Night market in Sarawak, Malaysia.


Truly Asia

Malaysia is a country that seems to have been crafted with the digital nomad in mind. Here, ancient rainforests stand as silent sentinels to the relentless march of technology where one can seamlessly transition from the deafening silence of a Bornean jungle to the clattering keyboards in a chic Kuala Lumpur café.

It unfolds rich with cultural intricacies and natural wonders that beg to be explored and written about. It’s a place where you can haggle over a fragrant bowl of Laksa in a Penang street market in the morning and submit a work report from a sleek, air-conditioned high-rise in the afternoon. The country weaves its charm on the nomadic souls who seek both the comfort of modern amenities and the thrill of exotic escapades.

As a digital nomad in Malaysia, you will find yourself constantly negotiating between two worlds – the familiar and the foreign, the comfortable and the challenging. The country’s eclectic mix of people and traditions ensures that every day is a new adventure, every meal a discovery, and every work session an opportunity to be inspired by the unfamiliar and the extraordinary.

I. The basics

Cost of living

  1. Accommodation: In Malaysia, the digital nomad can find a place to call home without draining their finances. City apartments, particularly in Kuala Lumpur, range from RM 1,500 to RM 3,000 ($350 to $700) per month. If one ventures into smaller towns or suburban areas, the prices drop, offering even more budget-friendly options.
  2. Food: The culinary landscape is both delicious and affordable. Street food, a staple of Malaysian culture, costs around RM 5 to RM 15 ($1.20 to $3.50) per meal, offering a diverse range of dishes. For those occasional dinners in mid-range restaurants, one might spend RM 20 to RM 50 ($4.70 to $11.70) per meal.
  3. Transportation: Getting around in Malaysia is both convenient and economical. Public transportation in cities, like buses and trains, offer monthly passes for about RM 100 to RM 150 ($23 to $35). Taxis and ride-sharing services are readily available, providing a slightly more expensive but more convenient travel option.
  4. Utilities and Internet: For a standard apartment, monthly utilities (electricity, water, garbage) typically cost between RM 150 to RM 300 ($35 to $70), depending on usage. Reliable high-speed internet is a must for digital nomads, and in Malaysia, it’s priced around RM 100 to RM 200 ($23 to $47) per month.


The digital infrastructure in Malaysia is a strong suit, particularly in urban areas like Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Johor Bahru. The country has invested heavily in its digital landscape, offering high-speed broadband and widespread 4G connectivity. For digital nomads, this means the ability to work from almost anywhere, be it a café in the city center or a beachside resort. The urban areas also boast a plethora of co-working spaces, equipped with all the necessities for a productive workday, including fast internet, meeting rooms, and often, a vibrant community of fellow nomads and professionals.


Malaysia’s healthcare system is renowned for its high standards and affordability. Both public and private healthcare services are available, with private hospitals providing more upscale amenities. For a digital nomad, it’s advisable to have health insurance; many opt for international policies that provide comprehensive coverage. English is widely spoken in healthcare settings, ensuring ease of communication. This is particularly comforting for those unexpected health concerns or routine medical check-ups.


When it comes to safety, Malaysia offers a comforting sense of security. Standard precautions are advisable, like keeping an eye on personal belongings and steering clear of dimly lit areas at night. While petty crimes such as pickpocketing do occur, particularly in crowded tourist areas, they can often be avoided with a bit of vigilance. The political scene is relatively stable, but staying updated with local news and avoiding political gatherings is recommended for a hassle-free stay.

II. Living in Malaysia as a digital nomad


Malaysia’s climate is a tropical one, characterized by warmth and humidity throughout the year. The temperatures generally hover around 25°C to 30°C (77°F to 86°F), offering a consistent summer vibe. The country experiences two monsoon seasons, the Southwest Monsoon from May to September and the Northeast Monsoon from November to March. These bring bouts of heavy rainfall, especially on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia and in East Malaysia (Borneo). Despite the humidity and rain, the climate is ideal for those who enjoy warm weather and don’t mind the occasional downpour, which often comes as a refreshing respite.


Malaysia is a paradise for nature lovers. The country is home to some of the world’s oldest tropical rainforests, offering an incredible diversity of flora and fauna. National parks like Taman Negara and Bako National Park provide opportunities to explore pristine jungles, encounter exotic wildlife, and engage in outdoor activities like hiking and river rafting.

Malaysia’s coastline is adorned with stunning beaches and islands such as Langkawi and the Perhentian Islands, perfect for relaxation, snorkeling, and diving. The conservation of natural habitats and wildlife is a priority, providing a chance to witness rare species like orangutans and Malayan tigers in their natural surroundings.


The Malaysian lifestyle is a fascinating blend of traditional and modern influences, reflective of its diverse population. It’s common to see bustling markets and historic temples coexisting with skyscrapers and shopping malls. The cuisine is a reflection of this diversity, with influences from Malay, Chinese, Indian, and other Asian cultures. Street food is a way of life here, offering mouthwatering dishes like Nasi Lemak, Char Kuey Teow, and Satay at every corner. For digital nomads, this means a culinary adventure is always just a few steps away.

When the sun sets, Malaysia’s nightlife comes alive, especially in cities like Kuala Lumpur and Penang. From rooftop bars with breathtaking city views to lively night markets and street food stalls, there’s no shortage of evening entertainment. The nightlife caters to a wide range of preferences, whether you’re looking for a quiet evening with a craft cocktail or a night of dancing in a vibrant club. This energetic, yet laid-back lifestyle provides a perfect balance for digital nomads, offering ample opportunities to unwind after a day’s work.


Malaysia’s culture is an amalgamation of its Malay, Chinese, Indian, and indigenous heritage. This diversity is evident in its festivals, with colorful celebrations like Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, and Deepavali marking the calendar. For a digital nomad, these festivities are a splendid opportunity to experience the country’s vibrant traditions and communal harmony.

The history of Malaysia is equally fascinating, with influences from its days as a trading hub under the Malacca Sultanate, colonial times under British rule, and its transformation into a modern nation. Historical landmarks such as the UNESCO World Heritage sites of George Town in Penang and Melaka City in Malacca offer a glimpse into its colonial past, while the majestic Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur symbolize its rapid modernization.

For local attractions, there’s an endless list. From the bustling markets and street art of Penang to the serene tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands, each region offers its unique allure. The Batu Caves near Kuala Lumpur, with their colossal limestone caves and Hindu shrines, are a must-visit. For beach enthusiasts, islands like Langkawi and Tioman offer idyllic retreats.


One of Malaysia’s greatest advantages for digital nomads is the widespread use of English. As a former British colony, English is widely spoken, especially in urban areas and among the younger population. This makes everyday interactions, from ordering food to asking for directions, relatively easy for English-speaking nomads.

Officially, the national language is Bahasa Malaysia (Malay), and learning a few basic phrases can be both fun and helpful in immersing oneself in the local culture. Most Malaysians are bilingual or trilingual, often conversant in Malay, English, and their ethnic language, be it Mandarin, Tamil, or another indigenous language. This linguistic diversity not only makes communication easier but also enriches the cultural experience for those living and working in Malaysia.

Overall, the ease of communication in Malaysia is a significant factor that contributes to its appeal as a destination for digital nomads. It allows for smoother integration into the community, easier networking, and a deeper understanding of the local culture and lifestyle.

III. Cities to consider

Kuala Lumpur

View of the Kuala Lumpur  skyline, Malaysia.
Photo by Sadie Teper

As the capital city, Kuala Lumpur is the epitome of Malaysia’s modernity and cultural diversity. Known for its iconic Petronas Twin Towers, vibrant street markets, and an array of international cuisines, KL (as it’s commonly known) is a bustling metropolis with a dynamic expat community. The city offers numerous co-working spaces, trendy cafes with reliable Wi-Fi, and a variety of entertainment options. It’s an ideal choice for digital nomads seeking an energetic urban environment.


View overlooking Penang, Malaysia.
Photo by Christoph Theisinger

Often dubbed the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, Penang is a delightful blend of old and new. George Town, its capital, is a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its historic architecture, colorful street art, and, most importantly, its status as Malaysia’s food capital. The city’s charm lies in its ability to balance tradition with modern conveniences, making it a favored spot for those who want a taste of Malaysian culture alongside their digital work life.

Melaka (Malacca)

Melaka, Malaysia.
Photo by Fred Rivett

For those captivated by history and culture, Melaka is a treasure trove. Its rich historical background is visible in its well-preserved heritage buildings, ancient churches, and the famous A Famosa fort. The slow pace of life here is a pleasant contrast to the hustle of bigger cities, making it a great choice for digital nomads looking for a quieter, more relaxed environment.

Johor Bahru

Aerial view of Johor Bahru, Malaysia.
Photo by Ven Jiun (Greg) Chee

Located just across the causeway from Singapore, Johor Bahru offers an interesting mix of affordability and accessibility. It’s increasingly becoming a hub for digital nomads due to its proximity to Singapore, lower cost of living, and growing number of co-working spaces. Johor Bahru also serves as a gateway to explore the southern part of Malaysia and even hop over to Singapore for quick visits.

Kota Kinabalu (Sabah)

View of Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
Photo by EJ Yao

For those who yearn for nature and adventure, Kota Kinabalu is a gateway to the natural wonders of East Malaysia. Located in Borneo, it’s a stone’s throw away from rainforests, mountains (including Mount Kinabalu), and stunning diving spots. The city itself is modern with a laid-back vibe and provides all the necessary amenities for a comfortable digital nomad lifestyle.

Kuching (Sarawak)

Night market in Sarawak, Malaysia.
Photo by Deva Darshan

Kuching, with its riverside setting, offers a unique experience. It’s known for its relaxed pace, friendly locals, and rich indigenous culture. The city is a great base for exploring the natural beauty of Sarawak, including national parks and wildlife reserves. Kuching has a growing digital nomad community, thanks to its affordable living, quaint cafes, and serene atmosphere.

Each of these cities offers a unique aspect of Malaysian life, catering to different preferences, whether one is seeking the buzz of a metropolis or the tranquility of a more laid-back setting. For digital nomads, this variety means Malaysia can cater to a wide range of tastes and work styles.

IV. Off the beaten track

Exploring beyond the well-trodden paths can lead digital nomads to some of Malaysia’s hidden gems, offering unique experiences and a deeper understanding of the country’s diverse landscape and culture.

Cameron Highlands

Workers on a tea plantation field in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.
Photo by Job Savelsberg

Nestled in the mountains, the Cameron Highlands is known for its cooler climate, lush tea plantations, and strawberry farms. It’s a refreshing escape from the tropical heat, ideal for those seeking tranquility and inspiration in nature. The area offers hiking trails, local markets, and the chance to experience Malaysia’s colonial history.

Langkawi Geopark

View overlooking Langkawi, Malaysia.
Photo by Aliff Haikal

Langkawi, often visited for its beaches, is also home to Southeast Asia’s first UNESCO-listed Geopark. This natural paradise boasts stunning geological formations, mangroves, and wildlife. It’s perfect for digital nomads who are nature enthusiasts or geology buffs, offering a peaceful environment with the comforts needed for remote work.


View overlooking Ipoh, Malaysia.
Photo by Alfred

This charming city in Perak is known for its historic old town, unique street art, and excellent local cuisine. Ipoh is less crowded than the major tourist cities, allowing for an immersive experience in local Malaysian life. Its laid-back atmosphere is complemented by a range of boutique cafes and accommodations, making it an ideal spot for creatives and writers.

Pulau Tioman

Photo by Yousha Bin Younus

For those looking to combine work with a beach lifestyle, Tioman Island is a paradise. Known for its crystal-clear waters, coral reefs, and lush rainforest, it offers a serene environment. While more remote, the island has several resorts and spots with good internet connectivity, making it possible to work in a truly idyllic setting.

Pulau Pangkor

Man sitting on a beach in Palau Pankor, Malaysia.
Photo by Deva Darshan

A small island off the west coast, Pangkor is known for its unspoiled beaches and relaxed vibe. It’s a great place to experience authentic Malaysian village life. Digital nomads can enjoy the simplicity and beauty of the island while still having access to necessary amenities for remote work.

The East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia

Aerial view of Redang Island, Malaysia.
Photo by Nazarizal Mohammad

The east coast, including towns like Terengganu and Kelantan, is known for its traditional Malay culture. It’s an area less influenced by international tourism, offering a chance to experience traditional crafts, cuisine, and a slower pace of life. This region is ideal for those looking to delve into the cultural heart of Malaysia.

Types of visas available for remote workers 

DE Rantau Program

The DE Rantau Program, specifically catering to digital nomads, features the DE Rantau Nomad Pass, allowing foreign remote workers to work in Malaysia for up to a year, with a renewal option. This initiative aims to make Malaysia a prime destination in ASEAN for digital nomads. While there’s no fee to join DE Rantau, visa application fees are applicable. The program also highlights DE Rantau Hubs, offering accommodations and services for digital nomads.

Tourist Visa

Many nationalities can enter Malaysia visa-free for tourism for periods ranging from 15 to 90 days, depending on the country of origin. This can be a suitable short-term option for digital nomads, but it’s important to note that working on a tourist visa is not officially permitted.

Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) Program

The MM2H Program allows foreigners to stay in Malaysia on a long-term basis (up to 10 years, renewable). It’s popular among retirees but can also be an option for remote workers who can meet the financial requirements, which include showing proof of sufficient income and opening a fixed deposit account in a Malaysian bank.

Application process and necessary documentation DE Rantau Program

Eligibility requirements for the DE Rantau Program

  • Work Criteria: You must work remotely in the digital or IT fields as an employee, self-employed individual, or business owner, with businesses and clients located outside Malaysia.
  • Minimum Income: An income of at least $24,000 per year is required.
  • Criminal Record: Applicants must have a clean criminal record.
  • Health or Travel Insurance: It is mandatory to have health or travel insurance coverage for the duration of your stay in Malaysia.

Application process

  • The application can be completed entirely online, which is convenient for those who are already in Malaysia or planning their move.
  • Necessary documents for the application include a valid passport, proof of remote work, proof of income, a current resume, a certified criminal background check, and a health or travel insurance policy.
  • The application fee is MYR 1,000 (about $220 USD), with an additional fee of MYR 500 (about $110 USD) per dependent.

Visa duration and renewal

  • The Digital Nomad Visa is initially valid for one year and can be renewed for an additional year.

Family members

  • You can include your spouse and children, as well as any immediate family members, in your visa application, subject to an additional fee per dependent.


  • As a digital nomad in Malaysia, you are not required to pay taxes on your income unless you work for a Malaysian company. However, you will be considered a tax resident and liable for local taxes after staying in the country for 183 days.

VI. Tips for a smooth landing in Malaysia 

Finding accommodation

Digital nomads in Malaysia often opt for serviced apartments or condominiums for convenience and amenities. Websites like iProperty and PropertyGuru offer a wide range of options. In popular areas like Kuala Lumpur and Penang, co-living spaces are also emerging, offering community living with other nomads or expats. Renting through local real estate agents can also provide access to properties not listed online.

Financial considerations

To open a bank account in Malaysia, one usually needs a reference from a current account holder in the same bank, along with standard documentation. It’s advisable to compare services like international transfer fees, online banking facilities, and account management fees. Understanding Malaysia’s taxation system, especially for foreign income and local taxes, is crucial for financial planning.

Malaysia’s public transportation system is extensive in urban areas. The Touch ‘n Go card is a convenient payment method for trains, buses, and even some taxis. Renting a car or a scooter can be an option for more flexibility, particularly in less urbanized areas. Understanding the local norms of transportation, such as rush hours and preferred modes in different cities, can significantly ease daily travel.

Adapting to local customs

Malaysia’s multicultural society means a diverse range of customs. Learning about local dining customs, such as eating with hands in some traditional settings, respecting religious norms like dress codes when visiting temples or mosques, and understanding the multicultural social etiquette can greatly enhance the experience of living in Malaysia. Engaging with local communities and participating in cultural events can offer deeper insights into Malaysian life.

VII. In summary


  1. Affordable lifestyle: Living costs, including food, accommodation, and transportation, are relatively low.
  2. Cultural melting pot: Rich cultural diversity brings an array of traditions, languages, and cuisines.
  3. Scenic landscapes: Stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and diverse wildlife offer a great escape.
  4. Strong digital infrastructure: Good internet connectivity in cities, ideal for remote work.
  5. English widely spoken: Eases daily interactions and professional communication.
  6. Healthcare quality: Access to quality healthcare services at reasonable costs.
  7. Safety: Generally a safe country with low crime rates in most areas.
  8. Vibrant expat community: Provides a supportive network for newcomers.


  1. Climate challenges: High humidity and heat can be uncomfortable; monsoon seasons affect certain regions.
  2. Internet limitations: Rural areas might have weaker internet connectivity.
  3. Cultural adjustments: Some may find adapting to local customs and social norms challenging.
  4. Visa restrictions: Limited options for employment on standard tourist visas.
  5. Urbanization effects: Traffic congestion and pollution in major cities.
  6. Limited rural amenities: Fewer amenities and conveniences in more remote areas.
  7. Language barrier: Outside urban centers, less English proficiency can pose communication challenges.

Malaysia, for the digital nomad, presents a landscape as varied and enchanting as a well-spun yarn. In its cities, where skyscrapers gleam alongside colonial facades, one finds the thrumming heart of modernity, yet just a stone’s throw away, the timeless tranquility of rainforests and village life beckons. The streets are a carnival of culinary delights, offering a smorgasbord of flavors to the adventurous palate, while the affordability of it all ensures your wallet doesn’t weep. Yet, for all its urban charm, the internet can play a game of hide and seek as you venture into the rural outbacks.

In this melting pot of cultures, languages intermingle, with English serving as a common thread, yet venture off the beaten path and you’ll find yourself in a delightful tangle of linguistic adventures. The warmth of the people rivals that of the climate, though the humidity can sometimes cling like an overzealous relative. Safety, a comforting blanket, allows one to explore with ease, though the occasional downpour during monsoon season can disrupt as often as it enchants.

Yet, Malaysia’s true allure for the nomadic soul lies in its ability to be many things at once. It’s a place where one can sip on a latte in a sleek café, only to find themselves lost in the echo of ancient forests hours later. It’s where the digital dance finds its tempo in the pulse of a diverse, bustling, yet sometimes challenging landscape. For the digital nomad, Malaysia isn’t just a destination; it’s a chapter in their story where every day writes a new verse, rich with the promise of discovery and the thrill of the unknown.

United States
View of the New York Skyline.

United States

Land of the free

Aphrodite's Rock in Cyprus.


Aphrodite's Rock

You May Also Like