The best places to live and buy property in Malaysia

By Derek Uittenbroek | Buying Property

best places to live in Malaysia

Malaysia stands as the perfect example of unity in diversity. It’s the exciting hodgepodge of cultures and traditions that make this country so accepting and welcoming of foreigners. If you ever consider relocating to or within Asia, Malaysia should definitely top the list!

Its cities and towns are many, with each one having its own distinct charm. Whether you plan on investing in your own home or merely living in Malaysia as a stopover, there’s bound to be an area here in the country that’s perfect for you.

This list highlights just a few of the wonders in the country where you can live, work and call home:

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC). Source: wikipedia.com

Kuala Lumpur in a mere 200 years has transformed from a humble village that dealt with tin-mining to a prosperous metropolitan that’s on par with the biggest, most advanced cities in the world.

The capital of the country with a whopping 1.7 million population, this metropolis perfectly merges the ideas of a modern living with the natural, traditional flair Malaysia is known for (source).

The commercial and cultural hub of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur has seen unprecedented growth in all sectors, particularly property investment.

Kuala Lumpur is home to the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, and is one of the three federal territories in the country.

With top-class universities, housing developments, and a cosmopolitan crowd, this city offers one of the best lifestyles in the South-East Asian region (source).

Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC)

KLCC houses the Petronas Twin Towers, and is the main commercial area in the city.

From luxurious high-rise apartments to busy office buildings, shopping complexes to five-star hotels, this area is centrally located and the perfect idea of an urban lifestyle.

KL Sentral

With the main railway station of Kuala Lumpur located here, this is the Malaysian version of Grand Central Terminal in New York.

You can catch a bus to Singapore, shop at the mall right next door or eat at your favourite F&B outlets right at the station itself.

There are also a few residential condos and loads of office towers in the area.

Bangsar

This is a relatively peaceful enclave quite close to the city centre, with residential homes, pubs, cafes and small boutiques around the area.

As an older development, there are not many high-rise buildings in the area, with property prices a little on the higher end.

Mont Kiara

Nicknamed a true expat bubble, this is a suburb on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur that’s currently undergoing major property endeavours.

You’re bound to find any type of property you’re looking for at a reasonable price. This area, a safe and harmonious settlement, is perfect for young families as there are numerous international schools in the vicinity.

Damansara Perdana

In recent years this area has caught the eye of investors due to the rapid increase of commercial and residential developments.

Conveniently situated near Taman Tun Dr Ismail and Mutiara Damansara, this area includes shopping malls, great eateries and a great future in real-estate.

Ampang

With major foreign embassies lining the clean streets of Ampang, this area is home to the diplomatic and elite crowd in the city.

Landed residential homes are common, with a few serviced apartments and apartment complexes as well.

There are also a couple of international schools in Ampang, though the traffic can be bad during peak hours.

Still unsure about where in KL to live? Check out this guide on the top 10 places to live in KL.

Selangor

Subang Jaya in Selangor. Source: wikipedia.com

One of the richest states in Malaysia, Selangor is a highly developed region in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur with great infrastructure.

Selangor offers a blend of modernity and traditionalism, and with it having the highest GDP in Malaysia, there’s loads of property potential in this state (source).

While the minimum purchasing price for foreigners in the state is the highest (RM 2 million), the convenience and resources offered might help with the buying decision.

From international schools, universities and entertainment outlets to great healthcare, good business opportunities and a fast growing economy, Selangor truly has it all.

Klang

This royal town in the state of Selangor is favoured by many for it’s great food scene, industrial projects and the main gateway of Malaysia via sea - Port Klang.

Puchong

Puchong is a major town in Selangor that is slowly developing. MRT lines are in construction currently to help with connectivity around the area, and this is certainly helping the property market in Puchong (source).

Petaling Jaya

Starting off as a small township, Petaling Jaya has grown rapidly over the years to reach city status, and is a well-liked choice for many who want to live and work in Malaysia.

One of the first planned cities in the country, it’s very convenient to commute to KL, is involved in many residential developments and is also a major business district.

Seri Kembangan

This local village has certainly changed in the past few years. With resorts, malls and major international schools in the vicinity, Seri Kembangan is gaining popularity amongst locals and expats.

Shah Alam

Shah Alam is the state capital of Selangor, and is an excellent choice for those who don't want to live in KL but want to get a taste of the ‘city-life’.

Many local universities have their base in this area, along with recreational centres. Property prices are quite affordable in this city.

Subang Jaya

Subang Jaya is a residential area where you can find both bungalows, row houses and high rise condominiums. It’s a popular choice for families as it has many schools, both local and international, universities and even a water-theme park!

Penang

Penang skyline. Source: wikipedia.com

Offering a slow-paced life yet with all the amenities one could require, this island is a favourite for many. It’s dubbed the ‘Silicon Valley of the East’ because of its manufacturing plants and growing industries, with investments pouring in from all over (source).

Recently, Penang has overtaken the Klang Valley as being the preferred choice for property investment! (source)

A tourist attraction and a commercial haven, this coastal area is rich in history and culture. From local sea-food to western delights, I can vouch for the amazing food you can eat here in Penang.

Other than food, Penang’s strong points include its scenic views, traditional architecture and it’s preservation of nature.

Having lived in Penang for over 5 years, I can truly say it's a great place to live!

Georgetown

One drive around Georgetown and you’ll be rewarded with great architecture and a history lesson worth remembering. A perfect blend of Asian and Europeans influences, this state capital offers the best in shopping, business and education.

Batu Ferringhi

This suburb in Penang is a hit with tourists due to its beautiful beaches, resorts and sports activities. The urbanisation of this small town has led to the development of many hotels and residential units as well. Living here means you get a great view of the Indian Ocean.

Gurney Drive

This popular waterfront is teeming with food stalls, shopping arcades, restaurants and commercial centres. With the construction of so many high rise buildings and malls, Gurney Drive can be seen as another business district in Penang city.

Tanjung Bungah

Previously a quaint fishing village, this area has developed to be a great beach destination with numerous shopping malls and hotels. Ideally located to commute to Georgetown and with residential properties in abundance, many expatriates call Tanjung Bungah home.

Bayan Lepas

The majority of multinational factories are situated here, with loads of residential apartments and condominiums on the rise. This area also has a lot of shopping malls, and is easily connected to Georgetown via the Bayan Lepas Expressway.

Butterworth

This is the more industrial region in the state, with it being the main terminal for the Penang ferry, and for buses and trains not passing through mainland Penang. While not much in terms of tourist attractions due to its industrialised nature, this area offers a quiet, practical way of living.

Johor

Johor Bahru Sentral. Source: wikipedia.com

This Malaysian state is not only popular with locals but very much so with Singaporeans as well due to it’s close proximity to the country.

Johor started off as a rubber plantation that slowly emerged into being one of the most advanced states in Malaysia. Till recently, Johor was also the country’s largest palm oil producer.

Thanks to all the investment pouring into the region, Johor is urbanised and well structured, yet maintaining it’s local charm. Family entertainment centres, nature retreats, commercial hubs, education institutions…there’s nothing you can’t find in Johor (source).

Johor Bahru

Having strong ties with Singapore, this state capital in a matter of few years has gained immense popularity and is highly developed.

In fact, you can find many local Malaysians complaining of the higher prices in the area. Johor also contains a lot of factories, particularly of the electronics kind.

Iskandar Malaysia

Almost two times larger than Singapore in size, this zone initiated by the Government for foreign investment is the major development region in Johor.

Not only is there progress in terms of commercial and recreational endeavours (this area is home to Asia’s first Legoland), but also residential complexes that are meant to expand people’s way of life through less crime rates, safety features for the disabled and more affordable living (source).

Pasir Gudang

Pasir Guang is an industrial town with a population of about a hundred thousand. Here you can find the Pasir Guang Kite Museum that hosts annual kite fairs and also the Johor Racing Circuit, one of Malaysia’s first racing track.

Muar

Muar has been awarded the status of a royal town in Johor, and is home to Malaysia’s best furniture companies. A well-known destination for tourists, Muar gives you a taste of old-fashioned pre-war buildings and delicious street side food.

Kluang

For those of you with a penchant for farming, this place might suit you very well! Known for it’s organic produce, Kluang has attracted great investments. You can find many international outlets such as Starbucks and Subway in this district.

Mersing

If you’re heading to the famous Tioman Islands, then chances are you’re definitely stopping by the small town of Mersing. Here you’ll discover the perfect island life, with small locally owned restaurants, jungle treks and picturesque beaches.

Melaka

Melaka. Source: www.flickr.com/photos/ahweilungwei/

History fanatics rejoice! Melaka is known for being the ‘historic state’ in the country. Buildings hold architectural finesse, and the food here speaks volumes of the nice blend of cultures this state has seen (source).

Originally a small fishing town where the Orang Laut used to live, Melaka opened up its doors for investment and has gradually become modernised.

Still, it does hold its roots dearly, and every spot in the state has some historic presence. Melaka City was named as a World Heritage Site by Unesco, and you can find strong influences of the Dutch, Portuguese and British as well.

Melaka also specialises in medical tourism, with people from Indonesia and Singapore opting to come here for any medical woes (source).

Bandar Hilir

Bandar Hillir located in central Melaka is the more bustling part of the city. You can take a trishaw ride around the area, shop at a few malls and go on a small cruise ride in the river.

Klebang

Again a beach town, Klebang provides breathtaking views of the Strait of Malacca. You can find mid-rise apartments and landed properties in the zone.

Ayer Keroh

A small town in Melaka, Ayer Keroh does have a lot of wildlife attractions such as the Melaka Zoo, butterfly park, crocodile farm, etc. You will also come across many medical students studying in the renowned Melaka Manipal Medical College in the area.

Alor Gajah

Alor Gajah is famous for the A Famosa Resort that is a blend of Malaysian and Portuguese artistry, and has it’s very own waterpark and animal safari!

Melaka City

The state capital, Melaka City offers tourists and locals alike a gateway into discovering Melaka. Melaka City is one of the oldest cities in Malaysia, but that hasn’t stopped it from developing into an urban landscape.

Be sure to check out the riverside cafes and restaurants next to the Melaka River that runs through the city.

Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu. Source: wikipedia.com

This city on the island of Borneo is the state capital of Sabah, and is deemed one of Malaysia’s fastest growing cities. A little isolated from the rest of the bigger cities, Kota Kinabalu is known for having chockablock traffic and lively people that add to its island charm.

One must visit the many night markets this city hosts, and also get a taste of the great historical buildings and conservation areas Kota Kinabalu has preserved.

With many state schools, two international schools and numerous hospitals, Kota Kinabalu is certainly developing to become one of the nation’s pride.

Likas

Likas is a region in KK (Kota Kinabalu) that’s risen to fame because of the various universities, government buildings and recreational centres in the area. The Likas Bay is a great development that has a few high-rise condos and terraced homes.

Sepanggar

Sepanggar acts as a naval base for the Royal Malaysian Army, and due to this has seen significant development in the district.

Residential and commercial properties, some developed, some under construction, are sprouting around, along with Borneo’s biggest mall, 1Borneo.

Also, Malaysia’s principle submarine base is situated in Sepanggar’s port as well…great potential in this tiny region (source).

Donggongon

I assure you, this town is not quite as complicated as its name! Instead, it’s a place that’s home to about 100,000 people and has art galleries, karaoke bars and restaurants linings its streets.

This town also has the longest mall in Sabah, and the International Technology and Commercial Centre (ITCC) will soon be completed in the area (source).

Tanjung Aru

One trip to this beach town, and you’ll understand why people swear by it. From crystal clear waters to food stalls lining the coast, Tanjung Aru is known for its sunsets, resorts and increasing urbanisation.

Kuching

Kuching. Source: wikipedia.com

The capital of state of Sarawak, Kuching is all open arms for foreign investment.

Slowly developing into a property hotspot, Kuching offers tourists and locals a starting point to explore the attractions and culture of Sarawak and Sabah.

The fourth largest city in Malaysia, Kuching mixes modern urbanity with traditional style.

The state of Sarawak is rich in natural resources, and due to this the Government is very welcoming of foreign investment.

Kuching has seen an accelerated growth in its economy, with a rise in housing developments, shopping malls and commercial zones. What’s more, the minimum property purchase price for foreigners is lower in Sarawak, making it a top spot for expats to settle in.

Jalan Padungan

This ‘jalan’ has seen a lot of improvement in the last decade, with various shop-lots and residential units adding to its beauty. It’s situated in the city centre of Kuching, with a recreation park and beautifully designed buildings to its name.

Kuching Waterfront

This 900 metre stretch has been transformed from a bunch of warehouses to one of the city’s most thriving areas.

Retail outlets, hotels and cafes span the length of the boardwalk, with the Sarawak river accompanying it. High-rise condos are also a feature added to this area due to the land reclamation project that extended the waterfront (source).

Batu Kawa

Here’s a fun fact about this suburb: it is known for being populated with hornet nests! What makes this place actually noteworthy is the Batu Kawa New Township (source).

This is a development featuring a ‘modern garden’ feel, with public amenities, schools, residential units and even a hospital.

There are also future plans of improving this infrastructure, and is seen as a great investment option.

Ipoh

Ipoh. Source: www.flickr.com/photos/phalinn

A short two hour drive away from Kuala Lumpur and Penang, you can certainly find many people sipping on a nice cup of ‘Ipoh White Coffee’ in the many cafes and restaurants this city has.

Again, starting off as a mining town, though it hasn’t gained the popularity that Kuala Lumpur has, people are slowly and surely seeing the growth potential in the region. This quaint town is untouched by modern evils as of now, and is a great retirement home.

Many people find it a lot more affordable to buy property in Ipoh than in it’s neighbouring cities (source). What’s more, property prices are increasing in the area (an annual appreciation of around 11%), so now’s a great time to invest those funds!

Bercham

Bercham is a suburb just outside Ipoh City that has seen a lot of real estate development of the residential kind. More than half of its land mass is used for industry and housing purposes, with many state-governed schools in the area as well.

Menglembu

One of the oldest towns in Ipoh, this bustling city is home to most of the Chinese descendants. Finding authentic Chinese food is no issue here. Property types include small, bungalow houses, mid-rise flats and high-rise condos.

Bandar Meru Raya

This new township around 10 km away from the city centre is a self sufficient development that has an international school, scores of residential properties (Meru Valley is quite popular!), and is set to host government buildings for various Ministries.

And there you have it…a small taste of what Malaysia has to offer. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does stand as a starting point for your adventure in this country.

What's your favourite place in Malaysia?

Do you have a favourite place to live in Malaysia? Know of any good property prospects in a particular state?

Do leave your comments in the space down below! And don’t forget to share as well.

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About the Author

I'm a Dutch-born property enthusiast who spent a good part of my youth in Penang, Malaysia. Besides being a founder @ PropertyLife, I have experience in financial services both at start-up and corporate level. I founded and sold FundTheGap and I'm ex-Accenture, where I worked for some of the world's biggest banks. Besides property, my main interests include technology, entrepreneurship, internet marketing, travelling and generally all things 'disruptive innovation'.