Introducing the city

£1.00 | RM5.58

GBP | MYR

Gasoline £0.37 | RM2.08

One-way ticket £0.45 | RM2.52

Beer £2.17 | RM12.11

Main Course £1.81 | RM10.09

About Malaysian Borneo

Land of lowland rainforests, mystical mountains, lush national parks and diverse market towns, Malaysian Borneo is one of Asia's most serene destinations.

Often referred to as East Malaysia, Malaysian Borneo is one of the country's least developed and ruggedly beautiful areas. The island of Borneo - the third largest in the world - is split into three areas, each owned by a separate country (Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia). The states of Sabah in the northeast and Sarawak in the northwest make up Malaysian Borneo. Largely uncultivated apart from thriving (food-mad) Kuching, larger Sarawak consists of dense rainforest, rare wildlife (including orangutans) and traditional Malay towns. Smaller Sabah is home to bustling yet untouristy beaches, tropical islands and lively markets (particularly around Kota Kinabalu).

Sabah is home to UNESCO listed Mount Kinabalu and national park, while Sarawak lays claim to the Mulu caves, the largest cave chamber in the world. A diverse region full of hundreds of indigenous tribes, customs and dramatic landscapes, the best way to explore this mystic and unspoilt area is by immersing yourself in its magic.

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Weather

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When should you visit?

June is one of the peak months to visit, with less rainfall and warm, hot days.

Borneo has a tropical equatorial climate with hot sunshine all year round. Temperatures rarely fluctuate between 25 to 33 degrees Celsius, although they may drop down to 20 degree Celsius or lower in the mountains at night. Rain is common throughout the year but the monsoon season (November to March) can see extremely large amounts of rainfall. Thanks to the warm temperatures travel all year round is possible, although travellers should pack accordingly if travelling during the rainy season.

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Travioor top tips

Air Travel
Climb
Taxis

Insider Info

  • Roads do exist between towns but are often poor and public transport slow; consider air travel for large distances (particularly in Sarawak).

  • Spectacular Mount Kinabalu is climbable without special training (although a guide is required). Book in advance so you can pack accordingly.

  • In Kota Kinabalu taxi fares can be pricey and the small centre is actually easily walkable. If you do get a cab, agree on the price first and stick to it.

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Food and drink

Main Course £1.81 | RM10.09

3-Course Meal £9.05 | RM50.47

Cappuccino £1.78 | RM9.95

Beer £2.17 | RM12.11

The Scene

Malaysian Borneo's diversity of inhabitants is mirrored in its cuisine. With Indian, Chinese, Iban, Malay and Kelabit (to name a few) influences, national dishes are wonderfully unique, flavoursome and creative. Popular favourites in Sarawak include wonton mee or kolo mee (egg noodles, soy sauce and minced or barbecued meat), kompia (a fried sesame bun with minced pork) and kuey chap (a flat savoury cake and herb soup with pork). In Sabah opt for hinava (raw fish marinated in lime), ngui chap (beef broth and noodles) and bambangan (juicy, mango-like fruit served in drinks and desserts).

Drinks are popular with sweet-toothed visitors and often use local fruits - matterhorn (shaved ice, cendol, grass jelly, lemon and longon) is the perfect tipple on hot afternoons. If you're brave, sample Sarawak's potent tuak (fermented rice wine), especially if you visit during Gawai Dayak, the region's national holiday when it's usually drunk.

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History

Malaysian Borneo’s Story

Borneo was first inhabited thousands of years ago by hundreds of separate tribes who were later joined by settlers from all over Asia (including Japan, China, Indonesia, Thailand and beyond). By the 16th century the Sultan of Brunei ruled much of northern Borneo and in 1841 he gave Sarawak to James Brooke - a travelling English mercenary - in thanks for quashing a rebellion. By this point, Englishmen had also arrived in Sabah too and they set about establishing a trading hub in partnership with the Sultan of Sulu who ruled the north and eastern parts of the Sabah area.

By the mid-nineteenth century both Sarawak and Sabah had become English protectorates and remained separate British colonies when the Federation of Malaya was established in 1957. However both areas decided to become part of the new Federation of Malaysia (along with Singapore) in 1963. Today, they are just as diverse as they once were, with many different tribes and people living in both. Each has their own immigration, rules and checkpoints.

Language

Helo | Hello
Terima kasih | Thank you

Malaysian

Although officially the language of Malaysian Borneo is Malaysian, there are many different sub-languages spoken across Sarawak and Sabah, including regional forms of Sarawakan and Sabahan as well as Melanan-Kajang. Within these there are even more sub-groups, depending on location and heritage. Given the spread of languages across the region it's nearly impossible to practice just one for your visit. However, if you do travel to different areas, try and pick some up along the way; it'll go down well. Having said that, you're likely to encounter English-speaking locals, particularly among the younger generation. If all else fails, give Malaysian a go, which may have more success:

  • Bye: Selamat tinggal
  • Please: Sila
  • Excuse me: Maaf
  • Do you speak English: Bolehkah anda cakap Bahasa Inggeris?

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Need to know

+60 Dialling Code
999 Emergency Services

Get The Low-Down

  • Malaysia is a predominatly Muslim country; dress modestly and avoid public displays of affection. 
  • Everyone (even other Malaysians) are restricted by length of stay and, possibly, a second visa when entering Malaysian Borneo - check before you travel.
  • Sarawak and Sabah have their own immigration checkpoints so you'll need to pass through these if you travel between the two. 
  • Saltwater crocodiles are common in certain areas - be careful around Batang Lupar and any time you enter water. 

 

VISA INFORMATION

Find out about the visa requirements for Malaysia here.

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Travioor Recommends

1. WILDLIFE

Look out for orangutans swinging through the rainforest in Sarawak's Semenggoh Nature Reserve.

2. NATIONAL PARKS

Spot wildlife or the world's rarest flower (rafflesia tuanmudae) in one of the dozens of verdant national parks.

3. CITY

Visit cultural Kuching, home to Chinese temples, museums, a cathedral plus landscaped riverfront - the street food is awesome too.

4. SHOP

Sabah's capital Kota Kinabalu has dozens of bustling markets, lively shopping streets and an eclectic, busy vibe.

5. EXPLORE

Climb stunning Mount Kinabalu for other-worldly views or boat hop to one of Sabah's idyllic tropical islands.


See What's On In Malaysian Borneo  


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