Relocation to Malaysia: The Do's and Don'ts As An Expat

Afnan Zafar

Afnan Zafar


So you’re making the big move to Malaysia. Unfortunately, there is no specific roadmap for you to follow to make your relocation to any one of the popular Malaysian cities, Kuala Lumpur (KL), Johor or Penang, go unequivocally smoother. There are plenty of tips and tricks you should make note of, however, to make your transition a (semi) flawless one. Here are the Do’s and Don’t you should know before moving to Malaysia.



When it comes to finding the perfect neighbourhood in Malaysia, expats often have distinct preferences based on their lifestyle and needs. A key consideration is proximity – whether it's to the city centre, workplace, or university. Accessibility is a priority, with convenient access to LRT and MRT stations, as well as essential amenities like convenience stores, shopping malls, and restaurants.

For those seeking a well-rounded urban experience, several areas around the Klang Valley stand out as favourites among expats looking for residential properties:

  • The Vibrant Golden Triangle: Situated at the heart of Kuala Lumpur, the Golden Triangle is a hotspot for expats due to its vibrant lifestyle.

  • Damansara Heights: Just a short 10-kilometre distance from the city centre, Damansara Heights presents an ideal setting for a comfortable expat stay.

  • Family-Friendly Mont Kiara: Nestled northwest of KL, this neighbourhood boasts a variety of international schools and a diverse range of restaurants catering to foreign palates although public transport might be a challenge here.

  • Charming Bangsar: With its picturesque ambiance and beautiful bungalows, Bangsar captures the essence of a tranquil neighbourhood while being just a 10-minute drive from the city centre. Similar to Mont Kiara, public transport might be challenging too.

  • Ampang's International Appeal: Positioned on the northeast side of KL, Ampang is a favoured location for expats due to its concentration of foreign embassies, international schools, and healthcare facilities. Secure condominiums add to the allure of convenient living.If you're considering a move to Johor or Penang, these are the areas that expats often gravitate towards. In Penang, options like Batu Ferringhi, Tanjung Bungah, Straits Quay, and more offer a mix of convenience and attractions.

In Johor, locations such as Iskandar Puteri, Permas Jaya, and Puteri Harbour are favoured for their amenities and expat-friendly environment.

It’s advisable to use a real estate agent to find suitable accommodation that fits your budget and preferences. For a better convenience, consider exploring dedicated platforms that offer a comprehensive range of options such as iPropertyPropertyGuruMudahiBilik



⁠Having a car in Malaysia is a must. But as an expat in Malaysia, owning a car can present significant challenges, with the biggest ones being getting a loan approved and ensuring that you're getting a quality car. The loan itself involves complex paperwork with you paying higher interest rates, making car ownership financially burdensome.

Even if you can obtain a loan and buy a car, maintaining your new or used car comes with unnecessary, hefty expenses because mechanics think you’re an easy target. On top of it, uncertainties about your length of stay and the hassle of selling your car, for a massive loss, when leaving isn’t ideal. 

A car subscription can solve all your problems.

FLUX offers an all-inclusive car subscription service that allows you to enjoy all the benefits of owning a car without the hassle, financial burden and commitment of traditional ownership. You pay one monthly price and everything is taken care of.

First, choose from a wide range of independently inspected 5 star vehicles. You can find everything from an economical compact car to luxury sedans and MPVs, even electric ones.

The service is designed for expats as you can subscribe for 1 month to 5 years, and if you want to cancel or extend it there are no hefty penalties. In addition, FLUX includes a concierge service to carry out the pickups and deliveries for servicing and maintenance, so you never have to step foot into a workshop.

Most importantly, there is no downpayment, no car loan, and no interest costs. FLUX bundles everything in a fixed monthly package, including insurance, road tax, maintenance, and even wear & tear. 

You can browse their full range of cars HERE and discover how FLUX has helped expats ‘own’ a car in Malaysia, worry-free.


Malaysia fosters a vibrant and flourishing expat community across cities like Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Ipoh, and Penang. These locations offer a diverse mix of cultures, and you'll find a host of Facebook groups catering to expat needs. Whether it's seeking advice on the best internet provider or locating a quality butcher, these groups have you covered. Managed by seasoned expatriates, many of whom are retirees with years of experience, these platforms offer firsthand insights into life in Malaysia.

Also, say 'Yes!' as often as possible to invitations, events, and making locals who can help you with many nuances and enrich your understanding of the country you're living in along the way.

Some of the most used groups in Facebook for expats in Malaysia are:

Expats - MalaysiaKL Expat MalaysiaJohor Bahru Expat CommunityExpat in Penang



Taxis, once a reliable mode of transport, can now be a source of inconvenience for expats in Malaysia. From exorbitant fares, safety concerns to the increasing difficulty of finding an available taxi, the traditional taxi experience has lost its charm. Foreigners often fall victim to overcharging or lengthy routes, leaving them frustrated.

To sidestep these issues, turn to modern solutions like ride-hailing apps such as Grab or AirAsia Ride. The simplicity of booking rides through your smartphone, real-time tracking, and hassle-free payments redefine your travel experience. However, bear in mind that ride-hailing can be pricey depending on traffic and demand, so while you escape the uncertainties of taxis, it's wise to plan your budget accordingly.


Expats planning to open a bank account in Malaysia can find the process straightforward, provided they have the correct supporting documents.

To begin, gather the necessary documents to support your application. This typically includes proof of identification in the form of a passport, documentation of your legal status in Malaysia (like a work permit and a letter from your employer), and proof of Malaysian residence, which can be substantiated through utility bills or bank statements in your name.

Visiting a bank in person is generally required for foreign customers to initiate the account opening process. Some instances may also necessitate an introduction to the bank, requiring you to seek assistance from someone who is already a customer of the chosen bank. This introduction aids in streamlining the account setup process and establishes a sense of trust with the bank.

Notably, different banks have varying requirements. For instance, leading local banks like MaybankPublic Bank, and CIMB may have specific documentation criteria. Similarly, international banks such as Standard CharteredHSBC, and UOB (which has recently acquired CITI's retail banking operations) also offer account opening services tailored for foreign residents.



To legally drive in Malaysia, expats must hold a Malaysian driving licence. Expats with existing licences from certain countries can convert them to Malaysian licences, avoiding the need for driving school. The process applies to expats on MM2H, RPT, EP1, or EP2 visas, and includes spouses. An International Driving Licence/Permit remains valid for 90 days upon entering Malaysia.

Eligibility and Process:

  • Expats on specific visas, including spouses, can convert licences at JPJ branches or headquarters in Putrajaya.

  • Licence conversion is for class B2 (motorcycle) and class D (car).

  • Valid foreign licences from countries with treaties/agreements with Malaysia are eligible.

  • Licence holders must have a Long/Short Term Social Visit Pass, be on the MM2H programme, or be married to a Malaysian citizen.

  • A valid foreign licence equivalent to a Malaysian CDL or PDL is required.

  • Non-English licences need verified translations.

  • Conversion steps: Visit main JPJ office, present documents, receive appointment, submit documents, and collect licence.

  • Renewal is easy at nearby branches for a fee.

Check regularly at JPJ website for checking of your eligibility based on nationalities as well as any change in the process. 


When in Malaysia, it's essential to avoid drinking tap water. While the local water treatment facilities work diligently to provide clean water, it's recommended to err on the side of caution. The tap water might be safe for locals who have built up an immunity to local microbes, but it can potentially cause stomach discomfort for newcomers. Factors like differing mineral content and contaminants could lead to discomfort or digestive issues in those not accustomed to them.

To ensure your hydration and well-being, consider using alternative water sources. Boiling tap water is a common method to make it safe for consumption, but it's not always the most convenient. For a hassle-free solution, you can opt for a water filter system like CowayAmway, or Cuckoo. These systems are designed to remove impurities, ensuring that you have access to clean and purified water. By taking this simple precaution, you can enjoy your time in Malaysia without worrying about potential health concerns related to tap water.


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