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Which States In Malaysia Are The Most Affordable To Live In As A Retiree?

Estimated monthly expenses for a retiree in Alor Setar is RM2,630.


Where you choose to retire is just as important as how much you have in your retirement nest egg.  

That’s because retiring in a city with a higher cost of living can drain your savings quicker than a city with a lower cost of living. Furthermore, a city that is good for working and earning may not necessarily be the best for retiring.  

There are a few things retirees need to consider when moving to another state which are cost of living, accessibility to hospitals and senior-friendly facilities. For example, according to the Expenditure Guide 2022/2023 prepared by the Employee Provident Fund (EPF), monthly expenses for a senior couple in the Klang Valley region amount to RM3,210, which is the highest out of all areas.   

While it may be an ideal place to work and build your career in the Klang Valley as it consists of areas in the Selangor state and Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur is where most economic activities take place, retirees can opt to move to another state for more affordable and quality living in their golden years. 

With a total of 13 states and 3 federal territories, Malaysians have plenty of options when picking a suitable place to retire in.  


Here are five states that are most affordable to live in as a retiree. 

Kedah – Alor Setar (RM2,630 Per Month) 



Alor Setar is the capital of northern state Kedah, known for its abundance of rice crops.  According to the Expenditure Guide 2022/2023 by EPF for year 2022/2023, Alor Setar is the most affordable city to live in for a senior couple with a monthly expense of RM2,630. Living expenses in Alor Setar, a quiet city with a mere 2.1 million population, are lower than other states. It is also situated further away from Kuala Lumpur (a distance of 437km). 

Most of the expenses goes towards food with an average spending of RM800 for a senior couple. This is followed by transportation at an average of RM490 and housing at an average of RM400. (Do note that the expenditure guide calculates housing expenses as loan repayment for a property bought 20 to 30 years ago or monthly rental, whichever is lower, for a property situated 30km from the city centre.)   

Accessibility And Amenities In Alor Setar 

Alor Setar is connected to nearby towns including Butterworth in neighbouring state Penang through the North South Expressway and the East West Highway. It is also situated along the main route many Malaysians take to travel to popular tourist destination Thailand. As the city is quite near to Thailand, retirees can fill their time by planning short trips to the neighbouring country.   

There are medical facilities in Alor Setar including a public hospital, Hospital Sultanah Bahiyah. Public hospitals are typically quite affordable. Alternatively, there’s also the private medical centre, Putra Medical Centre. Getting your essentials won’t be a challenge as well at the Billion Pasaraya and Pacific @ Alor Star Mall. Retirees can visit recreational parks such as Taman Jubli Emas that comes with a jogging trail rounding a lake, fitness facilities and a garden next to paddy fields or take a roundtrip ferry ride to tourist magnet Langkawi Island for only RM20.  

Kelantan – Kota Bharu (RM2,690 Per Month) 



Kota Bharu, situated in Kelantan, is the second most affordable city to retire in with a monthly expense of RM2,690 per month for senior couples. The city is steeped in Malay heritage culture and is known for its traditional timber houses crowned with tiered roofs curved at the ends. Retiree couples who enjoy local cultures could experience staying in traditional accommodations and learning about the history of these houses in Kota Bharu.    

In Kota Bharu, senior couples can expect to spend about RM840 for food every month and RM120 for healthcare. Kota Bharu may not be as bustling as other major cities, but it offers a slower pace of life, fresher air and natural sceneries.   

Accessibility And Amenities In Kota Bharu 

Residents in Kota Bharu can travel to towns like Mersing which is the gateway to tourist attractions, Tioman Island and Rawa Island via the Kuala Lumpur – Kota Bharu Highway (Federal Route 8), Federal Route 3, Federal Route 4, Kota Bharu – Kuala Krai Expressway and the Central Spine Road. Tioman Island and Rawa Island are known for their waters, being in the South China Sea. Rawa Island is known for its peace and quiet with limited accommodations while Tioman Island is famous for its dive sites.    

Among the facilities in this town include retail supermarket The Store Kota Bharu, Kota Bharu Hospital, KPJ Perdana Specialist Hospital and Kota Bharu Medical Centre. Known for its coastline, there are plenty of beaches with white sand and blue waters to visit such as the Cahaya Bulan Beach and Mek Mas Beach.  

Terengganu – Kuala Terengganu (RM2,730 Per Month) 


Kuala Terengganu is known for being home to quaint fishing villages. Like Kuala Lumpur, there’s a Chinatown in Kuala Terengganu that showcases the amalgamation of Malay and Chinese cultures with stunning Peranakan-style houses as well as cuisine. Kuala Terengganu is also quite a transportation hub that links travellers to exciting island destinations. 

The monthly cost for food for a senior couple in Kuala Terengganu is about RM860 while medical expenses are at RM120. Known for its beaches, Kuala Terengganu offers residents calming sunset views over quiet fishing villages.    

Accessibility And Amenities In Kuala Terengganu 

The city is served by the Sultan Mahmud Airport that operates mostly domestic flights, connecting travellers to island attractions such as Perhentian Island and Redang Island. International flights to neighbouring countries include those to Bali, Shanghai and Jakarta.  

There are several healthcare facilities in Kuala Terengganu including the KMI Kuala Terengganu Medical Centre and the SALAM Specialist Hospital Kuala Terengganu. The state of Terengganu is perfect for nature lovers with attractions such as the Kenyir National Park that spans 369 sq km of swaths of green and the popular jade-coloured Kenyir Lake.     

Pahang – Kuantan (RM2,780 Per Month) 


The capital city Kuantan of the central state of Pahang is around a three-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. The state is famous for aplenty attractions including the Teluk Cempedak Beach and Lembing Rainbow Waterfall, which are frequented by out-of-state locals. 

Kuantan is a relatively modern city that comes with urban conveniences such as a high-end supermarket and shopping mall. The monthly expenses here amount to RM2,780. 

Accessibility And Amenities In Kuantan 

The city provides a comfortable lifestyle to residents without the hustle and bustle that city dwellers are used to. That’s due to some of the notable amenities in Kuantan like the higher-end supermarket Jaya Grocer, The Store, East Coast Mall, Tengku Ampuan Afzan Hospital, Kuantan Medical centre and KPJ Pahang Specialist Hospital.  

Retirees can also engage in leisure activities at the Royal Pahang Golf Club, hiking spots at Berkelah Fall and Sungai Pandan Waterfall.   

Sarawak – Kuching (RM2,790 Per Month) 


Situated in East Malaysia, Kuching offers the best of both worlds with untouched rainforests and a splendid coastline. As the cuisine and culture is unique to those found in the Peninsular Malaysia, Kuching has its own identity that attracts tourists from the world over. 

Living expenses in Kuching stands at only RM2,790 per month. Kuching as a city has a good amount of liveliness to it that’s not overwhelming. It has attracted many international tourists who wanted to discover its food and culture that’s different from those in the Peninsular Malaysia.  

Accessibility And Amenities In Kuching 

Kuching has amenities including the Ta Kiong Supermarket, Upwell Supermarket, H & L Supermarket Malihah, Sarawak General Hospital, Timberland Medical Centre and Sentosa Hospital. 

A Comparison Of The Five Cheapest States To Live In 

Expenses (per month)  Alor Setar (RM)  Kota Bharu (RM)  Kuala Terengganu 


Kuantan (RM)  Kuching (RM) 
Food  800  840  860  880  870 
Housing  400  400  400  410  460 
Healthcare  100  120  120  120  120 
Transport  490  490  490  490  490 
Utilities  290  290  290  290  260 
Personal care  90  90  90  90  90 
Ad-hoc  200  200  200  210  210 
Social  120  120  140  140  140 
Discretionary  140  140  140  150  150 


As shown in the table, expenses for food and healthcare for retiree couples are the lowest in Alor Setar. Meanwhile, housing in Kuching is the most expensive out of the five states, costing RM60 more than housing in Alor Setar, Kota Bharu and Kuala Terengganu – which can add up to a lot over the long term.  

Healthcare is available in all states with some cities like Kuantan boasting more modern facilities than the others. On the other hand, quieter cities like Alor Setar and Kota Bharu offer scenic nature views with fresh air.    



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