- Download our Moving to Kuala Lumpur Guide (PDF)
The variety of religious celebrations, the marriage of modern sky-rises and historical buildings, and the harmonious blend of Malaysians and expats all make Kuala Lumpur stand out. With that said, like any city, it has its pros and cons for expats who choose to settle there.
The city is growing by leaps and bounds and shows no sign of slowing anytime soon. In a positive sense, this means openness and acceptance toward change and forward-moving progress. On the other hand, there are a few obvious growing pains that the city will continue to face.
Accommodation in Kuala Lumpur
+ PRO: Large, open-plan living areas
Owing to the fact that Kuala Lumpur has become such a prominent Southeast Asian destination, most buildings being constructed are new, modern and spacious. The living areas are open plan and most contain floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing the year-round sunshine to beam through. The newer homes contain at least three bedrooms. Often, condos or bungalows can even have five or six. Both of these accommodation types are readily available throughout the various suburbs of Kuala Lumpur.
- CON: Soaring prices
Because everything is so new, the prices can be a bit steep, both for rental and purchase. This is also due to the fact that safety is a concern in Kuala Lumpur, so many of the condos and bungalows have gates and guardhouses. Certain amenities within the home, such as hot water in the kitchen, microwaves, ovens, dishwashers and washer/dryer units, are all considered 'extras', many of which can be negotiated into the rental or sale price.
Cost of living in Kuala Lumpur
+ PRO: Locally sourced items are cheap
Thanks to the consistently warm and humid climate in Malaysia, there is a huge variety of Asian fruits and vegetables grown here. Add to that the chicken, beef and fishing industries, and shoppers have a plethora of options. The country is also home to a variety of manufacturing plants, from wooden furniture and clothing, to textiles and ceramics.
There is a huge market here for oil and gas companies, much of which is locally sourced. Because of this, petrol tends to be on the cheaper side in comparison to various Western countries.
- CON: Expensive imports due to taxes
Anything that isn't made in Malaysia will be expensive to import. This includes vital items such as cars. There are some auto manufacturers within Malaysia, but the quality can be sub-par. For those thinking of importing their current car, import tax will be extremely high.
For expats pining after certain creature comforts, importing food from home is also very expensive. The cost of wine, beer and liquor is rather exorbitant in Malaysia, owing to the strict taxes on anything containing alcohol. Duty-free is the best bet when flying into the country.
Cultural expression in Kuala Lumpur
+ PRO: Variety and freedom
Kuala Lumpur is home to a wonderful variety of cultures. Traditionally, but not always, the following holds true: the indigenous Malay are Muslim, the Indian Malay are Hindu, and the Chinese Malay are Buddhists. The Malaysian government honours a variety of holidays, with Islamic ones being most prominent. Malaysia allows freedom of expression, so newcomers should not be worried about practising their own religion.
- CON: Closed streets and shops
The downfall of all these glorious holiday celebrations are the closed roads, making for more traffic in the already congested city. The amount of public holidays the government recognises affects work and shop hours.
Healthcare in Kuala Lumpur
+ PRO: Doctors are highly skilled and services are cheaper
Malaysia is quickly becoming a top medical tourism destination worldwide. The doctors are all highly educated, starting their education in Malaysia and finishing up in various Western countries before returning to their home country to practise. Healthcare costs are extremely low in comparison to Western countries and with the burgeoning market, business has demanded more and more modern hospitals and private clinics. Health insurance is also quite reasonable and most plans cover many of the expenses expats would incur.
- CON: Conservative culture may stipulate a certain type of assisted care
Even though medically speaking the country is advanced in comparison to other Southeast Asian countries, there is still an element of tradition in healing methods, specifically in relation to nurses. They tend to be a bit more conventional and may not be as open to Western-style practices.
Transport in Kuala Lumpur
+ PRO: Ever-expanding light rail and cheap taxis
Kuala Lumpur is a growing city and with that comes a need for more public transport. Kuala Lumpur’s light rail line has been able to satisfy much of that need. Within the city itself, the light rail has quickly become a more viable mode of transport for locals, expats and tourists alike. The government also built two high-speed, non-stop lines to and from the international airport. The cost is minimal and the compartments are clean and air-conditioned. Taxis are also plentiful around Kuala Lumpur and charge a low rate.
- CON: Heavy traffic on a daily basis
The downfall of the city’s high expansion rate is the amount of traffic. Cars clog up the roads every day between 7am and 9am and again from 4pm to 7pm. The government is working on expanding lanes, but with the often scarce police not properly enforcing traffic rules, it quickly becomes a free-for-all.
Cuisine in Kuala Lumpur
+ PRO: Variety of local options
Kuala Lumpur is known as a gastronomic hub of Asia, and it’s easy to see why. Cuisines range from typical Malaysian to Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese and Thai. Malaysia is also known for its hawker stalls – food stands found on the side of the street serving aromatic dishes at a fraction of restaurant prices.
- CON: Good Western food hard to find
Although there are lots of Western-style outlets around the city, there are only a few that seem to get it right when it comes to the cuisine. Those establishments also tend to be a bit pricier, but are usually worth the cost for anyone missing the taste of home.
►Learn more about adjusting to life in Kuala Lumpur in Culture Shock 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.
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