10 Helpful tips for a d-i-y trip in Kota Kinabalu

The city of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia  can be explored without spending a lot of money and you can save yourself from the hustle of public transportation.

Here are some of my thoughts that a d-i-y traveler like me should know:

1. Airfare Ticket

Having traveled in Kota Kinabalu for 4 days made me realize that it is a destination that one shouldn’t think about buying an expensive airfare.

Air Asia offers one of the lowest fares and looking out for their promos would be a wise choice. We got ours for Php1200.00 roundtrip!

2. Airport Bus / Airport Taxi

Unlike other asian countries that provide efficient subway system upon arriving at the airport, Kota Kinabalu has two options on how to get to the city.

For fixed rates as of April 2016: Airport Bus is available for RM5 and Airport Taxi for RM30. 

Both have their own booths inside the airport for the tickets.

3. About the Taxi

This is something unusual for me, taxis in Kota Kanabalu don’t have fare meters. You have to give your best haggling talent for the price before riding.

They usually ask for RM15 anywhere you go, even if your destination is only less than 2km away!

  • The cars are right-hand drive and I noticed an “unusual” smell, you might also notice it if you ride a taxi multiple times.

4. City Tour

If you are looking for city bus routes, STOP!

As I was doing my itinerary, I find it hard to look for this. Fret not, you don’t need to! 

You can walk to most tourist destinations you can find from the City. City buses are available that will take you to these destinations but the catch is, waiting time can really consume your day. I wouldn’t recommend riding these.

  • We went to KK waterfront, Oceanus Mall, Atkinson Clock Tower, Signal Hill Observatory, Filipino Night Market and Gaya Sunday Market.

5. Island Hopping

This is the activity that most tourists going to Kota Kinabalu are looking forward for.

Disregard all the prices you can find online. Upon arriving in Jesselton Point, ticketing booths are available for island hopping and water activities. Go canvass for the cheapest price as each of those companies offer different rates. 

  • We visited Sapi Island and Manukan Island. Sapi Island was flocked with tourists while Manukan island was more peaceful but it’s sand is not as fine as that of Sapi.

6. Markets

Gaya Sunday Market, if you have been looking for what-not-to-miss in Kota Kinabalu this maybe is on top of the results. Gaya Sunday market is only open on Sundays from 6am to 1:30pm.

  • Vendors tend to give the cheapest price for the item near closing time. You can wait a little then go haggle! 

Filipino Night Market, this market starts at sun down. If you are looking for grills and cheaper price for seafoods, don’t miss this. 

This is a wet market so expect the typical wet market smell. The food stalls are just beside this market.

7. Food

In my own experience, I can describe the taste of their local food as that of a curry taste but not as strong. If you don’t find the after smell or taste pleasurable, don’t worry! There are other options in the menu.

Average price for a meal is RM6.5 and up.

  • Try Fook Yuen restaurant, they offer one of the best noodles I’ve tasted.

8. Water

There are no service water nor water fountains available in food courts and restaurants and there is a charge if you ask for a glass.

9. Wifi

Wifi are available in hotels and malls but it is comparably of the same speed in our country.

10. Language

Don’t worry, Malaysians speak English language and you will not find it unusual if you hear people speak Filipino language. They have a relevant population there.

  • I recommend trying a cup of coffee in Oldtown Cafe. The cheapest yet the yummiest frap I’ve tasted! (Approx. RM6.5)
  • There are a lot of tourist destinations in Sabah, if you consider out of town trips including a hike in Mt. Kinabalu.
  • You can view a stunning sunset in KK waterfront and outside Oceanus Mall.

Here are some of my snapshots from our trip last April 15 – April 18, 2016:



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