Kota Kinabalu (KK) is well known for its grand beach resorts, beautiful mountains, exotic islands, and not forgeting its well organised eco-tourism industry. For those who love nature and wildlife, a wonderful and exciting holidays experience are waiting for you at KK. Since KK is situated in the northern part of Borneo Island, the most viable way to get here is by plane. With this in mind some people think that visiting KK can be expensive, which is not true at all. With a little planning, budget airlines, and a few good tips, visiting Kota Kinabalu on a shoestring is really possible, and even though on a limited budget, your visit to KK can still be a memorable one.
How to get here?
Since Air Asia started the budget airline industry some seven years ago, backpackers suddenly have a tool to visit Kota Kinabablu without burning a hole in their pockets. Today not only Air Asia has cheap fare to KK, Malaysia Airlines and Jetstar also have great saving and budget air fares to Kota Kinabalu through out the year. Watch out for their sale and special offer online.
Where to stay?
Forget about the 5 star hotels and resorts which will cost you an arm and a leg. Kota Kinabalu is a gem for backpackers, as KK has many backpacker hostels to choose from, and has more backpacker hostels and lodging houses than any other cities in Borneo Island. Some 30 backpacker hostels are located right at the city centre, many of them are at Gaya Street and Australia Place (Lorong Dewan). A bed from RM 20 to RM 25 per night can be easily found. The city backpacker hostels also have easy access to buses, eateries, sundries and Internet services.
Check out these backpack hostels:
- Stay-In Lodge
- Akinabalu Youth Hostel
- X-plorer Backpackers
- Step-In Lodge (Lonely Planet Pick)
- More Backpacker Hostels
Where to go?
Kota Kinabalu City (Half Day Tour)
Just walk through Kota Kinabalu to enjoy the city free of charge. It is a small enough city to explore on foot. Doing a Kota Kinabalu Heritage Walk will lead you to many of Jesselton’s past, like Jesselton Point. Jesselton was the former name of Kota Kinabalu. On every Sunday don’t miss the street fair at Gaya Street. Hike up to the Signal Hill Observatory Tower, which gives a good overall view of Kota Kinabalu city and the islands at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, and on the way down, visit the Atkinson Clock Tower, one of KK oldest standing structure, built in 1905.
Sabah Museum (Half Day Tour)
[Entrance fee: RM 15, Time: 9am to 5pm, Open daily]
Take a Penampang Bus to the Sabah Museum, the bus station is located opposite the high court building, right at the city centre. At the museum learn more about KK history, cultural heritage village and its many ceramic collections. More…
Tanjung Aru Beach and Sunset (Afternoon and Evening Tour)
Best time to visit Tanjung Aru Beach is in the late afternoon, when all the hawker stores at First Beach will come alive. The cafe and restaurant also open late in the afternoon. Take a walk on the beach and pay a visit to Prince Philip’s Park, beside the First Beach. Watch out for the splendid sunset at Tanjung Aru Beach, where the sun set between the islands. To get here, hop on a Tanjung Aru bound bus at the bus station located directly opposite the high court building.
Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre (Half Day Tour)
[Entrance fee: Adult RM 10, Child RM 5, Time: 8am to 6pm, Tuesday to Sunday, Closed on Mondays except public holidays
Located at the back of Signal Hill, the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre is a good education tour to learn about the eco-system of the Sabah coastline. Take a stroll deep into the wetland and see the many wildlife like birds, crabs, and mud lobster. One will also notice the many tall mangrove trees. To get here, one will need to take a taxi (RM 10) to the wetland centre, and for the adventure traveller, you can take a 30 minutes walk back to KK through Signal Hill passing by the Observatory Tower and Atkinson Clock Tower. More…
Kota Kinabalu Central Markets (Half Day Tour)
[Time: 6am to 6pm]
This is a good place to find out what kind of food KK Lites eat at home. The central market has many stores that sell vegetables, fruits, spices, and etc. Next to the Central Market is the fish market, which has many fresh fish, prawn, and cuttlefish for sale, many of these fish are just freshly caught from the South China Sea. While the handicraft market is the place to bargain and hunt for the ultimate souvenir is just a stone throw away. More…
Lok Kawi Wildlife Park (Half Day Tour)
[Entrance fee: Adult RM 20, Child RM 10, Time: 9:30am to 5:30pm, Open daily]
For those who do not have the time and money to go to Sukau, Kinabatagan, Lok Kawi wildlife park is the next best place to see Sabah’s endangered wildlife. The park has orang utans, borneo pygmy elephants, the proboscis monkey, and lot of other wildlife. Check out the Penampang bus timetable from Kota Kinabalu to Donggongon (RM 2 )before going. You will need to take another bus from Donggongon station at 9:30 am to Lok Kawi wildlife park.The return is 12pm and the fare is RM 2.50 one way. More…
Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (Full Day )
[Entrance fee: RM 10, Time: 8am to 5pm]
Manukan, Sapi and Mamutik are the most visit islands at Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park. Go to Jesselton Point to arrange a ferry to any of these islands, and the journey will take about 10 to 20 minutes. One can pay for a return fare for as low as RM 18. To save cost bring you own food and drinks. Fun things to do: snorkelling at Manukan, or any of the islands, or hiking around the hill trail at Manukan.
Mt. Kinabalu (Two or Three Days)
[Park Entrance fee: Adult RM 15, 18 y.o. and below RM 10; Botanical Garden Entrance Fee: Adult RM 5, Child RM 2.50, Time: 9am to 4pm]
One must visit Mt. Kinabalu, the mountain where KK city is name after. Bus depart from Bandaran Berjaya Bus terminal to Kinabalu Park Headquarters daily from 7am to 4pm (RM 15 one way), and Taxi near the town padang charges RM 25 per person. If you are not climbing Mt. Kinabalu, hiking at the park trails, as many as 7 trails, can be very enjoyable. Visit the Botanical Garden, guided tour starts at 9am and 3pm. Eat at the restaurants outside the park, they are much cheaper and tasty too. Sleep at the many lodges or rest house outside the park, you can save a lot compare to those inside the park. More…
Kundasang War Memorial (2 to 3 Hours)
[Entrance fee: RM 4, Time: 8am to 5pm, Open Daily]
While at Kinabalu Park, Kundasang War Memorial is only about 7km away. Take a bus to Kundsang which cost about RM 8 from Kinabalu Park Headquaters. The Kundasang War Memorial is beside the Kundasang Town. The fort like building with three types of garden inside was established in 1962. Learn about the tragic story of this place, and enjoy the great view of Mt. Kinabalu and Kundasang from the top of the fort. More…
Where and what to eat?
In downtown Kota Kinabalu there are many Kopitiams that serve a meal for RM 5. Rice and noodle are popular choices. Bakeries can be found at most streets. Recommended kopitaims like Kedai Kopi Yee Fung for its yummy Laksa, RM 4.50 and Kedai Kopi Sofa for its tasty Rojak, RM 3.50. For seafood visit the Seri Selera, a food court with six to seven seafood restaurants and cafes, at Sedco complex near the GSC Cinema. Price for seafood starts from RM 20.
What to do at night?
Have dinner at Seri Selera and enjoy a free Cultural Dance performances by local dancers from 7:30pm to 8:30pm. Have some beers and listen to free Live Bands performing nightly from 8pm onward at Beach Cafe. Beach Cafe is a nice place to mingle with the friendly people of Sabah. Kota Kinabalu is also a great place to catch up with Hollywood. Latest movies are up to date and cinema fare is dirt cheap. Premium at RM 8, and on Wednesday Movie fare is as low as RM 5 or 6, a super bargain indeed.
Super Market Price Guide:
Mineral Water 1.5 liters: RM 2.00
Coke 325ml: RM 1.20
A loaf of Bread for RM 2.50
Corn Beef (can): RM 4.50
Jam 450gm: from RM 3.50
Kit-Kat Chocolate Bar: RM 2.20
With these informations and new tips you can start planning and visit Kota Kinabalu on a shoestring (budget) very soon.
* Park Fees, transport fees, and food prices can change without notice.
* Update will be made whenever posibble.