Spotlight on Expat Living – Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur – The Market
KL has always been one of my favourite cities in Asia. I just love the “personality” of the place – relatively compact, buzzing and a somewhat hilly city centre with many beautiful buildings including the iconic Petronas Twin Towers and excellent shopping (over 65 shopping malls). The city itself is the most populous in Malaysia with more than 1.5 million people, while greater Kuala Lumpur, also known as the Klang Valley, has a population of almost 6m. It is among the fastest growing metropolitan regions in the country, in terms of population and economy.

The city has approximately 30,000 expats – somewhat smaller than in other SE Asia cities but a significant market – and is the economic and business centre of the country. Kuala Lumpur is a centre for finance, insurance, real estate, media and the arts, and is recognised as the only “global city” in Malaysia. The city is well served by KL International Airport (KLIA) which is actually based quite a distance from KL (easily and cheaply accessed by train) with a full terminal devoted to Air Asia – the Easyjet of Asia!
On my recent visit I noted two government initiatives: the KL 2020 project is a plan to rejuvenate the City Centre with new buildings replacing older ones and the MM2H (Malaysia My 2nd Home) initiative designed to attract wealthy expats and retirees. The former has seen a rise in city centre office prices resulting in a number of businesses relocating from the centre while the latter will see an increasing number of wealthy (early) retirees coming to Malaysia. Attending a local property exhibition I was impressed with the number of ambitious city centre housing projects that were getting lots of genuine interest from punters. This is a city on the move.

For IFA businesses, recent regulatory changes mean that financial advisers must have 45 CII points (rising to 70 CII points by December 2014 – equivalent to full CEFA) while coordinators need to have 15 CII points. Work permits are now strictly enforced (cost $450 per annum) – you will need industry experience to gain one.
Kuala Lumpur – Living and Working there
Living in KL is affordable. You can certainly live comfortably on £2k per month. Expect to pay in the region of £500 for rent and around £25 for services (air con., water, electricity, etc.) per month. Food costs are on a par with the UK while taxis are relatively cheap. The integrated transport system (monorail, underground, taxis) makes it easy and cheap to get around. There are many excellent golf courses, expat clubs and pubs, and the city has a huge number of restaurants for all tastes with excellent value to be had in local eateries. The City also hosts many international sporting, political and cultural events and, of course, Formula One Grand Prix. On my recent visit I enjoyed watching the Lions clinch the series over a few beers at Ronnie Q’s in Bangsar followed by an excellent meal in a local Tapas restaurant. Wonderful!

People are friendly – Malaysia is rated 10th in the world for hospitality – and English is spoken widely. Add in an affordable lifestyle with world-class infrastructure and good weather and it is easy to see that KL is good for living and for working in. And it is getting better. Maybe you should check it out.

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