What You Need to Know Before Moving to Kuala Lumpur

In a time when more westerners than ever are choosing to build a life away from their home countries, cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia are seeing an enormous influx of expatriates each year. While many older western expats prefer to move to such cities as Bangkok in their search for happiness, Kuala Lumpur attracts a younger, more ambitious crowd looking to take advantage of the economic boom that keeps this part of Asia growing even while western economies stagnate.
However, moving to a city like Kuala Lumpur is no walk in the park (though the city does have some wonderful parks). Transplanting to a new environment will always be a challenge, so it's important to do a little research before you leave, if only to get a firmer idea of what you expect when you touch down in your new home.

Getting In
Most westerners will find it refreshingly easy to settle for a period in Kuala Lumpur. For residents of the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and states of the EU visas are not needed for tourist or business visits to Malaysia of up to 90 days. If you're only planning to stay for three months you can simply receive a stamp on arrival.
If you plan to move to Kuala Lumpur long term you'll need a letter from your employer to confirm that you have a firm job offer, but even for long stays it is not difficult to secure a visa.

Moving to Kuala Lumpur

Meeting Friends
Living in KL as an expat you'll find endless opportunities to meet new friends. The expat community is large and vibrant, and ranges all the way from South East Asian nationals working menial jobs to highly qualified western professionals working in the finance center. At all levels you'll find social gatherings, sports events and much more through expat forums and the local English language newspapers.

Staying Safe
Compared to many cities in the region Kuala Lumpur is relatively free of serious crime, though pickpocketing and minor theft can be a problem. It's always wise to be on the guard against petty crime, and it makes sense to refrain from carrying large amounts of cash or valuable items on your person.
You should bear in mind that Malaysia is a socially conservative country, and homosexuality is still illegal. Homosexuals can be fined, jailed or even given lashes. Though such extreme punishments would rarely be imposed on western visitors, homosexual expats may be ejected from the country.

Keeping Healthy
Dengue fever and malaria are both common in KL, so prophylactic medication is advised. The Malaysian climate is hot and humid, and as such visitors to the region are susceptible to many diseases that are rare in the west. It's advisable to consult your doctor before moving to Malaysia to minimize the risk of serious problems.
The medical infrastructure in Kuala Lumpur is reasonably well developed and efficient, and citizens enjoy universal healthcare. However, this free healthcare does not extend to private clinics and surgeries favored by wealthy expatriates, so it's essential to invest in a private healthcare plan to ensure a western style of treatment.

Getting Around
The public transport network in KL is relatively poor compared to other parts of South East Asia, and it can be difficult to get around using buses and trains alone. Taxis are a viable option for day to day transport, but if you plan to stay for an extended period it would be a good idea to apply for a local driving license and purchase a car or moped.

Finding Accommodation
Apartments are plentiful in popular expat regions such as Kenny Heights, Sri Hartamas and Ampang, though you can expect housing to be more expensive than most other cities in the region.
Apartment leases in Kuala Lumpur typically run from one to three years, though most expats can expect to be given a 'diplomatic clause' that allows them to break the lease without penalty after 12 months should they need to leave the country.

The initial cost of renting can be quite high, as you'll be expected to pay one month's rent before signing the lease followed by a security deposit of two months before moving in. You may also be asked to pay an additional sum to cover utilities and legal fees.

Settling In
Moving to Kuala Lumpur can be a shock to the system given the climate, the language and the new sights, sound and smells. It's a chaotic, vibrant but conservative city that offers a lot to western visitors, and while it may take a while to settle in and feel comfortable it's certainly worth the effort.
John Chen
About the Author:

John Chen is a travel writer currently located in Bangkok, Thailand.

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