Updated 2 years ago

Compared to some big cities in South-East Asia, Ipoh is as a more affordable place to live and a nature lover's dream. Surrounded by limestone hills, clifftop temples, serene lakes, and the fragrant Gaharu Tea Valley, people are starting to recognise the benefits of living in Ipoh. It is also close to the Kinta Nature Park and Gopeng, so if you love nature and outdoor activities, Ipoh will suit you to a tee.

Generally speaking, Ipoh is quite well located in Peninsular Malaysia, with Penang, the Cameron Highlands and even Kuala Lumpur all within reach for a weekend getaway. The Transport Ministry also announced at the end of 2016 that it would be acquiring more coaches to double the frequency of the Electric Train Service (ETS) between Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh, which is set to make Ipoh a more accessible destination and further increase its appeal.

In spite of its rather large population of around 700,000, Ipoh feels like a small town that offers a laidback way of life. Expatriates can expect modern infrastructure and amenities, without the overcrowding or towering skyscrapers.

According to a US news outlet in 2014, Ipoh was regarded as one of the most affordable places to retire in the world. However, don't let the retirement appeal put you off if you're still a young professional. Many young people and expatriates are choosing to stay in towns like Ipoh to avoid the bustle of big cities and to save money. Furthermore, you won't have to worry about beating traffic jams or facing a long commute to work in Ipoh, as it's perfectly possible to reach the office in 15 minutes, without having to pay large sums for an apartment in a prime location.

Where to live in Ipoh

Renting accommodation in Ipoh is significantly cheaper than in other places in Malaysia, such as the Klang Valley, and property is often a bit more spacious as there is more land available. Consequently, there are also more options for renting landed property in Ipoh so, if you would like to have a small garden in which to grow vegetables or entertain guests, you should be able to find something in Ipoh. On a healthy wage, you should be able to take your pick of most property options in Ipoh, from condominiums and apartments, to townhouses and villas.

There is very little traffic in Ipoh thanks to a lack of highrise buildings in the centre, so it doesn't take long to get around or to commute to work even if you don't live in the centre. There is, therefore, not the same necessity to live near the office, which is a key consideration in places that have a lot of congestion, such as Penang and Kuala Lumpur. Rather, it's a question of which development and area suits you (and your family) best.

As in much of Malaysia, many expatriates live in condominiums. However, some foreigners in Ipoh prefer to live in gated community developments, thanks to the round-the-clock security and luxury offerings. Sunway City Ipoh is the largest integrated township in Perak and is very popular with expatriates, and Meru Valley Ecovillage is another example of a gated community that is a favourite with foreigners, with homes surrounding a golf course.

If it's important for you to have easy access to Western fare, then it's a good idea to choose a neighbourhood that is close to a new shopping mall. Alternatively, you may be drawn to prime locations with high-end residences, such as Tiger Lane (also known as Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah). Tiger Lane is an upmarket neighbourhood, with a prestigious community that is even home to celebrities, such as Michelle Yeoh. The Upper East development was recently launched in the heart of this elite residential district to offer the best luxury apartments in Perak.

The cost of buying or renting in Ipoh

For those wishing to buy a property in Ipoh, the price is lower than in other places, and the minimum purchase price in Ipoh for foreigners is set at RM350,000, which is also considerably lower than in other Malaysian states.

Alternatively, if you would rather rent, then a three-bedroom apartment in the city centre will cost from RM1,000 to RM1,500 per month. If you'd be happy to live outside of the centre, you can expect this to reduce to about RM800 to RM1,000 per month.

However, rental prices can vary significantly, depending on the level of luxury of the property and furnishings.

Find accommodation

Ipoh is relatively contained and easy to get around, so contacting a few local estate agents would be advisable, as they will have most properties on their books. They will then be able to filter your options based on your budget and requirements, and direct you as need be.

An internet search on a Malaysian property website may also prove fruitful, and will help you to get a better understanding of what's available in your price range.

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