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Retire in Malaysia

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Nov 27, 2021

Summary: What is it like to retire in Malaysia? Retirees share their experiences living in Malaysia.

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What is it like to retire in Malaysia?

"Kuching is a very laid-back city. There are lots of National Parks with forests, caving, waterfalls, hiking, water sports (kayaking), wildlife and small villages and longhouses within an hour or two of town. There is golf, jogging/running, pilates, yoga, etc. Several Cultural Festivals (Gawai as well as the religious ones) and massive Music Festivals like the Rainforest World Music Festival, Miri and Waterfront Jazz Festivals, the Seniawan Country Music Festival, etc. Just noticed that some EMF are happening too. Nightlife sadly is meagre compared to Bali or Bangkok and there is virtually no sex-tourism or beach rave scene. There are a handful of expat-oriented clubs/bars (most shutting during the covid period) but check out Carpenter Street and Jl. Tabuan. Lots of restaurants with a wide range of international cuisines...eating seems to be the main vice of Sarawakians. The expat community is small...most people have a mix of expat and local friends (Sarawakians are a friendly sort). There is a nascent Facebook group (Kuching Expats)," commented one retiree living in Kuching, Malaysia.

"Penang Island is great place with lots to do. One of the British most important colony 150 years ago. Third in importance to Hong Kong & Singapore, so lot's of culture from the west and the melting pot of SE.. Some of the best food in the world. I'm not into nightlife but plenty of places if you are. The only real negative was the beaches they are not on the same level as most of SE," explained one retiree living in Tojong Tokong, Penang Island.

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What advice do overseas retirees have for others considering retiring abroad?

"Go for it!!!!! This is not a dress rehearsal you only get one life unless your a Buddhist," explained a retiree in Tojong Tokong, Penang Island.

"I'm submitting this report anonymously. Malaysia does not have free speech. Well it does and it doesn't. Anything said against the government or Islam could land you in trouble. It's kinda crazy, I love it here, I want nothing more than to just to live and be a consumer and soak up the culture. I've found that Muslims as well as Chinese and Indians are friendly here and lovely people. I don't trust the police, or the government institutions like immigration. I know if we choose to do the retirement visa, it would be ok with the process, but am left feeling vulnerable with just a tourist visa. There is a level of distrust here with regards to the government not only with expats but locals as well," explained one retiree living in Penang.

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What are the most challenging aspects of retiring in Malaysia?

"Not being able to travel as freely during the Covid pandemic. Sarawak was even shut of from the rest of Malaysia for over a year...which successfully kept the more severe forms of Covid at bay compared to other countries. Vaccination rates were very high here, they got teens and younger children fully vaccinated (and no...there were limited side effects in over 2.5 million population). Sadly events and indoor dining were put on hold for a time. But now that has swung 180ยบ and they are even having large outdoor festivals with no apparent increase in disease rates or upticks in serious illness. People do still mask indoors. The other major aspect of living abroad is staying engaged and not relaxing too much. So avoiding getting fat and unhealthy. I work hard to maintain a daily fitness regimen, and as the food is so good and diverse here, to limit portions," added another person in Kuching.

"I dislike the double standard in pricing and that is common throughout Southeast Asia, Central America, Africa and Europe," remarked another retiree in Tojong Tokong, Penang Island.

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What are the most rewarding aspects of retiring in Malaysia?

"Meeting new people with different viewpoints than those from my own country. Seeing new places and cultures. I also have time to write on topics that I had little time to while teaching full-time," explained one retiree living in Kuching.

"Sights, sounds and the people. I enjoy the cultures of other people and their friendships. I also find expats a much more interesting group of people then back home. Expats as a whole have much more vitality for life," said another retiree in living in Tojong Tokong, Penang Island, Malaysia.

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What are healthcare services like in Malaysia?

We asked retirees if they have access to good medical care in Malaysia. They wrote:

"There are six major private Medical Speciality Clinics/Hospitals in Kuching with covering from orthopedics, cancer, to heart and diabetes. Lots of private neighborhood GP's, diagnostic clinics, inexpensive dental and optometric services. There are plans for a Gerontology Training Medical School (Malaysia's population is aging), and a Tropical Medicine Research Center). Most practitioners are trained in UK, Australia, US or Japan," remarked another retiree in Kuching.

"We have not used medical care here, but understand through other expats who have that they have been quite satisfied. There are an abundance of healthcare facilities on Penang," said a retiree who moved to Penang, Malaysia.

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How do I meet people in Malaysia?

When we asked people living in Malaysia about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"Private clubs like Hyatt Saujana, Tropicana and Bukit Kiara are great for expats with families and young children. They are affordable too. Bukit Kiara has an equestarian club for kids and adults," explained a retiree in Petaling Jaya.

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What is life like in Malaysia?

When we asked people living in Malaysia what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Petaling Jaya, unlike the neighbouring Kuala Lumpur is more residential but a lot of multi nationals are located in this town as well. Lots of families prefer shopping in the weekends. And going out for food! Lots of food and the range is very diversified and international," said a retiree who moved to Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.

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William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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What do I need to know before retiring in Malaysia?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Malaysia, they said:

"Brace for the heat. Being in the Klang Valley, it means lots of heat and humidity level is very high. Showers and heavy rainfalls are also common. Tap water is not drinkable so one must be prepared with a kettle or other 'water producing' machines e.g distiller Getting around is fairly easy, cabs are a plenty and very cheap compared to most other countries. Public buses do not service a lot of areas. A car is an absolute must if you have kids. The weather just does not permit much walking between 11 am to 4 p.m," said a retiree who moved to Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.

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What type of recreational activities are there in Malaysia?

"Swimming at every condominium. Squash and tennis courts. Hiking around Kuala Lumpur," explained one retiree living in Kuala Lumpur.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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