We got an amazing response when we published a special feature on life in Dubai for Indians. Since we do business in Malaysia too, we thought it'd be fair to do our bit for the new-age Indian professional packing his bag and flying to Malaysia with a job offer in hand. The country, which neighbors the sovereign city-state Singapore, has been developing at a rapid pace. And this is especially true for the startup scene there. Malaysia has seen the emergence of many new-age businesses, including eCommerce companies, tech startups, online media agencies, etc.
Now… how exactly is life in Malaysia for Indians? Here are 22 things that you should know before moving to Malaysia:
1) Tax Laws: The governments of India and Malaysia have signed agreements to avoid double taxation. In addition, the tax structure for expats in Malaysia is relatively simple and straightforward.
2) Money Transfer: In case you have dependents in India and need to transfer money to them, you would be glad to know that transferring money from Malaysia to India does not attract any income tax. However, you may have to check with your banks about the transfer fees.
3) Expenses: Malaysia is not that expensive as it is perceived to be. Here is a rough breakdown of the expenses (in MYR):
Electricity / Internet / Mobile: 250
Traveling / Transportation: 150
Food (Home + Out): 750
Leisure : 350
Total (per month): 2200
Married (w / spouse)
Electricity / Internet / Mobile: 400
Traveling / Transportation: 300
Food (Home + Out): 1200
Leisure : 600
Total (per month): 4300
Married (w / spouse & kids)
Electricity / Internet / Mobile: 550
Traveling / Transportation: 600
Food (Home + Out): 2250
Leisure : 1050
Total (per month): 6800
4) Passport: Just like it is in Dubai, the passport remains with you. Malaysian employers DO NOT confiscate your passport.
5) Visa Process: Malaysia has visa application centers in nearly all major Indian cities. The Malaysian visa process is quite straightforward and assuming you have all the required papers ready, the process will be hassle-free. If any dependents (wife, kids, parents, etc) are accompanying you to Malaysia, they too will require Malaysian visas.
6) Distance By Air: Malaysia is quite near to India and depending on where you live, the maximum time that you will take is around 5.5 hrs. Here's more information on the time taken to travel from India to Malaysia:
Chennai to Kuala Lumpur – 3h 50m
Bangalore to Kuala Lumpur – 4h 10m
Mumbai to Kuala Lumpur – 5h 5m
New Delhi to Kuala Lumpur – 5h 25m
One more thing that you should note is that usually a majority of firms provide a return-ticket yearly to your hometown (two for senior level positions).
7) Housing: Kuala Lumpur has many exquisite yet affordable residential areas. Depending on your budget/requirements, you can easily rent a flat for MYR 700 to MYR 2300. Notable areas include Ampang, Bangsar, Brickfields (sometimes unofficially referred to as Little India), Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI), Damansara Heights, and Mont Kiara. In case you are planning to shift to Malaysia for a very long period, it is a good idea to buy a property there.
8) Schooling: There are plenty of schools for expat children in Malaysia. While there is one school offering Indian curricula (CBSE), there are many schools offering International Baccalaureate (IB) and International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) in Malaysia.
9) Clothing: Though perceived as an Islamic country, Malaysia is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural and this reflects in what people wear. Depending on the area that you visit, you will see expats, especially females, wearing modern attire, such as jeans, skirts, and even tank tops.
10) Entertainment: Malaysia scores high on entertainment, since it is a popular destination for expats as well as tourists. Major cities, including KL, have world-class nightclubs, lounges, and high end restaurants. Malaysia also hosts a Formula One Grand Prix. Most multiplexes show Bollywood movies too, in addition to the regular Hollywood fare. While alcohol is available in Malaysia at most places, it is banned in Kelantan and Terengganu. Usually, most expats are put up in KL, which has its own 'Hop-on Hop-Off' tour bus that showcases nearly 40 attractions in the city.
11) Language: While the official language is Bahasa Malaysia, English is the language of choice when it comes to professional working environments. In addition to expats from other countries, there are many Indian emigrants, which ensures you will find people speaking languages such as Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Tamil, etc. This is true when you are socializing.
12) Commuting/Transport: In addition to good connectivity with Singapore and other ASEAN countries, Malaysia also has good transport infrastructure. Kuala Lumpur has an integrated rail network and one of the world's longest automated driverless metro systems. There is also a monorail service, and you can always use a carpool or a taxi for daily commutes. Malaysia has good network of roads and expressways, ensuring you can easily travel within the country, whether on business or a leisure trip.
13) Cars: Sufficient parking space and great infrastructure make Malaysia a good place to own a car. You can easily get a nice pre-owned sedan / MUV for around 600 MYR a month. In case, you have a higher budget, you can go for a good SUV too. The petrol prices are relatively cheaper.
14) Food Options: Most F&B chains and QSR (quick service restaurants) have a presence in Malaysia. Being a country that is home to many expats, you can enjoy many types of cuisines here. In addition, there are many Indians (mostly Tamil) living in this country, which ensures that you can enjoy Indian cuisine too. Vegetarians can easily find the cuisine/food of their choice. The country also has mamak food stalls, some of which operate through the night.
15) Security: Malaysia is a relatively safe country, especially Kuala Lumpur. Many expats who have lived here have told us that it is much more secure than Mumbai or Chennai or Bangalore. You can easily go out and enjoy the nightlife.
16) Religion: While the official religion of Malaysia is Islam, the constitution guarantees freedom of religion. The country is quite cosmopolitan, and people from all religions live cordially. Malaysia has many mosques, temples, churches, and even gurdwaras.
17) People: Similar to the Middle East, Malaysia sees many expats from the sub-continent (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh). Comprising many ethnicities, the local population is friendly and gets along with expatriates.
18) Tourist Places: Malaysia is a top tourist destination (ninth most visited place in the world) and offers you lots of things do. While it is home to the world’s tallest twin towers, the country has many exotic tourist spots and islands that you can visit on weekends/holidays. If you are someone who likes to explore nature, Malaysia is the place for you. Be it scuba diving or visiting nature reserves, you will find it here.
19) Shopping: Malaysia hosts a shopping festival every year between July and September. It also has hundreds of malls and supermarkets, which provide an international experience whether you are buying groceries, home furnishings, or electronics.
20) Medical Expenses: Healthcare in Malaysia is quite affordable and in fact the country is becoming a destination for medical tourism.
21) Holidays: Just like India, Malaysia has many public holidays. It has one of the highest numbers of public holidays in the world! Barring a few states, most companies in Malaysia have weekly offs on Saturdays and Sundays.
22) Climate: Malaysia enjoys a tropical climate throughout the year, which means you can expect uniform temperature, high humidity, and abundant rainfall. The average temperature hovers around 27C.