Money & Cost

Money & Cost

Hosting more than 150,000 international students from over 140 countries annually, one of the main advantages of studying in Malaysia is affordability. The capital city of Kuala Lumpur was even named the second most affordable city for students, yet without compromising on the high quality of life on offer.

While your actual monthly expenses would depend on your accommodation’s locale and personal lifestyle, reasonable cost of living is usually a major drawcard for students choosing to study in Malaysia, as much as it is for other international visitors.


Food is economically priced and you can enjoy satisfying servings from as low as USD 3 daily. Local food stalls or coffee shops usually offer food that ranges from USD 1-3 and at mid-range restaurants, you can typically expect to pay USD 5-10 for a sumptuous meal.

With regard to groceries, you can find everyday items like dishwashing liquid, to deli meat and cheese, to exotic spices from all over the world. Small delis and upmarket grocers like Oliver Gourmet, Shojikiya Grocers, Atlas Gourmet Market and Sam’s Groceria are easily accessible as well. A variety of cuisines are available to satisfy even the most exotic taste buds, so be rest assured, there will one that you fancy.


Mobile phone packages in Malaysia are highly competitive and your actual monthly spend is totally up to your own customisation. The three major players in Malaysia – Maxis MobileDigi and Celcom – often come up with attractive post-paid and pre-paid plans to keep you connected. Depending on your choice of subscription and the availability of local free WiFi hotspots, you can expect to spend USD 5-50 per month. Find more information here.


Upkeeping your wardrobe may cost you around USD 15 monthly for services like washing, ironing and dry-cleaning at self-service laundry shops, which are common in most housing areas. A 10kg wash can be as low as USD 3 and a 30-minute dryer cycle would typically cost USD 1 onwards, although you would rarely need the latter in Malaysia’s weather.

Medical Expenses

Medical expenses are affordable for everyone and you can easily find government hospitals, private medical centres or GP clinics in any housing area. A typical visit to the doctor along with the purchase of the relevant medication would cost you approximately USD 15.

Alternatively, you can tap on-campus medical services as dedicated nurses and sometimes even doctors would usually be on standby to provide services including treating minor illnesses and injuries, and dispensing over-the-counter, one-off medication.

Medical insurance is compulsory for international students in Malaysia, and it is a prerequisite for obtaining a student pass. Depending on the level coverage of your policy, most if not all of your medical expenses would be covered accordingly. Students between 16 and 60 years of age can expect to pay around USD 250 annually for coverage of up to USD 10,000 (subject to change from time to time), although cheaper alternatives are available.

Daily Shopping

You can always rely on major supermarket chains like Tesco, Giant, AEON Big or NSK for wholesale items. If you’re feeling a little fancy, AEON malls do cater more upmarket products to suit your tastes. Most major supermarkets are scattered throughout neighbourhoods so that grocery and personal shoppings are convenient for most. With a variety of fresh markets, local grocery stores, 24-hour chain stores, FamilyMart, self-service convenience stores and mini markets (sometimes called sundry shops), you can purchase your daily essentials and find deals that would save you even more.

When it comes to high street fashion and luxury brands, head to the Kuala Lumpur’s city centre where malls like Suria KLCC and Pavilion KL offer award-winning shopping destinations. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better collection of brands!

Online shopping has taken the world by storm and Malaysia is no exception. Ordering groceries to your doorstep is now a tap away with same-day delivery from online stores like RedMart, Lazada, Shopee. With online retail experience improving tremendously over the years, shopping online for other consumer goods is very convenient and often cheaper given retailers’ abundant offering of online deals.

Opening a Bank Account

One of the most important things that you should do once you have settled down is to open a bank account. Online banking would allow you to pay your tuition fees and monthly rent electronically, receive salary from your part-time job, and also withdraw money from the vast network of ATM machines.

The best local banks with the widest network of branches and ATMs throughout Malaysia and Southeast Asia are CIMB and Maybank. Foreign banks like HSBC, Citibank, and Bank Of China also very welcoming to international students.

Opening a bank account with a Malaysian bank is quite straightforward as long as you have the essentials documents like your student visa and identification, passport, certificate of enrolment, proof of address, and cash deposit of around MYR 250 (USD 60). The best part? Some universities have on-campus bank branches! You only need to obtain a letter of introduction from your university to get a smooth account-opening experience with a bank of your choice.

Cost of Living Summary

1 L Milk = USD 1.60
1.5 L Soft Drink = USD 0.80
Lunch meal at campus from USD 1.40
Lunch meal at mamak restaurants from USD 1.80
McDonald`s Big Mac Burger = USD 2.20
A bowl of Wanton Noodle = USD 1.50

Mobile Pre-Paid Internet Plan
From USD 2.00 / month

Private Accommodation
From USD 50.00 (shared rented apartment)

Unlimited Home Internet
From USD 20.00 / month

A 10kg wash can be as low as USD 2.00

USD 20.00 – USD 30.00 / month

Movie Ticket – 2.50 USD
Hair Saloon – 4.00 USD

Sign up for our Newsletter

Stay up to date upcoming events from Education Malaysia Global Services Community.

Sarah Azreen Abdul Samat

Sarah has over 22 years of experience in corporate finance transactions involving equity issuance, mergers and acquisitions, fundraising, corporate restructuring, and corporate valuation, amongst others. She began her career in investment banking with Malaysian International Merchant Bankers Berhad in 2001 after obtaining her professional qualifications from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Later in her career, she joined other investment banking institutions in Malaysia such as AmInvestment Bank Berhad, Maybank Investment Bank Berhad and RHB Investment Bank Berhad.

Presently, Sarah sits as Non-Independent Non-Executive Director of Reneuco Berhad and Independent Director of Pharmaniaga Berhad. She is currently the Executive Director of 3p Capital Advisers Sdn. Bhd., a company licensed with the Securities Commission Malaysia to provide advisory services to the capital market players.

Tuan Haji Ismail Bin Mohamed

Tuan Haji Ismail Mohamed sits on the Board of Director for Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS). He obtains his Bachelor Degree in Business Administration from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).

Prior to sitting on the EMGS Board, he was also appointed to be the Board of Director to KEJORA from 2013 to 2018, and several companies such as Permodalan Darul Takzim Sdn Bhd, Perbadanan Usahawan Johor Sdn Bhd, PIJ Holding and Ranhil SAJ Sdn Bhd. Tuan Haji Ismail Mohamed also co-founded Pertama.

He started his career by setting up a company and being the founder of JYBB Enterprise. His career came to prominence when he became the co-founder and the Chief Executive Officer of Pertama Polyerethane Technology (M) Sdn Bhd and subsequently became the Special Officer to the Minister of Education in 2013.

Ismail Mohamed is acknowledged for his expertise in Agriculture and Agro-based industry, landing him being appointed as the Chairman of the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Committee of the Johor State, the Chairman of Agro KEJORA and the Chairman of the Johor State Agriculture, Agro-based industry, Entrepreneurial Development and Cooperatives Committee.