Costs to retire in Ipoh Malaysia

In this report, we discuss the costs to retire in Ipoh Malaysia and why it is a highly desirable place to live.

Malaysia is north of Singapore and south of Thailand. Our early retirement world tour continues today in Ipoh Malaysia. Ipoh is the third largest city in Malaysia with a metro population of about 857,000 people in 2022.

Although Ipoh is the third largest city in Malaysia, and it has everything you could possibly need in daily life including excellent food and a very safe feeling, it does not feel like a large city, and we did not see the sort of traffic congestion we experience in a large city.  Google Map


Ipoh is on the Malaysian peninsula about 3 hours south of the Thai border. The train from Kuala Lumpur to Penang goes right through the central area of Ipoh, so you should include Ipoh in your tour of Malaysia.  Google Map


The cave temples of Ipoh have been the main attraction for things to do in Ipoh. The three most famous temples are Perak Tong, Kek Lok Tong, and Sam Poh Tong. We went to see all three while we were in town. We show you two in the above video.

While in Ipoh, you must also experience the old town area, the night market, the flea market, and the street art. There is a map below that you can use to walk to all four of the main attractions. You will find Google links to the main attractions below.

You may have heard me complain in previous videos that the politicians in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia set some ridiculous income requirements for foreigners to obtain a retirement visa in Malaysia.

Well, the good news is that the Malaysian State of Sarawak has thumbed its nose at the Kuala Lumpur politicians, and has decided to welcome foreign retirees with much more reasonable income requirements for foreign retirement visas. More on that is below.

Additionally, the Malaysian state of Sabah, also in Borneo has also tentatively floated a more reasonable retirement visa. Both of these Malaysian states in Borneo retained the constitutional right to set their own immigration rules. Every country can change its laws whenever they please but that is the status at the time of this report.

In this report, I will share my estimated cost to retire in Ipoh, Malaysia including only estimated rents, utilities, groceries, restaurants, transportation, and entertainment. But the video above will show you teh video we took of Ipoh while on the ground there.

This report and video share my favorite markets, restaurants, and things to do in and around Ipoh along with my retirement desirability factors and overall retirement desirability score.

My Favorite Markets and Restaurants in Ipoh

Ipoh Markets

Central Market (Pasar Besar Ipoh): This is the central market in Ipoh. It has small individual sellers of fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, fish, groceries, household, flowers, clothing, and small family restaurants. People (and restaurants) go here to find the largest assortment of fairly priced foods.

Night Market (Gerbang Malam Ipoh): This night market is in the Chinatown area (central area) of Ipoh. There are many Chinese restaurants that are open all day, and the streets are blocked off at night when the pop-up market gets going from around 7 PM to midnight. This is a tourist area so expect to pay 50 to 100% more for meals in this area.

Sunday Morning Flea Market: This Sunday morning flea market consists mainly of people selling antique items and gadgets. There was also a band playing on one end and some food carts also.

Ex-Pat Grocery Stores: You will find ex-pat grocery stores in most western-style malls in Ipoh. See below.

Ipoh Parade Mall: This mall is in the central area of Ipoh. This is the sort of modern mall you will see all over the world with designer stores, a department store, movie theaters, and an ex-pat grocery store. Ex-pat grocery stores are often more expensive than the central market (below) but also provide a larger selection and more imported foods.

Aeon Mall: This mall is 165 minutes south of Ipoh Central. It slightly larger version of the above mall with all the same features including an ex-pat grocery store.

Ipoh Restaurants

Favorites bubbled to the top:

Sin Meng: This a Chinese-style vegetarian restaurant with the largest assortment of dishes in Ipoh. Once we found this place we ate there almost every day. The food is delicious and we paid $1.25 to $1.60 USD per meal when we ate here. It is right across the street from the above central market.

Fatty Mama Vegetarian 肥妈家乡素食管 We also loved the food in this place. My lunch was $1.25 USD.

Ninety-six Vegetarian Food: This was just a block from where we stayed. Meals ranged from $1.25 to $1.60 USD.

Old Town Chapati: I had a vegetarian Chapti and Qiang had a chicken dish. My meal was $1.00 USD and hers was $1.60. This was delicious. This is near the old town area so you can eat before you go party in Old Town.

Kedai Makanan Dan Minuman Fay Loo: This place has meat and vegetarian dishes. The meals we ordered ranged from $2 to $4 USD. One of Qiang’s friends told us about this place.

Kedai Makanan Laut Wu So Peng: This place has meat and vegetarian dishes. The meals we ordered ranged from $1.25 to $2 USD.

Nasi Ganja: This was mostly local meat dishes. Qiang read about it online and loved it. $1.60 USD.

Ipoh Tuck Kee Restaurant 德记炒粉专门店: This was mostly local meat dishes but did have a few choices without meat. Qiang read about it online and loved it. $2.00 USD.

Ipoh Caven Temples

Perak Cave Temple 霹雳洞: This beautiful Buddhist cave temple has a set of stairs that go up the back where there is a beautiful 360 view of Ipoh. The stairs are very steep and slippery when wet so make sure to wear the right shoes if you plan to climb to the top.

Kek Look Tong: This beautiful Buddhist cave temple has a large opening in the back and steps down to a beautiful lake and surrounding cliffs.

Sam Poh Tong Temple: This beautiful Buddhist cave temple has a smaller opening in the back that has a secret walled-off cave area with a temple and turtle sanctuary in the back.

Ipoh Old Town (and Nightlife)

You could spend hours walking around Old Town Ipoh. This is one of the oldest parts of Ipoh. This was an area where millionaire tin miners, actors, drug addicts, and concubines hung out starting in about the year 1890. Today it is where beautiful people go to see and be seen.

Google Map


Because of its rich history and architecture, Old Town has remained the most popular area of Ipoh. Look for the historical markers that explain which streets were where millionaire miners kept their concubines. Don’t be limited by the map. Just make sure you cover at least the map so you get the main idea about why people love Old Town so much. After walking the map in the evening, stop in and have a beer at either of the following places.

Oldtown Beerhole Bistro and Cafe: This place had a bunch of homemade beers and was great for people-watching. Make sure to check out the upstairs and downstairs and there is even seating on the street in front on weekends.

Sinhalese Bar: This is the oldest bar in Ipoh. The same family has owned the bar forever. This is where you go to hear stories where the fish gets bigger every time the story is told.

Estimated Costs to Retire in Ipoh Malaysia

Here are our estimated Costs to retire in Ipoh Malaysia on a tight budget. But we are all different, so you will have to put your feet on the ground in Ipoh to determine your cost of living based on where you would live, what you would eat, and how you would entertain yourself. The below exchange rate was about 4.4 Malaysian Ringgit (RM) to $1 USD when we were there but that varies so check the current exchange rate.

Rents: You will see furnished 1 bedroom apartments in the range of about 900 RM to 2000 RM ($200 to $450 USD) per month if we were willing to sign a lease for a year or more. Here is an example of one we found on while we were in town.

By walking neighborhoods, I can usually find cheaper ones than by searching on the internet, but we will use $300 USD per month for this estimate because central costs a little more. Be sure to read my report on how I find perfect apartments around the world so you will know why I would expect to get better deals with my feet on the ground.

Utilities: Ipoh is at sea level, so, we would need to run our air conditioner many nights and during midday on warm days. Electricity would cost about 150 RM ($34 USD monthly). Gas and water would be another $16 per month so about $50 USD per month for our estimated utilities per month.

Groceries: Based on our time here and the money we spent on groceries, we estimate about $280 USD per month on groceries for the two of us. But that only works if you shop at the central market for fresh foods. If you like going to air-conditioned supermarkets you could quickly pay $100 more per month. If you want to buy imported goods like foreign wines and cheeses, you could easily add another $100. We would shop mostly in the central market where the vegetables, fruits, rice, and meats are cheaper, and only go to the more expensive supermarkets to get what we could not find in the public market.

Restaurants: If we went out to eat twice per week, once for date night and once for a lunch somewhere, plus some street food, we would spend around $35 per week or $140 per month in restaurants for the two of us. We would eat mostly in mom-and-pop-style restaurants rather than the expensive expat-style restaurants.

Cell Phone Data: The cost to recharge our prepaid service is 60 RM $14 per month. My Android phone will act as a hotspot so we can both be on the internet at the same time when we are out of the house together.

Laundry: Many apartments here have washing machines but you will see coin-operated laundries around also. We would rent a place with a clothes washing machine so we would only spend another 20 RM ($5 USD) on detergent.

Water: We would spend about $20 per month on reverse osmosis drinking water which includes delivery.

Internet: Our home Internet service would be about $30 per month for 60 MBPS WIFI.

Transportation: The fun areas around Ipoh are tightly packed in the city center so we were able to walk everywhere. So if we moved here we would just use Grab Taxi to get groceries home and ride city buses or bicycles the rest of the time. We estimate around $50 per month for transportation.

Alcohol (Optional): A large Tiger beer is about 20 RM ($4.50 USD) in the markets and in hawker (local) restaurants. Each large is about the size of 2 beers. But you could easily double those prices in ex-pat bars and restaurants. So for the two of us, we estimate about $160 USD per month since we would drink more at home than in bars.

Entertainment (Optional): We would budget about $100 per month for entertainment for the two of us.

Costs to retire in Ipoh Malaysia

Ipoh Malaysia

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Alcohol (Optional)


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Entertainment (Optional)


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Not all of your potential expenses are listed in the above table. Visit Numbeo for Ipoh and add anything you spend money on in your home country each month that is not mentioned in the above table. This is our estimated cost of living if the two of us moved here on a tight budget. To fully understand what it would cost you to live here, you must do an exploratory visit and put your feet on the ground. Our costs of living are generally much lower than a new traveler’s because we are great bargain hunters but there are a few people that live cheaper than we do.

Never move anywhere until you have visited first personally to verify the living costs for your lifestyle and needs. I am not guaranteeing these prices. These are just my notes and estimates from the time of my visit and this post. Your costs will likely be drastically different depending on your lifestyle and the time since this post.

More typical ex-pat living costs here range from about $1400 to $2200 per month. But people spending that much often have higher incomes or pensions. They often report spending more on entertainment, eating out, and alcohol. Many also have more expensive cars, houses, or apartments.

Many of you will likely be unable to retire on so little here. I give example reasons why in this report: Understanding Why Overseas Living Costs Vary Widely. Several other reports you should read include How to NOT FAIL at Retiring Cheap Overseas and the Two Biggest Risks of Retiring Early for Cheap Offshore, which explain why you should have emergency funds available for unexpected large expenses. Links to those are provided below.

Where We Stayed

Ipoh: The prices for Airbnb in Ipoh are too high. It is a weekend destination for Kuala Lumpur and other cities in Malaysia so people are willing to pay more per night since they will not be staying there long. But we wanted to stay for 14 days and didn’t want to pay so much per night.

So Qiang found our place on Facebook. Just go to Facebook and type in “Ipoh Malaysia Apartments for rent.” You will see what we got for $20 USD per night in the video at the top of this page.

If you decide to live or retire in Malaysia for a year or more, and, you will be trying to live within the budget we are estimating in this report. you are going to have to put your feet on the ground and look for more local less expensive long-term accommodations. Here is our process for finding places as we slowly travel: How to find great apartments around the world.

Traveling to Ipoh Malaysia

After a month in Bali, we flew back to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We took a Grab Taxi to KL Sentral where you can catch trains all over Malaysia. We took the train from KL Sentral to Ipoh Malaysia for about $9 USD per person.

Ipoh Livability Factors and Retirement Desirability Score

Here are the factors I think about when I consider a place for early retirement potential. After I discuss each factor, I will assign an overall retirement desirability score.

Walkability: High Desirability. I love living in walkable areas of the world where you can walk to restaurants, grocery stores, nightlife, and other interesting things to do. If I decided to retire in Ipoh, Malaysia, I would live in the central area which is completely walkable. The only thing we used a Grab Taxi for when we were in town was for the cave temple tour and getting to and from Aeon Mall. We walked otherwise.

Internet: 40 MBPS. The internet can be spotty around much of Malaysia, but you should be fine in Ipoh. Just make sure to get your own Wifi Router.

Food: High. The international food choices in Ipoh seemed a bit limited given it is the third largest city in Malaysia. There is Thai, Italian, Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, Filipino, Korean, French, Vietnamese, and Middle Eastern.

Transportation: Medium public transportation. We like living in walkable neighborhoods, and Ipoh Central is very walkable. But if you look at how long it takes to ride transportation to various parts of town, it can easily take 2 to 3 times longer than Grab Taxi. So, we would probably live in the central area and just use a Grab taxi when we needed something outside the center.

Weather: High. This might be my favorite weather in the world. But I like heat. February through April have the highest average temperatures 33 C, 92 F. December through February have the coolest month averaging 23 C, 74 F. But the daily average is fairly consistent running between 32 C, 89 F and 33 C, 92 F. The rainy season is October through December when it averages about 12+ inches, 300+ mm per month.

Things to Do: Medium. People watch in malls, night markets, and old town. Cooking, yoga, mountain biking, martial arts, gyms, restaurants, bar hopping, golfing, live music, running, coffee shops, street food, hiking, and kayaking.

Healthcare: High. There are a few very good hospitals in Ipoh and Malaysia is one of the top medical tourism countries in the world. Plus, the prices of medical care can be as much as 50% or lower than medical care in places like the USA. For example, I just got my second Hep A-B vaccine in the USA and it cost $179 USD. The first shot in that series (identical shot) was $45 USD in Malaysia. Plus, there is not all the drama and waiting to see doctors in Malaysia.

Expats: Low. We could find no real functional Facebook group where ex-pats in Ipoh Malaysia help each other get settled in Ipoh. Plus, we didn’t see many Western-looking ex-pats wandering around Ipoh. So, you are unlikely to find much help from experienced ex-pats to answer common questions for new ex-pats. But that would not prohibit me from picking Ipoh as a place to retire or live. Although some people spend a bunch of time with ex-pats when they move overseas, I am personally just as comfortable, maybe more comfortable, making strong connections with locals. I explain why in my report, The Top 10 Mistakes International Retirees Make. So the ‘low’ ranking for ex-pats would not limit me in any way.

Real Estate: Medium. Foreigners can buy property in Malaysia in their own name with certain limitations. But honestly, the prices seem too high relative to what you can rent a place for, so I would not buy here. Plus, I never recommend buying real estate overseas until you have lived somewhere for at least 2 years and I would probably never buy for the reasons I state here: Why Retired Expats Should not Buy Real Estate Overseas. Make sure to read that before deciding to buy real estate overseas. Almost everyone else is going to try to get you to buy so read at least one source explaining why it may not be a good idea for everyone..

Visa: Low. Ipoh is in mainland Malaysia. Preferred nations like the USA, Australia, Europe, and many others get a 90-day entry stamp when they enter Malaysia without any advance paperwork. Plus they can easily get a 2-month extension. I have done many visa runs to nearby Thailand to get a new 90-day visa stamp. You are only a 3-hour train ride to the Thai border.

But if you are thinking about getting a retirement visa in Malaysia I have some bad news and then some good news for you. Bad news first? For a short period of time, we thought you would need to prove a $10,000 USD per month pension for the retirement visa. Since most people do not receive so much per month, they just do visa runs every 90 days now.

Now for the good news.  There is another way to solve the problem now. Since the state of Sarawak in Borneo Malaysia has an immigration clause carved out in their constitution, they are allowed to set their own more reasonable retirement visa rules ($1750 USD per month pension (single) and $2500 USD for a couple). The following Sarawak rules (and further requirements) are found at this link.

As it stands now, you can get your retirement visa in Sarawak and live in Ipoh for most of the year.  You are only required to spend 30 days per year in Sarawak.  The rest of the time you can spend outside of Sarawak, including other parts of Malaysia or other parts of the world.  Details are at the above link.

This story is likely to evolve over the coming month as mainland Malaysia realizes how ridiculous a $10k USD per month income requirement is for foreigners. So make sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel ( so I can update you as things change.

Overall Retirement Desirability Score: High Desirability. Ipoh has a small-town feel to it. But it also has a very cosmopolitan feeling such as in the old town area. Plus it is only a train ride away from Kuala Lumpur and the Thai border when you feel like a change. It is also fairly close to Georgetown Penang which is on the ocean, and Cameron Highlands in the mountain highlands. Plus it feels super safe and is surrounded by beautiful mountains.

Thanks for reviewing my report, Costs to retire in Ipoh Malaysia.

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