Langkawi – A Good Place For Retirement or a Second Home?

Pantai Kok, Langkawi

I recently spent a few days touring round the beautiful island of Langkawi, which is one of Malaysia’s top tourism destinations.

Many foreign visitors must fall in love with the beaches, spectacular hills and laid back lifestyle of Langkawi and dream of buying a holiday or retirement home or running a business on the island.

Here are a few thoughts on whether or not this is a good idea:

Visa & Tax

The good news is that thanks to the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) scheme it is relatively straightforward to obtain a long term visa provided applicants meet the criteria of the scheme. Under this visa you are not permitted to work although the scheme was amended a couple of years ago to allow visa holders to obtain part-time work in certain circumstances. Establishing a business locally is also possible. You can find details on the Government’s official MM2H page.

Even better news is that foreigners living in Malaysia under MM2H pay no income tax (except on any income earned in Malaysia). Pensions and overseas investment income are not taxed.

Schooling

If you have school age kids you need to take schooling into consideration.

There are no international schools in Langkawi.  You could:

  • Enrol your child at a local school but lessons would be taught in Malay or Chinese, depending on the school. Great for learning a second language but the quality of education might not help the child in later life.
  • Send the kid to boarding school in your home country. Fine if you were planning to do that anyway but seems a bit selfish if your only aim is to spend time on the beach!
  • Send the kid to boarding school in Penang (Uplands School) which is 2 hours 45 minutes away by ferry. Might be better to live in Penang instead of Langkawi so you can see your child every day.
  • Homeschool your child from your sunbed on the beach (best option!).

Healthcare

Unlike the Thai island of Phuket (only 100km away) which is a medical tourism destination, Langkawi does not have an international standard hospital. The local Langkawi Hospital would probably be OK for minor procedures and is no doubt really cheap. Local hospitals usually involve lots of waiting. More serious conditions would need to be treated in Penang or in KL.

Getting Out

Even when you live in paradise you need to get out sometimes.

Langkawi has a nice airport but to get to most places you will have to fly to KL first and change planes there. There are a few international routes from Langkawi; to Singapore, to Vladivostok (the island is popular with Russians) and to Guangzhou.

Ferries link Langkawi to Kuala Perlis, Kuala Kedah, Penang and Satun (southern Thailand). However there is no car ferry meaning that you would always have to rely on rented cars or public transport whenever you visit the mainland.

Shopping

Duty Free Bed Sheets?

As far as I could tell there is only one large supermarket on Langkawi;  Billion, in the main town of Kuah. Apart from that there are numerous general stores and also many duty-free shops. The whole of Langkawi is a duty-free zone meaning that it has cheapest booze, tobacco and chocolate in Malaysia. Since Malaysia has the second highest alcohol duties in the world, this is quite a benefit for Langkawi residents and visitors. Designer branded items are sold in some of the duty-frees.

The main beach area of Cenang is lined with shops selling T-shirts, swimming costumes, flip-flops and other seaside essentials.

Property

If you Google ‘property for sale in Langkawi’ you will see relatively few results. The reason could be that the majority of land on Langkawi is Malay Reserved Land meaning that it must stay in the hands of Malays. Some property owners and vendors have devised various schemes to get around this requirement but in my view they all involve a degree of risk. It is unnecessary to take these risks as there are plenty of properties in other parts of Malaysia which are not Malay Reserved Land and which can provide the purchaser with perfectly clean freehold title.

What are the alternatives? There are condominiums and apartments in Langkawi sold on a freehold basis. They are not always easy to resell on the secondary market if you later decide to dispose of your property.

Personally I would opt to rent.

I met a middle aged expatriate couple who live on a boat in Langkawi. They cycle to Langkawi’s scenic spots and seemingly enjoy an active and attractive lifestyle. It might seem idyllic to be able to up-anchor and sail off to a new destination when they tire of Langkawi but this life would not suit our family. There is no room on a boat for all our junk (we have far too many possessions), it is not suitable for pets and there is no garden. And you need to be seriously rich as a boat is a depreciating asset.

Perdana Quay, Langkawi

Boredom

I have a good friend who lives in southern England who says that he would get very bored living in a place like Langkawi. I can see his point. In just five days in Langkawi I reckon I visited nearly all the places of interest on the island. But that doesn’t mean I would get bored. These days with the internet, YouTube, Kindle and so on you need never be without your favourite books, magazines, TV programmes and films wherever you are in the world.  As long as you have friends and/or family around you, life on Langkawi could be very pleasant.  Of course if you cannot live without the theatre and opera then Langkawi is probably not for you.

Take a look at my Malaysia-Traveller website for details of things to do and places to see in Langkawi.

Conclusion

I think Langkawi would be a lovely place to spend a few months perhaps while writing a book say, or for those wishing to escape a European winter. I’m not so sure if it is perfect for long term retirement.

I would avoid buying a property here.

P2211380

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24 Responses to Langkawi – A Good Place For Retirement or a Second Home?

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  5. abdul malek che din says:

    Your comment on there is only one large supermarket is misleading…… There are ample well stocked shops in Kuah and the various shopping arcades all over the prime locations to cater for your daily needs. I was working there for more than 4 years.

  6. nzaaaf says:

    are you sure that the MM2H holders can enrol their child at a local school but lessons would be taught in Malay or Chinese.
    Thanks

    • I’m not entirely sure whether MM2H holders are entitled to enrol their children at local (public) schools. The official government MM2H website implies that it is possible but you would need to obtain a letter from the Ministry of Education (see application guidelines here).

      • nzaaaf says:

        My quistion about my young kids ( 4 and 7 years old ).
        i would to thank you for the nice subject but I’m worried about it. I want to buy a small house in any part of the island.

  7. I have always been passionate about The Island of Langkawi . Langkawi island is a heaven . i have lived all my adult life in the UK and have travelled the world , although i m not a local boy but I was born in Kedah on the mainland and have many fond memories of my childhood in Langkawi
    I will be promoting Langkawi in London
    and as a businessman , i reckoned it has potentials despite of the downside written about the island , it is the best place to invest i can see a good returns of the investment going up 10 folds within the next few tears and I can personally guarantee if you invest through my development , i can assure a good rental income of a minimum of 6% yields capital appreciation between 15% per annum a conservative estimates . The state government of Kedah under a young dynamic chief minister will continue to develop and sustain its growth , I have seen the master plan for Langkawi and within the next two years All that is mentioned by the writer will be a history . there will be an international schools , private hospitals it will be turned into a hollistic and the best medical facilities in the region , Travelling within region will be easier with the international airport alteeady in use . I will definitely recommend Langkawi as a place to invest for the future

    • Thank you for commenting Mr. Syed. Look forward to seeing the improvements that you mention.

    • Nicholas Rodney says:

      Am interested in buying a freehold or minimum 60 year lease on a house with 100 sq.m garden or land on which I would build 4 bedroom 500 sq.m house, This would be a second home for an Englishman that I could transmit to my daughter later. Do you have any suggestions. I will be house hunting on the spot end of next May (2015) Many thanks. Nicholas Rodney. My email is nicholasrodney@free.fr

      • Hi Nicholas,
        There are very few, if any, freehold landed properties available for foreigners to buy on Langkawi for the reasons mentioned in my post (freehold apartments are available but you want a garden). Leasehold arrangements are a possibility but I would suggest you proceed with care and use a reputable estate agent and lawyer to assist. appears to be a knowledgeable source of information relating to Langkawi.

  8. syed Tariq. says:

    i am working in Saudi airlines, will be retired this month, i am interested to spend winter in langkawi, and buy a condo there.Thrifty and Mr syed has different opinion. or 2nd good option is living in Pattaya (Thailand). I will like to hear your comments about Thailand island. which island wil you recommend. there are many beautiful island too. .

  9. syed Tariq. says:

    foreigner can buy property in Thailand?

    • Hi Mr. Tariq,
      Thanks for your comments. I did not mean to say that Langkawi is not a suitable place for retirement. It all depends on your requirements. As for Thailand, I am not an expert. I have visited Koh Samui and Phuket. They are both beautiful but personally I would think Phuket is more suitable for retirement as it is bigger and has more facilities. Pattaya has the advantage of being close to Bangkok but the beaches and style of development are not as good as Phuket or Koh Samui. Again it all depends on what you are looking for and I would suggest you take a long holiday there (and in Langkawi) before deciding. As far as I know, foreigners cannot own land in Thailand but can buy condos.
      Good luck for your retirement.

  10. Captain Hugo says:

    Looking for a lucrative lifestyle in Langkawi? Check out our Langkawi Yacht Charter Business now for sale as owners retiring after 30 years. For full details, go to: http://www.apolloduck.net/307731 and http://www.hallelujahyachtcruises.com . . . All enquiries welcome!

  11. Manu says:

    Hello David,

    Thanks yo much for your site, so many useful information….

    After living 5 year in Phuket, I am lookinf for a new location either Langkawi in Malesia or Lombok in Indonesia.
    I could see Visa seems more easy and clear in Malesia (mm2h) for younger than 50 years.

    I am especially looking for place where I can easily daily snorkeling in spot with coral, fish, tortle, …. (at 10-15 min of my home, from the beach and without having to take a boat).

    Do you know if there are such place in Langkawi (or another such place in Malaisia) and if water is clear enough?
    I am looking for a place to leave several years, so with enough shop, accomodation and appartment or house to rent.

    I am french and are also interesting to discuss with french living in Malaisia to get a maximum of information and also share my experience, as my english is not very good.

    Thank you a lot for you answer
    Best regards
    Manu

    • Bonjour Manu,
      Thank you for your comment.
      As you know Langkawi is not so far from Phuket and the sea conditions are similar. Langkawi is a beautiful island with great beaches but, in my opinion, it is not the best place for snorkelling directly from the beach. Most of the diving operators take tourists to the nearby Pulau Payar Marine Park but you have to go there by boat (20 nautical miles away).
      I visited Gili Trawangan (Lombok) a few years back and this is one place where you can see turtles while snorkelling from the beach. I stayed in a hotel owned by a Frenchman bit I cannot remember the name. It is a beautiful island but whether you would want to live there for several years is something for you to decide.
      As for visas, yes Malaysia is easier (mm2h) but many foreigners manage to live in Indonesia without too much difficulty.
      Why not buy the Langkawi Yacht Charter Business (see comment below) then you will have a boat to take you to all the good diving locations near Langkawi!
      David

  12. Arnie says:

    Hi, I am a South African, wanting to retire in Langkawi, do you know of any expat South Africans residing in Langkawi?
    Regards
    Arnie

  13. Ralph (Ten) says:

    Hi everyone,
    I just wanted to let you know some facts regarding Penang and long term living here, especially in Batu Ferringhi, as I was recently reading some strange reviews and I would like to comment on this.
    Penang has been and still is awesome! Lots of “everything good and cheap”.
    We enjoy it here very much, and we are located between Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi (beach capital of Penang).
    As a happy resident of Miami Green Condominium I know that by now in 2016 the facilities are still very well maintained and regularly renewed and everything here (including pools and garden scenery) is very nice.
    Many long time renters are here, mainly from UK or Australia, and the occasional english teacher from one of the island’s private schools.
    Long Term Rental rates in Penang range from 1500 (lower end) to 10000 (Straits Quay), whereby the Miami Green rates range from RM2200-2800 per month, which in my mind is super reasonable considering a) the low ringgitt and b) the high quality of many newly renovated units.
    Cheers and best, Ralph (PM if you like)
    http://www.mypenangcondo.com

  14. Ed says:

    Hi,

    If any expatriate wish to buy a resort in Langkawi Island or for investment / retirement, do let me know. I have 1 resort for sale at Langkawi Island.

    Any enquiries, do call / whatsap me at +6012-2515600 . Thank you

    Regards,

    Ed
    +6012-2515600

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