21 May 2017

The Cost of Living Battle: Kuala Lumpur vs Johor

Johor Bahru was once listed as one of the top ten most affordable cities in Asia to work in by the Nomad List in 2016, though it has recently been ranked much lower at 55th position. Though we aren’t sure of the reason behind this significant fall, one thing is for sure: inflation is beating Malaysians at its best this year.

If you have been wondering about the difference in the cost of living in Johor and Kuala Lumpur, you should take a look at the in-depth analysis of components to compare the cost of living between both cities (based on findings by Numbeo) below.

The Cost of Living in Kuala Lumpur vs. Johor Bahru

Eating Out

Note: The findings are based on the average numbers from surveyors for the past 18 months.

It is safe to say that eating out is generally cheaper in Johor Bahru than Kuala Lumpur. However, many claims that you will find it harder to get a variety of food options in Johor Bahru as compared to Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

Nonetheless, it doesn’t hurt to know that you are spending about 20% to 30% less for a meal in Johor similar to one in the capital city. If it helps, you can also save more on cashback using credit cards.

Winner: Johor

Wet Markets

Surprisingly, buying food materials in wet markets in Johor is cheaper than both Kuala Lumpur and Penang according to the table. However, you should know that higher fuel prices sent the rate of inflation for March soaring to its highest level in nearly nine years, with the consumer price index (CPI) rising 5.1%, as reported by The Star.

Winner: Johor


Overall, it costs more for one to send their children to school, shop for clothing and enjoy entertainment in Johor, at about 15% to 20% higher than in Kuala Lumpur.
To be fair, it now costs three times less for Singaporeans to buy a dress in Johor than in their country given the weaker ringgit over the years. This is one of the factors that are pushing small business and hipster entrepreneurs to bloom in the state given the opportunity rising from the Singaporean market.

Other than the usual shopping, many Singaporeans also come over to Johor to service their car, dental services, and movies too! A movie ticket costs about S$9 (RM27) in Singapore while it only costs RM17 in Johor.

Winner: Kuala Lumpur

Property prices and Career prospects

Following the downturn of the property cycle, property prices in Johor are consolidating and this is a good sign for anyone considering to settle down in the state.

Whether you are looking to rent or to buy a house, you can do either with cheaper costs in Johor compared to Kuala Lumpur. However, if you are looking to invest in property particularly within the Iskandar area, you should probably do more research and wait a little longer for more convincing reasons to do so given the downturn of the property cycle.

Winner: Johor

Career-wise, while it is apparent that you have better job prospects and higher salary levels, on average, in Kuala Lumpur, many argue that Singapore - which is right next to Johor - provides a much brighter financial security.

First, the weaker ringgit has pushed more Malaysians, especially those who live in Johor to work in Singapore. Next, Singapore also offers the finest multinational corporations and billion-dollar-companies in-the-making to beef your resume up, if you’re lucky enough to be hired by one of them.

Overall Winner: Johor

In terms of cost of living, it is relatively cheaper to live in Johor than in Kuala Lumpur.

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