News & Views


Posted on 18th July 2018

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, is quickly emerging as a preferred location for expatriate relocation and as a regional base for multinational companies. InvestKL, a Malaysian government investment promotion agency mandated to attract Fortune 500 and Forbes 2000 multinational companies to Kuala Lumpur and the immediate reach of its suburban sprawl in the Klang River Valley (Greater KL), says that its efforts have started to bear fruit. It estimates that more than 70 Forbes companies have used Kuala Lumpur as their preferred hub to relocate, expand or enter the Asian market, given the city’s standing as a cost-effective alternative to other east Asian hubs such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai.



With two major airports — Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) 1 and KLIA 2, Malaysia’s capital is connected by daily direct flights to major cities in Asia, the Middle east, Europe, east Asia and major Australian cities to the south. Other ASEAN capital cities are all within 3 hours flying time from Kuala Lumpur. It is in the same time zone as Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Perth and an hour behind Tokyo.

Kuala Lumpur’s investment proposition also improved with the completion of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Line 1 in 2017 that significantly boosted urban connectivity. Another two MRT Lines are planned and when completed will add another 142km to the already comprehensive integrated rail system within Greater KL which has a population of just over seven million.

Greater KL is also home to Port Klang, which, thanks to access to the busy container traffic on the Straits of Malacca, is the 11th busiest container terminal in the world and is the fastest-growing port globally outside of China. With the launch of the world’s first Digital Free Trade Zone in 2016, Port Klang is expected to benefit further from a spurt in intra-continental e-commerce trade and Kuala Lumpur’s historical role as the preferred logistics gateway to Asia.


Quality of Life

Many expatriates are often amazed at the relatively low cost of living in Kuala Lumpur compared to the high quality of life, available facilities and services that Kuala Lumpur offers. Rentals, even in the more sought after neighbourhoods with proximity to international schools, have stayed around RM2.00 (US$0.50) per square foot in 2017. This is significantly cheaper than Asia’s two favourite expat destinations, Hong Kong and Singapore where monthly rent for a 900-square-foot furnished residence could be as high as US$2,600 in Singapore, while the equivalent in Hong Kong costs almost US$4,900 according to Bloomberg.

Recognising that a strong education system is vital to attracting foreign companies and their employees, the Malaysian government also aims to position Malaysia as a destination of choice for parents seeking foreign education for their children.  There are over 50 international schools across Kuala Lumpur, offering a variety of educational systems with British, German, American and Japanese curriculums.



Malaysia has a widespread system of health care. It implements a universal healthcare system, which exists along the private healthcare system. Infant mortality rate, a standard in determining the overall efficiency of healthcare, in 2005 was 10, comparing favourably with the United States and Western Europe. Life expectancy at birth in 2005 was 74 years. Infant mortality fell from 75 per 1000 live births in 1957 to 7 in 2013.

Malaysia’s medical profession and medical facilities are highly regulated and doctors here are some of the most highly trained in Asia.  Although the cost of private healthcare has increased gradually over the years it is still largely affordable and substantially cheaper than private healthcare in the west. Costs of procedures, including consultation, medical examinations and treatment is likely to be a fraction of what the same would cost in the USA.



Tourists and visitors are drawn to Kuala Lumpur’s rich architectural heritage of colonial-era buildings and cultural neighbourhoods such as Little India, Chinatown, and Kampung Baru representing it three main cultural communities.

As a result, the food, lifestyle and entertainment scene in the capital offer an eclectic mix of tastes reflecting the melding of these cultures seamlessly with Western influences, allowing limitless experiences that continue to make Kuala Lumpur a favourite of the global expatriate community.



The introduction of the long-term Residence-Pass Talent (RP-T) programme has also proven effective in retaining highly-skilled expatriates already working in Malaysia. It gives expatriates the ability to live and work in Malaysia for up to 10 years, with the flexibility of changing employers without the need to reapply for a new pass. The pass also enables spouses and dependents to seek employment and for children to study in Malaysia.

An InterNations survey of 8,000 expats living in 40 countries around the world ranked Kuala Lumpur as the fourth best city for expats, and the top Asian destination.


Malaysia Key Facts:

  • Population: 31.7 million
  • Labour force: 14.5 million
  • Unemployment: 3%
  • Inflation rate: 3%
  • Languages: Bahasa Malaysia, English, Chinese
  • Time zone: GMT+8
  • Government: Westminster style constitutional monarchy
  • Climate: Equatorial (annual average temperature 27°C)


InvestKL Contacts:
Pauline Goh (
Tim Saw (

(For more information on setting a business in Malaysia contact:

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