit me up. I’ll point you in the right direction.

What’s healthcare like in Malaysia?

If you live in Penang or Kuala Lumpur, you have a plethora of choices regarding top-notch doctors and hospitals. There are public and private hospitals. The public ones cost less, but the private hospitals have a higher standard of care.

We always choose private hospitals, and they are still extremely affordable. In fact, I’m still shocked (in a good way) every time I pay the bill after a doctor’s appointment.

I was at my lady doctor, checking all my pipes, making sure everything is in good working order. Got a pap smear, a breast ultrasound, and an ovarian ultrasound, and it cost me $136. That’s less than my co-pay in Chicago.

Most doctor’s offices are in the hospitals, so when you need to see a gyno, a cardio, a physio, even a dermo-tologist (had to make it fit), that’s where you’ll go.

You can walk into any hospital, pick a doctor, and get treated as long as you can pay for it.

So basically, going to the doctor is as simple as choosing one and heading over to their office.

If you don’t have health insurance, you will have to pay out of pocket. 

Speaking of health insurance…

Is it possible to get Malaysian health insurance for anyone over 60 years of age?

Yes. Some companies, like Prudential, offer new policies for people up to 70 years old. However, if you get the policy before you turn 70, it can cover you until you are 100 years old – after that, you are screwed!

You can get American insurance or a travel policy that will cover you in Malaysia. Still, you will have to pay for the care first and then submit your claims to your insurance provider. Malaysian hospitals will not bill your insurance directly. That’s on you.

How do I handle expat taxes and reductions?

Twin towers at dusk

Real talk = I don’t. That’s what our accountant is for. But a few things I know…

As Americans, we are taxed no matter where we live. That being said, there are quite a few options for expats, but they depend on if you are working for a Malaysian company or not. 

Since we are self-employed and live out of the US for 330 days a year, we get an exemption of $107,600 per person. Good stuff, right? The IRS website has more info.

If you are an American working for a Malaysian company, you will have to pay taxes in both countries. However, some Malaysian companies will pay the Malaysian taxes for you as part of your compensation package.

I’m a writer, not a tax professional, so I don’t know all the rules. I just wanted to give you some food for thought on how taxes work while living abroad. Please, please, please don’t take this tax info as gospel and try to sue me if this doesn’t apply to you. I repeat – I am not a tax professional; you need to hire one who knows all the rules.

Can I bring my pet with me?

daschund in a moving box

Yes, you can. But it’s not easy. It’s best to go through a pet relocation company to do all the legal work and sort out the details. Depending on what country you are coming from, your pet might have to be quarantined before reuniting with you. Any pet coming from a country that has rabies, like America, will be quarantined.

Can foreigners own a gun?

No. Not even locals can get their hands on a gun easily. The firearms laws are super strict here, and it could take years to get a license for one.

Did you have any problem adjusting to the humidity and heat? 

Of course. Unless you are used to living on the equator, it’s hotter than hades here.

When looking for a home, there are two things we couldn’t live without – a lovely breeze and ceiling fans in every room. Ceiling fans are a godsend, and we would melt without them. If they aren’t installed, and the landlord won’t put them in, walk away. They are a deal-breaker.

I have definitely acclimated and, believe it or not, I feel chilly at times. Cool enough to wear jeans and a long sleeve shirt at night even when it is 80°.  Which wasn’t even an option when we first moved here. I’m a cold-weather wimp now.

I do like to think of the high heat as a daily detox. But seriously, I don’t usually hang out outside midday. If I’m going to do anything outside, I try to make sure it’s early am or late afternoon.

What are the schools like?

Bikes in am alleyway

There are quite a few international schools in Penang. And plenty in KL.

Most international schools adhere to the UK curriculum and have the same high standard you’d expect from a private school in the UK or the US.

Teachers are usually a mix of Malaysians and foreigners.

Students are a mix of locals, boarding students, and day students from around the world.

How’s the internet?

Faster and cheaper than the US. We pay RM145/$34 a month.

Our condo building has fiber optics, but not everyone does. It depends on the neighborhood where you live.

If you work on the internet or stream a lot, make sure you check the area for fiber optics. Without it, the internet is still every bit as good as it was in the US, but not as fast as fiber optics.

The Wrap-Up

us sipping sake at a restaurant

Well, there you have it, more questions answered. If you think of more, reply in the comments below, or shoot me a private email at [email protected].

I’m always happy to help.

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