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Why This Southeast Asian Country Is Trending With Digital Nomads

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With digital nomads to be found in nearly all corners of the world nowadays, it can be hard to keep your finger on the pulse as to where the next big hotspot might be.

While Europe and South America remain hugely popular options for digital nomads, no one can deny that the countries of Southeast Asia are classic favorites. 

woman in Georgetown penang malaysia

This region of the world has been a long-time sought-after destination for both travelers and digital nomads alike, and there are many reasons for people to move from their home country for these lush, greener pastures.

While Thailand might be the most well-known country for tourists as well as for digital nomads in this corner of the world, it’s time to look to its neighbor to the south and start thinking about Malaysia as an ideal place for digital nomads. 

colorful stairs and statue at batu caves Malaysia

Why Malaysia?

Besides being a favorite for tourists looking for Southeast Asian scenery, Malaysia has been growing in popularity with digital nomads in recent years as well. Offering a low cost of living and warm climate, Malaysia shows no signs of slowing down as a favorite place for digital nomads to call home, at least for a while. 

With a countrywide average download of over 110 Mbps, the internet is usually reliable throughout the more popular areas of the country.

Of course when you reach the remote islands and highland villages all bets are off for staying connected.

However sim cards are cheap and readily available, so staying topped up should keep any digital nomad logged on enough to maintain their job. 

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Top view of Kuala Lumper skyline at twilight

The Geography of Malaysia also means that the country is less likely to be hit by the famous typhoons and cyclones that can impact other areas of Southeast Asia, and due to its history, the general infrastructure is more organized than its neighboring countries.

As a former British colony, Malaysia had heavy investment in infrastructure, transportation, education, and government.

After its independence the country has been able to maintain its status as one of the more developed countries in Southeast Asia.

Not to mention about 60% of the population speak English here, making daily life much easier for those whose Malay is not up to par. 

Cameron highlands tea plantations malaysia

Digital Nomad Visa

Malaysia began offering its digital nomad visa back in late 2022, called the DE Rantau Nomad Pass, which is open to nationals from all other countries so long as they meet the annual income threshold of $24,00 a year, and can prove that they work in certain industries (at the time of writing these included professions in the digital sphere such as software development, digital currency, cyber security, IT, and digital marketing).

However, if you don’t meet the requirements for this visa, most visitors are allowed 90 days on arrival, giving you plenty of time to explore this beautiful tropical paradise while still logging into your daily meetings. 

female digital nomad on beach with laptop

Where To Choose?

Bustling capital city Kuala Lumpur is often overlooked for its more glitzy and well-known neighbors such as Bangkok and Singapore, but it looks like it’s starting to get its moment in the spotlight.

Having been described as a more laid-back substitute for Bangkok, and a more affordable Singapore alternative, there are lots of reasons to love Kuala Lumpur.

Digital nomads love Kuala Lumpur's low everyday living expenses, and not to mention you are well placed next to 2 major airports, with quick connections to almost everywhere in the world.

Kuala Lumpur offers digital nomads the chance to live in a hectic and thriving Asian city with a bit more order to it than other comparable megacities.

While it’s by no means quiet, life in Kuala Lumpur moves a little bit slower than somewhere like Ho Chi Minh or Hong Kong. 

Man tourist in Malaysia looks at the Petronas Twin Towers.

Digital Nomads looking to get out of the city are spoiled for choice here in Malaysia. 

Those looking for island life head to Langkawi, made of up 99 islands off the Northwest corner of Malaysia, and not too far from the Thai island of Koh Lipe.

Langkawi is a duty-free island, and therefore certain things such as alcohol are much cheaper than on the mainland.

However, despite being tax-free, Langkawi is very much a tourist island at heart, and prices for many things will be higher here than back in the city. 

The beaches here rival any that you will find in Thailand, and the crowds are almost sure to be much smaller as well.

boats off the coast of langkawi malaysia

Just under a three-hour ferry ride away from Langkawi (or an easy and cheap 40-minute flight) you can find another Malaysian island, but this one with a totally different vibe altogether.

Penang is Malaysia’s fourth largest island and is known to tourists as being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, not to mention home to some of Southeast Asia’s best street food (a title that is not easily won, if you know just how much amazing street food exists in every corner of Asia).

Old rickshaw tricycle near Fatt Tze Mansion or Blue Mansion, famous oriental historical building in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysi

Penang's capital city of Georgetown is a fantastic place to wander around and take in all the interactive street art.

Not to mention trying as many of the multicultural food stalls as you can possibly manage.

Penang has been called one of the best places to retire in the world, for its beaches, low cost of living, and being a laid-back place with friendly locals.

With a large variety of coworking spaces and a median download speed of around 50 Mbps, logging in from almost anywhere shouldn’t be an issue. Keep your eyes on Penang to break out as one of Asia's biggest digital nomad hubs in the coming years.

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