Malaysia for Digital Nomads
Malaysia for digital nomads? I’ve been to Kuala Lumpur twice this year and I’m planning to return to Malaysia to get to know other parts soon – most of all Penang with the old town Georgetown, which I hear is beautiful and awesome for expats and digital nomads. I really liked that it’s a melting pot and therefor an open-minded country.
Facts about Malaysia
The climate in Malaysia is tropical, warm and sunny, but with abundant rainfall. The most rain falls during the northeast monsoon between October and March.
Malaysia is a bit of a mix between the two countries it’s nestled between: Singapore and Thailand. The capital, Kuala Lumpur, with its famous twin towers, which are the highest in the world, and impressive malls, has many modern aspects similar to Singapore.
But Malaysia isn’t as expensive as Singapore. The prices are more comparable to Thailand. Additionally, Malaysia has a range of beautiful islands that are worth a visit.
Because the country is so multi-cultural, people are very open-minded and welcoming. There is no racism, no discrimination, no prejudice against other lifestyles. This is one of the reasons why it is a perfect place for digital nomads. Even if you’re not surrounded by other nomads the whole time, you will not feel like an alien because of your “strange idea of working while traveling.”
The majority of the country is Muslim. You should get informed about local traditions, customs, laws and religions and always respect them. This is especially important during the holy month of Ramadan, other religious festivals or if you want to visit a religious site.
Another advantage is the (almost) lack of a language barrier. Although not the official language (which is Bahasa Melayu), English is spoken by almost everybody. When I asked an UBER driver in Kuala Lumpur why, he was surprised and just said, “Well, we just speak English all the time! We have to speak it well.”
For me, all this makes Malaysia a destination worth a closer look and a longer stay than just a one-day visa run to Kuala Lumpur.
Information about entry and departure
If your nationality is not exempt and you are required to apply for a visa, you’ll have to do it from your home country before hitting the road.
Regardless of visa requirements, remember that your passport needs to be valid for six months after your departure date. If it’s not, the airline may not allow you to board the plane or immigration authorities may not allow you to enter Malaysia.
There are no arrival cards to complete, but you will have to give your fingerprint.
Safety in Malaysia
Money in Malaysia
Almost every ATM accepts withdrawal by credit card, and ATMs are everywhere, but there may be fees.
Beware of scammers trying to clone your card and empty your bank account. The only solution is to be prepared with several credit cards ready – just in case!
If you want to exchange cash, you also have to be careful not to get ripped off!
Wi-Fi in Malaysia is not the best. You will probably have ok Wi-Fi at your Airbnb, hotel or hostel. If you choose to try one, your coworking space will definitely have good Wi-Fi. But in general, I was pretty disappointed by Wi-Fi in KL and had much better connections in Bali, Thailand, and Singapore.
My conclusion: If you rely on stable and fast internet, I recommend you not use WI-FI.
Coverage can be pretty good in most areas of the peninsula, but it’s very patchy, even on 2G, on remote islands or Borneo.
If you don’t get your prepaid card right at the airport, you should be able to get one at a Maxis retailer or a convenience store such as 7-Eleven. You can get the starter pack labeled FAST for 10 Ringgit with 5 Ringgit of credit valid for 5 days and 300 MB data valid for 3 days. I got a tourist package at the airport for about 50 Ringgit with 5 GB valid for two weeks.
Living in Malaysia as a Digital Nomad
Airbnb*, hostels, and hotels are all great options for short term stays. Prices vary based on amenities and location. Dorm beds typically start from 15 Ringgit per night, while an Airbnb apartment rental in or around Kuala Lumpur will start from 30 Ringgit per night, although you can get better deals for longer stays. If you want to try House Sitting*: Go for it! I saw many opportunities for a month in KL or Penang in the past and will definitely try to get a house sitting gig myself next time I’ll be there.
For intercity travel, the bus is the best option. In the metropolitan areas of the country, you can use Grab without a problem. For a 30 minute ride, it would come to about 15 Ringgit. In places where they don’t have Uber your best bet would be a scooter. You can rent one for little money.
Coworking Spaces in Malaysia
20 Words/Phrases That Will be Useful for Digital Nomads in Malaysia
|Excuse me…||Maafkan saya…|
|Where is …?||Di mana….?|
|My name is …?||Name saya ….?|
|I don’t speak Malay||Saya tidak faham..bahasa Melayu. (don’t understand)|
|Do you speak English?||Kamu faham bahasa English? (understand)|
|I am German.||Saya orang German. (people)|
|Could you help me?||Bolehkah kamu tolong saya?|
|I need …||Saya perlu ….|
|Water||Air (ausgesprochen Ayeh)|
|How much is?||Ini harga berapa?|
|Shopping mall||Pusat Membeli-belah (oder einfach Shopping Mall)|
The Numbers in Bahasa Melayu