Becoming a digital nomad in Malaysia has most certainly been a popular search term lately. With the emergence of digital nomad culture, more countries are making it easier to become digital nomads.
This is in relation to visa requirements, accommodation, as well as broadband infrastructure.
There has never been a better time to take charge of your life and embrace the wonders of being a digital nomad.
So, you’re then wondering where to even get started?
I am a digital nomad and I live in Malaysia, so I feel well equipped to give you advice on the visa requirements to the amenities available to digital nomads in Malaysia to the culture and best cities in Malaysia to work remotely from, there seems to be so much to research on!
Fret not, for this is your one-stop guide toward becoming a digital nomad in Malaysia.
If you are looking to experience all of Asia in just one place, then surely, Malaysia is the place to be.
Read on to find out:
- Why Malaysia is one of the best countries to be a digital nomad
- Digital nomad visas for Malaysia
- The top destinations for digital nomads in Malaysia
- The best accommodation for digital nomads in Malaysia
- Some of the best food to try out in Malaysia
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Why Become A Digital Nomad in Malaysia?
I reckon the correct question to ask is why NOT become a digital nomad in Malaysia!
There are no words that can do this beautiful country justice.
But I shall give it a shot!
- Strategically located, Malaysia works well as the ideal digital nomad base from which you can easily travel to nearby countries such as Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia.
- Malaysia is a unique blend of culture, tradition, and modern living. From high-flying skyscrapers in the city of Kuala Lumpur to beautiful sandy beaches in Langkawi to traditional villages in different states of the country.
- Made up of a total of 14 states, each with its own unique appeals, there are plenty of digital nomad destinations to choose from.
- As a digital nomad in Malaysia, you get to experience the best of all these worlds, while enjoying what Malaysia is best known for – its food! Glorious food!
Cost of Living in Malaysia
As a digital nomad based in Malaysia, it is important to plan how much you would need to cover your basic expenses.
Generally, the cost of living in Malaysia will depend on where in the country you are based on the type of area you are in.
The city of Kuala Lumpur may have a higher cost of living, as do some of the major tourist spots such as Penang or Langkawi.
One of the best things about Malaysia is that no matter which area you decide to be based in, you are bound to find places with good Wi-Fi so that you can work.
That being said, it would be best if you had a minimum of USD1000 (which roughly converts to Malaysian Ringgit, which is the official currency of Malaysia, or MYR 4120.45) a month to live comfortably.
This includes relatively affordable accommodation as well if you are living in Kuala Lumpur for example.
Generally, the further out from the main cities you are, the more you can stretch your dollar.
Weather in Malaysia
One of the best things about Malaysia is that it is essentially summer all year round!
While you may experience some rain and thunderstorms, for the most part, Malaysia is warm and sunny.
Being very close to the equator, Malaysia enjoys tropical weather. It can get rather humid, however, but it never snows, nor does it ever get unbearably cold.
These are popular tourist destinations.
However, you can also find quaint chalets and quiet places to work that work as great digital nomad accommodation options if you prefer the cool weather over tropical beaches.
Nomad Visas in Malaysia
One of the other reasons why Malaysia is a popular digital nomad destination is that the visa options for long-term stays are relatively easy to obtain.
It also helps that the government is encouraging the influx of digital nomads in Malaysia by introducing the digital nomad pass in Malaysia, DE Rantau.
In fact, Malaysia allows for visa-free entry for most countries for up to 90 days, depending on your passport’s country of issue.
However, there are some instances where you will need to apply for a visa:
- You intend to stay for a longer period than the visa-entry-free period allows; or
- Your passport is issued by a country that is not on the list that allows for visa-free entry into Malaysia
There are several visa options available. They are:
- Single Entry Visas
This is valid for 3 months.
- Multiple Entry Visas
This is valid for between 3 to 12 months. However, each entry only allows you to stay in the country for up to 30 days at a time.
This is valid for up to 3 months. However, each entry only allows you to stay in the country for up to 15 or 30 days at a time, depending on your chosen option.
Check this article out for more details on digital nomad visas in Malaysia, the passports that qualify for visa-free entry, and how to apply for a digital nomad visa Malaysia.
Top Destinations for Digital Nomads in Malaysia
Being a Malaysia digital nomad allows you to experience different types of environments. You can always move around the country relatively easily if you feel like you need a change of scenery.
Malaysia is made up of 2 regions – West or Peninsula Malaysia and East Malaysia.
West Malaysia has 11 states and 2 federal territories while East Malaysia is made up of 2 states and 1 federal territory.
What you will find in most states are beautiful green scenery, stunning seasides with smooth sandy beaches, and azure blue oceans.
Truly, Malaysia has something for everyone, whatever your perfect environment might be.
That being said, digital nomads do prefer some cities in Malaysia compared to others. This is because these destinations are a wonderful mix of city living and countryside or beach peacefulness.
As a Penang digital nomad, you will soon find that it is extremely hard to leave this island paradise!
If you are looking for the best cafe in Penang to work in, then Urban Daybreak comes highly recommended.
Their all-day breakfast is great if you need to sit in one place and energize yourself for all your digital nomad tasks!
Penang is also home to beautiful, relaxing beaches that are all within easy reach if you ever need a quick screen break.
If Penang is sounding like your ideal digital nomad destination, get more details and tips about what it’s like to be a digital nomad in Penang, the perfect Penang cafe, and where you can find the best coffee in Penang!
If cityscapes and modern living are more of your thing as a digital nomad in Malaysia, then Kuala Lumpur is where you need to be.
This city is considered by many as one of the best place for digital nomads.
Being the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur seamlessly amalgamates Malaysian tradition with modern facilities and infrastructure.
This also makes it one of the best place to live in Malaysia.
Admittedly, it is a bit more expensive to live in the city.
However, there are plenty of budget-friendly accommodation options and coworking spaces to consider if you want to be a digital nomad in Kuala Lumpur.
As a digital nomad in Kuala Lumpur, you will be glad to know that this city also has a vibrant night scene. This is where you can meet other digital nomads and build your digital nomad community.
Alternatively, you can also meet plenty of locals who can help you to get to know the city, and the country better.
If you are more of an outdoors digital nomad, Kuala Lumpur has some stunning hiking trails. Check out these 9 hikes in KL that you can go on!
Langkawi is another popular beach destination in Malaysia for digital nomads from all over the world.
Working in Langkawi as a digital nomad is a treat if you love the beach!
Made up of a total of 99 lush islands, Langkawi is an archipelago that is surrounded by the bright blue sea and soft sandy beaches.
Langkawi is also a tourist destination and so there are plenty of attractions and historical sights to visit if you want to take a break from work and do some exploring.
It is relatively easy to get around by car, which you can rent at one of the many car rental establishments around the area.
If you are a diving enthusiast, then you will find this detailed guide on Langkawi diving extremely useful!
Additionally, Langkawi is considered to be a duty-free zone.
As such, things like alcohol, chocolates, and other imported goods tend to be cheaper here than in other areas in Malaysia.
So if you’re a digital nomad in Langkawi, you will have the perfect opportunity to explore all that the island has to offer as well!
Ipoh is a town that is located in the North of Malaysia. It is a relatively quiet destination with beautiful sights, limestone caves, and lush greenery.
Ipoh is also considered to be a haven for foodies, coming in as a close competition to the food in Penang.
While Ipoh may not be as fast-paced or exciting as Kuala Lumpur or Penang, if you are a digital nomad who works better in quiet, peaceful locations, then Ipoh is the perfect digital nomad destination for you.
One of the biggest pros of choosing Ipoh to be your digital nomad base is that the cost of living is relatively low compared to city or beach living.
There are plenty of cafes where food is considered to be cheap. For example, it is easy to have a meal for less than USD 4.
Additionally, Ipoh also has affordable accommodation in the form of short-stay apartments or rest houses.
Being a tourist destination as well, Ipoh’s wifi infrastructure is strong and stable so you should be able to work from anywhere with little to no interruptions.
If you are a history buff and love being surrounded by beautiful heritage buildings, then Malacca is a great place to be.
From a digital nomad perspective, Malacca is a great example of where history and tradition meet modern living.
The famous Jonker Street in Malacca is a hub of restaurants, cafes, and activities. There are plenty of quaint places to eat and get your digital nomad work done such as the popular Geographer Cafe.
More importantly, Malacca is a wonderful digital nomad destination in Malaysia if you are looking for beautiful but affordable accommodation.
There are also options for coworking space in Melaka for you to work comfortably from.
Sabah is located in East Malaysia on the island of Borneo.
If you are a digital nomad who loves being surrounded by greenery and nature, then Sabah is definitely a highly recommended digital nomad destination in Malaysia.
Sabah is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Malaysia with stunning sunsets and white sandy beaches.
It is also one of the best places to go diving in Borneo! This Borneo diving guide tells you exactly why that is!
Sabah is also where the famous Mount Kinabalu is located. This is a popular destination for digital nomads who are also avid mountain climbers and hikers.
If you want to integrate yourself into true Malaysian culture and really appreciate native Malaysian history and culture in East Malaysia- I would give Sarawak a try!
Confession- I have never met a person from Sarawak I didn’t like!
They all have this gentle, patient air about them but they also know how to have fun. Shout out to my Sarawakian friends!
Here are some cool places you can work as a digital nomad in Sarawak.
Cool Coworking Places For Digital Nomads In Malaysia
Digital nomad coworking spaces have blossomed all over Malaysia in recent years.
With many people becoming location-independent workers, these coworking spaces are affordable, come with the best facilities, and are easy to sign up for and use.
While there are plenty of coworking spaces in Malaysia, there are some that stand out and are popular among the digital nomad community in Malaysia.
That being said, it cannot be denied that most of the popular coworking spaces in Malaysia can be found in major cities such as Kuala Lumpur.
The following are some super cool coworking spaces for digital nomads in Kuala Lumpur where there are options for hot desks, a dedicated desk, or even your own personal suite!
Most of these coworking spaces are located in different parts of Kuala Lumpur and so the rates may depend on your choice of location.
Generally, the closer to the city center you are, the more expensive the spaces are likely to be.
If you are looking for coworking spaces outside of Kuala Lumpur, Penang has some great coworking spaces as well.
Best Places To Stay for Digital Nomads in Malaysia
When it comes to places to stay, there is no shortage of affordable living options, co-living spaces, or digital nomad housing in Malaysia.
No matter where in the country you choose to be as a digital nomad, you are bound to find decent and affordable accommodation.
And if you’re willing to give coliving in Malaysia a shot, you’re definitely bound to find many budget-friendly options as well!
When looking for accommodation, you can choose to look for your own space or you can get onto one of the many sites that are available online that will match you with your perfect digital nomad accommodation.
Shortstay is a site that helps you look out for accommodation in different areas in Malaysia.
They offer a range of apartments and condominiums for you to stay at depending on your needs and budget.
More importantly, they have daily and monthly payment options, depending on how long you intend to stay.
The rates are rather affordable and you are guaranteed a comfortable living space with all your digital nomad essentials.
This is a relatively new co-living space in Kuala Lumpur.
Co-living spaces are where you get to choose the type of room you want to stay in within a particular apartment or condominium unit.
The common facilities include an infinity pool, foosball, pool tables, and even a dedicated coworking space.
At this rate, you will never need to leave your home!
This accommodation giant needs no introduction.
The wonderful thing about AirBnB is that you can choose from different types of accommodation from hotels to homes, to unique living experiences.
More importantly, you can filter your search by the state in which you want to set up your digital nomad base or want to travel to in Malaysia.
Best Food To Try in Malaysia
In case it has not already been mentioned here, Malaysia is well-known for its variety of delicious, mouth-watering food!
As a result of the diversity of its people who come from different ethnic backgrounds, Malaysia’s food scene is rich and diverse. There is something for everyone.
That being said, there are some Malaysian dishes that you absolutely must try when you are in Malaysia.
Roughly translated to “Fatty Rice”, this is essentially Malaysia’s national breakfast dish.
Made from rice that is infused with coconut milk, this dish is served with a spicy chili paste (sambal), fried anchovies (ikan bilis), cucumber slices, and hard-boiled eggs.
You may find variations of nasi lemak all over the country but these are the basic ingredients that make up the dish.
You can get one of the best nasi lemak in Malaysia at Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa in Kuala Lumpur!
Nasi lemak warning: once you start, you won’t be able to stop! It’s addictive!
Roti canai is a layered flatbread which is another popular breakfast dish in Malaysia.
It usually comes served with lentil curry (dhal) and spicy chili paste (sambal).
While the original roti canai comes in a plain form, variations of this dish can include egg roti canai, cheese roti canai, or even meat roti canai where the ingredients are cooked into the layers of the flatbread.
While you can find roti canai at most local hawker stalls, it is said that one of the best roti canai in Kuala Lumpur is at Mansion Tea Stall.
Local tip: roti canai is the perfect hangover food!
This noodle dish originates from Sarawak in East Malaysia. However, it is popular all over Malaysia as well.
It is a light and easy-to-eat dish and can be eaten at any time, as a meal, or as a snack.
It usually comes served with dry noodles in a bowl and soup on the side.
How To Get Around in Malaysia
Transportation in Malaysia is pretty accessible and affordable for the most part.
Within the main cities, such as Kuala Lumpur, for example, there are various networks of trains that can take you from one part of the city to another. They are well-scheduled and affordable.
Other modes of public transport include buses and taxis.
They are easy to download and use.
Ridesharing and e-hailing services may cost a bit more than public transportation but they always have great promotions and deals to look out for.
If you are looking to travel to other cities within Malaysia by train, then there are inter-city routes available as well.
The network of domestic plane routes in Malaysia is rather vast as well. AirAsia is probably one of the best and cheapest options to travel domestically, especially if you are looking to travel between West Malaysia and East Malaysia.
Things To Know As A Digital Nomad in Malaysia
Language & Communication
The national language of Malaysia is Malay.
As it is spoken by almost everyone in the country, it would be good to know some common Malay words as you embark upon your digital nomad journey in Malaysia.
For example, if you wanted to say thank you, it would be ‘terima kasih’ in Malay.
You could also pick up more common Malaysian phrases on Duolingo to help you communicate with people!
If you are based in larger towns and city centers, then you will be able to communicate with most people in English.
Other languages that are spoken in Malaysia include Mandarin, Cantonese, and Tamil.
The people of Malaysia are certainly a unique bunch.
They are incredibly warm and hospitable and are ever ready to lend a helping hand to those who might need it.
At this point, it must be noted that Malaysia is a relatively conservative nation so it is important to be polite and respectful to those around you at all times.
This is something to be aware of when you are in Malaysia. It is important to be alert when you are on the go around the country.
Petty theft and pick-pockets are quite rampant and so it is best to be extremely careful and observant at all times.
Malaysia is also not the safest place for women travelers. Unfortunately, I’ve been flashed 4 times in my life… ALL in Malaysia 🙁
As such if you are a woman traveling alone, it is best to always take extra precautions against any untoward incidents and reduce the chance of them happening.
This solo female travel guide tells you all the ways to stay safe while you travel.
FAQs on Digital Nomad Malaysia
What Is Digital Nomad?
A digital nomad is a remote worker who works online from various locations as compared to a permanent location.
They often work from cafes, restaurants, and co-working spaces and have the freedom to be based from anywhere in the world.
These people rely on the Internet to work and often travel around.
How To Be A Digital Nomad?
Here are 10 steps to being a digital nomad:
- Identify and enhance your skills
- Create a portfolio and source for jobs
- Utilize your skills to earn online
- Adopt a simple lifestyle
- Increase your savings
- Identify your financial goal and locations for remote work
- Invest in travelers insurance
- Utilize digital services
- Prepare relevant documentation
What Is Nomad Visa?
A digital nomad visa is a document or program that legally allows a person to work remotely from a place that is away from the country where they permanently reside.
This works as a travel authorization from a specific country for remote workers and freelancers who rely on the internet to work from said country.
Can Digital Nomads Work In Malaysia?
Yes, digital nomads can work in Malaysia with the Malaysia Digital Nomad Visa.
This electronic visa allows remote workers to stay in the country for a longer period and lasts up to 1 year with the option of applying for an extra year.
The visa also provides them with discounts on accommodation and networking events.
Do Digital Nomads Pay Tax In Malaysia?
No, digital nomads are not required to pay taxes in Malaysia if the income is earned by working with clients or companies that are based outside the country.
However, they are required to pay income tax if they work for a client or company that is based in Malaysia.
Where In Malaysia Is Best For Digital Nomads?
Here are the best places to live in Malaysia as a digital nomad:
- Penang Island – great coffee, amazing food, and beautiful beaches.
- Kuala Lumpur – a vibrant city that marries a modern city with Malaysian tradition.
- Langkawi – beach destination with great diving spots
- Ipoh – quiet and affordable with delicious food
- Malacca – perfect for history buffs
Can I Work Remotely From Malaysia?
Digital nomads from eligible countries are allowed to work remotely in Malaysia without a visa for 14-90 days.
For durations longer than this, or for remote workers holding a passport from a non-exempt country, a visa is required.
The Malaysia Digital Nomad Visa allows remote workers to work and stay for up to a year.
What Is The Digital Nomad Program In Malaysia?
DE Rantau is the Digital Nomad Program in Malaysia that is aimed to establish Malaysia as a preferred digital nomad hub in ASEAN.
The DE Rantau Nomad Pass allows qualified foreign digital nomads to work and travel in Malaysia for up to 12 months, with the option to renew for an additional year.
Do Digital Nomads Make Money?
Yes. digital nomads do make money by working online. Some are able to make more than $100,000 a year. There are also digital nomads who are able to earn a passive income by monetizing their skills.
Is Kuala Lumpur Good For Digital Nomads?
Kuala Lumpur is an excellent place for digital nomads as it offers all the necessary essentials needed such as affordable fast-speed internet, an abundance of food and entertainment options, and affordable living as compared to other countries.
There are also many options of cafes, restaurants, and co-working spaces with fast internet to work from.
And there you have it! Everything you need to know about the digital nomad Malaysia life!
Of course, some of the lists above are not exhaustive and Malaysia is too large and too beautiful to explore in a single sitting!
However, you can rest assured that being a digital nomad in Malaysia is bound to be a rich and wonderful experience that will leave you wanting more.
With so many different places to explore, great places to live and work, wonderful food, and the warmth of the people, you will be very reluctant to leave indeed!
Digital Nomad Malaysia: The Only Guide You Will Ever Need
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