Malaysian Borneo

Malaysia is hot and humid with an average temperature of 25 to 30 degrees celcius and humidity is high.

The capital city of Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur. It is a thriving, bustling, cosmopolitan city and offers great food and night life. It’s a great stop over destination before flying across to Borneo or continue on to other destination within Asia or Europe.

The state capital of Sabah, one of the two Malaysian states in Borneo, is Kota Kinabalu. It’s Sabah’s major tourist hub from where to explore the beauty of Sabah. Sandakan is located on the Eastern part of Sabah and is the entry point to famous rehabilitation and conservation sites such as the Turtle islands, Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre and Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.

Malaysia or Borneo?

Often people are confused about what is Malaysia and what is Borneo. The capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, is located in West Malaysia or Peninsular Malysia, bordering Thailand. The two Malaysian states, Sabah and Sarawak, lie on the island of Borneo.

Kuala Lumpur is a major hub for travel within South East Asia. Cities in Borneo are within easy reach from here.
Kota Kinabalu is the biggest city in Sabah and from here you can connect to all other major tourist towns such as Sandakan and Lahad Datu in Sabah, Kuching and Mulu in Sarawak and Brunei.
Sandakan is the starting point for many adventures such as visits to Sepilok Orang utan rehabilitation centre, Turtle islands and the Kinabatangan river
Kuching is the closest town to mainland Malaysia and very close to the border to Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo. It is possible to travel into Kalimantan from here.

How to get there

Malaysian Borneo is easily reached with regular flights from Malaysia’s capital city Kuala Lumpur.  Malaysian Airlines and Air Asia both offer direct flights between Kuala Lumpur and Kuching in Sarawak and Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan in Sabah.

Silk Air operates some flights between Singapore and Kota Kinabalu which is the main hub in Malaysian Borneo. From here you can connect to most places such as Kuching, Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Mulu and Brunei.

Borneo & Beyond is able to organise all your air travel arrangements for you whether it be for domestic arrangements within Borneo or international flights to Borneo or Beyond.

Airfare enquiry

The People:

  • The Malay – are the largest ethnic group in Malaysia, accounting for more than half of the total population today. Malay people are mainly Muslim.
  • The Chinese – first arrived in Malaysia in the 15th century and tend to be Christian, Buddhist or Taoist.
  • The Indian – the smallest of he three main ethnic groups. Many Indians are Hindu or from Hindu background.
  • The Iban – For centuries the Iban, a tribe living near the rivers of Sarawak were feared because they practised headhunting. Today the practise is banned and they now live peacefully as agriculturalists alongside their neighbours. That doesn’t mean they have abandoned all their customs. They are sticklers for etiquette, so never enter a longhouse without permission. Always wait to be invited. They are however generous, hospitable and placid people and often keen to show off their traditional dance, music, blow-piping, fishing and game playing.
  • The Kadazan Dusun –  This is the largest ethnic group category in Sabah. They are predominantly wet rice and hill cultivators. Their ancient beliefs rest on the idea that everything has life- the rocks, trees, rivers are all living things. In modern times, however, many Kadazan Dusun people have been converted to Christianity or Islam.
  • The Orang Sungai – Meaning “River people” in Malay. The Orang Sungai are a group of indegenous people native to the state of Sabah. As the name suggests, communities make their homes along rivers like the Kinabatangan. They are mainly fishermen and followers of Islam.

Useful Travel Information

Money:

Currency in Sabah and Sarawak is Malysian Ringit (MYR)

Major credit cards are widely accepted around the bigger cities and hotels but it is advised to carry some cash with you as you will need this if travelling outside of the city areas and to make purchases at local markets.

Ensure to notify your bank of your travel plans you may otherwise find that your card will be rejected.

 Electricity:

Electrical outlets in Malaysia only accommodate 3-pin plugs with two flat blades and one flat grounding blade.

Voltage is 220 -240 volts AC.

 Languages:

The main language is Malay (Bahasa Maylaysia) but English is widely spoken. Other languages include Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien etc), Indian and a host of tribal languages.

 Food & Drinks:

There is a large variety of delicious food  available which is not to be missed. Local meals typically consist of noodles or rice, chilli, local vegetables, chicken, fish, beef and lamb.

You will find Chinese, Malay and Indian food and vegetarian options are available as long as you let your tour guide know to prearrange it in certain locations.

Soft drinks are widely available.

Fresh juices are popular but loaded with sugar. Make sure to always ask for less or no sugar when ordering. Tap water is safe for brushing teeth but not as drinking water. Stick to filtered or bottled water. In many locally run accommodation you will always have access to cooled boiled water which is safe to drink and free. We recommend all travellers bring a stainless steal bottle and be environmentally responsible. 

 Health

As with all travel it is recommended to seek professional medical advice for all your chosen travel destinations for up to date advise on recommended vaccinations and taking precautions.

Mosquitoes are present throughout the year due to the constant humid climate. Be sure to bring an insect repellent containing DEET with you, especially when travelling to rainforest areas. Citronella based repellents are not suitable for the jungle.

The two most common diseases transmitted by mosquitos are Malaria and Dengue Fever. Malaria prophylaxis can be discussed with your doctor but prevention of bites is the only known protection against Dengue Fever.

Hospitals & Clinics are numerous in the cities and even in smaller town such as Sandakan. Small bills can be settled in cash but for costly treatment you must present a widely accepted credit card.

Borneo & Beyond recommends travellers to have comprehensive travel insurance cover and can assist with arranging this at time of making your booking. 

Cultural Consideration:

As part of Borneo & Beyond’s commitment to promote “responsible travel” please be aware and respect some of the local customs. The local people are very friendly and showing an interest in their daily lives will add to your holiday experience.

  • Use your right hand for giving and receiving things, eating, waving and greeting people. The use of the left hand is generally considered ill-mannered.
  • Do not point at people.
  • Do not touch people on the head (especially adults)
  • Women should cover their shoulders and avoid very short skirts and shorts (except on the beach or in more cosmopolitan areas)
  • Take off your shoes before going indoors.
  • Never refuse food from locals you know.
  • Do not be confrontational.
  • Always remain pleasant even when making a complaint.
  • Customer service may be very different from what you are accustomed to. Patience is required.
  • Locals are gentle and laid back and don’t like hassle. Pace of life may be more relaxed than you are used to even where work is concerned. Take it easy and don’t rush.
  • Most Malaysians speak English but be aware that at times it can be a mixture of English and Malay. You will soon get used to it and may even start speaking that way.