Borneo Travel Tips, And What You Need To Know
If you’re looking at travelling somewhere a little off the radar in Malaysia, you will need these Borneo Travel Tips to help you put Borneo on your list. Although travellers would often have Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi, and Penang in mind, they seem to rarely ever consider Borneo. There has been absolutely no reason besides being off the radar.
Borneo is however known for its petroleum and gas riches, as well as palm oil. Being one of the most bio-diverse places on earth it boasts more than 14,000 different plant species. It is home to the oldest rain forest estimated to be more than 130 million years old. Home to the largest flower in the world, not to mention the Borneo Orangutans that are now endangered due to the production of Palm oil and tearing down their homes. If you've heard of the Proboscis Monkey, one who's nose is considerably large and meaty, it's home is Borneo.
Now that we have got your attention, check out the 14 fun things to do in Borneo for more reasons to visit and we will help you plan it all. Just let us know your dates!
When to go
Malaysia never witnesses weather less than 20°C along the coastal line or higher than 35°C. It’s hot and humid all year round, with the rainy season between October and February which affects the boat and ferry links to the different islands.
So the best time to visit would be between March and October when it’s dry.
So far there aren’t direct flights into Borneo, but there’s direct flights from Europe and the Middle East to Sultanate of Brunei, the neighbouring part of the island. This would take a ridiculously long time, unless you don’t mind staying a day in Brunei to tour around. This would then be followed by a 6 hour car journey into Sabah and then back for your outbound flight! You can also take 2 ferries to get to Jesselton ferry Port in Kota Kinabalu (Sabah region, and also Borneo’s entry point). This too would be wasting quite a lot of your time on the road and sea!
The best way is to fly direct into Kuala Lumpur and take a domestic flight to Kota Kinabalu (KK) for just 3 hours. Usually there isn’t a long wait, so you will wait roughly an hour before the next flight.
Domestic flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu can be booked on Air Asia or Malaysian Airlines.
Visa to Malaysian Borneo
To enter Malaysia all tourists must posses a valid passport for at least six months. Tourists from Europe do NOT need a visa to enter and will be given a social visit pass for 30-90 days on arrival. Tourists from the Middle East also do NOT need entry visa to Malaysian Borneo.
It’s worth mentioning that you need to get your passport stamped when you are doing a transit at KL before getting on the flight to Kota Kinabalu. You wouldn’t want to end up at the immigration office at Kota Kinabalu after a long flight all because you missed the part were you had to get your passport stamped!
Before you exit the airport, you will need to go to the taxi booth to buy a taxi ticket to wherever you will be heading to. The rate is fixed (approx USD$15) when heading to the city center. Tickets need to be purchased and presented to the person in charge at the taxi rank. At the farthest left of the building is the taxi rank. It’s all well laid out with clear signage.
Borneo’s currency is the Malaysian Ringgit. There are ATM’s and Currency exchange places within easy reach if you’re staying in the center. It’s best to bring with you one of the major currencies Euros, Dollars, British pounds if you wish to exchange them in Borneo.
Public transport is usually taxi drivers roaming around trying to pick up passengers. Some taxi’s are shared some can be taken individually. Make sure to negotiate the rate before the journey. Do not pay the driver until you are dropped off exactly where you need to go. Taxi’s are metered so you could also ask the driver to start the meter when you get in.
Uber and Grab apps work in Borneo so you could also use those for mainland travel. Grab will cost tremendously less than normal taxis.
To visit the islands of TARP (Sapi, Mamutik, Manukan, Gaya, and Sulug), you will need to go to Jesselton Point counter and buy your boat ticket directly from there. It would be cheaper than the hotel who would be taking a relatively large cut!
At Jesselton point, visiting one of the islands would cost no more than USD$10. This will include conservation fees, paid on the island. If you wish to snorkel there, you can rent snorkeling gear for about USD$3 once you arrive on the island. For food, a fantastic seafood BBQ is on the islands, you will need to pay a little extra for this when buying your ticket at Jesselton Point.
Tours and Single Supplements
With the number of things you can do in the Sabah region, the tours are a great way to get yourself seeing the best of Borneo and what it has to offer. The only downside is, if you’re travelling solo, the rate can triple, even if they join you with another group!
As there aren't many hotels in Kota Kinabalu for the number of tourists the island attracts in peak season, it is advisable to book hotels ahead of time. It is also advisable to book tours ahead of time. A planned itinerary with a driver can be booked for you through Wanderich.
Based on the Wanderich experience, we recommend booking the Mari Mari Cultural experience for the first day in the Sabah region. For the rest of the tours, once you’re at the hotel tour desk check the prices, then head to Center Point Sabah, a large complex selling just about anything. There are tour desks offering cheaper prices, and you can book them there. (make sure you take their number and your receipt for your hotel to follow-up).
Just like in any country there are precautions that need to be taken. Although Borneo is a safe country, this doesn’t mean you are 100% protected. Here are a few Borneo Travel Tips to help you stay safe:
Carry large amounts of money when you are out and about
Dress in any way too revealing when you visit the holy sites, or even the shopping centers
Hitch-hike, or go off with anyone random, always stay visible to the public eye
Carry your handbag loosely, some motorcyclist are known for snatching bags off ladies shoulders, this could also cause injuries
Swim in rivers as Borneo is famous for its saltwater crocodiles (often living near the water mouths of rivers)
Travel without Mosquito repellent
Travel without sunscreen
Drink tap water, it’s not safe, nor have ice in your drinks unless the restaurant states otherwise
Make sure you visit your local travel clinic 6-8 weeks before travelling. If you’re planning on visiting any of the isolated areas, then Malaria injections or tablets would be recommended. They need to be taken 6 weeks before travelling. Check with your doctor what you and members of your group will need.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day
Make sure all members travelling have travel insurance
Make sure you pay attention to your body if it needs a re-hydration mixture.
Pay attention to kids on the trip to see if they are well hydrated.
Sleep in accommodation offering fans, air Conditioning, mosquito net, mosquito coil to avoid bites.
Wear leech socks if you plan on going into the humid areas of the forest. It's best to keep iodine based antiseptic handy to prevent infection for any likelihood of being stung by one.
Drink bottled water with an unbroken seal
Make sure your mosquito repellent has Deet.
To maximize a trip to Borneo, let Wanderich prepare an itinerary perfect for you and your partner or family. Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org and let us start planning you trip.
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