We get quite a few messages from people asking us questions while they are planning a trip. Usually the answers are so specific to them that they would not be of interest to anyone else. However every now and then one comes up that is general enough that others might find it interesting.
Below is an excerpt of an email from Tanya. Not my wife Tanya, obviously. A different Tanya. We are publishing her original email as well as an expanded version of our response with permission from both Tanyas.
I’m now in between jobs and decided back at the beginning of the year to take the opportunity when my contract ended to travel to Malaysia and use it as a home base for a few months so I can really immerse myself in South East Asia culture and food. I’m a big enthusiast food and hoping to explore as much as I can while in SEA. I will be making my flight purchase tomorrow, I’m curious if you have any tips on how I can find housing in Malaysia. I know I’ve read that you’ve rented homes in Thailand for month(s) before, and wondering how you went about that. I would need to have it furnished and it’s hard to find places purely on the internet from home (California). I was thinking maybe book an AirBNB for a couple weeks while looking for a place. Do you have any other tips? I also won’t be driving so maybe I’m limiting myself too much with that.
I’m also trying to figure out how I might have some income while there, I don’t know if there are other opportunities that you may be aware where I may not need to have a VISA to work.
>I was thinking maybe book an AirBNB for a couple weeks while looking for a place
That is basically what we would typically do pre-baby. Book something for a few days, maybe more, then look for something once we are actually in town. These days we look to have everything organized in advance but that is only because wandering around looking at accommodation with a toddler is not much fun.
If you are looking at basing yourself in KL, make sure you are somewhere near either an LRT or monorail station. That makes it much easier to get around town. If you have a smart phone get the Uber and MyTeksi apps installed. Those apps let you request a car to pick you up from wherever you are and take you wherever you need to go without the hassle of trying to flag down a taxi and potentially having to haggle over a price.
In Thailand when looking for something more long term we could simply walk into apartment buildings. Unfortunately medium term accommodation in Malaysia does not seem to work the same way. Thailand has much more support for people who want to stay for longer than a typical vacation but who do not want to sign a 12 month lease.
Airbnb may still be your best bet if you want to stick around for a few months. If you like your initial airbnb place you may be able to negotiate a lower rate for additional time.
If you are not thoroughly committed to the idea of being based in one spot in Malaysia consider doing a trip something like our suggested rail tour of south east Asia. If you have the time you can simply move every few days or weeks, whenever you are ready to see something new.
>I also won’t be driving so maybe I’m limiting myself too much with that.
Not at all. Aside from a few days on scooters here and there we have never driven in Malaysia. There are masses of buses going all over south east Asia as well as a pretty solid rail system connecting Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. The big cities have pretty good public transport and the smaller towns are generally so compact that you can walk around easily enough.
>I’m also trying to figure out how I might have some income while there, I don’t know if there are other opportunities that you may be aware where I may not need to have a VISA to work.
Not needing a visa means not doing paid work for anyone in the country you are in. If you can manage to set it up, your best option is actually working for someone in your home country then you just declaring the income as part of your regular tax return at home.
There are sites like upwork.com and freelancer.com but they are super competitive and the pay tends to be poor.
SEE TEFL (a place that trains English teachers in Chiang Mai, Thailand) has an abbreviated program that might be worth a look if you are interested in teaching English. Click here for information about their TEFL internship program They give you a two week crash course in teaching English and then you spend a semester teaching at a school in provincial Thailand. You do have to pay for the training but then you get paid to teach which covers your cost of living so the initial fee essentially gets you six months in Thailand.
This program did not exist when we taught English in Thailand back in 2009 but it seems like a pretty good deal if you are planning a stay of less than one year and do not want to spend time pounding the pavement looking for work.
On the subject of Thailand if you are looking to travel into Thailand, particularly overland, make sure to get yourself a Thailand visa in advance. You can do it in your home country or in whatever other country you are visiting provided their is a Thailand embassy or consulate there. We have previously organized a Thailand tourist visa in Singapore. You could probably get one in KL as well but we have not tried there personally.
At Thailand's land borders they will only give you 14 days if you just show up with no visa. You can however prearrange a 60 day visa. Being a bit organized definitely pays off when navigating the Thailand visa system.
Hope this has been helpful. Honestly, I am probably inadvertently causing you to overthink this. Arrive in Malaysia with a week or more of accommodation booked. Once you arrive and start finding your way around you will realize how trivial it is to travel around the region. From there you can pretty much make it up as you go. Have fun 🙂