Sabah, Best of Borneo
Situated on the beautiful island of Borneo, Sabah is one of the thirteen states which Malaysia is made of. Sabah is the second largest state in Malaysia and shares the island of Borneo with Sarawak, Brunei, and Indonesian Kalimantan.
Sabah is richly blessed with nature diversity, unique cultures, fun adventure, beautiful beaches, and fantastic cuisines for the adventurous taste buds. We have it all, from the world’s largest flower – the Rafflesia, one of the highest mountains in South East Asia – Mount Kinabalu, to one of the world’s top dive sites – Sipadan Island. Sabah is also known for her great natural treasures which include the world-renowned Danum Valley Conservation Area and Tabin which is Sabah’s largest wildlife reserve.
Not only will you be amazed by the places to see and things to do here, you will also be treated with unique Sabahan hospitality. Explore the unique culture and tradition of Sabah and get ready to experience sweet memories to last a lifetime!
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located at the centre of the Maritime Southeast Asia. This island is divided between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.
Nevertheless, for people outside of Indonesia, “Kalimantan” refers to the area which is occupied by Indonesia on the island of Borneo. Malaysia’s region of Borneo is called East Malaysia or Malaysian Borneo. The independent nation of Brunei occupies the remainder of the island, being the wealthiest of the rest.
Once known as North Borneo, Sabah was under the British colony during the late 19th century till the early 20th century. Sabah gained self-government on the 31st of August, 1963. Sabah, together with Malaya, Singapore and Sarawak formed the Federation of Malaysia on the 16th of September 1963.
People and Culture
The people of Sabah are known as Sabahans. Sabah is the third most populous state in Malaysia after Selangor and Johor; it also has one of the highest population growth rates in the country.
There are currently 32 officially recognized ethnic groups in Sabah with the largest non-indigenous ethnic group being the Chinese and the largest indigenous group being the Kadazan-Dusun people. Two other larger ethnic groups in Sabah are the Bajau and Murut, compared to other states in the country; Sabah has relatively very small population of Indians and South Asians.
Apart from the Sabahans’ very own diverse mother tongues, Bahasa Malaysia (national language) and English is widely spoken; Mandarin and some Chinese dialects are also widely spoken.
In Sabah, we greet people by saying “selamat datang” (welcome) and/or “terima kasih” (thank you) with a smile. Due to religious reasons, some may prefer not to have physical contact with others. However, a handshake is generally acceptable as a way of introducing oneself.
It’s customary to remove shoes before entering a mosque as well as homes. In places of worship, visitors are required to dress modestly. Nude sunbathing is not allowed and is very frowned upon. Avoid pointing your index finger at others, as this is considered rude in the local custom.
Equatorial/Tropical—the climate is generally hot and sunny all year round; visitors need to wear comfortable clothing to avoid heatstroke. We also have scattered unpredictable rains, therefore, it’s advisable to always bring an umbrella in case it rains.
Lowlands (Kota Kinabalu, Kudat, Sandakan, Tawau) – 32 degrees Centigrade
Highlands (Ranau, Kundasang, Tambunan) – 21 degrees Centigrade
Bear in mind though, that Mount Kinabalu has its own climate. Temperatures can drop to freezing level above 3500 meters.
Malaysian Ringgit (RM)
Foreign currencies can be exchanged for Malaysian Ringgit (RM) at a few 5-star hotels and foreign currency exchange counters located in major shopping complexes. Most major hotels charge a nominal fee for currency conversion.
Major Credit and Charge Cards
VISA, MasterCrad, American Express, Diners Club – credit and charge cards are accepted in almost all departmental stores , supermarkets, petrol stations and restaurants.
Standard Malaysian Time is 8 hours ahead of GMT (GMT+8)
Monday through Friday from 9.30am to 4pm
Usual Office Hours
Monday to Friday from 8am – 1pm and 2pm – 5pm; Saturday from 8am – 1pm
Shopping centers, supermarkets, restaurants and mini markets are generally open daily from 10am to 10pm
As for tipping; food and beverages in exclusive restaurants, cafes and clubs, as well as accommodations normally include 10 per cent service charges.
With effect from April 1, 2015, Goods & Services Tax (GST) will be implemented throughout Malaysia. For more info please read here
Tipping is not obligatory in most places.
Electricity & Water Facilities
Electricity is on the 240 Volts AC/ 50-Cycle system; treated pipe water is available in most urban and sub-urban areas. Type G plugs are used in Malaysia.
Mobile telecommunications cover many parts of Sabah with the exception of some remote areas. Public phones are scarcely available in most places.
Government hospitals, clinics and dispensaries are available in all towns. The list of private medical practitioners and pharmacies are available in the local phone directory. However, those with specific medical needs are advised to have a good supply of medications.
Malaysian Goods & Services Tax (GST) for tourists
Read more on Malaysian Goods & Services Tax (GST) for tourists here
Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) is the second busiest airport in Malaysia with 98% of visitor arrivals into Sabah is by air. As the capital of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu (KK) is the main entry point to Sabah, and several budget airlines have selected KK as one of their destinations. Most of the major towns in Sabah (Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Tawau) have airports for domestic flights.
Bus is the most economic mode of transportation to travel between cities and towns, if time is not an issue for you. Listed below are the main bus stations of Kota Kinabalu city which can take you to most parts of Sabah.
North Bus Terminal Inanam
The main station for long-distance bus (a.k.a. Express Bus), located in Inanam (10 KM away from KK) and operates between 6:30am to 8:30pm. These air-conditioned big buses can bring you to key cities on the East Coast such as Sandakan, Tawau, Semporna and Lahad Datu daily.
Padang Merdeka (Merdeka Square)
Located in KK city centre, take buses to most city/towns on the West Coast and Interior of Sabah. e.g. Keningau, Tenom, Kudat, Kota Belud, Ranau. There is a long-distance taxi station located next to the terminal.
Wawasan Bus Terminal (Temporarily in-front of Marina Court Apartment)
For all outstation mini busses from Papar,Kinarut, Penampang, etc.
City Bus Service
Located in front of Hotel Shangrila, the buses commutes within Kota Kinabalu city center and nearby town like Tuaran, Likas, Sepanggar, Inanam and etc.
City Park Bus Terminal
Located opposite of KK High Court building, this bus terminal offers transport to Southern Sabah (Sipitang), Sarawak (Lawas) and Brunei. Please bring your passport if you plan to travel across the border.
If you want to reach a destination fast or move between a few remote places of interest in the shortest time, hiring a taxi will be your best option. You can always find taxi stand next to major hotels, shopping malls and bus terminals. To identify a taxi, keep a lookout for the word “Teksi”, “Teksi Bermeter” or “Kereta Sewa”. Hotels could also arrange taxis for their guests upon request.
Taxi services are available at Sabah airports. Upon arrival, purchase a taxi coupon at the booking counter at the airport and proceed to the taxi rank to be taken to your desired location.
Island destinations in Sabah are accessible by boat services. Boat terminals with licensed operators are available at the following boat terminals.
Note: Other services available – Fishing boat for rent, water sport packages, snorkeling kit for rent and also organizing diving trips.
Kota Kinabalu (KK)
Jesselton Point is the most popular boat terminal for tourists who are planning to visit islands (Manukan, Sapi, Mamutik and Gaya) off KK. Adjacent to Suria Sabah shopping mall and next to Royal Customs Department in Kota Kinabalu city, Jesselton Point opens from 6am to 4pm. You would be able to arrange for island-hopping trips as well.
For more information, please contact (office phone) +60 88-240709 or +60 88-231050 (fax), or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
There are other ports operated by hotels such as Sutera Harbour of Pacific Sutera Hotel and Star Marina of Shangri La Tanjung Aru Resort.
There is a long jetty next to the Dragon Inn of Semporna, where you could book an island or diving trip with tour operators based there. Some island resorts do not accept walk-in tourists, so it is advisable to book directly with the resorts in advance for the permit and boat transfer.