If you ask most digital nomads where they recommend living in South East Asia they’ll probably answer your question with one of the “Big 3” nomad hubs. They’ll suggest you live in Saigon, Chiang Mai, or Bali. Yet, while these digital nomad hubs are popular for a reason, it’s important to recognize that many other options exist as well.
One of those options is Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur is a solid choice for digital nomads for several reasons. For one the cost of living is very low. Airbnb apartments are extremely affordable as are the hotels. We’re talking $350-$450/month for a solid place on Airbnb.
Stay longer or find a place on the ground and you’ve got a good shot at finding an even better deal. Food is cheap as well. Budget meals at restaurants can be found for $1-3/each. Yet, cost of living isn’t the only reason to live in Kuala Lumpur.
KL also has several coworking spaces. In fact, a quick search on coworker.com will give you 30+ possible places to work from. While you can’t expect to find the same number of digital nomads at these spaces as the ones in Chiang Mai or Saigon, there are nomads here. Plus, they’ll be more excited to connect with you as finding others living the location independent lifestyle is more of a rarity in Kuala Lumpur.
A really nice bonus of being a digital nomad in Kuala Lumpur is that it’s extremely cheap to get flights into and out of KL. Getting to a place like Bali or Koh Lanta can be expensive for someone that’s bootstrapping with an extremely limited budget.
Even with all of these benefits, however, KL isn’t an ideal digital nomad base in my eyes. It has some nice tourist attractions like the Petronas Towers or Batu Caves, but overall KL feels a bit boring to me. Does that mean I was hanging out in the wrong places or not meeting the right people? Perhaps.
I’d venture you’d probably grow bored of the city too if you stayed a week or more though. There’s just not the chaos of Saigon or the awesome leisure activities Bali or Chiang Mai have.
Kuala Lumpur is worth a visit as a tourist. It can also be great for visa runs (we’ll discuss this in a future post). KL has cheap food and booking accomodation for 1-3 months on airbnb isn’t difficult or overly expensive. The city is a bit boring, however.
My recommendation for other digital nomads? Don’t base yourself in KL for too long. Unless of course, you want to stay in a boring city for a while to limit distractions and make it easier to focus on work.