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by The Expatriate Lifestyle Editorial Team 3 Jun 2013



Town or piped gas is available in most apartments and houses in most urban areas. In many other Malaysian households, bottled gas for cooking is available in cylinders and is delivered directly to the home by local agents or local grocery stores. A full cylinder costs RM75 and replacement gas alone costs RM25. For more information on town gas, contact Gas Malaysia Sdn Bhd on 03 9206 7800.


Electricity is usually the major expense amongst households, especially if you struggle to cope with the heat and need the air-conditioning on all day. Running the air-conditioners in your home is the quickest way to run up a large electricity bill.

Fans can cool your house just as well, as long as you open the windows and doors to allow for a natural breeze to sweep through.

In Peninsular Malaysia, electricity is provided by Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB). Domestic electricity supply is 220-240 Volts A/C, 50Hz and is available 24 hours a day throughout the country. There are possibilities of breakouts several times a year due to upgrading but other than that, the supply is very reliable. Plug fittings are usually of the square, three-pin or round variety and lamp fittings can be either bayonet or screw type.

Rates vary according to your level of usage. For a monthly consumption between 0-400kWh, you’ll be charged 21.8 sen per month for the first 200 units and 34.5 sen per month for the next 200 units. Alternatively, rates for a monthly consumption over 400 kWh start at 30 sen for the first 500kWh and increase per 100kWh thereafter.

The minimum monthly charge is RM3 and a full breakdown of the tariffs can be found at or by calling 1300-88-5454.

In Sarawak, electricity is supplied by the Syarikat Sesco Berhad (SESCO). The domestic rates are 34 sen for the first 100 units per month, 29 sen for the next 300 units and 33 sen for each additional unit. The minimum monthly charge is RM5.

For more information, log on to In Sabah, electricity is supplied by Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd. Domestic rates are 24 sen for the first 40kwh per month, 60 sen for the next 41 - 200kwh and 26 sen for 201kwh and over. The minimum monthly charge is RM 5.

For more information, log on to

Electricity bills must be paid to the electricity board (or your condo management, depending on your arrangement) within a fortnight of receiving them. If you are paying TNB directly, you can do so by cash, cheque or even via online payment services through selected Malaysian banks. Payment centres can also be found at Post Offices where many people choose to pay all their bills at once.


Though the water supply in Malaysia is reliable and treated to WHO standards, many people prefer to use household filters to improve the quality of water. Common amongst expatriates are domestic water coolers that dispense drinking water. These are cheap and easy (a 19-litre bottle costs about RM11 if bought in bulk) and you can even get them delivered in smaller batches whenever you need them.


Sewerage services are separate from the water supply and operated by Indah Water. The company deals with both private and public issues, though internal plumbing and piping is the responsibility of the property owner.

Rubbish Disposal

Due to the hot and humid climate here, rubbish is best disposed of quickly and should not be left exposed in the hot sun for long, as it will begin to smell and may also attract unwanted attention from the local wildlife.

Condominium residents, however, have less to worry about as rubbish disposal areas are provided on each floor and rubbish is collected on a daily basis.

In houses, on the other hand, collections range from every other day to twice a week. To find out when and how often the rubbish is collected in your area, either ask the neighbours or consult your landlord. All rubbish is collected by Alam Flora and fees are built into the landlord’s annual local government assessment charges.


Telekom Malaysia charges non-locals a refundable deposit of RM 1,000 before connecting you to the telephone. However, if the phone line is in your landlord’s name, you will only have to pay for the bills.

Obviously, if you’ve bought a property, then the telephone line will also be your responsibility. You can go to TM in person to make inquiries with regards to the times they can come, when the phone line will be operational and other such details.

The TM website lists all the addresses of the various TMpoint outlets and you’re sure to find one relatively close to you.

Alternatively you can call them on 1 800 88 9393 or email This is simpler in that it can be done from home but for those unfamiliar with Malaysia and Malaysian addresses, explaining the location of your home over the phone can be confusing. In Malaysia, emails sometimes go unanswered so calling is recommended over emailing.

If you need to report a fault with your telephone, simply dial 100. You can also call this number to apply for a phone line, enquire about services (such as voicemail or internet) or to give your feedback on their services.
At the end of your stay, make sure to terminate your services in plenty of time (you can always rely on your mobile phone for the interim period) to ensure that you receive your deposit back before departing the country.

Mobile Phones

In Malaysia, mobile or cell phones are usually referred to as “handphones”. As expatriates your best bet is to opt for a pay-as-you-go or prepaid phone. Finding a handset definitely won’t be a problem. Most malls have dozens of stalls selling the latest and greatest models for vast discounts. If you’re upgrading, they’ll also accept your old unit as a trade-in for the newer model, knocking its value off the total price.

As far as service providers go, you can also pick up a SIM card from virtually every mall or shopping centre. The cards themselves can now be found extremely cheaply thanks to fierce competition between the major providers, Celcom (a subsidiary of TM and affiliated with worldwide mobile giant, Vodafone), Maxis and Digi (both popular local carriers).

International Calls

The competitive rates offered by local telecommunication companies, means you don’t need to worry about your phone bills. For even cheaper rates, phone cards are also widely available so do take advantage of them. Both Redtone (for mobile phone usage) and Nasioncall and iTalk (for land line usage) offer attractive rates and quality service.

When dialling, the digit “0” is a necessary prefix for certain countries. To help you, we’ve compiled this useful table of IDD codes and time difference. However, it does not take into consideration the summer and winter time modifications for certain countries.


Wi-Fi is taking off in Malaysia in a big way, albeit a few years behind the rest of the world. If you’re on the go a lot, finding a wireless connection shouldn’t be a problem—there’s free wireless at KLIA, and many hotels, restaurants and cafés.

Similarly, home-based wireless connections are just as common and relatively painless to set up. The speed of your internet connection will depend on a few factors: the time of day, and your address being a couple of them. If you’re staying in a particularly dense residential area, chances are that the internet cables are overloaded, so settle down for a wait if you’re used to extremely fast connections.

Postal and courier service

Sure, we can easily be fooled into thinking that—with our digital lives taking care of most of our communications needs—that postal and parcel needs are a thing of the past. Nothing could be farther from the truth: as expatriates we’re sending more and more things homeward, be that gifts and the like, things we’ve found for our domiciles back home or documents, books or other printed matter.

You’ll find the national service, POS Malaysia certainly trustworthy and adequate with a normal amount of bureaucracy, certainly fine for postcards and the like. But for anything you care about, best to use the more international courier services, professionals who use the latest technology to get your packages to their destinations. Surprisingly, the cost difference to POS Malaysia isn’t as great as you’d expect, especially if you don’t need express services.

The best of these are TNT, City Link and also FedEx deserve mention. You can even use their websites to get a basic price to give you an idea of what things will cost to ship.


Few of the free to air channels in Malaysia consistently show English language programmes throughout the day. However, privately owned free to air channels such as NTV7 and 8TV do broadcast a number of American TV series which are popular amongst expats and locals alike.

Most expatriates though choose to subscribe to the satellite services of Astro. Packages from the country’s sole satellite television provider start from RM37.95 and for this monthly fee you’ll receive roughly 26 channels from lifestyle and entertainment to radio. To receive familiar news channels such as BBC World, CNN, Al-Jazeera English and Bloomberg, packages start from roughly RM50 and one of either the Sports (ESPN, Eurosport etc.), Learning (Discovery, National Geographic), Variety (Star World, E!, MTV) or Fun (Nickelodeon, Disney, Cartoon
Network) packages will also be included.

Additional packages include channels such as BBC Entertainment and, recently added, Discovery Turbo which are popular amongst expatriates and a full English Language package will cost roughly RM120.

Unfortunately, digital television services are yet to reach Malaysia and, as a result, picture quality on large plasma or LCD screens may not be as crisp as you’re used to at home. Service can also be intermittent during heavy storms but not to worry, it will resume once the worst of the storm has passed and the satellite dish’s signal is clear of obstruction.

Football lovers (especially those of the English Premier League) will revel in Astro’s comprehensive coverage. Weekends on the sports channels are awash with “the beautiful game” and the coverage, from the studios in Singapore and the commentary booths in the UK, is excellent. Fans of American TV series will also enjoy the selection offered by Astro’s entertainment channels and children too are well cared for.

Within the last couple of years, the broadcaster has also introduced its Astro Maxx service. Working much like Sky+ in the UK and TiVo in the US, the receiver allows you to record your favourite shows onto the unit’s hard drive and you can even pause and rewind live TV.

If renting a property, try to persuade your landlord to get Astro installed for you (unless, of course, it already
is—often Astro lines are already installed and simply need reconnecting)—it will save you the trouble of connection and means you’ll be ready to go with some comforting entertainment as soon as you move in.

However, if you have to do it yourself, all you need to do is contact Astro directly, either by phone or in person at one of their outlets to arrange for an agent to come to your home.


Radio broadcasters in Malaysia are largely owned by two consortiums—the government run RTM and the television giant Astro. RTM’s English language station, Traxx can be found on 90.3 or 100.1FM in KL, while Astro’s three popular stations are Hitz.FM, Mix and LiteFM. Most stations can also be found through Astro’s satellite TV channel 852.

Red, Fly and Capital (88.9FM in KL only) are all alternative and independently owned stations. Many listeners prefer them for that fact, though Astro’s services are undoubtedly the most popular amongst expatriates in Malaysia.

BFM89.9 only launched in late 2008 but has already won accolades for its genuinely independent music, good interviews and lack of commercial ‘selling out’. BFM also broadcasts the Barclays Premier League live throughout the English football season.

The majority of music played across the country’s airwaves is of UK or US chart descent and remains up-to-date, particularly on the more mainstream genres. Popular here are hip-hop, pop and soft rock although LiteFM cater to more of an easy listening crowd. Stations also employ regular traffic updates and news bulletins which can be handy for regular commuters.


Newspapers in Malaysia are regulated via the Printing Presses and Publications Act, which means that the Home Affairs Ministry decides who has a license to publish and who does not. However, this does not mean that the media are as strictly regulated as countries in, for example, the Middle East.

While newspapers in Malaysia are never as critical of the government as you would find in the US or UK, they report news and events well and you should try to pick up a local newspaper at least once or twice a week to keep abreast of what is going on in the country.

With wide coverage of news, both local and international, each newspaper offers a different perspective. A number of Malaysians even read two or three different newspapers daily in order to see the different sides of a story.

The growth of the internet has also spawned independent news websites like Malaysiakini and Malaysia Today (the centre of much controversy in mid-2008 due to the critical views of the website’s owner), which, due to them being online rather than print media, should not subject to the Printing Presses and Publications Act.

Other useful websites are,,, and

You can find many familiar magazine titles in Malaysia, however, be aware that much of the content is either directly lifted from the overseas editions and what local material there is sometimes doesn’t fit in with the style of the magazine.

There are Malaysian versions of titles such as FHM, Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health and other famous titles, and it is also possible to get exactly the international versions (especially UK, US and Australian) of your favourite magazines, albeit often an issue or two out of date and at a much higher price, reflective of import duty and transport costs.

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