A university student's cost of living in Malaysia
In a survey on the ‘Most Affordable Cities for Students between 2016-2018’ QS University Ranking found that “Kuala Lumpur has received a good score for affordability, with a combination of low living costs and relatively low tuition fees”. Kuala Lumpur ranks #1 in QS Top Universities ‘Most Affordable Cities for Students’ in 2016 and 2017, falling only one notch to #2 in 2018 and 2019.
The major components of education cost are:
- Course fees which include tuition fees and other study fees payable to the institution, depending on what you are studying and the duration of your study programme; and
- Living expenses which depends on where you are staying, your type of accommodation and your lifestyle.
This article explores the cost of living for a college or university student in Malaysia.
Cost of living in Malaysia
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 RM2,000 (US$500) will provide them with a rather comfortable living in Malaysia.
Breakdown of living cost in Malaysia
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) 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, you can get a McValue meal at McDonald’s for RM10-20. You can also get meal sets at KFC and pizza deals for group meals from Domino’s at below RM10 per pax.
Local food like rice and noodles at food stalls or coffee shops range from RM5-10 (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 laundry expenses like washing and using the dryer at a self-service laundromat cost around RM10 each time. Clothing expenses vary according to your taste and how often you indulge in new clothes.
- 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$20-37.50) per month.
- Telecommunication / mobile phone bills and utilities
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 and stationery 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 needs, toiletries, haircut, clothes, movie, etc.
Using the estimate above, the total cost of living for a student will average at RM2,000 (US$500) per month or RM24,000 (US$6,000) 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.
Source: Study in Malaysia Handbook, 11th edition
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