My goal as you know is finding the best countries to retire for $1000 a month. How did Kuala Lumpur stack up for costs? Here’s my detailed breakdown. Arrived at airport. Bought a SIM card for my phone $20 (60rm). Took the skyAero bus to Kl Sentral $4 (11 rm). Took the LRT from there to Sri Rampai station $2 (6rm).
Most days I’d eat out. Every Wednesday I’d buy a 3 piece chicken at Texas chicken. This came with 3 pieces of chicken, a soda, a biscuit and fries $6 (18 rm). I’d eat the biscuit, fries and the smallest piece of chicken. The other two pieces would be eaten with rice at home for 2 more meals. I also liked grabbing a 6 inch sub from Subway $2 (7 rm). This would be two small meals. On average food for the month was $5 (15 rm) a day. I did splurge and go to a massive buffet it was $20 (60rm). I know $20 (60rm) doesn’t sound like a lot if you’re reading this with your North American brain, but remember my food budget is $5 (15) for a day normally.
There were quite a few days that I went exploring Kuala Lumpur. This is when I discovered it was truly a very boring city. It’s full of malls, but not much else. Boring isn’t necessarily bad. Boring is safe, quiet and easy to get around. The highlight was Chinatown (subway stop kj14), it had everything I’ve grown to love about South east Asia. Cheap bowls of wonton soup for $2 (6rm), knockoff bags and lots of massage places. If you’re ever in Kuala Lumpur for a day, I’d visit here. Transit costs were $3 (9rm) each way. The transit here is world class and I have nothing bad to say about it.
Every Wednesday was movie day. Knowing that Malaysia has heavy censorship (read my article on censorship), I stuck to mostly pg 13 movies. A movie here is $3 (9rm) on Wednesdays. Bring a jacket! They like to crank the AC to 16 degrees.
Sin! Beers from the grocery store are $3 (9rm), but if you stick to hard liquor from Asia it’s $8 (24 rm) for 26 ounces. Not bad at all. Ironically I drank a lot of Thai whiskey and rum. Way more than I drank in Thailand. Side note if you smoke like one of my roommates did. It’s $6 a pack (17 rm). I never really went to pubs, but I’d occasionally get a beer at a restaurant. They were $4-$7 (12 rm-21). If you have a favorite liquor brand bring it yourself. Imported booze costs about $50 (150 rm) for 26 ounces (I’m talking to you Miss “I only drink Captain Morgan’s” Wickberg).
Massages. I loved massage prices in Thailand and the Philippines. The massages here were relatively expensive. They cost $20 (60 rm)half an hour for a bargain basement massage in Chinatown. I also went to a super fancy spa in Bukit Bintang for $70 (213 rm)because I figured if they were going to be expensive anyways I’d really go for it. The fancy spas here include all sorts of things like use of the jacuzzis, movie theatres,and internet surfing. Think of it as adult playground. The massage is one hour but you can stay in the facilities for as long as you like. They had free non alcoholic drinks like tea, water, soda. You could also buy beers and other alcoholic drinks. I bought a Guiness stout $4 (12 rm). (In grocery stores that beer is $3(9rm). That’s the craziest thing, don’t be fooled by the spa title. It was a relaxing playground, not a “health” facility. You’d walk in, use the jacuzzi get a massage, hang out drink beer, and then maybe get a pedicure. They also had a nice collection of fruits from around Asia to try that’s included with the massage. (I liked the assortment from Vietnam.)I’d say a spa here is the equivalent or better than a $250 (750 rm)spa in North America. I went twice and loved it both times.
Gym. Even though there was a free gym in my condo I snuck into the Celebrity fitness gym for a week with their trial pass. They have a bunch of payment options for people who actually will be staying here for a year. A membership is roughly $60 (180 rm) a month. (A great gym, read my gym article about it.)
Reading. I subscribed to Kindle unlimited and it was free for a month. I’m definitely keeping it, so that would be $10(30rm).
My apartment. My apartment was an Airbnb and it was $450 (1350 rm) for a room. It actually was a pretty good deal because of the pool and the gym. Looking online at apartment rentals I found this price right inline based on a yearly room rental. A cheap air conditioned hotel in Chinatown was $20 (60 rm). An even cheaper option was a single bed in a 2 star inn with a fan for $13 (39rm).
Final total $1200 (3600 rm) spent for a month here. I hated Kuala Lumpur when I first came here, but after my time I grew to like this bustling Muslim city. I’m definitely putting Kuala Lumpur on my “Maybe” retire cheap here list. It’s a bit more expensive than my $1000, but it has a few bonus things going for it.
Bonus reasons for Kuala Lumpur
- No extreme poverty. I wasn’t constantly beset upon by beggars.
- Great weather. It’s hot but not as humid as other countries, more of a muggy heat.
- It’s a flight hub. Lots of flights in and out of here. I wish I had planned my trip to Bali better. To get to Bali from Hong Kong , I’m actually flying back through here.
- 90 day Visa on arrival. Much better than other places with a 30 day visa on arrival.
I’d never recommend coming to Kuala Lumpur as a tourist. It’s dull, has nothing to see and is Muslim. But there are a good reasons to recommend retiring cheap here. I hope this article helped you with your quest of finding the best country to retire cheap. Scroll to the bottom of the page for more tips and articles on finding the cheapest places to retire. And if you liked the article, please share on social media (I’d love it if you did!)