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Expat Exchange - 7 Best Places to Live on the Coast in Malaysia
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View of George Town, Penang, Malaysia


7 Best Places to Live on the Coast in Malaysia

By Betsy Burlingame

SJB Global
SJB Global

Summary: If you're planning to settle on the coast, here are the 7 best places to live on the coast in Malaysia.

Penang

Penang

Penang, is a beautiful coastal state located in the northwest region of the country, with a population of approximately 1.8 million people. It is known for its stunning beaches, such as Batu Ferringhi and Tanjung Bungah, which are characterized by soft golden sands and clear blue waters. Penang is well-connected to larger cities, such as Kuala Lumpur, which is about a 4-hour drive away. The public transportation system in Penang includes buses, taxis, and the Penang Ferry Service, which connects the island to the mainland. The climate in Penang is tropical, with temperatures ranging from 22°C to 32°C (72°F to 90°F) throughout the year. Recreational activities in Penang are diverse, catering to both locals and tourists. Some popular spots include the Penang National Park, the Penang Butterfly Farm, and the Penang Hill, which offers a panoramic view of the island. Golf enthusiasts can enjoy a round at the Penang Golf Club or the Bukit Jambul Country Club. Penang is a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors with its rich cultural heritage, delicious local cuisine, and vibrant street art scene. Rental properties near the water can vary, but a modern 2-bedroom apartment may cost around 2,500 MYR (€530 or $620) per month, while a 3-bedroom apartment may cost around 3,500 MYR (€740 or $870) per month. For grocery shopping, residents have access to both big chain stores, such as Tesco and Giant, as well as smaller local markets. People enjoy living in Penang for various reasons, including its laid-back lifestyle, diverse culture, and affordable cost of living. The island also offers a range of international schools, such as the Dalat International School and the Tenby International School, making it an attractive destination for expatriate families. Overall, Penang is a charming and vibrant place to live, offering a unique blend of modern amenities and traditional charm.

Insight from Expats in Penang:

"Try to find a place in a touristy area. It's safer that way. Also consider proximity to supermarket, food stalls, restaurants and shopping. Forget about taking the bus. Taxis are very convenient," said one expat living in Penang.

Local Recommendations:

Savor the flavors of Penang, with a visit to the renowned Tek Sen Restaurant, where you'll be treated to a delightful mix of traditional Chinese and Nyonya dishes. Don't miss their signature double-roasted pork with chili padi! For a taste of the local street food scene, head to Gurney Drive Hawker Centre, where you can sample a variety of mouth-watering dishes, such as Penang laksa and char kway teow. After a day of culinary exploration, retreat to the luxurious Eastern & Oriental Hotel, a timeless gem that offers stunning sea views and top-notch amenities. Alternatively, immerse yourself in the vibrant heritage of George Town at the charming Seven Terraces, a boutique hotel nestled within a row of beautifully restored 19th-century Anglo-Chinese terrace houses.

Malacca

Malacca, is a historic coastal city located approximately 150 kilometers southeast of Kuala Lumpur. With a population of around 900,000 people, Malacca is known for its rich cultural heritage, which has earned it the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site. The waterfront of Malacca features a mix of sandy beaches and a rugged coastline, offering picturesque views of the Malacca Strait. The city enjoys a tropical rainforest climate, with average temperatures ranging from 24°C to 32°C (75°F to 90°F). Malacca offers a variety of recreational activities for both locals and tourists. Some popular spots include the A'Famosa Golf Resort, which boasts a beautiful 27-hole golf course, and the Taman Botanikal Melaka (Malacca Botanical Garden), a serene park perfect for picnics and leisurely strolls. For water enthusiasts, the Melaka Wonderland Theme Park & Resort offers thrilling water slides and a wave pool. Malacca is quite touristy, attracting visitors with its historical sites, such as the Stadthuys, Christ Church, and A'Famosa Fort. Rental properties in Malacca vary in price depending on the location and amenities. A modern 2-bedroom apartment near the water can cost around 1,500 MYR (€315 or $370) per month, while a 3-bedroom unit may range from 2,000 MYR (€420 or $490) to 3,000 MYR (€630 or $740) per month. For grocery shopping, residents can choose from various options, such as the popular chain store Tesco, or smaller local markets like the Pasar Besar Melaka (Melaka Central Market). People enjoy living in Malacca for its rich history, diverse culture, and beautiful natural surroundings. The city offers a laid-back lifestyle, with a lower cost of living compared to larger cities like Kuala Lumpur. Additionally, Malacca's strategic location along the coast provides easy access to other parts of Malaysia and neighboring countries, making it an attractive destination for both locals and expatriates.

Local Recommendations:

Savor the rich flavors of Malacca at the renowned Nancy's Kitchen, where you can indulge in authentic Nyonya cuisine, a delightful fusion of Chinese and Malay flavors. For a taste of Malacca's Portuguese heritage, head to Restoran de Lisbon, where you can feast on scrumptious seafood dishes like the famous Curry Debal. Don't miss the chance to dine at The Baboon House, a charming cafe tucked away in a traditional shophouse, offering mouthwatering gourmet burgers and a serene garden setting. After a day of culinary exploration, unwind at the luxurious Casa del Rio Melaka, a boutique hotel boasting stunning river views and elegant rooms. Alternatively, experience the charm of a bygone era at The Majestic Malacca, a beautifully restored 1920s mansion that seamlessly blends modern comforts with old-world elegance.

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Langkawi

Langkawi, is an archipelago of 99 islands situated on the northwest coast of the country, with a population of approximately 65,000 people. It is located about 30 kilometers off the mainland coast and is easily accessible from larger cities like Kuala Lumpur and Penang. The island boasts a stunning coastline with pristine sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and lush tropical vegetation. The climate in Langkawi is tropical, with temperatures ranging from 24°C to 34°C (75°F to 93°F) throughout the year. Langkawi is a popular tourist destination, offering a wide range of recreational activities such as water sports, jungle trekking, and golfing. Some of the notable recreational spots include the Langkawi Sky Bridge, Kilim Karst Geoforest Park, and the Gunung Raya Golf Resort. The island is also home to several luxury resorts and hotels, catering to the needs of both local and international tourists. Rental properties in Langkawi vary in price depending on the location and amenities. A modern 2-bedroom apartment near the water can cost around 2,500 MYR (€525 or $620) per month, while a 3-bedroom property may cost around 3,500 MYR (€735 or $870) per month. For grocery shopping, residents can visit local markets or larger chain stores such as Cenang Mall and Teow Soon Huat Duty-Free Shopping. People enjoy living in Langkawi for its laid-back lifestyle, natural beauty, and diverse range of activities. The island offers a unique blend of modern amenities and traditional charm, making it an attractive destination for both locals and expatriates. Additionally, the cost of living is relatively low compared to other major cities in Malaysia, making it an appealing choice for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

Local Recommendations:

Indulge your taste buds at The Fat Frog, a hidden gem in Langkawi, offering a delightful fusion of Western and Asian cuisines. Don't miss their signature dishes like the Nasi Lemak Tower and the succulent Lamb Shank. For a more authentic local experience, head to Wonderland Food Store, where you can savor mouthwatering seafood dishes, such as the famous Black Pepper Crab and the Tom Yam Soup. After a day of culinary exploration, retreat to the luxurious St. Regis Langkawi, an elegant beachfront resort boasting exquisite suites and villas, a serene spa, and exceptional dining options. Alternatively, immerse yourself in nature at the Ambong Pool Villas, a collection of private rainforest retreats with stunning views of the Andaman Sea, perfect for a romantic getaway or a peaceful escape.

Kuantan

Kuantan, is a charming coastal city located on the east coast of the Malaysian Peninsula, boasting a population of approximately 400,000 people. It is situated about 275 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, and is easily accessible via public transportation, such as buses and taxis. Kuantan has a tropical rainforest climate, with average temperatures ranging from 21°C to 32°C (70°F to 90°F) throughout the year. The waterfront in Kuantan is characterized by beautiful sandy beaches, such as Teluk Cempedak and Cherating Beach, which are popular among both locals and tourists for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. Recreational activities in Kuantan include golfing at the Royal Pahang Golf Club, visiting the scenic Sungai Pandan Waterfall, and exploring the Taman Teruntum Mini Zoo. The city also offers various parks, such as the Gelora Park and the Kuantan River Esplanade Park, for leisurely strolls and picnics. Kuantan is not overly touristy, allowing visitors to experience authentic Malaysian culture and lifestyle. Rental properties in Kuantan vary in price, with a modern 2-bedroom apartment near the water costing around 1,500 MYR (approximately 320 EUR or 375 USD) per month, while a modern 3-bedroom apartment may cost around 2,000 MYR (approximately 430 EUR or 500 USD) per month. For grocery shopping, residents of Kuantan have access to both big chain stores, such as Giant Hypermarket and Tesco, as well as smaller local markets and shops. People enjoy living in Kuantan for its laid-back atmosphere, beautiful natural surroundings, and friendly community. The city offers a perfect balance between modern amenities and a relaxed coastal lifestyle, making it an ideal place to call home.

Local Recommendations:

Savor the flavors of Kuantan, with a visit to Ana Ikan Bakar Petai, a local favorite known for its delicious grilled fish and petai beans. For a taste of authentic Chinese cuisine, head to Alor Akar Seafood Restaurant, where you can indulge in mouthwatering dishes like butter prawns and steamed fish. If you're craving Indian fare, Restoran Hoi Yin is a must-visit, offering scrumptious curry laksa and nasi lemak. After a day of culinary exploration, unwind at the luxurious Hyatt Regency Kuantan Resort, boasting stunning ocean views and top-notch amenities. Alternatively, enjoy a cozy stay at the charming Swiss-Garden Beach Resort Kuantan, nestled amidst lush greenery and just steps away from the pristine Balok Beach.

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Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Sabah, Malaysia, is a coastal city with a population of approximately 450,000 people. It is located on the northwest coast of Borneo, facing the South China Sea. The city is known for its beautiful sandy beaches, clear blue waters, and stunning sunsets. The waterfront is a popular spot for both locals and tourists, offering a variety of recreational activities such as swimming, snorkeling, and beach volleyball. Kota Kinabalu is about 1,627 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. The city has a well-developed public transportation system, including buses and taxis, making it easy to travel within the city and to nearby attractions. The climate in Kota Kinabalu is tropical, with average temperatures ranging from 23°C to 32°C (73°F to 90°F) throughout the year. There are numerous recreational activities available in Kota Kinabalu, such as golfing at the Sabah Golf and Country Club, hiking in Kinabalu Park, and exploring the marine life at Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. The city is quite touristy, attracting visitors from all over the world to experience its natural beauty, diverse culture, and delicious local cuisine. Rental properties in Kota Kinabalu vary in price, but a modern 2-bedroom apartment near the water can cost around RM 2,000 to RM 3,000 per month (approximately €420 to €630 or $500 to $750). A modern 3-bedroom apartment can range from RM 3,000 to RM 5,000 per month (approximately €630 to €1,050 or $750 to $1,250). For grocery shopping, residents can choose from a variety of options, including large chain stores like Giant Hypermarket and Tesco, as well as smaller local markets and shops. People enjoy living in Kota Kinabalu for its laid-back lifestyle, friendly community, and the opportunity to experience a unique blend of cultures. The city's natural beauty, recreational activities, and modern amenities make it an attractive destination for both locals and expatriates.

Local Recommendations:

Indulge your taste buds in Kota Kinabalu's vibrant culinary scene with a visit to Welcome Seafood Restaurant, a local favorite known for its extensive menu of fresh seafood dishes. For a taste of traditional Malaysian cuisine, head to Kedai Kopi Fook Yuen, where you can savor their famous roti kahwin and Teh C special. If you're craving something sweet, don't miss out on the delectable desserts at Woo! Pinoy Kitchen, which offers a delightful fusion of Filipino and Malaysian flavors. After a day of exploring, retreat to the luxurious Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa, boasting stunning views of the South China Sea and a world-class spa. Alternatively, immerse yourself in the city's rich history with a stay at the charming Jesselton Hotel, a colonial-style boutique hotel located in the heart of Kota Kinabalu.

Kuching

Kuching, is a charming city located on the island of Borneo, with a population of approximately 325,000 people. It is situated along the Sarawak River, offering a picturesque waterfront with a mix of modern and historical architecture. While Kuching does not have beaches, the nearby Santubong and Damai areas offer beautiful sandy beaches just a short drive away. The city enjoys a tropical rainforest climate, with temperatures ranging from 23°C to 32°C (73°F to 90°F) throughout the year. Kuching is well-connected to other major cities in Malaysia, such as Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu, through its international airport. Public transportation within the city includes buses and taxis, making it easy for residents and tourists to explore the area. Kuching offers a variety of recreational activities, such as visiting the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, exploring the Sarawak Cultural Village, and hiking in Bako National Park. Golf enthusiasts can enjoy a round at the Kelab Golf Sarawak or the Hornbill Golf & Jungle Club. Kuching is a popular tourist destination, known for its rich cultural heritage, delicious local cuisine, and vibrant festivals, such as the annual Rainforest World Music Festival. Rental properties in Kuching vary in price, with a modern 2-bedroom apartment near the waterfront costing around 1,500 MYR (€315 or $370) per month, while a 3-bedroom apartment may cost around 2,500 MYR (€525 or $615) per month. Grocery shopping in Kuching can be done at various supermarkets and local markets, such as Giant, Everrise, and the Satok Weekend Market, which offers fresh produce and local delicacies. People enjoy living in Kuching for its laid-back atmosphere, friendly locals, and the unique blend of cultures, making it a truly diverse and welcoming city.

Local Recommendations:

Indulge your taste buds in Kuching, with a visit to Top Spot Food Court, a bustling hawker center offering a wide array of local seafood dishes. For a more upscale dining experience, head to The.Dyak, where you can savor authentic Dayak cuisine in a cozy, traditional setting. Don't miss a chance to try the famous Sarawak laksa at Choon Hui Café, a local favorite for breakfast and lunch. After a day of feasting, retreat to the luxurious Ranee Boutique Suites, a beautifully restored 19th-century building in the heart of Kuching's Old Town. Alternatively, opt for the stylish and eco-friendly Batik Boutique Hotel, which offers a serene oasis amidst the city's vibrant atmosphere.

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Miri

Miri, is a coastal city located in the northeastern part of Sarawak, with a population of approximately 300,000 people. It is situated near the border of Brunei and is about 798 kilometers away from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. Miri boasts a beautiful coastline with sandy beaches, such as Tusan Beach and Luak Esplanade Beach, which are popular spots for locals and tourists alike. The city has a tropical rainforest climate, with average temperatures ranging from 23°C (73°F) to 32°C (90°F) throughout the year. Miri offers a variety of recreational activities, including golfing at the Eastwood Valley Golf & Country Club and Miri Golf Club, as well as exploring the numerous parks in the area, such as the Miri City Fan Park and Piasau Nature Reserve. The city is also known for its scuba diving opportunities, with popular dive sites located at the Miri-Sibuti Coral Reef National Park. Miri is a moderately touristy destination, attracting visitors mainly for its natural attractions, such as the Niah Caves and Lambir Hills National Park. Rental properties in Miri vary in price, with a modern 2-bedroom apartment near the water costing around 1,500 MYR (approximately 320 EUR or 375 USD) per month, while a modern 3-bedroom apartment may cost around 2,500 MYR (approximately 535 EUR or 625 USD) per month. For grocery shopping, residents can visit major chain stores like Giant Supermarket, Boulevard Hypermarket, and E-Mart, as well as smaller local stores. People enjoy living in Miri for its laid-back atmosphere, beautiful natural surroundings, and relatively low cost of living. The city offers a good balance between urban amenities and outdoor recreational activities, making it an attractive place for both locals and expatriates.

Local Recommendations:

For a taste of authentic Malaysian cuisine, head to Muara Restaurant, where you'll find a wide array of mouth-watering dishes, including their famous Laksa Sarawak and Ayam Pansuh. If you're craving seafood, Al Fresco at the Miri Marriott Resort & Spa offers a stunning ocean view and a menu filled with fresh, local seafood dishes. For a unique dining experience, visit The Workshop Grill, where you can enjoy a variety of grilled meats and vegetables cooked to perfection on a sizzling hot plate. When it comes to accommodation, the Miri Marriott Resort & Spa is a luxurious choice, boasting a serene beachfront location, a rejuvenating spa, and top-notch amenities. For a more budget-friendly option, consider the Meritz Hotel, conveniently located in the heart of Miri and offering comfortable rooms and excellent service.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.


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