We chose Penang, Malaysia, for an extended stay during our retired budget travel adventure because it has attributes we enjoy, and the price is right.
We rented a furnished three-bedroom, two-bath apartment with a washing machine, big flat-screen TV, WiFi, air conditioning and fans, at a price of $610 for 31 nights. (Video tour is below.)
That’s just $19.75 a night for two people!
Penang is an island on Malaysia’s west coast. It’s a cool place with a little bit of everything: Georgetown has a ton of history and fun street markets and hawker centers, along with old architecture and historic sites; the Gurney area has malls and Starbucks and other modern conveniences; medical and dental care is popular with expats; there are many beaches and hills and parks on the island.
Also, there are vacant apartments galore. The new “upper middle class” in Asia is flush with cash, and many of them have bought apartments to add real estate to their portfolios. But many new apartment owners don’t actually live in Penang.
Some older buildings have large vacancy rates, too, because middle-and-upper-class locals also buy into the newly constructed buildings.
This means it’s a renters market, and it’s extremely affordable for most expats on a budget.
I met one expat who pays $525 for a two-bedroom, sea-view apartment in a newer building with modern amenities. He rents on a yearly lease. I know of other expats who also live comfortably in that price range.
We saw real estate signs advertising rentals in various newer buildings around town for $700 to $900 — some units advertised more than 1,200 square feet, plus amenities. Many rental apartments are furnished. These are ballpark prices are for yearly tenants.
In our case, we used Airbnb like we usually do for long stays. (Read about monthly Airbnb discounts here.) I want to note: there are some condominium buildings in Penang that ban Airbnb and short-term (nightly) stays.
Our apartment was one of the older buildings. It had more character and a better, historic vibe than the newer cookie-cutter high-rise deals, in my opinion. It’s totally fine for us early retired budget travelers.
It also was in a great location – right on the bus route into George Town or the other way out to the beaches like Batu Ferringhi or Tanjung Bungha.
Our building did not have a pool or workout room like the newer construction. So if you want to rent a newer unit with features like a pool or workout room, you will likely pay more than our $610 rent.
We recorded a video tour of our unit. We call these segments “Kortan’s Crib” and we share them with friends and family so they can see where we are living at various stops our retired budget travel adventure. Here’s that video.
Other pluses: Penang is relatively easy to get to from Kuala Lumpur; Penang is less congested than KL; Malaysians speak English; Americans can visit Malaysia on a free, easy three-month visa on entry.
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