How much do I need to retire in Penang? (2023)

In the last Seedly Personal Finance Festival, I won a free return ticket to Penang at the IPP Financial Advisers booth. Thanks to them, I went on a 10-day slow travel holiday.

I love slow travels because it gives me a lot of time to focus on having a restful holiday instead of rushing from one travel attraction to another.

I have even managed to finish reading 2 books and 1 Korean drama on Netflix during this holiday!

Since 2015, I have incorporated a habit of tracking my expenses in my daily life and this habit sticks on me even when I am on holiday.

With the expense data collected from this holiday, I decided to write this article to evaluate what retiring in Penang would cost me, based on my current lifestyle and spending habits.

Before we start, please note that the figures below are based on my lifestyle and spending habits today. If you intend to do something similar, you need to first track and understand your lifestyle and spending habits today.

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How much does it cost for me to retire in Penang today?

I know many of you are here for the figures so let’s get that out of the way before I elaborate more on my thoughts about retiring in Penang.

Combining the expense data collected from my holiday with the average of my monthly expenses this year, here’s a breakdown of what my projected expenses will look like if I were to retire in Penang today.

Location Category Total Price (SGD) Frequency Average Price (SGD) Projected Frequency Projected Expenses Remarks Date Recorded
Penang, Malaysia Accommodation 1,244.36 1 1,244.36 1,244.36 15% discount given for longer stays. 23 Oct 2023
Penang, Malaysia Bills & Subscriptions 13.05 1 13.05 42.22 23 Oct 2023
Penang, Malaysia Entertainment 5.22 1 5.22 2 10.44 23 Oct 2023
Penang, Malaysia Groceries 54.45 10 5.45 150.00 23 Oct 2023
Penang, Malaysia Hawker Food 56.35 19 2.97 26 77.11 23 Oct 2023
Penang, Malaysia Personal Care 31.91 2 15.95 76.67 23 Oct 2023
Penang, Malaysia Personal Insurance 0.00 0 0.00 28.53 Cost to remain the same as insurance remains in SG. 23 Oct 2023
Penang, Malaysia Property Tax 0.00 0 0.00 3.49 Cost to remain the same, assuming property remains in SG. 23 Oct 2023
Penang, Malaysia Restaurant & Fast Food 200.35 16 12.52 34 425.74 23 Oct 2023
Penang, Malaysia Transportation 61.50 18 3.42 63 215.24 23 Oct 2023
Penang, Malaysia Cafe 45.66 7 6.52 17 111.82 23 Oct 2023
Penang, Malaysia Nightlife 157.15 8 19.64 4 78.58 23 Oct 2023
Location Total Price (SGD) Frequency Average Price (SGD) Projected Frequency Date Recorded

The total cost works out to S$2,625.27 per month based on my lifestyle and spending habits today.

How do you think about this figure? Were you expecting a higher or lower figure? Let me know in the comments below.

If we look at all the expenses from the pie chart below, we can see that the cost of renting an accommodation takes up close to half of my total expenses. I’ll elaborate more on that later.

I have not factored in any local insurance and medical expenses as I do not have any context on these categories at this point.

Let’s focus on some of the top 3 expense categories.


For a long term stay, I would choose to rent a condominium apartment (in my case, a 1-bedder unit). During this holiday, I rented a 1-bedder condominium apartment in Jelutong which is 15 minutes away from Georgetown by car.

I like this area as it is much more quieter than the touristy areas and because Penang island is very small, getting around using Grab rides is very fast and convenient.

When looking for a place with the intent to stay more longer than the usual tourist, remember to negotiate the rental price. For the 1-bedder unit that I was staying in, I checked with the management and was told that I could get 15% discount for longer stays.

The best part is that the rental cost that I was paying covers the essential utilities such as electricity, water and decent Internet.

Restaurant & Fast Food

I can confidently say that all my favourite fast food brands in Singapore are also available in Penang. On top of that, there are also nicer fast food brands like Marrybrown as well.

When it comes to restaurants, there are plenty of options to choose from without having to break the bank.

I particularly like the dim sums at 富二代 and the Nasi Kandar ar Deen Maju. The zi char dishes at Fatty Lye Seafood Restaurant were delicious as well. For an authentic Penang Lok Lok experience, a visit to Ping Hwa Lok Lok is a must as well. Maybe I should start a food/travel blog. 🙂

Penangites are foodies and the proof is in the quality of food sold on the island.

For affordable options, eating at both street hawkers and coffee shops is extremely affordable, costing less than S$3 per meal, with the option of topping up less than S$1 for a drink. It is so affordable that the Hawker Food expense line item does not even qualify as one of the top 3 expense categories.


As someone who doesn’t drive, I commute around Penang using Grab car and each ride averages less than S$3.50. I forecasted that I would take a total of 63 rides a month, with 2 rides on most days.

For those who drive, I’m sure it is cheaper drive a car with a Malaysian car plate as fuel costs are heavily subsidised by the government.

Is Penang worth considering as a retirement destination?

If there is one word I can use to describe Penang as a retirement destination, the word I’d use is comfortable.

From a financial standpoint, using the stronger Singapore dollar to pay for expenses incurred in Malaysian Ringgit in a lower cost of living country like Malaysia (than Singapore) is easy on the wallet and allows me to stretch my retirement dollars further.

Geographically, Penang is a 1-hour flight away from Singapore which makes it easy for me to travel back and forth easily when necessary. Even last minute flights on budget carriers aren’t terribly expensive.

Despite the slight political instability and corruption, Penang is relatively okay compared to other states. I also find the multiracial Penang island population with a large Chinese majority relatively similar to Singapore.

Language barriers are non-existent for bilingual Singaporeans like me.

While Penang is not the cheapest location to retire in, the ease and comfort of settling in what I call, a ‘Singapore-lite’ location makes it an attractive option.

I’m definitely keeping this option in my pocket if the visa options available during my retirement years are of acceptable standards.

What is your opinion of retiring in Penang? Would you consider Penang as a retirement destination? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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    1. Thanks for sharing. I went with the easy way out of booking through Airbnb. There could be some further savings if I went through an agent. In any case, the cost of renting an accommodation in JB does seem quite low indeed.

  1. most of the cost are okay but i think is a preference thing because the food as an aggregate, leans closer to the high side.

    1. That’s true. My current lifestyle includes a higher proportion of eating in restaurants/fast food vs hawker/home-cook. I also have a large cafe spend at this point as I find it hard to focus on work at home.

      Still a work in progress in making lifestyle changes.

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