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Replete with bustling shopping malls, incredible restaurants and a world-class airport, Kuala Lumpur is quickly climbing the ranks as one of Southeast Asia's most popular expat destinations.
Yet for all its modernity and high-tech reputation, expats moving here will experience a city that keeps in touch with its traditional roots. This delicate balance can be seen everywhere, especially in the city's architecture, with its masterfully crafted mosques that sit beside majestic, towering skyscrapers.
Living in Kuala Lumpur as an expat
The city is growing more popular among expats. With a diverse array of cultures, expats are easily welcomed. Besides this, expats are attracted to the vibrant lifestyle in Kuala Lumpur. With large shopping centres, aromatic cuisines and beautiful natural parks with extraordinary sights to see, the city is a melting pot of diversity and entertainment.
Kuala Lumpur is making its mark on the international business map, and is a great destination for expats wanting a dose of adventure mixed with modern conveniences and a fantastic lifestyle. Foreigners skilled in finance, electronics manufacturing, and construction may find lucrative job opportunities here. Tourism is also a highly profitable industry in the metropolis.
Housing in Kuala Lumpur comes in many shapes and sizes, from freestanding houses (bungalows), to semi-detached houses, apartments, and condominiums. These properties may be furnished or unfurnished, with the latter often not even including rails for curtains. Houses are generally affordable, but some areas may be more expensive than others.
The city has a well-developed transit system with buses and trains connecting all areas. The Light Rail System, or LRT, services large portions of the city and makes getting around highly convenient. There is also a functioning monorail system, leaving commuting expats with a wide variety of options when it comes to moving about. Driving in the city can be tedious due to large amounts of traffic, especially during peak hours, and most expats find that public transport is the most viable option
With excellent healthcare infrastructure and expert staff, Kuala Lumpur is becoming something of a medical tourism destination. Public healthcare here is generally quite affordable and even private healthcare won’t break the bank.
Cost of living in Kuala Lumpur
Considering the many modern conveniences, the cost of living in Kuala Lumpur is more expensive than in most other Malaysian cities. That said, when compared to other Asian cities such as neighbouring Singapore or Jakarta, and particularly Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur is in fact rather cheap. Kuala Lumpur ranked at 180th out of 227 cities surveyed worldwide, compared to Hong Kong and Singapore which took first and second place respectively. Though accommodation may be higher than elsewhere in the country, day-to-day living is generally still affordable and expats here report having high standards of living.
Expat families and children
Expats moving with children are sure to be impressed with the many high-quality international schools in the city. Due to the language barrier in public schools, many expats opt to go this route. Options in Kuala Lumpur include the Australian, American, German and French curricula, along with the International Baccalaureate.
As a worldwide shopping capital, Kuala Lumpur offers a lifestyle second to none, enhanced by the wonderful Malaysian cuisine the city is home to. Should expats need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, there are a number of perfect weekend getaways surrounding Kuala Lumpur, not to mention the many fun family activities on offer. The Cameron Highlands and the seaside town of Malaka are popular holiday destinations, while Singapore, Bangkok and Bali are all just a quick and cheap flight away.
Climate in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur, like Malaysia as a whole, has a tropical climate. Monsoons bring seasonal downpours, leading to flash floods and strong gusts. The entire country has temperatures between 71° and 91°F (22°–33°C) throughout the year, so expats from colder places may need to adjust.
Overall, Kuala Lumpur is an excellent expat destination. With a rich, welcoming culture, high standards of living and a multitude of entertainment options, expats can be sure to fit right in and live a comfortable life.
What do expats love about Kuala Lumpur?
"Kuala Lumpur is a city of great diversity and opportunity, offering all the trappings of modern life combined with a fascinating culture and history. It is also a great hub for travel within Southeast Asia." Irish expat Johanna shares her experiences of living in Kuala Lumpur.
"I love the energy. I love the skyline, with its jungle-clad hills in the distance that engulf the city. I love the slight unpredictability of daily life." Read more of Virginia's experiences of expat life in Kuala Lumpur.
"The 'right size' – comprising a vibrant mix of cultures, languages, peoples, food and urban/parkland. The location within the country and SE Asia makes it very easy to get out of and take advantage of cheap travel options. The friendliness of locals!" British expat Benjamin shares his experience as an expat living in Kuala Lumpur.
►Read about the Pros and Cons of Moving to Kuala Lumpur
►Also see Cost of Living in Malaysia
Are you an expat living in Kuala Lumpur?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Kuala Lumpur. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
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