Malaysia consists of two separate land masses - peninsula Malaysia, which shares a border with Thailand in the north and Singapore in the south, and East Malaysia, which sits on the island of Borneo and shares a border with Brunei and Indonesia. The capital, Kuala Lumpur, is situated on the peninsula while Borneo is home to two states: Sabah and Sarawak.
Malaysia is unique in Asia for its mixture of cultures, and the various influences of the resident Chinese, Indians and Malays combined with the huge range of expats make the country a melting pot of culture and a fascinating place to visit and live.
An added boon of Malaysia is the fact that English is widely spoken, and the country is fast becoming a serious contender in the Asian market. Kuala Lumpur may not be as well known or as popular as Bangkok, but it easily competes with other Asian cities in terms of modernity and industry.
The currency in Malaysia is Ringit (RM) and the cost of living is very cheap compared to prices in the West, although slightly more expensive than nearby Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh. As of the 2010 census, the population was 27 million and the country sees a steady influx of foreign workers and expats, as well as western retirees.
Here is a list of the 5 best or most popular areas to live in Malaysia :
Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley
The capital city is often the first choice for expats and when it comes to living, there is plenty of choice. The city centre is more expensive and hectic, but within the Klang Valley there are various choices, from condos to houses, from green, hilly suburbs to bustling townships or gated communities. Being a cosmopolitan capital, anything you want can be bought and there are vast amounts of malls and eateries. The city has a decent train and bus system, but a car is necessary if you live in some of the further townships, especially if you buy a property in Kajang, like Jade Hills. Read our guide to the Klang Valley to get more in-depth information on the popular residential areas in Klang Valley.
This island is a world away from the bustle of the capital. As a popular choice for weekenders and retirees, Penang offers a more laid back lifestyle, with a historical city centre and some of the best food in the country. The expat community is smaller here, but housing is cheaper and there is a range of condos, houses and bungalows to choose from. There are a number of good international schools in Penang, and it is only 45 minutes flight from KLIA. There is a bus system, but no trains as yet, and most people travel around the island by car.
As a port and a cultural gem, this is the 3rd smallest Malaysian state and attracts a lot of tourists who visit for the old buildings and the famous food. The expat community in Melaka is quite small, but there is one international school and a choice of condos and houses. There are regular bus connections to Kuala Lumpur and some local bus routes, but Melaka does not have a train station in the centre. Within the historical part of town it is easier to walk, but a car would be helpful for moving longer distances.
As the capital of Sabah (one of the two states on the island of Borneo), this city is gradually becoming more cosmopolitan, but still offers a very laid-back approach to city living. As it enjoys close proximity to a number of beautiful islands, KK (as it is known) is popular with tourists and it also has an international airport. This area is becoming more popular with expats as industry blossoms and it offers an international school as well as some good hospitals. There is a bus system in KK, but travel by car is preferable.
Kuching is the capital city of Sarawak (one of the two states on the island of Borneo) and is a culturally-rich city where the expat community is slowly growing. There are various international schools in Kuching, and the pace of life is slower than in Kuala Lumpur. There is plenty of choice in terms of housing options, and the city offers malls and entertainment for all your needs, as well as easy connections thanks to its international airport.
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