What to expect when moving to Malaysia

Hello everyone,

Is there anything you wish you had known before moving to Malaysia? For example, transportation, internet speeds, types of housing, aspects of the culture or social life.

In your opinion, what's the most important thing to know about Malaysia?

When would you recommend someone should begin planning their move to Malaysia?

What were the most helpful ways you found to get organised? For example, did you use a checklist, were there any particularly useful websites or apps?

What advice would you give to future expats preparing to move to Malaysia?

Thank you for sharing your experience.


To move Malaysia for working you have to know in detail about following points

1. on which visa you are going to be invited to Malaysia
2. How much salary you are going to get
3. Transport facilities available or not, if not what is alternative arrangements
4. Accommodation arrangements
5. Are you shifting single or with dependents. If dependents what about their visa

That's it

To realise that foreigners have to educate their children in private or international schools (or home school). Government schooling is not going to be available. This means the salary needs to be large enough to pay for education costs. (Not all employment passes allow the holder to bring dependents into Malaysia - only Professional Pass Category I and II, with salary of RM5k per month and over, permit this)

Malaysia is NOT like the Middle East, where foreigners make up the main proportion of the workforce.

It can be difficult for trailing spouses to find employment in Malaysia. There are only a few sectors that employ foreigners and only larger and international companies have the required structure and paid-up capital (also quotas) to employ foreigners.

Before i came to Malaysia I spent a year researching, reading articles and newspapers, making online friends, asking questions a lot. Turns out it was all for nothing, my research was wrong, friends painted an untruthful picture, I was completely unprepared for what followed.

But on the happy side, things were different but better than I expected. Do you know, despite research, I was convinced there was not even a PC in the country and i boxed and brought a huge desktop system on the airplane, as a TOURIST? Friends said, No we dont own PCs at home because too expensive to buy. That was my info. But they neglected to say there were abundant internet cafes all over the city! Why didnt they tell me that?! I made so many mistakes just like that. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, I was to expect mostly jungles and very few cities, hospitals, even telephones. Untrue! Everything that I planned for was untrue or didnt happen, and I wasnt prepared at all for what did happen.  So what I did was keep an open mind, open heart, stayed flexible, didnt break down and cry, just quickly let myself get swept up in the flow of the place and stop worrying. I cant say that was easy.

I had all kinds of checklists, all kinds of goods to bring, in hindsight it was useless. But that was a long time ago and things are different today. After and aside from employment, there is very little to worry about, just come and get what you need here. Dont bring too much, dont worry too much, all will be OK.

I'll try to think of useful things and come back to this thread.

Hi Prisicilla,

Very important question to people moving to Malaysia for their professional.

Its better to keep a checklist and Budget cost to prepare well.

I always make them educate and save the money with Transportation, housing / food and exchange rates

also educate them to using and calling cards.

Mostly candidates asking me about spending their weekends ( which able to guide them on time and again the budget planning for that)

thanks and regards,

I came to Malaysia unarmed.
Oh well, I didn't expect to come here for a battle or war! Lol

I came here to spread my wings and be free.

And I wish I knew how to make friends when I  came here, then I should have lots of friends by now.  Thing is, I was/used to be content of my own company keeping myself busy at all times.  Didn't think I needed any friends.

But people change.  So now I need friends to go malling with and to go for a movie on weekends.  Or go ice skating with, or go on a road trip. XD

My post was based on the fact that when I was preparing for Malaysia 20 years ago, there were no forums, online chat was a brand new concept, the web was, in all seriousness, only about five years old and had very little published information about any country. I was very much in the dark.

Today, any question or idea an expat has can be solved in only a few minutes online. One cannot prepare for everything, and each person has different needs based on personal choices and what the activity is that brings them to any country. There isnt a one, clear answer for everyone about how to prepare, I would prefer to look at someones individual concerns and find a solution for that.

But, do all expats share at least some common concerns? Mostly, they care about if they can tolerate the food, climate, find their way around and get along with Malaysians. If you are transferred to work for Shell or something, everything is taken care of for you. Your biggest worry is deciding what to eat for lunch. If you come alone and jobless as I did, you have to wear all the hats. I'd say the most important thing to prepare is finding some sincere, honest friends before you come. Someone who can meet you at the start, take you around, introduce you to places and foods, and help you get settled, everything from finding a place to live, to where to shop for groceries, to how to use public transportation. Someone to help you negotiate, to learn words, to really be your friend. Some who has the time and energy for that. At least partially, I did have that, and though my friends turned out to be dishonest jackals, by then I was 70% self-sufficient and it was OK to let them go. How did I find friends a year in advance? Dating sites. I would write to them and say I was coming and had some questions. I met tons of people that way and those were the ones I met when I got off the airplane. These pre-friends cut my setup time by months, and despite our troubles Im grateful to this day. This kind of a headstart is, to me, the most valuable preparation a newcomer can do. Any other kind of preparation is not so important because you can always backtrack your mistakes and fix them, even if it means a quick trip back to your country (in the most extreme case). It would be far better to come and then see what you really need and are lacking instead of trying to foretell and plan for every possible scenario in advance.

When I first came to KL Malaysia everything was arranged.  Like some people say, some expats can be really spoiled. 

So, visa, work permit, transportation, accommodation were all arranged/organized for me.  The very first area I've known was Jalan Tun Razak, Ampang Park.  I stayed in Intermark, the very first hotel I've known here.

Making friends was never in my life in my top 10 list.  It wasn't very important thing for me then.  When I came here, all I thought about was freedom from all the rules and regulations from home. XD  And I could do anything I want.

Oh well!  Freedom was important to me then, but it still is.
But a little bit of transformation now, of course, I am not home for quite awhile now so I guess I need to create a circle of friends and changed myself from being such a loner.

The very first thing I like about Malaysia was the tropical weather.  It doesn't rain here much and I hate the rain, so I adapt the weather very quickly a little hotter than my country but it's alright.  Food no, until now.  Sorry to say, as I have a really sensitive taste buds.  I actually hate the food here, spicy food no thank you.

Thats interesting and hope fully handjoin as friends if you interested,
I am a IT professional and business development working in KL


Rizzablen, im curious then....what do you eat?

cvco :

Rizzablen, im curious then....what do you eat?

Oh yeah!  Chinese food ain't spicy,  I eat Chinese dish, western, fast-food, and once in awhile I cook our own dish.  Our dish is influenced by Spanish, btw.  Sometimes, protein shake when I'm in a workout mode for few months.

It's ok, I'm not looking for a male friend.  Thanks anyways.

Rizzablen, ok I understand. I was thinking Chinese can also be spicy but im so used to eating all foods here I forget things.
Are you Spanish, from Spain? Oh wait, are you the person from Mexico?

The Spaniards invaded and stayed in Philippines for 400 years.  Almost everything about my country were influenced by them - language, food, religion, Universities names, streets names, and our names.  I am mixed with Spanish blood so you could see a slight difference of me from native Filipinos, in character and in appearance.  I am as well mixed with a little bit of Chinese blood, so I am sort of insanely mixed up like ice kacang.

Living in Malaysia, i feel safe away from all sort of nature calamities such as, typhoon.  In my country we have like more than 1 typhoon in a year.  Now, mentioning that, I guess that is one of the reasons why many foreigners from around the world would want to work and live here in KL.  We love the sun! XD

Ok you are are you bisayas then? speaking some spanish?

Yes I know the spanish influence there, also the chinese. I read that recently they found artifacts on the coast near Manila belonging to chinese that were believed to be 6000 years old. Chinese have been there all along, I gather, so I wouldnt be surprised you are mixed. And yes, i have philippines friends who often cook spanish dishes like paella, which I liked very much while in Spain.

I was born in the city and grew up in the city kinda gal.  100% a City being who loves the city life.
Our language is mixed with some Spanish so it comes naturally and could speak some Spanish bit by bit unaware.

Back to the main topic.
Manila is 99% Christian, but when I 1st came here I didn't wish I was prepared from the diversity of the culture but as time goes by, I am starting to get a little annoyed with too much holidays, too much rest and too much wasting time. hmmm

Another issue to highlight is the racism in Malaysia - I ain't got no problem but racism is a big problem in this country.  I say I have no problem because I know how to protect myself from discrimination or racism.  I came from family of law enforcers that work for the government so i grew up to be a little tougher than normal females and I know the law and I know how to sue when someone cross the line.   Back home I could be well protected but I have chosen to step out of that comfort zone because i know I can survive without anyone hiring an assassin to assassinate or punish anyone who crossed me. 

I just hope that racism would lighten up a bit in this country as not everyone is forgiving.
Anyways, the number 1 racist in this country are the Chinese race.


Are you aware, if I am correct and I think so, that Malaysia has more holidays than Phils?  lol   Right now we have 5 days holiday, and September is loaded with holidays.  In the year, Malaysia has 24 main holidays and several holidays which vary by state. So thats one month each year that many are not working. I get depressed and annoyed by so many because my work goes 7 days a week and I need places open, like post office. It screws things up.

There is racism because starting 1957 with Independence, the races were politically separated so that the Malays would always have the power, and this led to dislike or distrust or something between them because nobody could just say, "Im Malaysian" like Americans do. Chinese in all countries like to be on their own with other chinese and the terms of Independence made it worse. When you ask very old people about this, they will say there was no racism before Independence, and when Malays say they are superior to others, that gets the Indians and Chinese angry. In the end, races just stick with and trust their own people and thats its. Malaysia is like three different countries operating in the same place, at the same time. The term for that is multi-culturalism and I say it doesnt work because people dont like and respect each other as equals. Each thinks they are superior to the other and that leads to racism.  Pres Trump doesnt want it, but Hillary Clinton did and thats part of the reason they hate Trump.

Myself, I like all, and have friends in all races. But because of that, I also made enemies. If an Indian friend sees me with a Chinese friend, they ask why. You can see on their face they arent happy because they think if I am friends with a Chinese, it means I think the Chinese are better than Malay or Indian. If a Malay knows I have an Indian or Chinese friend, they will be upset and even dump me. Its happened. To me, this is extremely immature and silly but thats how the country is. It takes a very open minded person to get along with everyone and you dont see too much of that here.  No, instead everyone has their own holidays, newspapers, restaurants and neighborhoods. On the surface things are usually peaceful, until someone hurts an Indian temple or throws pig blood at a mosque, but underneath its not peaceful. The government doesnt help, and they cant. From the Malay point of view, if this were one country, one malaysian culture, and political parties in which anyone could join, the Malays could be outnumbered and would risk losing elections and control. So, racism is built-in and here to stay. Who knows, maybe when the current children grow up in 50 years, they will think differently.

The only long holidays we have back home is in December, Christmas season, and more than a month school break in last week of April til 1st week of June(Summer season).
Here is a little too much, It makes people lazy to work and study with so many holidays distraction.  Ugh.  Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Deepavali, Merdeka, Christmas, New Year, etc and etc.

Anyways, atleast i can go out here with the sun shining all year round though.  Our rainy season can be a little too much, heavy rain and flooded roads for 2 months, typhoons 2 -3x in a year. 

Malaysia, a Multi-cultural country, many people say it's beautiful.  Beautiful indeed, colourful all year round, all they see is beauty from the surface but underneath it all there's no unity, it's chaotic.  It should be alright if everyone is open-minded but not.  And I agree with you, the locals can be a little immature competing to one another who's best in whatever...... XD Witnessing that, I guess  I still prefer a non-multi-cultural country  - more peaceful. 

Trump - can be dumb sometimes but atleast he cares about his own people, protecting them and his people are in his top priority list.  Ya'can't save everyone, right?!  And we also cannot deny the fact that most terrorist who was/were involve in bombing buildings full of innocent people in US were muslims.  Same thing in my country, fil-muslim terrorists were bombing malls and nightspots, lotsa people died.  I don't wanna talk about it any further.

How's Malaysian Government anyways?  PM Najib good?
Politics gives me headache, it was dirty then and still dirty now.  So I try not to keep myself updated of any corruptions going on because It's nothing new.


When I was reading your post I was thinking about which country around here had the most colorful political history and I think they are all different but equal. Each has their own scandals and problems and corruptions, including here.  Cant seem to get away from it!

I like politics and there is so much to discuss everyday although this isnt the place. But just to answer you, Trump and Duterte  are probably brothers. They think alike. They keep promises and take action, even if people dont like it.  Most politicians just lie to get a vote but they did not. That says a lot. Will both countries be better off for how they do things? I hope so.

I dont know if holidays make people lazy. If they are lazy, then they are, holiday or not. Here, people often criticize Malay as being lazy but you have to look back in history to understand. If you watch P. Ramlee movies, the old ones especially, you see how the Malay are and they havent changed. I guess its called an "island mentality" or "manana attitude" (I'll do it tomorrow, no need to hurry, no need to bother today).  Also, Malay have almost guaranteed government employment and also monthly welfare assistance is available to many so there is not much worry about surviving. THAT promotes laziness, on top of how they already are. Chinese are not lazy, they work 7 days and never stop.

Malaysia taught me to hate multi-cultural, just in case I didnt already. In US, they say "that american," and here they say, "that chinese, that indian, that iban...".  Malaysians WANT to be called Malaysians but they cannot because they refuse to give up their ancestry which would make  them Malaysians. I think there is only one holiday thats for everyone and thats Independence Day. Why do indians and malay wear their own clothes instead of Malaysian clothes? Why do they continue to speak so many languages? Get rid of chinese new year, deepavali, the things that keep separating them and maybe they can get on the road of being called "malaysian." But they wont, so instead they have the tension underneath which never ends.

I guess ours' made it on top 1 most colourful/colorful.
Marcos - had stolen smoking billions.
Estrada - I have no idea how did he get there in the 1st place.
I rest my case.  This is the reason why I do not wanna discuss politics.  It makes me feel numb.

I do admire Duterete though, I hope he stays for a long while and
I don't hate Trump, he's good, just goofy. XD

I don't hate Malaysia, I like the buildings in KLCC.  the more they build the more I like it here.  My interest - architectures and I love sunny weather.  I am just highlighting the problem here since this topic is about Malaysia, what to expect and not about my country, yes? 

There are many things to like and other things not to like in Malaysia.  No country is perfect. right?  So it's best if people would learn to stop acting like they are superior or above others for humanity's sake. 

Some people just don't buy rubbish.


I think Phils and Thailand compete for No.1 Colorful politics, and thats because they arent afraid to take to the streets to change things. I've followed all your presidents. Is Estrada still in jail? I meet very old filipinos and they still like Marcos. Its like here, there is much to be said against Mahathir but many people still like him.

Are you saying you like the tall buildings in KL? Any ones special to you?
Do they make you feel more connected to city life? You dont mind the crowds and noise? What  area do you live?

I like buildings, not necessarily tall but unique in style like for instance; In Platinum Park, NAZA and Menara Felda, Avare
KLCC Tower; Le Nouvel;
Menara KL Tower
KL Sentral Hotels, Hilton & Le Meridien standing side by side - I have photographs of them that looked like they were hotels in heaven with cloudy background. XD
Excited about this TRX - Tun Razak Exchange Signature Tower,...'see how it goes!'
KL Metropolis (The Beverly Hills of Malaysia) - MATRADE, Arte Mont Kiara

Special building?  Nah!
Special place?  Yes.  I like TREC.  Great spot to chill. <3

I don't mind the crowd and noise as long as not rowdy crowd.
I grew up in the city so 'm use to it. 
I live in KL area, about 5 mins drive from Bukit Bintang without traffic jam.

Back to Politics
I dunno anything about Thailand politics history, my own is frustrating enough to know.
Regarding Estrada - I haven't got the foggiest idea.

Ok. Myself, I never saw a building in KL I thought was beautiful or special. Otherwise, there are some pretty wonderful colonial houses in Penang, and a traditional Malay house on Langkawi. So, if there arent special buildings, then what you say is more important--special places, especially if you can get good memories from them. I definitely have some good memories of places in KL. I think if  person has a lot of money to spend, they can have great experiences in KL, they can have a great life. The rich know how to take care of themselves, dont they. There is also beauty underneath too, thats not easily seen. You can drive down the same streets everyday and think you know KL. One day you walk the streets and find all kinds of great things you never knew were there. Same in Penang. I guess you did that too, stop to look more carefully at something, how else would you see the buildings, next to each other with misty backdrops? :)

I live in Penang but I was 12 years in KL. I first lived at PWTC, then Taman Tun, then Sri Damansara. As you see, I kept moving farther away from the center, it got to be too jammed for me, but I know people who thrive on busy cities.

Estrada...well he was only president for 18 months but in that time so much money was missing, they had to stop him. He went to jail but the money was not recovered. I guess $1.5 billion. I cant think of a country that isnt corrupt. In Asia, the corruption is always money; in US the leaders dont steal money from the treasury, they steal power, steal contracts, steal laws, steal favors, steal control over people. Here, they are corrupt in cash, in the West they are corrupt in power. Like here, Chinese dont want power and responsibilities and duties and meetings and ministers and departments, they want cash.

The latest update I've got of our politics, Senator De Lima drug case in which my big brother, Intelligence agent NBI(Anti-terrorism Dept.), had stood witnessed against that put our family in danger during those few months trial a year ago (This is the reason why I don't get easily shaken off.  I know what truly is scary).  How about this Anwar politician of Malaysia who happened to be in jail at the moment?  I heard he's appealing for his jail term/ sentence.  What did he get jailed for?  Graft or corruption, drugs, or anything?  He's quite popular, I see/hear.

I am more fascinated with modern architecture, KL isn't so bad.  Old architectures I like is in Melaka, the Red Church, I like Melaka in general, their Baba & Nyonya Museum and things.  I like the locals there too.  They are more warm and friendly than KL people.  KL people are grumpy. LOL XD TBH
I guess they got grumpy chasing money, or CASH! XD

I like Malacca too. Do you know, I wanted to date a mannekin which was on display in the museum. She is from about year 1600 and her clothes are so beautiful Id date anyone who looked like that. Today....tshirts and jeans............

Anwar was the Deputy Prime Minister in 1997. He argued with the Prime Minister, Mahathir, about how to handle the financial crisis. Mahathir settled it by having him accused of sodomy, which is against Islam, and Anwar went to prison for 6 years. Nobody knew the truth for sure, but internationally they sided with Anwar that the charges were false and politically motivated. Anwar served his time and got out. Now he was seen as a martyr among Malaysians and rose to power again in a new political party. When it seemed his party might win the (2013?) election, he was suddenly slapped with another sodomy charge and though he fought valiantly to win the case, he lost and went to prison again, where he is currently serving a 5 year term and is banned from politics in the future. Was he guilty or not? Nobody knows for sure, but the case divided and hurt the country. He is still considered a martyr but he is fading. Currently, this moment, Mahathir, now, 90 years old, wants to get rid of Najib and asked for Anwars help. What help? Maybe, if Anwar can sway his people to vote for Mahathir in a run against Najib soon, Mahathir could pardon Anwar and this would all be forgotten. Maybe even make Anwar the Deputy Prime Minister again! See? Drama and colorful politics here!

Sorry about trouble in your family. Philippines trouble with corruption gets people killed easily, yes?

Vietnam has all kinds of interesting modern architecture which I also like. The mix of old and new is fascinating and shows how the new generation thinks. They want to come into the 21st century and are very creative.

Opposing a corrupted official or a high ranking mentally twisted officer gets people killed(It takes guts to have balls to do that.), which is why there's  a witness protection programme, as well as, we trust our current President, the iron fist, when it comes to protection.  We'can't deny the fact we feel at ease with Duterte in a position atop.  We know we are not alone taking on concrete walls. 

Mahathir, isn't he supposed to be the trusworthy one?

I do not like Vietnam, its history involving children being a killer at young age breaks my heart.  I remember watching an old movie of Vietnam regarding this I cried like hell.  So, no thank you.  Knowing their architectures means learning their history. I don't wanna know.  I have a soft spot for children and animals.

I am fine with modern architectures, memorizing 4 pages of the book in history or geography class was excruciating.

KL is good for those who loves shopping.  There's always SALE whole year round.
KLCC & Bukit bintang shopping centres - Suria KLCC,Avenue-K, Pavilion, Quill mall, My Town, Lot10, Low Yatt Plaza, and Mid Valley, Megamall, The Gardens.

I love a city that never sleeps!

Vietnam....myself I cant fault them because it was war. They mobilized everyone that could be useful, whether it was cooking, nursing or carrying a gun. The South didnt have an army, thats why they asked USA for help. What they wanted was training and advice, not USA involvement but that isnt what they got. Kids were used by the North and South, and this reminds me that in US history, kids from 13 years old were also soldiers. I would take your side if kids were exploited in peacetime. In war, all bets are off. Im 100% sure no parent wanted to see their children in the war but they had no choice because they were literally fighting for their lives. If there is something to dislike about Vietnam, its not the people, its the force of Communism and the repression of the people. They have restricted the net, dont have free speech, etc. But the people themselves? Lovable, in my experience. I could tell you stories that would break your heart--in the good way.

I personally dont regard Mahathir as honest, and he isnt the original corrupt leader, either. Some say he pocketed $40 billion over 23 years of Prime Minister.  Mahathir had a game, he never touched money. People who wanted big projects in Malaysia had to pay 30% of the value to a charity of Mahathir's choosing, like the Mahathir Foundation or some such thing. In Australia, they called him Mr. 30 Percent. He also was corrupt because he made sure his children's companies got government contracts. They became rich. Before him, there wasnt a single honest prime minister. They all got rich. Mahathir also controlled the court judges and the media. You seldom heard about any scandals. On the other side, he also progressed the country, like building Twin Towers and KLIA, etc etc., and he also controlled inflation. When prices of goods were running up, he would order shops to roll back prices. So, in a way you can say he got a lot and also gave a lot. Does it balance? I think not. Malaysia is still the 3rd world, it still has the old mindset.

Well, now you understand Trump better. He isnt a politician, he is a businessman from the outside of politics and he is attacking the corrupt people and institutions in Washington---and they all currently want to kill him. They might succeed. Personally, im scared to death of that, and the chance of civil war coming soon between the Left and Right. US is right on the edge.

Mahathir ruled with an iron fist, so did Marcos, so is Duterte. I would feel safe with any of them. Trump doesnt want to become that but he may have to. The problem for Trump is that he doesnt have a network of political friends who agree with him, will fight for him and protect him.  There is Trump, and then thousands of corrupted Washington people who hate him now. What to do? Very dangerous situation. In Malaysia, the UMNO party as a group all work to support the PM, thats why you see not too much trouble. This isnt so in US.

Discussing history is a pain in the ass, politics is also a pain in the ass, interrelated topics.
I remember as a child, there was always black out during the election day2, final count. I got curious and asked my parents why.  A candidate or 2 or more running for the Presidential election was/were cheating! OMG MGG WTH !!! My parents were always updated with our politics current events. I used to listen to 'em argue/discuss/debate.   That's how I dislike politics. Leadership is supposed to be an interesting topic but corrupt politicians dirtied the idea of it. It has become more of an idea of how to get rich quick scheme, I thought! Haha U wanna be a billionaire?  Run for President or PM. XD Politics is a joke and the politicians are the clowns. And I don't like clowns. 

We had 2 lady President, Corazon Aquino and Gloria Arroyo.  How'd they do, I wonder.

I hope Duterte and Trump could change history.  The great leaders of 21st Century. Atleast, 2 non-corrupted officials, I wish!
Money is too irresistible to ignore, as well as Power. It can be overwhelming.

Mahathir - I am so disappointed ! I thought he was the one who built the greater KL during his serving time and I admired him indeed.  But then again, it could be just rumours. Who knows? Did he stop bribing the media that's why he has been exposed? Otherwise, where did this rumours/news come from?

Hi everybody,

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Thank you,

Priscilla team

Apologies, easy to become distracted at times and I should know better. Some things are better left alone or to PMs. No problem, stay on the topic.


My wife and I are planning to move from Australia to Malaysia. We initially will come for 90 days to look around and find somewhere where we would like to call home. What I want to know is if we leave Malaysia during the 90 days do we have unlimited re entry for the 90 days or does our 90 days restart? Help would be greatly appreciated.

Clive, yes it restarts because tourist visas are Single Entry. Work and spousal visas are Multi-Entry.  So, if you want a trip to Singapore or Thailand during your stay, id suggest you plan it to happen at the end of your stay so you dont waste 90 days as you would if you made the side trips at the start.

Thanks for that CVCO.

New rules announced if doing a visa run defining the number of days a person now needs to remain outside Malaysia.

90 days eligibility:
Less than 80 days - 3 days stay out of Malaysia
From 80 to 90 days - 7 days stay out of Malaysia

30 days eligibility:
Less than 20 days - 3 days stay out of Malaysia
More than 20 to 30 days - 7 days stay out of Malaysia

New topic