Living in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia vs. USA

When my wife and I went to Cameron Highlands, which is mountain resort town in Malaysia, we were planning to spend only 3 days here. But we ended up staying for 3 months! This is because Malaysia banned interstate travel when Covid-19 began spreading, and the country went into lockdown.

If you would prefer to watch a video instead of reading this article, then check out this video: Living in Cameron Higlands vs USA. (This article and the video contain the same information about living in Cameron Highlands, so you won’t be missing anything if you decide to watch instead of read.)

So, what is it like living in Cameron Highlands as a foreigner? I’m going break down our quality of life into 10 different categories, and tell you the categories we think are better in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, and which we think are better in our hometown of Charlotte in the US.

Housing

Our apartment in Cameron Highlands

When we arrived in the Cameron Highlands we checked into the Bricks Hostel. But once we realized we were going to be in Cameron Highlands a lot longer than we expected, we moved into an apartment that we found on Airbnb.

The apartment had a nice large living area, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a kitchen. It was located in the small town of Tanah Rata, and was about a 10 minute walk from the apartment to get to the main area of the town. Our host was fabulous. She made sure we had all the supplies we needed during the lockdown. The cost to rent this apartment was about US$630 per month, including all utilities, internet, and the Airbnb and cleaning fees.

We saw apartments advertised for around 1500 ringgit or US$350 per month, but that would be for a long term lease and wouldn’t include utilities or other fees. Our townhome back in Charlotte was about the same size as our apartment in Cameron Highlands. But the cost in Charlotte, including a mortgage, utilities, taxes, fees, and insurance was about double the price in Cameron Highlands. So if we compare housing in Cameron Highlands with Charlotte in the US, in our opinion, we think Cameron Highlands wins this category.

Food

The produce in Cameron Highlands is super fresh and delicious!

Cameron Highlands has a very strong tourism industry, so there are some really good restaurants. Unfortunately, most of the town including the restaurants closed after the movement control lockdown was issued. But there were some that we able to enjoy.

We really liked the Pizzarella restaurant; great pizza and Italian food, they use fresh ingredients, and the people who run the restaurant are so friendly. We also really liked the Lord’s Cafe, which is a bakery and a great place for a light meal, again a very friendly owner. And Mossy Forrest Cafe had great specials during the movement control order, where we got some great Asian dishes. But because of the lockdown we did most of our own cooking, and one negative to Tanah Rata being a small town is that there is no large supermarket. We loved the food we had in Cameron Highlands and the produce is very fresh. But because there was no supermarket, I have to call this one a tie between Cameron Highlands and Charlotte.

Shopping

Again, Tanah Rata is a small town so if you need to buy supplies you are a bit limited. But there is a Mr. DIY store, where you can buy kitchen items, hardware, office supplies, and the prices are good. But if you need to buy something a little less common, it might be hard to find in Tanah Rata. And for that reason, we think Charlotte is better for shopping than Tanah Rata.

Activities

Plenty of strawberry farms in Cameron Highlands!

Cameron Highlands has a lot of tourist attractions to keep you busy. Probably the most popular activity is visiting one of the tea plantations. Not only is it informative to see how the tea is grown and produced, but it is also very scenic and picturesque. And Cameron Highlands has many strawberry farms where you can buy fresh strawberries, strawberry dishes, and even pick your own strawberries. There is a really nice park in town where you can go walking. Now again, Tanah Rata is a small town so you’re not going to find movie theaters or cinemas. Overall, we give Cameron Highlands and Charlotte a tie score when it comes to activities.

Transportation

The traffic in the Cameron Highlands can be congested on the weekends, but we don’t drive so that doesn’t impact us. There are many buses to other parts of Malaysia from here. Tanah Rata is small enough that you can walk anywhere you need to go within the town. There is no need for transportation other than your own two feet, and we love being able to walk everywhere. So for the transportation category, Cameron Highlands is the winner.

Health Care

We were very impressed with the health department in Cameron Highlands. Some members from the health department came to our apartment everyday to make sure we were healthy. And after 14 days gave us a document that stated we were free of Covid symptoms. Tanah Rata has pharmacies that are well-stocked with medication. Some medicine that we bought here would have cost over $300 in the US but was only $4 at the pharmacy here. The health care system in Malaysia is very highly rated for both quality and affordability. But Tanah Rata is a small town and has just one small hospital, so I’m going to rate health care a tie score.

Safety

We had no issues with security here, we felt safe at all times. There is no debate here, living in Cameron Highlands is definitely safer than living in Charlotte.

Climate

The weather in Cameron Highlands is perfect. It never gets too hot during the day or cold at night. There is no need for air conditioning or heating at any time of year. It can a lot of rain at certain times of the year. And even though we were there during one of the rainy times, the rain was in the afternoon and the mornings were almost always dry. In our opinion, the weather in Cameron Highlands is not just better than Charlotte, it’s the best in the world!

Environment

There were no issues with air quality in Cameron Highlands. The air in the mountains is crisp and clean, and overall we think the environment is better in Cameron Highlands than in Charlotte.

Cost Of Living

Cameron Highlands is a touristy resort community and a little bit more expensive than other parts of Malaysia. Our total spending on housing, food, and transportation averaged $918 per month. This would have cost much more in the U.S. so Cameron Highlands wins again.

So there you have it! We loved living in Cameron Highlands. I want to emphasize that these ratings are just our personal opinion. There is no right or wrong here, and you may have a different view on how we ranked these categories. Please leave a comment below if you have a different opinion or if you agree with our opinions. Thanks for traveling with us!

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