International Students

Cost of living for college students in Malaysia

by on August 17, 2016 | Top Stories

Cost of living for college students in Malaysia

When budgeting for your education abroad, you need to make sure that the college tuition fees meet your budget. However, you'll also need to consider the cost of living in the city or country where you plan to study. International students in Malaysia enjoy a very comfortable lifestyle at a very reasonable expenditure – from as low as USD450 a month.

A major advantage for international students who choose to study in Malaysia is the reasonable cost of living. The total expenditure for accommodation, either on-campus or off-campus is very affordable.While your actual cost of living will depend on the location of your accommodation and your personal lifestyle, students will be pleased to know that KL has been ranked one of the least expensive cities in the world to live in. For most students, a monthly budget of RM1,800 (US$450) will provide them with a rather comfortable living in Malaysia.

Breakdown of the cost of living in Malaysia

So what are the expenses that you need to consider? The common things that international students need to spend on are:


You should estimate about RM300 (US$75) to RM600 (US$150) for your accommodation per month. The rental will vary depending on the geographical area, the type of accommodation (on-campus living in a hall of residence; or off-campus living in an apartment, condominium, single-storey house, double-storey house, etc.), the facilities provided in the house (e.g. with or without air-conditioning, Wi-Fi, furniture, etc.) and of course, the number of people sharing the room (or the apartment or house).

Food and housekeeping

Your food and housekeeping expenses are estimated to be around RM600-900 (US$150-225). This is based on about RM20-30 (US$5-7.50) for three meals per day. Naturally, if you cook and share the cooking expenses with your friends, it would be cheaper.

It's possible to have a fast food meal for below RM10 (US$2.50) in Malaysia. For example, a McValue meal at McDonald's starts at RM5.95. Meal sets at KFC start at RM6.90 and pizza deals for group meals from Domino's are also below RM10 per pax.

Local food like rice and noodles at food stalls or coffee shops range from RM4-10 (US$1-2.50). At mid-range restaurants, you can expect to pay RM20-40 for a meal (US$5-10). A coffee from Starbucks costs an average of RM12-16 (US$3-4).

Clothing and laundry

Your clothing expenses like washing, ironing, dry-cleaning, etc. may cost around RM60 (US$15) per month. Self-service laundry shops are common in most neighbourhoods. A 10kg wash starts at about RM5 and a 30-minute dryer service costs RM5 as well.

Public transport

Students who stay on campus or near campus may not incur any cost of travelling to and from classes. However, other travelling may cost approximately RM80-150 (US$20-37.5) per month.

Telecommunication / mobile phone bills and utilities

Cost of living for college students in Malaysia

The mobile phone packages in Malaysia are very competitive. How much you spend will depend on your usage and the promotional package you choose. The average student may spend about RM30-50 (US$7.50-12.50) per month.

Books, reading materials and stationery

The estimated cost of books, stationery and printing should be around RM50-100 (US$12.50-25) per month, but it would largely depend on the course you have signed up for and the number and nature of projects in your course.

Medical and hospitalisation insurance

Although you may not need to pay for medical expenses every month, if you put aside RM50 (US$12.50) per month, it would be sufficient for you in case you need outpatient treatment at a private clinic during the year. This estimate does not include the amount you will have to pay for your medical and hospitalisation insurance of about RM500 (US$125) per year.

Personal expenses

Your monthly personal expenses largely depend on your personal lifestyle. However, the cost can be estimated to be between RM100 (US$25) and RM200 (US$50). This includes your socialising lifestyle, toiletries, haircut, clothes, movie, etc.

Here's an example of some common amenities and services you might spend on:

Movie ticket RM14 Shampoo (320ml) RM12
Haircut (at express haircut outlets) RM20 Toothpaste (RM150g) RM6

10km Uber ride (low cost)

RM16 A loaf of bread RM2.50
T-shirt RM15-40 Pen RM1.00-3.50

(The prices stated here are estimates of average prices a student may pay in a city like Kuala Lumpur.)

Using the estimate above, the total cost of living for a student will average at RM1,800 (US$450) per month or RM21,600 (US$5,400) per year. It is important to remember that the above estimate is only a guide in planning your budget to study in Malaysia and geographical location and personal lifestyle should be factored in when planning your personal budget.

(Exchange rate: USD1 = RM4.00)

Source: Study in Malaysia Handbook, 10th edition

Related article: The cost of being a student in Malaysia

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