Retiring in Malaysia, Part 3: Internet & Transportation

Kuala Lumpur's Monorail Train [Photo by Khairil Yusof (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons]
Kuala Lumpur's Monorail Train [Photo by Khairil Yusof (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons]
By Jim Veinot

When you consider retiring in Malaysia, you’ll first want to know how to best get there.

Flights from the U.S. or Canada have at least one stop, probably more. When you live on the east coast you’ll first have to take a flight to a Western city before heading to the orient.

Either a North American airline or an Asian airline will fly you to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul or Taipan. From there you’ll connect with a variety of Asian airlines which will take you to your destination.

I flew from Toronto to Jakarta, which is pretty comparable. For that trip it was Toronto – Seattle – Tokyo – Jakarta, with a flight time of some 28 hours. That doesn’t count getting to the airport to leave and the hotel when you arrive.

So, some endurance hints for long flights are below:

  • Get a window seat if you can. You can lean against the wall and sleep and you’re not getting up constantly for other people’s washroom trips. (Unless, of course, you have a weak bladder; then an aisle seat would be the better alternative.)
  • Buy a neck brace pillow and use it. It makes sleeping much easier.
  • Buy an eye covering and earplugs; again, you’ll sleep more soundly.
  • Make sure you have a headset to listen to soft music as you drift off.

Ready to explore Malaysia? Use the search box below to find the best flights…

From Great Britain there are direct flights to KL via British Airways and KLM flies direct from Amsterdam.

Most other European cities require a connecting flight somewhere, often on the African continent.

Central and South American cities all require a minimum of 2 stops.

The most well known Malaysian airlines for domestic and international flights are its national carrier Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia Malaysia. The latter claims to be the world’s best low-cost carrier and serves over 100 destinations across Asia and Australia.

A return trip from Kuala Lumpur to Penang Island for example starts at RM98 ($25) at AirAsia, and costs with RM162 ($40) about 60% more at Malaysia Airlines, for the same flight dates.

Retiring in Malaysia: Getting Around

The first thing you need to remember when you’re driving in Malaysia is to drive on the left-hand side of the road! Things can get a little dicey if you don’t remember that. The next thing you need to know is that there approximately 25 million licensed vehicles in Malaysia, operating on about 100,000 km of roadway.

5 million of these vehicles are registered in KL and about ½ of them are motorcycles or scooters. The drivers of these conveyances seem to have a different set of rules in their head, so you need to constantly keep an eye open for them.

The smog generated by these vehicles, coupled with the annual smoke from fires in Indonesian Borneo, make an air-conditioned automobile popular. This also forced the government to invest in public transportation, so there is a modern monorail service in KL, as well as a Light Rail Transit and commuter trains.

All major towns and cities are served by air-conditioned buses and trains as well as by several domestic and regional air lines.

About 75% of the roadways are paved, with an expressway running from the northern border all the way down the west coast, through KL to Singapore (AH2). There is also an east-west highway connecting the coasts from KL to Kuantan, and then north along the eastern shoreline.

Two lane highways run helter-skelter through the Highlands, seemingly built on an as needed basis.

Retiring in Malaysia: Taxi Services

Taxis in Kuala Lumpur with the "Bermeter" sign on top [Photo by Ilya Plekhanov (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons]
Taxis in Kuala Lumpur with the “Bermeter” sign on top [Photo by Ilya Plekhanov (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons]
I’m quoting prices from KL where prices in general are a bit higher than elsewhere in the country.

We often tell you to get a quote before you take a taxi, but in Kuala Lumpur our advice is the opposite! The taxis are metered here; if a driver doesn’t want to use the meter then don’t use the taxi. The roof signs say “bermeter” on them and this means metered taxi.

Outside Kuala Lumpur they operate on a fixed rate depending on the distance. There is a surcharge for a telephone pick-up of 2RM and the rate is usually 3RM for the first kilometer and then 1/10 RM for each 150 meters thereafter.

Insider Tip

To get a taxi at the KL Airport or Central Rail Station it is best to buy pre-paid taxi coupons at the provided counters. Cheaper and hassle-free than paying the cab driver directly.

So if you were going 10 km away it would be about 10RM or $2.50 USD which is absurdly inexpensive. Tours are available for 10 – 20RM per hour and 10RM for waiting time.

When they quote you they may say dollars, and you’ll respond “you mean ringgits?” Invariably they’ll agree. Don’t forget there’s about 4 ringgits to a buck, so it makes a difference.

It’s always wise to ask the hotel how far away something is and how much the fare should be, if you have that opportunity.

Retiring in Malaysia: Internet Options

Most of us in the West are so used to having readily available high-speed Internet that it becomes one of our first considerations when looking for a place to retire like Malaysia.

You may also use the Internet to generate extra retirement income so it becomes much more than a convenience or a communication tool.

Once again my report on the Internet in Malaysia, like other places I’ve written about, has good news and bad news. I suppose that’s true about many things, but for me at least, this item is a deal maker/breaker.

The good news is that it would be hard to be in Malaysia without being connected! There are more Internet services and Internet service providers than you can shake a stick at. You could spend a day reviewing everything available, and still be confused.

There are services defined by device (smart phone only), by speed, by usage frequency, with and without contract, and bundled or unbundled. There are speeds available from 1 mbps to 500 mbps. There is 4G, broadband, and ADSL available. Installation is generally free and quick. Routers for WIFI are supplied.

More good news is that the cost is relatively inexpensive (a benefit of competition, which we don’t see in Canada). Highest speed and unlimited usage will run about $40 (USD) per month, while starter packages come in at $10 per month. Here’s a link to 10 different plans to start your search.

The bad news is that outside of major cities (read Kuala Lumpur), service can be agonizingly slow. Thread after thread in Malaysian expat forums suggest that the adverts are inaccurate and experience is the only meter of measurement.

It’s still faster than dial-up but sometimes not so much. So, once you identify a region you might be interested in exploring, check out the Internet services available there; read the forum posts and blogs for accurate info. Do it while you’re still in the city!

That’s it for this post. As we’ve seen, staying connected and getting around shouldn’t be a problem when retiring in Malaysia.

Next we’ll talk about Education and Schools.