Cost of Living in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Updated On May 10, 2022

How Much Does It Cost to Live In Kota Kinabalu?

Kota Kinabalu is a laid back, relaxed city in Malaysia.

Many say that to live in Kota Kinabalu is to live in a tropical paradise.

It is one of the most diverse and peaceful places in Malaysia and it’s as cheap as you’d expect a laid back city in Malaysia to be.

If you try to avoid the touristy places, you can get by for with a small amount of money, but keep in mind that in September there’s an influx of tourists, and if you visit the touristy places during those times, it can be more expensive than London.

Cost of Living Index:
* Based on Research & User Data


If you’re one to dine out, there are plenty of cheap restaurants and food stalls that cost only about 8$ for three entire courses. If you really want to splurge, though, you can spend around 30$ per person for a meal with wine at a nice, fancy restaurant. Dining in a hotel’s restaurant always costs more.



Groceries are best bought at any big supermarket like Tesco, Giant, Aeon or Mydin. If you want some more luxury items you can find them at Cold Storage and Jaya supermarket. The good news is you can always shop for fresh fruits and vegetables at street markets (and we mean the exotic, enticing fruit) that are sold for very low prices.



Traffic can be pretty horrendous during rush hour in Kota Kinabalu and public transport requires a bit of brain power to grasp – it’s rather complicated. A general rule of thumb for Malaysia is that unless you plan to take the taxi or an Uber and send your money down the drain, then having your own car might be your best option price-wise.



Monthly utilities in Kota Kinabalu are very cheap. Depending on the size of the apartment you want to rent and the place you’ll be located, utilities can move anywhere from 30$ to 70$. Occasionally you may get a power outage but it’s pretty normal and the power will be restored rather quickly.

Sports and leisure


Prices in Kota Kinabalu when it comes to sports and pastime activities are low, too. If you want a gym or a fitness club membership, the price you’ll pay is only about 30$. This is very cheap compared to the prices around the world. If you want to go cinema, the prices of tickets aren’t high either – they only cost less than 4$.

Clothing and shoes


In Kota Kinabalu, you can find a lot of shopping malls, such as Imago, Suria Sabah and Oceanus. However, before you wander into one of them, think twice because the same clothes can be cheaper in your home town. For example, quality jeans will cost you around 60$, while a pair of Nike running shoes can cost as much as 70$.

Rent per month


The most expensive thing about living in Kota Kinabalu is the rent. Of course the price of rent depends on what you want from a home: a room, an apartment, a house, furnished, un-furnished, the number of rooms… It also highly depends on your location. If you want a one-bedroom apartment in the center of one of the major cities, that will cost you around 300$.

Cost of Living Averages Table for Kota Kinabalu

*Note: All prices are indicated in USD.
Average Restaurant Prices
Meal (Inexpensive Restaurant)$2.19
Domestic Beer (0.5 Liter)$3.65
Water (0.33 Liter)$0.33
Average Market Prices
Milk (1 Liter)$1.66
Loaf Bread (500g)$1.01
Eggs (12)$1.61
Average Transport Prices
One Way Ticket$0.61
Monthly Pass$25.52
Average Utilities Prices
Basic (Water, Electricity, Garbage, Heating, Cooling)$72.90
1 min. of Prepaid Mobile Tariff Local$0.06
Internet (Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)$34.98
Average Leisure Prices
Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult$30.66
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour)$10.73
Cinema, 1 Seat, International Release$3.28
Average Clothing Prices
1 Pair of Jeans (Levis 501 Or Comparable)$60.51
1 Summer Dress in a Chain Store (Zara, etc...)$20.17
1 Pair of Adidas Walking Shoes (Mid-Range)$68.04
Average Rent Prices
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Center$315.92
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Center$196.44
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Center$622.12

How Does the Average Person Spend Their Money in Kota Kinabalu?

A vast percentage of an average person’s salary gets spent on food in Kota Kinabalu – as much as 40% of one’s entire salary.

Another quite big expense for the people of Kota Kinabalu is the rent, since the prices are pretty high for the average salary in Malaysia.

Transportation is third on the list: even though it’s not too expensive it is an everyday necessity and it basically sends money down the drain each day.

Restaurants are also quite an expense, followed by utilities and sports and leisure, while the least of all expenses in Kota Kinabalu is clothing.

Average Costs Breakdown


Kota Kinabalu: Average Salary, Minimum Wage & Mortgages

Considering their monthly salaries, people of Kota Kinabalu might find it hard to make ends meet sometimes, though the situation is not dire.

Their minimum monthly wage is, shockingly, only about 220$, which is definitely a small amount of money.

With their average monthly net salaries being lower than in most Malaysian cities, the people of this city have a problem covering their expenses, especially if they’re renting.

If you want to travel to Kota Kinabalu, the optimal amount of money for you is around 700$ – and that’s if you’re really planning on splurging.

Average Salary$472.14
Minimum Wage$223.61
Mortgage Interest Rate4.53%

Cost of Living by City in Kota Kinabalu

CityCost of Living Index
Johor Bahru42.59
Kuala Lumpur35.0
Petaling Jaya44.31

Where to Next?

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Cost of Living - Country Index Cost of Living - City Index

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