The Cheapest Places to Retire: Five Towns Where You Can Live Better for Less-Penang Malaysia.

Malaysia—Penang: From $1,200 a month

retire in Malaysia

My wife and I first came to Penang, Malaysia for a holiday in 2008 and after two weeks, which we extended to three, decided that it was the perfect place for us to live. From the region’s best street food to smart restaurants, bars, shopping malls, and movie theaters, it had everything that we needed and more.

George Town, Penang’s capital, is a UNESCO-listed city and dates from 1786. Most of the buildings in town were built between 1810 and 1890, and it’s these historic streets that are the main attraction for visitors to the island. We loved its history, but also its deserted white-sand beaches, pristine jungle trails, constant sunshine, and affordability.

There is a lively street culture anchored in religious festivals, a recently opened performing arts center, and events like the Penang World Music Festival and the annual George Town Festival (a month of performances).

Our apartment is a short distance from the local market, where we can buy vegetables, fruits, bread, meat, seafood, and all manner of goods. An entire bagful of fresh fruit, including mangoes, bananas, apples, oranges, and pineapples, costs just $4.

High-speed Internet is reliable and costs $30 a month, and the premier cable TV package for $40 includes favorites like HBO, CNN, and the BBC.

We live in a spacious 2,100-square-foot apartment with four bedrooms and three bathrooms. We also have a carport, swimming pool, and well-equipped gym. The apartment is fully air-conditioned and fitted with ceiling fans, and costs $900 a month. We have a maid who comes for $12 a month.

Penang is known internationally for its good medical care, which is downright cheap. Six world-class hospitals are situated within George Town. All the medical staff speak perfect English. And an annual check-up costs $12.

Originally from Oregon, Denise Fornberg and her husband Pelle have been living in Penang for just over a year. Denise noticed a small mole on her arm had changed color, and she decided to have it removed. The initial consultation and operation, followed by postoperative care, cost $194. She estimates that, if she’d had it done in the U.S., it would have cost $1,000.

Penang is an exciting place to live and we have no regrets about moving here. Well, just one…that we didn’t do it years ago. Where else could you eat out five nights a week, sampling any cuisine you want, and still live for under $2,000 a month?

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