Life as Digital Nomad in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
by Josien - 15 Feb, 2020
Living and working in Malaysia, something that is increasing in popularity. Kuala Lumpur is especially popular among digital nomads because it is far away on the one hand, but on the other hand, Kuala Lumpur is a well-developed and prosperous city compared to others in this part of the world. What are the pros and cons of living as a digital nomad in Kuala Lumpur?
Many people also travel to Malaysia to escape winter temperatures in Europe. Malaysia has a wonderful tropical climate that makes it a lot more pleasant to stay here in the winter months than in the usually cold European climate.
If you do not come to Malaysia to work, there are still many opportunities to settle here for a longer period of time. The country has fairly flexible visa regulations. This ensures that you can easily stay in the country for several months a year on a tourist visa only.
Working in Malaysia
Living and working in Malaysia is possible in several ways. The easiest way is to be sent to the country or as a digital nomad via a foreign employer. As a digital nomad in Kuala Lumpur, you can easily stay on a tourist visa only, because you are not actually physically working in Malaysia but online. You do have to make sure that you are paying taxes somewhere else.
It is almost impossible to find a job with a Malaysian company. Businesses in Malaysia are only allowed to hire foreigners if it can be demonstrated that they cannot find Malaysians suitable for the position. Examples of this are high management positions for which you must have very good demonstrable qualifications (preferably university).
What are the visa rules in Malaysia? I will share all the necessary information on this topic with you here so that you can travel with all the necessary knowledge.
If you are staying in Malaysia for less than 90 days, it is not mandatory to have a visa. There are therefore no visa costs for visiting this country. The only condition to this is that you are required to present a return ticket or other proof that you are leaving the country within the established 90 days.
Do you want to stay in Malaysia for more than 90 days? Then it is important to make a trip to a country other than Malaysia before the 90 days have passed, then you fly back into the country and get a new 90-day tourist visa. Such a trip is also known as a so-called visa run. Many digital nomad/ex-pats stay in Kuala Lumpur or Malaysia in this way for a longer period of time. Please note that visa runs are officially not allowed, but in practice work really well.
To avoid any problems with the immigration service, it is advisable to travel abroad for a longer period. A short holiday of a week to, for example, Bali is sufficient to avoid questions and in the worst case, refusal. In general, it is not very difficult. As long as you can prove that you are not working in Malaysia and you can show an outbound flight ticket within 90 days.
Why is Malaysia/Kuala Lumpur so attractive to a digital nomad?
Malaysia is a beautiful and relatively inexpensive country. The country is pleasant to travel and the population speaks good English, unlike other populations in neighboring countries. The infrastructure and internet connection are also generally fine. All this makes Kuala Lumpur a very pleasant destination for a digital nomad from any country.
Kuala Lumpur has a huge variety of things to do too. For example, the Petronas Towers or Batu Caves. Up to trips through the jungle or a visit to tropical islands.
Smooth visa regulations for digital nomads
As described above, the visa regulations for Malaysia are quite flexible. For example, it is possible to stay for 90 days on a tourist visa only. This prevents time-consuming and anxious agreements at immigration offices for visa extensions like you do in Bali, for example.
The internet connection is generally fine in Malaysia. There are a lot of places in the country that have free WiFi. Especially around the many terraces and within several shopping centers, free WiFi is available. This is probably not the strongest internet that you need as a digital nomad though.
In addition to the above locations, it is also possible to provide an internet connection yourself. You do this by purchasing a local SIM card with an internet bundle. These SIM cards are available throughout Malaysia and the range is generally fine to work with (3G) or even (4G) if your phone is suitable for this.
Cost of living
Delivery maintenance costs in Malaysia are relatively low compared to those in Europe or the US. You can easily get by from RM20 to RM50 (€10) per day for all meals including drinks. Of course, there are exceptions to this.
Due to rising inflation in Malaysia, prosperity has increased enormously in recent years. In addition to cheap eateries, you now have just as many very luxurious restaurants where you can easily pay RM100 (€20) for a meal.
However, if you eat cheaply at a food court, for example, a meal costs around RM10 on average. The differences in this are enormous, but there are enough possibilities for every budget.
The location also plays a major role in the prices for the food. The further you go from the tourist center, the cheaper your food becomes.
Housing for a digital nomad in Kuala Lumpur
In Kuala Lumpur, there is a huge range available for renting a house, flat or apartment. Prices vary a lot and depend on how luxurious the house/apartment is and its location. A one-room studio in central Kuala Lumpur costs approximately RM3,500 (€ 700) per month. In the suburbs of the city, rents start at around RM2,000 (€100) per month. Compared to Europe or the US, these prices are low.
Kuala Lumpur has several neighborhoods where digital nomads/ex-pats like to live. One of the most popular digital nomad neighborhoods in Kuala Lumpur is Mont Kiara, where you will find many international companies, schools, and other facilities aimed at ex-pats like coworking spaces. A disadvantage is that it somewhat suppresses the real local feeling as it is bursting with tourists.
The easiest way to find a suitable rental property is to use an agency. An agency represents landlords and housing corporations negotiated there and advertises on their behalf. Each agency has its own website on which the rental properties offered are described. Rental contracts for rental properties in Malaysia are usually for a minimum of 1 year. Often you pay a 1-month deposit and 1 month in advance.
Want to travel a bit more luxurious? See these nice boutique hotels in KL!
Air pollution in Kuala Lumpur
KL is a crowded city and everybody drives a car. The climate is warm and humid all year round. So you can imaging there are big smog issues in the summer. During my time there I really had more difficulties with breathing. Not that I suffocated but I could feel the air pollution through my lungs. Not good at all. When I asked the locals about this, they all laughed at me. These days were the normal days. ‘No smog at all, this is fresh air to us’. So be ready to bituminize your airways when moving here.
Transport in KL
Transport in Kuala Lumpur is very affordable and in many cases even cheaper than in other parts of Asia. You would do well to download taxi apps like Uber and Grab. These are cheap taxi apps where you can quickly and easily book a taxi that will pick you up at the location indicated by you. There are also plenty of local taxis in Malaysia, but these are generally a lot more expensive than Uber or Grab taxis and less safe too.
Public transportation such as the bus also works very easily in Malaysia. You can find all routes on Easybook.com, you will immediately see the departure times and the costs. The buses are all very clean and even quite luxurious. A long-distance ride costs around € 7.50.
The next option is to rent a scooter or car. Scooter rental companies are easy to find online and are generally quite cheap. You pay about RM30 per day for renting a scooter in Malaysia. In Kuala Lumpur you might not want to drive your scooter around. This city is pretty busy and crowded in the streets.
Malaysia is an excellent place to rent a car. The road network around the cities is fine for European standards and it is a fun way to explore the country in complete freedom. The rental cars are always fairly new and safe. The only condition for renting a car is that the driver must be at least 21 years old.
There are several car rental companies active where you can rent a car. The range of cars is almost the same, only the prices sometimes differ. So you should compare these well in advance. In general, you pay around € 35 per day for the cheapest model rental car in Malaysia. Please note that you need a credit card to rent a car.
What to do in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is a city with a huge range of activities to do. The City has vibrant neighborhoods, interesting sights, beautiful nature, and fairytale tropical islands on a one-hour flight. I have highlighted a number of special places for you.
Kuala Lumpur for a digital nomad
When visiting a cosmopolitan city like Kuala Lumpur, you may not immediately know where to start. The city is overwhelmingly large and there are fantastic sights.
There are a number of huge skyscrapers in Kuala Lumpur, called the Petronas Towers. A park has been built at the foot of these towers, the idea behind this park was to give Kuala Lumpur a bit more green. Nice to walk through and see the two imposing towers.
Another nice place to stroll through is: Chinatown, Chinatown is one of the liveliest places in Kuala Lumpur. Here you will find characteristic Chinese houses, where there is a typical Chinese market both in the evening and during the day. The market has a huge range of different cheap knickknacks and fake designer clothes. All in all a nice experience to walk through at your leisure.
Nightlife in Kuala Lumpur
You can party everywhere, every day. The big clubs like Zion, Zouk and Elysium are open every night till 3am, just like every bar in the main street Changkat Bukit Bintang (a must go!). This street houses restaurants, bars and clubs only. From sportbars and Irish pubs to Chinese clubs and Cuban cafes, you’ll find your favorite there for sure!
If you’re looking for something special, something a tourist wouldn’t find that easily (and a little bit more expensive), then you must visit one of the speakeasies of KL. My personal favorite is Suzie Wong, but you can also spend your money on cocktails at Tate or Mr.Brooks. There are many more, but it’s more fun when you discover them yourself when living there!
Batu Caves Kuala Lumpur
When you’re in Kuala Lumpur you probably heard of the Batu Caves. The biggest caves around town with a temple in side. With the painted stairs and the monkeys stealing your food, a very interesting place to go see!
Langkawi is one of the most famous islands in Malaysia. The island has become a real tourist magnet, and for good reason. Langkawi has beautiful beaches, luxury resorts, and beautiful jungles. You can do many activities such as diving, wildlife spotting, or exploring caves. Despite tourism, Langwaki is nice and quiet, an excellent opportunity to relax on the beautiful beaches and relax. Read all about Langkawi here.
Taman Negara is Malaysia’s largest and oldest rainforest. It is even older than the well-known Amazon rainforest. In the rainforest are huge old trees. Taman Negara is ideal for those who love wildlife and explore the area on foot or by longtail boat.
Useful information and facts
I have listed some useful information and facts about Malaysia for you.
The currency of Malaysia is called ringgit, the abbreviation used for this is RM The population itself regularly calls the currency Malaysian Dollar. 1 Malaysian ringgit equals € 0.22. An easy calculation for this is to simply divide your euro by 4’s.
Are you leaving for Malaysia soon? Then make sure you have the correct vaccinations and that you are well prepared for your trip. Regardless of length of stay, the following vaccinations are recommended for a trip to Malaysia: Vaccination against DTP and vaccination against hepatitis A
For longer stays in Malaysia, the following vaccinations are recommended: Vaccinations against Hepatitis B, and vaccinations against rabies, or rabies. Malaria also occurs in Malaysia. In addition to good anti-mosquito measures, it is recommended to take emergency treatment with malaria tablets with you.
Kuala Lumpur is a very versatile city with a large number of different cultures. The city is excellent for digital nomads because of its relatively cheap life and good facilities. As a digital nomad you will enjoy yourself in Kuala Lumpur, but also get your work done in the many coworking spots the city offers.
The tropical climate, the delicious food, and the enormous range of activities to do make Kuala Lumpur an excellent base for people who want to escape from the daily grind of life.