Self-Drive Sabah

mt.kinabalu courtesy of stephen agustine

Sabah is the second largest state in Malaysia and it has a total land mass of 76,115 square kilometers. Since independence Sabah road system has improved tremendously, today almost all the major cities and towns can be reached by cars. Only a few remote places that need the service of a 4WD to get through. Most of the cities and towns are located near the coast while a few important towns are located in the interior. Get a group of friends, three or four or even six, rent a car or a Van, and self-drive around Sabah. All you need is a valid International driving licence, or a Malaysia driving licence. The benefit of self-drive allows visitors to travel at their own pace, to visit the places of their interest only, and visitors can also save travelling cost with a good plan. This experience also gives visitors a chance to test drive Malaysia local made cars namely Perodua and Proton.

Below are a few suggestions on some interesting routes in Sabah for self-drive:

Kota Kinabalu – Sandakan (two or three days, about 350 km)
Kota Kinabalu – Ranau – Sandakan

This route will pass by Malaysia’s first world heritage site, Mt. Kinabalu, and also the popular destination of Poring Hot Springs. Guests can stay overnight at the many accommodations at Kundasang and enjoy the cold temperate climate. Sabah Tea Garden and Molori River (fish spa) are also along this route. Visit the Sepilok Orang Utan rehabilitation centre before ending the journey at the charming Sandakan City by the Celebes sea. One can also self-drive this journey the other way round starting from Sandakan and end at Kota Kinabalu. One can choose to leave the car at Sandakan and Fly back to Kota Kinabalu.

Note: the car rental companies will charge a special fee for those who want to leave the rental car at either end Kota Kinabalu or Sandakan, if they plan not to drive back from the starting city.

Kota Kinabalu – Tenom (two or three days)
Kota Kinabalu – Tambunan – Tenom – Keningau – Kimanis – Kota Kinabalu

Drive through the Crocker Range via the Penampang -Tambunan road, this narrow and winding road lets guests enjoy the beautiful view of rolling hills, lush green forests and many small villages. Kipandi Butterfly Park, Rafflesia Centre, and Gunung Emas Resort famous for its tree top cabins.  All these are along the way. A visit to Tambunan Town the heart land of the Dusun Tribe, before going to Tenom, passing through Keningau. The Agriculture Park at Tenom is a must visit for those who love plants and flowers. On the way back to Kota Kinabalu, one can choose the Keningau- Kimanis road, and enjoy a great forests view on another part of the Crocker Range.

Kota Kinabalu -Kudat (one or two days)
Kota Kinabalu – Kudat – Tuaran – Kota Kinabalu

secluded beach before the tip of borneo

Drive north from Kota Kinabalu passing by Tun Mustapha Building (formerly known as Yayasan Sabah foundation), University Malaysia Sabah, and 1Borneo Hypermall. Enjoy some road side stores that serve nice Coconut Pudding on Jalan Sulaman, before visiting Tuaran or Kota Belud, on a Sunday one can also visit the tamu, a traditional bazaar.  Then a two hours journey to Kudat, the first Capital of North Borneo. Just before reaching Kudat Town a big signboard will direct the way to the Tip of Borneo and this small road will lead to the picturesque white sandy beach and the unique landscape at Tanjung Simpang Mengayau. Enjoy a quiet night at Kudat Golf & Marina Resort. Visit the Rungus Long House in the morning before leaving Kudat district. Take a break at Rasa Ria Resort, one will be in awe with the Pantai Dalit beach, or visit their Forest Park which consists of a few orang utans and other wildlife. Stop by Salut Seafood Restaurant or Gayang Seafood Restaurant for a feast of Sabah’s seafood before heading back to Kota Kinabalu.

The North-East Sabah Loop (five days to a week)
Kota Kinabalu – Kudat – Pitas – Sandakan – Ranau – Kota Kinabalu

Same route from Kota Kinabalu to Kudat, when coming back from Kudat travel to Pitas instead, a very small town in the north-east peninsular of Sabah. Then drive through the newly completed Pitas-Sandakan road which will take about 3 to 4 hours to Sandakan. This journey will pass through many oil palm plantations before reaching the charming Sandakan City by the seaside. In Sandakan visit Agnes Keith Museum and Sepilok Orang Utan rehabilitation centre. Head back to Kota Kinabalu using the Kota Kinabalu-Sandakan road which passes through Sabah Tea Garden, Molori River, Poring Hot Spring, and Mt. Kinabalu. Enjoy a pleasant night at Kundasang town before driving back to Kota Kinabalu.

The Head-hunter Loop (two weeks)
Kota Kinabalu – Ranau – Sandakan – Tawau – Keningau -Tenom – Sipitang – Kota Kinabalu.

This Head-hunter Loop will pass by the three major cities of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, and Tawau (will become a city soon). Other small towns include Ranau, Kinabatangan, Sukau, Keningau, Tenom and Sipitang, and Beaufort will also be covered. Take the Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan road where most of Sabah major tourist destinations are located. From Sandakan travel south to Tawau, visiting places like Gomantong Cave, Sukau, and Semporna, the clean and clear sea water at this small town is unbelievable. Tabin Reserve and Danum Valley are also along the way. In Tawau one must try the seafood, surely the cheapest in Sabah. From Tawau drive to Keningau which will take about 5 to 6 hours. The Tawau-Keningau road (gravel road) will pass through the heart land of Sabah, where the jungles are still alive and breathing. Rolling hills and lush green forest capture the scenery all the way. From Keningau go to Tenom, the Murut heart land, and also visit The Agriculture Park. Then from Tenom drive to Sipitang, now reaching the west coast seaside facing the South China Sea. Lastly from Sipitang drive back to Kota Kinabalu, passing many small beaches along the way.

Readers might find these articles interesting too:
Ten Best Destinations in West Coast, Sabah
Three Days in Kota Kinabalu
Five Days in Kota Kinabalu
One Week in Sabah

Below are the prices guide on various types of vechicles and thier rental rates:
DR – Daily Rate
WR – Weekly Rate
MR – Monthly Rate
HR – Hourly Rate ( Minimum 3 hours)
CD – Chauffeur Driven ( 8 Hours)
MT3D – Rate per day (More than 3 days)

Rental Guide

Type of vechicles DR WR MR HR CR MT3D
Kancil 850 (M) 100 600 1,800 30 240 90
Viva 850 (M) 130 770 1,900 30 280 120
Kelisa 1.0 (A) 140 890 2,000 30 300 130
MYVI 1.3 (M) 160 980 2,000 30 310 150
MYVI 1.3 (A) 170 1,050 2,200 30 320 160

From left to right:

Type of vechicles DR WR MR HR CR MT3D
Saga 1.3 (M) 160 980 2,000 30 310 150
Saga 1.3 (A) 170 1,050 2,200 30 320 160
Wira 1.5 (M) 180 1,120 2,300 30 330 170
Wira 1.5 (A) 190 1,190 2,600 40 350 180
Waja 1.6 (M) 210 1,300 2,900 40 380 200
Waja 1.6 (A) 230 1,400 3,200 45 400 220

From left to right:

Type of vechicles DR WR MR HR CR MT3D
Avanza 1.3 (M) 250 1,610 3,200 45 470 320
Avanza 1.5 (A) 270 1,720 4,000 60 480 260
Prado 3.0 (A) 4WD 480 2,800 6,000 N/A N/A 420
Pregio Van 350 2,100 N/A N/A 550 330

Nissan Van, Mercedes Benz, 4WD Double Cabin, Coach Bus are also available.

Link to Car Rental Companies in Kota Kinablu.

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