Sunday, 31 July 2011

Tenancy Agreements and Deposits

Through my very good friend and property agent Catherine Loh I was fortunate to find a rental quite quickly upon my return to Penang and I will be moving into the apartment in a few days time. Catherine was excellent in sorting the documentation out most of which seems to be done using fairly standard forms. I do trust Catherine 100% (which always helps) so had no issues with accepting the documentation after reading it through.

This update is merely to provide an indication of the process and the costs at the initial stages of rental. Having viewed the apartment and decided to opt for it I met the landlord with Catherine after he confirmed acceptance of my offer. I decided to go for a 2 + 1 year rental while I wait for my apartment to be built as it gives me piece of mind for two years and the option of a third. The block is very well located strategically so I'm happy with that choice. We ran through the draft of the Tenancy Agreement (TA) and each of us signed and initialled each page. I paid a small deposit (RM 500) in cash for which the landlord gave a receipt, this was to take the property off the market. While we were there Catherine made full notes of the inventory at the property.

Following this Catherine took the TA to get it stamped and registered (for which there is a charge of RM 250, or around RM 125 if a one year agreement) and I commenced transferring the funds I needed to the landlord's account direct by internet banking (MEPS-GIRO) via HSBC. The common arrangement seems to be:

a) Two months rental as a deposit which will be returned at the end of the lease subject to damage inspections and such like (or you may be able to offset this against your last two months of rental)

b) The first month rental, paid in advance (tenancies generally starting from the 1st)

c) A utilities deposit of RM 1,300, normally equivalent to half a month's rental, again which is returned at the end of the lease if you have paid all your bills!!

I also opted to pay the monthly rental thereafter on the first of each month by using the auto-pay facility at the bank direct into the landlord's account. In all cases, regardless of receipts, this provides a good audit trail of payments and takes away the hassle of having to be around on the first of each month to pay your rent!!

On the subject of direct money transfers, bear in mind that as a non-local (and even an MM2H visa doesn't change this) you will be subject to an RM 5,000 per day limit on direct bank transfers so will need to factor this in if the amount you need to pay exceeds this. For peace of mind I also did a minimal initial transfer to the landlord's account and asked him to confirm receipt by SMS prior to my doing the full amount.

Once the transfers were complete we all met up at the apartment again and were provided with our copies of the stamped TA. We also ran through the inventory attached to each of the TAs and checked all items were working etc., making a note of any matters yet to be finalised/completed (e.g. further key card to follow, adjustment needed to kitchen cupboard for gas bottle for the cooker). Finally, we jointly took and noted (on each TA) the meter readings for the water and electric which in my case, are accessed in a utility room on the apartment floor.

One thing which is useful is to note which telco line your block is served by for the information of the internet/landline company you intend to use. In my case the line is Centrex and I plan to go with TM Streamyx (further update to follow). They will also use this information to check the broadband speed you are able to receive.

So that's it, all fairly straight forward but at least this post provides an overview of the process and the sums of money you will need to pay over initially. Happy house-hunting!! Finally, if anyone is looking for a very good agent I cannot recommend Catherine Loh highly enough. Contact me direct via the blog email link or from my profile page if you wish to be put in touch (this is merely to prevent spammers).

MM2H: Pre-visa collection documentation (Penang)

When I returned to Malaysia recently I decided to fly straight to Penang with a view to collecting my visa from KL after a few weeks. This was to prevent the hassle of carting my luggage around from the flight between KLIA and whatever arrangements I might make to get to Penang had I gone to KL to pick up the visa first. I certainly preferred the idea of coming to Penang and then going to KL after, by coach, with only a cabin luggage sized bag.

Taking the Penang option I opted to look at getting as much of the documentation as I could done in Penang prior to going to KL rather than going back and forth around KL to different offices and medical centre. Essentially there were two things to get sorted, the Security Bond (SB) form (which you will need if doing a direct application) and the medical report (RB II).

The SB form is part of the MM2H download pack from the official MM2H site (see under Travel/Visa Links) and you need to get a Hasil stamp from the Post Office (RM 10) before you take it to an Inland Revenue (LHDN) office to be stamped (chopped). I bank with HSBC in Downing Street, Georgetown and, for the sake of ease, will give any directions from there as a reference point.

The Hasil stamp is easy. There is a Post Office right next to HSBC so it's just a case of going in and buying the stamp from one of the counters there. You can either complete the SB form before affixing this stamp but you will certainly need it completed in full before going to the LHDN office. The form is somewhat confusing and in terms of advice the best I can do is refer you to this thread on the MM2H forums which talks about this form at some length. I have a local friend here who acted as the witness for me.

Once I had the Hasil stamp I walked up to HSBC and turned right from Downing Street onto Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street). Walking down Lebuh Pantai you will come to the Immigration office in Penang and I called in there quickly just to run through the SB form with a member of staff to ensure I had it filled in correctly (I chose to fix my Hasil stamp to the form AFTER doing this for obvious reasons). They confirmed I had. Coming out of Immigration there is a 'Chamber of Commerce' building directly opposite. The LHDN office to get the SB form stamped by them ('chopped') is on the 4th floor of this building and if you're not sure of the counter just ask the police who act as security for the unit. At the LHDN desk you will hand over the SB form and will be given another beige coloured form to fill in (which the staff will help you with) and once that is done they will stamp (chop) your SB. There are no charges to pay here and the SB can then be filed away pending your trip to KL.

Once done I decided to get the medical out of the way too. I asked the Police at the LHDN office for the nearest clinic and they directed me to an IMA clinic nearby. Essentially you walk back down Lebuh Pantai, past HSBC on your left, and keep going on the left hand side of the road. You will then come to an AM Bank, almost opposite the junction with Bishop Street. Directly after that there is a building called 21 Bangunan Barkath. If you go in there and take the lift to the 2nd floor the clinic is there. They charge RM 80 for the medical (which is NOT the full medical that is needed for work permits) and you will need form RB II which is available from the MM2H site here. I believe some have got this medical done for RM 50 at some clinics so it's probably a case of checking around as there are many clinics and hospitals around that can likely do it. For the sake of RM 30 though and getting it all done in one go I decided to go with IMA. The whole process took about 20 minutes and that was it. Both the SB and medical sorted in an hour or so and all locally so less running around in KL.

For those who require the services of a Commissioner for Oaths (certification of copy documents etc.) in Georgetown, and in the vicinity of the aforementioned places, there are quite a few scattered along Beach Street but I used the services of a very helpful lady (who is also happy to print material off a USB stick for a very small fee) whose 'shop' is located at 29 Bishop Street. As you walk up Bishop St. from Beach St. look carefully for the shop numbers and her shop is about 75 yds up the road on the left hand side. It is an open fronted shop and you will likely see her sat at her desk. It can be a little hard to spot under the awnings. Be advised also that the operating ours of many such services is roughly between 9:00 or 9:30 am until 4:00 or 4:30pm.

One thing worth considering is that you will need some form of medical cover for an MM2H visa (unless you are 60+ and can get a 'rejection' letter/email from one or more companies) and I have decided to go, for this year at least, with Kurnia (update to follow), a well known local company that is reasonably priced and who provide building and auto insurance also. Many companies will ask for a medical report prior to signing with them and Kurnia at least will accept a copy of the RB II form as proof of medical condition so it's worth taking a copy of the form for that purpose.


Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Rapid Penang Bus Service / Bus Passes

Just a quick update regarding the earlier post about the bus passes here in Penang. I didn't realise until I went to get my latest pass a couple of days ago that the month long passes start on the first of each month so the one I bought on 25th July will start from 1 August. It may well be that if you tried to buy one on the 3rd or 4th they would back date it, but I'm not too sure. Will check next time I'm in town. In this case though I bought a 1 month and a one week pass (e.g. two separate passes) for RM 110.

Just to stress you MUST take a passport copy for each applicant to get either of these passes and, if applying for the one month one you will also need TWO passport photos. The very friendly and charming lady from Rapid HQ who was also in the Information Office that day also advised that the new card charge for the month passes has risen to RM 90. The passes are available to both residents and visitors / tourists.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Bagan Bar and Restaurant: Flower Party (Saturday 30 July)

Most readers will be well familiar with the fact that I am a great fan of Bagan. I'm happy to say that this Saturday (30 July) Bagan is having another one of its popular theme parties and the theme this time is Flower Power!! Once again DJ Jey will be spinning the retro music from the period and it promises to be a great night. What I'm even more happy about is that for THIS ONE, I will be here!!!!! See you there!!!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Pick of Penang - Back in Penang!!!!

And this time the plane ticket was one way!!!!

More posts to come soon and now the pace will step up I think. So much so I had to invest in an iPad 2 to help me keep up when out and about. Well..........maybe it's an excuse.

So, after a loooooooong day of travelling I arrived in Penang at 5pm on Thursday 21 July. Straight to the Evergreen Hotel (and I'm very happy with that too), quick unpack, shower and thought about the sensible thing to do. Hit the sack and get some sleep. Instead I went for some excellent chicken wings at Song River then hit Bagan (where else!!) to see my chums William, Xixi, Sara, Azlan and others. Great night but a 4am finish!!! Talk about dead!!

Up today and straight out with my friend and property agent Catherine Loh and within an hour she had found me a superb rental in Tanjung Bungah which will do me very nicely for 3 years until my apartment is built. Out again tonight, busy weekend and then a hectic week ahead with sorting out MM2H visa related matters and a car. Busy, busy, busy.

Need to dash now and obviously there will be reviews coming up of the flights, Evergreen Hotel and any foodie haunts I hit over the weekend. Watch this space. Pick of Penang - Live from Penang!!!!

Monday, 18 July 2011

HSBC: MM2H Fixed Deposit and Premier Status

This is just a quick update that may be of interest to those contemplating applying for MM2H under the Fixed Deposit (FD) criteria of the MM2H 'Terms and Conditions'. HSBC, as many will be aware, operate Premier status accounts. These accounts offer a range of benefits that differ from country to country but one of the extremely useful benefits is the HSBC 'Global View' system and the facility it offers for Premier customers to move their money from their HSBC account in one country, almost instantaneously, free of charge to any HSBC account they may hold in another country. What can be off-putting for some is the limits that HSBC require you to keep in your portfolio (I stress in your portfolio, so it includes investments and such like, not just on deposit or in a current account) to qualify for the Premier status free of charge (you can opt to join Premier for a monthly fee if you don't qualify). In malaysia the sum required to qualify for Premier status free of charge is RM 200K. Once you are 'Premier' in one country you are automatically 'Premier' in all others.

Now, with MM2H, many applicants need to leave RM 150K per applicant in a FD which is 'Under Lien' to the Malaysian Government. Previously there had been queries around whether this RM 150K on FD would be counted by HSBC towards the RM 200 K needed for Premier status, particularly as it is held 'Under Lien'. Today (18 July) I contacted my ever so helpful Relationship Manager, Cha Pei Loh, at the Georgetown (Downing St) branch of HSBC who confirmed that the FD, despite being held under lien, WILL indeed count towards the Premier status 'criteria funding' of RM 200K. So, for those who consider HSBC Premier to be an attractive proposition, and I certainly do, both in the UK and Malaysia (their service I have to say has been exceptional in my experience), placing the FD with HSBC along with RM 50K of other investment / deposit is one way to consider obtaining it.

Anyone contemplating opening an HSBC Premier account in Georgetown can contact Chai Pei Loh on the following email address and telephone number:

Email address: chaipeicploh 'at' hsbc.com.my

Tel: +60 4 650 3283

Saturday, 16 July 2011

MM2H Application Clarifications (2)

Having been advised I have got my MM2H visa I thought I'd clarify just a couple of points that may not be 100% clear from my posts before:

My covering letter was one side and was four paragraphs (and one of those was explaining why the LGC would be coming separately):

1. Who I am, what I did/do (work wise etc.), where my income derived from, how much.

2. Why I wanted to live in Malaysia, where, other snippets (intend to learn Chinese/Bahasa Malay etc.) and desire to integrate etc. etc.

3. The financial criteria I was applying under (on the advice of my MM2H case officer), Govt approved pension in my case.

I left the 4th para off here as it should not be relevant to most, unless your LGC hasn't arrived in time for any personal office visit you may plan. Para 3 consists of a line only so barely qualifies as a para.

In terms of the income/assets, I merely provided evidence of what the SCHEME asks for criteria wise. I figured there was little point in going into other assets etc. chapter and verse but did, on the VERY small Excel gird I did showing converted rates etc, indicate that "To avoid confusion only those assets required to fulfil MM2H criteria have been listed". The case officer smiled and said "good, if they wanted more they'd up the limits, don't confuse things". So essentially it was proof of pension (3 certified salary slip copies) and one bank statement showing the account with an amount that exceeded the RM 350K.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Freight Considerations

As I sit here in an almost empty house (thankfully the buyers are purchasing quite a lot of furniture so I have somewhere to sit!!) I ponder how the last couple of days has gone in terms of packing, removals and such like. I also wonder how a 5' x 4' oak drinks cabinet, all but lit up with a flashing neon sign saying 'Don't forget me' got left behind!!! The air went a little blue when I was hoovering and got to that final corner and saw it sat there and it's probably just a casualty of the sheer exhaustion that can set set in when every waking moment of your days for a couple of months is filled with 'things to do / pack' lists and the resultant inability to relax and sleep properly at times.

First point I think is that I maybe would have liked to rationalise what I was taking to some degree had I had more time. The issue of what to ship to me really falls at two ends of the spectrum in terms of cost effectiveness. You either take almost everything in a full 20 foot container which, at AROUND £5,500 (at the time of writing) can work out quite cheap. At the other end there is the smaller shipment at around the 180 - 220 cu ft (which is about 35-45 boxes) mark where it can work out very cost effective if you are shipping a fair amount of high value goods (AV stuff in particular which, should you decide to purchase locally at your destination, would likely cost almost the same as in the UK). A few units at around the £250 to £500 mark and it very quickly covers the cost of shipping v replacing at destination, essentially allowing you to ship the other boxes for free. This is the option I chose.

Whichever you opt for will of course need to add the cost of insurance to that and Pickfords have two methods of calculating this:

a) Per item: where each item is priced up and then totalled

b) Overall cost: Where you estimate the value based on a £ per cubic foot basis (and Pickfords recommend around £40 pcf as a good average

In addition, you can add bolt-ons for such things as 'electrical derangement', mildew and premises waiver (where they will insure the property you have the goods moved to in case they accidentally damage it - at about £30 per property this seems good value especially if you are renting.

All in all I was most impressed with the Pickfords team at the UK end. They arrived on time and literally wrapped and boxed every single item and spend around 6 hours doing it, labelling each box and creating a very comprehensive inventory. They also agreed to store the goods in the UK port for up to 6 weeks free of charge while I find a rental (hopefully in MUCH less time than that!!!) and sort my MM2H visa (providing Pickfords with the copy they will need prior to shipping).

The only thing I regret is that I didn't have the time to rationalise what I was taking MUCH more. The house selling so quickly (a matter of days) was a blessing in many ways but, the anticipated 4-6 month wait given the state of the UK market would have given me much more time to have been MUCH more ruthless with what I have taken. Essentially I would have thought long and hard about hobby related items, and whether it is either feasible or desirable to do those hobbies in Malaysia, and also the vast amounts of clutter that you think is essential to your life but is it really (clothes, books, electrical goods, DVDs etc etc etc). Problem is some of this stuff is too costly to just dump and to sell it takes time. That's the time I didn't have. My friend Watertown Wanderer made some very relevant comments in his blog Retired in Malaysia (the link to the current Blogger version of this site can be found under 'Other Links') about just this issue and it does give food for thought.

Everyone is different and our needs are all personal but as a general rule I would say think long and hard about what you REALLY need and want you just want to take, think about it VERY early and and start to ditch what you want at the earliest opportunity so by the time comes to pack up your are down to your leanest horde!! This is one of the 'regrets' (maybe that is too strong a term) that I have about the whole process. I was paranoid about ditching all the stuff that I thought I might need to give me something to do just in case the house didn't sell. To a degree it's understandable but it back-fired somewhat. At the end of the day though it's nothing critical but I did need to bail out of quite a pricey hobby in terms of investment right at the last minute leaving quite a bit to for a very very dear friend of mine to do on my behalf in terms of selling it off. I did stress I'd just cut my losses and dump it but the offer was made to sell it off gradually over the next 12 months. At a value of a few thousand I am very grateful indeed.

So it's all going well enough at the moment. In summary I'd think hard, ditch early and ship as little possible making as cost effective as possible by shipping small higher value items in with the load. Pickfords have so far been outstanding and I look forward to a few days rest (albeit looking at a laptop, Kindle or 4 walls!!!) and the next leg of the adventure.


Tuesday, 12 July 2011

MM2H Office Relocation - Putrajaya

Upon speaking to my MM2H case officer today I was advised that the MM2H office will relocate in its entirety to Putrajaya on 21/22 July with operations becoming effective from 26 July. As of that date there will be NO MM2H office/facility in KLCC at all.

Once I have further details of precise address etc I will post them up here.

Addendum:

The below address for the new MM2H office is copied rather unashamedly from a post by Scott from the very good MM2H Forum:

Level 10,
Tower 1,
Lot 5G2,
Precinct 5 Putrajaya

MM2H Visa Application - Approved

While I didn't anticipate too many problems it was fantastic to get the news today from my MM2H case officer, the ever so friendly and helpful Noor Zaliza, that my visa application has been approved!!!! In light of my impending flight to Malaysia I will collect my letter from the office when I arrive.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Appliance Costs

Now, I'm just a bit peeved because just before coming back to the UK I did a trawl round a few malls and noted a few appliance prices down for comparison against UK prices to help decide whether to ship or buy locally. Now, I can't find the notes anywhere!!! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

So, the only snippets I have are a couple of very rough headline costs of a couple of items:

Washing machines: This was quite interesting but whether it was because I'd been to the wrong places or not I'm not sure but front loading washing machines (very popular in the UK) were not very common at all and were quite expensive at around RM 3,000 / £600. Top loaders were much more common and seemed to range from RM 1- 2,000 / £2-300.

Fridge Freezers: These seemed quite comparable to UK costs and tended to be around the RM 1-2,000 mark again.

TV: I found a 50" Plasma at around RM 3,000 and those in the 30" - 40" range seemed to also range from RM 1-2,000. Very reasonable prices and compare well to UK.

Once I get to Penang in late July I will have a look around again and will go much more in depth as i start to list out a few purchases and go into the detail (spec etc.) and look at brands and such like. Posted this now though just in case there are any others looking to move to Malaysia in the near future and looking at the ship or ditch options for what you already own. Personally, I wouldn't ship anything appliance wise unless maybe you were opting for a 20' container to move a house full of stuff and the appliances you had were good and quite new.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

All set!!!

Well, after what seems like an amazingly short period of time I'm pretty much set for my return to Penang but this time on a full time basis. I returned to the UK on 20 May and fly back to Penang on 20 July and in that period of time the house has been put up for sale, marketed, sold, completed and all of the related emigration issues have been dealt with. It has, needless to say, been a VERY hectic couple of months!!!!! It will be nice to get a good rest in Penang. It will be a wrench to leave certain aspects of my life in the UK behind, particularly so in one or two respects but, given the decision to relocate to a new life in Penang, overall I am of course delighted to be returning, and being able to do so, so quickly!!!

This time I shall be returning on Singapore Airlines (SA) and flying via Singapore into Penang. In that regard I have to say a MASSIVE THANK YOU to Bobbie Shukkor of Emerald Travel who managed to get me a flight despite there being no availability ANYWHERE for Singapore Airlines for 20 July AND for being able to get me the flight around £80 cheaper than booking with SA direct. I am travelling in peak season and both availability and price can be challenging. Emerald have again been brilliant and I can thoroughly recommend them.

I decided to go direct to Penang this time as I can get to KL to do whatever I need there once I have settled in Penang for a few weeks, making it much easier luggage/relocation wise. Travelling back to KL and returning by coach with nothing more than an overnight bag will be much easier. I chose SA for this trip as I wanted to give them a spin service/quality wise and because their flight timings with connections etc mean I arrive in Penang at about 5pm in the evening on 21 July rather than 8-9pm. I shall look forward to travelling by SA and doing a review of the service and connection (operated by SilkAir).

So, the adventure begins!!!!!!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Sat Nav: Garmin 3790T with SE Asia Maps (Top Pick)

I have previously written about how useful I found the iPhone combined with the Maps application on my first trip to Malaysia. It was great for navigating my way round the back streets of KL and Georgetown either to find a restaurant or bar, work out which direction to head in to get to 'X' and for such things like finding an HSB ATM in KL (search HSBC on Maps and hit 'Directions' and bingo). One problem with this solution though is that it can really hammer the battery, especially with an iPhone 3GS. Indeed this is one reason I didn't upgrade to the iPhone 4 as I am looking for a significantly better battery life and hope the '5' or even '6' will deliver it. The '4' though is still better than the 3GS. For those contemplating this very viable solution, particularly if you contemplate being out for the day, the purchase of one of the mobile battery backs such as the Just Mobile Gum Plus at around $60 / £50 from Amazon US /UK would be a something worth considering. There are cheaper options out there but these are very good and I much prefer them to the battery 'cases' that add a great deal of bulk to the phone.

As I am going to Penang to live however I am in a position to look at other options also and I already own a Garmin 3790t Sat Nav. Now I'm not a big Sat Nav person but I have to say I do like this device. I won't write a lengthy review here is a very capable job of that has already been done here. Suffice it to say the device is very well made, very light and thin, and has a very large/clear screen. Battery life on it is also surprisingly good. Like a number of other devices this can be used when you are on foot also but for me it is the svelte nature of it that makes carrying it around viable option. It is really easy to use and does provide much better navigation than others I have used. It can also connect to your mobile phone by Bluetooth while driving making taking calls a safer option. At around $340 / £250 these devices are premium price for a Sat Nav but in this case I do think it's a case of you get what you pay for.

If you take the plunge and opt for one of these you will of course need maps and this is the beauty of this device for me in that Garmin have their City Navigator SE Asia Map which can be downloaded or bought on Micro SD disk for $99 (I bought it from Garmin.com and downloaded it for $99 while in Malaysia versus the Garmin UK option where you will pay £99!!). At 222Mb the Map will fit easily on the device which in my case had over 1,500 MB available space (it already being pre-loaded with European maps). The SE Map download for me is a bargain covering Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Macau, Hong Kong and thePhilippines, all places that I will visit and where it will be great to have a reliable Sat Nav to help either get there or finding your way around by vehicle or on foot once there. Much better, for me, than carting around maps and books.

In my view the Garmin 3790t (particularly as I had one anyway) and the SE Asia Map pack would be an excellent addition to you inventory, especially for those planning to live within or make regular visits to the region. I wouldn't generally clutter my *Top Pick* section with non-venue based selections but it is well justified in this case.

NB: A more recent (March 2013) and updated post about SatNav systems for use in Malaysia / Thailand can be found here.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Friday, 1 July 2011

Cost of living

As the time to relocate gets closer and closer I have been trying to establish some rough living costs as some kind of baseline in terms of budgeting but also in terms of trying to establish if the 'deal' I may get offered on any given service is reasonable or not. In this regard I am very grateful to my friend who posts with the user name of Steveso on the MM2H Forums for much of the current detail. Everyone's costs will be different of course and, in particular, car insurance costs will vary dramatically as will the costs of some domestic services/utilities depending on how much you use them. As a rough guide though the below is what I'm roughly planning for (all prices in RM per month):
  • Electricity: 150
  • Gas: 10-20
  • Water: 2-3
  • Internet: 150
  • Astro TV (premium package with movies etc): 135
  • Mobile phone (iPhone): 60
  • Service Charge (condo): 100-120

Added to that will be the cost of car insurance (figure around RM 2,500 - 4,000 per year) and fuel (maybe RM 150 pm for me I suspect) of course whatever you need to spend each month on food and provisions (little) and/or socially (lots) and eating out. Car insurance will vary on the size of engine (see vehicle related posts) and can be brought down by as much as 55% if you can prove a no claims bonus from certain countries (again see later post on car insurance).


Medical Insurance - MM2H Requirement (update)

I continue to ponder the subject of medical insurance which is one of the criteria you need to fulfil before you will be granted an MM2H visa. Now it has to be said that there are a two ways to look at this. Either you go for the bare minimum in order to satisfy the requirement for the visa (I'll perhaps label this as 'Qualification Insurance') or you go for medical cover that actually provides good coverage for you in the event of needing it, perhaps even with outpatient, dental and repatriation included. It's all a bit of a minefield really but at the end of the day I think it's a a case of you get what you pay for.

'Qualification Insurance' is the route that I have seen a number of references to in various forums (I always think the term fora just looks plain wrong - sorry) where people have used maybe holiday cover, or even cover provided by some of the premium bank accounts, to satisfy MM2H requirements. In many cases of course if you are 60 years old or above the requirement will be waived if you get a 'rejection' letter or e-mail from one or more insurance providers (many of whom will not take on new business from customers 60 years old or more). The problem with this approach for me is that many of these policies are actually only for holiday cover and I suspect there may well be questions asked should you try to claim and it surfaces your 'holiday' in Malaysia has been rather longer than one might expect particularly, in the case of cover linked to bank accounts, where the bank has been sending your correspondence there for a few years!!! Indeed in some cases, if you read the small print, these policies are only applicable if you reside in the country where you opened the account. As a stop-gap when you first arrive in Malaysia though, at least until such stage as you can decide on what levels of cover you want and a suitable provider, it is probably a viable contender.

Another option for 'Qualification Insurance' is to utilise one of several 'cheap and cheerful' companies that sell policies that will perhaps offer the bare minimum of coverage but be sufficient to get that tick in the box for the visa. Some of these policies can be had for as little as RM 400. I suppose they may well be suitable for those who would rather adopt the approach that if something happens they will either pay for it when it does (possibly using monies that they put aside each month rather than pay to an insurance company) or even repatriate themselves for attention in their home country. This is of course an option but for me it's a little too high-risk. You never know what's round the corner so to speak and if something happens that requires you to have maybe urgent, expensive and/or prolonged treatment the bills can rack up fast, very fast!! Self-repatriation of course is also only an option provided you are in a position to do it.

I have largely ruled out going for 'Qualification Insurance' and plan to opt for a policy which does provide a decent degree of cover and, most importantly, actually provide a good and reliable service if and when you need it. This is VERY important as some are clearly MUCH better than others in this regard.

I have of course already posted the detail of a policy provided by Hong Leong and I may well end up going for this policy. In any event it provides a good baseline for comparison and, once I get to the stage of selecting I'll revisit that post to compare the policies in finer detail. In the meantime I have narrowed the field down quite a bit. Interestingly, one recurring piece of advice I do get is to use an 'offshore' or international provider as often the service will be better. How true this is I'm not sure and again, it's something I need to look into.

Below are some of the companies I have looked at and plan to explore in greater detail:

AIA: Many of my friends in Penang use AIA and, along with Great Eastern and Prudential, they seem to be one of the popular providers. It will be interesting to see what their premiums and level of cover are. One suspects they will not be at the cheaper end but the service and cover should hopefully reflect that.

Allianz: Couple of people suggested this company to me but I have discounted them at the moment, simply because the online quote for cover was astronomical at over £3,000 with outpatient, dental and repatriation and only dropping by about 40% for basic!!  

Kurnia: This seems to be a very popular provider with many expats and their policies seem very reasonable. At the moment it is one of the major contenders for me and I need to explore in some depth what their service record is like.

Great Eastern: Not looked at these yet. As I said above, often mentioned by local people when I mention the subject of medical cover.

Tokio Marine: This seems to be a popular provider whose costs are quite reasonable but I have read recently of people facing difficulty in trying to get a quote. A bit off putting I must say.

Prudential: Yet to check out the premiums and levels of cover.

William Russell: This will often be thrown up by search engines in the UK if you are looking for medical cover. On first impression the cover looks good but, at a price of £1,596 for one year, again, higher end.

Finally, for now, I would thank the user PakMike on the very useful MM2H Forums for suggesting another company to me, a French company called April Mobilite (now I believe rebranded as April International) who have their Asia Expat policy. I have obtained a quote from both a UK and KL based agent and both come in at the same (which is useful to know in that the commission the agents get, at least in this case, doesn't affect the customer cost, or at least doesn't affect the cost on a differing basis depending on country of purchase.

Both the UK and KL agents got back to me VERY quickly by email (within an hour) and both quote the same prices in US $. Converted to UK £ the cover comes out at roughly:

1) £886 for basic cover

2) £1,176 (inc. dental and outpatient)

Repatriation can be added at around £173 to either.

From what I've looked at so far medical insurance seems to fall into three bands price wise. That for 'Qualification Insurance' where I have a feeling that claiming might be somewhat problematic, a mid-level band of between RM 1-3,000 per year from some of the larger providers where it seems the level of cover is better, PROVIDED the service is up to scratch and finally the premium end where the price indicates that the cover and service would be first class. What I need to explore is just how much of a service gap there is between mid-range and premium as the difference in premiums can be considerable.

A final consideration for me is the use of an agent. In some cases you can take these policies out online and direct but from what I've seen it doesn't affect the price if you use an agent. At one point I was tempted to jump and book cover with April Mobilite from the UK but decided that, as the agent prices are the same, booking through an agent in KL who would a) be in the local time zone in the event of need and b) with whom there will obviously be no language difficulty was a better option. I may still decide to go with April Mobilite as the cover looks very good and they seem to have a good reputation. There is a concern that cover and service from policies costing around the RM 1-3,000 mark may not be so good but I need to check out the extent to which that is true as it may also be that the sheer size of some of these companies may enable them to provide the same cover and service for a lower premium. I will update further in due course.