Living in Malaysia on a Budget: Week 16 (Ipoh)

After a full week in Ipoh, Malaysia we can honestly say: this place is great on a budget! Old Town Ipoh has cool graffiti, interesting architecture, incredibly nice people, great food, and of course amazing coffee. The diverse Chinese, Chinese Malay, and Indian population bring together beautiful history, clothing, and unique spice combinations. I've found a yoga class two blocks away for under $2.50 per class, and out of the 15+ meals we have had, only one rates as "just OK". It's even cheaper here than other Malaysian cities, so living here on a budget is very reasonable. We are loving Ipoh!

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Our goal: $50 per day total, including transportation, accommodation, visas, and bills back home. For two people.

In every budget update I will add a prorated estimate of our bills back home (loans, phone plan, etc. which may vary slightly by month), to include in our $50/day travel budget. I am not including travel insurance -- this would add about $5.75 per day to our total.

  • Days: 7
  • Location(s): Ipoh, Malaysia
  • Splurges: yoga membership, Netflix
  • Avg. spending per day: $38.71
  • Avg. spending per day incl. bills back home: $48.90
  • Avg. spending per day overall in Asia: $46.21
The lovely Kinta river separating Old Town from downtown. There are trails along both sides.

So what are our living expenses in Ipoh this week?
  • Conversion rate: 1 Malaysian Ringgit (MYR) = US$0.25 (4 MYR to $0.98 US)
  • Accommodation: $160.99 
    • Our place in Ipoh, Malaysia, the Vintage Cafe Guesthouse is about $23 per night. Check out my video tour below! 
Video tour. That preview image is not my favorite
  • Transportation: $0.85
    • Ipoh is VERY walkable and we have been loving it! We only got stuck in the rain one day and took an Uber home.
  • Food and drinks: $89.47
    • Oh man, Ipoh food... we have started eating out for breakfast because it's a big meal here. Wonderful hot Ipoh white coffee/kopi (sweet and creamy and delicious and strong) is around 1.80myr (US $0.44) and breakfast of char siu rice, assorted dim sum, curry noodles, dry fried beef noodles, fish balls, sweet kaya puffs... seriously it's all amazing and never over 15myr ($3.68) for two people. I'm a rice-and-meat-for-breakfast convert. Just don't forget the white coffee!
Typical Ipoh breakfast: white coffee, char siu (BBQ pork ) rice with cucumber, and broth
    • We generally have a snack of some kind and go out for one more meal, usually Chinese food but sometimes Indian or fusion Malaysian (like Indian spiced Nasi Goreng Ayam).
    • We tried out Bear Beer one night, which is 12% alcohol and tastes like barleywine. It's actually not bad, and at 8myr ($2.00) for a 500ml can, it's good for the occasional drink-with-a-movie. I think we got it twice this week? Which brings us to...
  • Entertainment and misc.: $19.61 Malaysia, plus $48.97 back home
    • Both of these are being financially factored into this week, but last the entire month.
    • Netflix was put back in the budget this week (factored into "bills back home") because we are in Ipoh for an entire month, we have a good TV with good speakers, and we felt like it. Catching up on Stranger Things 2! One month is US $8.53.
    • Yoga! I found a yoga class just two blocks away that is held twice a week and signed up for a one month membership for 80myr. Yes, that's right... less than US $20 for 8-10 yoga classes!
    • Most of what we do is wander around town and enjoy Ipoh's Concubine Lane, Market Lane, and other old shopping alleys. There's also just such cool architecture and bright colors!
Wandering a laneway on an off day (weekends are crazy)
Pretty epic toy store
These sheep are super cute...
One of my favorite murals
Ipoh Old Town architecture

Someone came up with a great idea to imprint leaves on concrete slabs, which cover the gutters.

So neat!
We found a fancy mall and its Christmas display. Chilly-looking!
Walking trail along the Kinta River gives a nice view of the bridges
Crazy old trees along the river
Sunset over Ipoh downtown on a Friday night

    • OK so we had to get some gifts for people, which added about $40 to our gifts back home. If you're looking for gift ideas, look no further than our list :)

Travel budget saving tips:

  • Have no fear of street food, food stalls, and hectic cafeterias. If you look confused and make eye contact with a vendor, they WILL try to sell you something and will help you figure it out. Our best and cheapest meals here have been at these establishments.

Curious about Malaysia? Find out more below:

We love the food, coffee, and streets of Ipoh, Malaysia. It's a fabulous relaxing place to take a walk, meet the locals, eat some cool fusion food, and drink the famous Ipoh White Coffee. It's easy to live here on a budget with most delicious meals staying under 20myr ($4.90) for 2 people. Check it out, it's less than 2.5 hours on a train from Kuala Lumpur!


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