This city map is very, very helpful. Even for a local like me as it has the most updated locations of (new) restaurants, hotels as well as places of interests.
Very essential if you're travelling solo. Get this map for free and you'll do fine :-)
This free CBD map is available at the arrival hall in Kota Kinabalu International Airport, or you can always drop by at the Tourist Information Centre located at No. 51 Jalan Gaya.
Monday - Friday : 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Saturday , Sunday,& Public Holiday : 9:00 am - 4:00 pm.
I find sabahan to be very friendly people, more friendly than those in peninsular malaysia. They generally very open and easy in front camera, helpful when you ask for assistance and ready to help.
When I was in Ranau, people in the bus station take the initiative to help us in giving direction and suggestions. This happened a few times in my short trip to Sabah making me believe that sabahan is so kind and friendly.
Favorite thing: Take time to try these yummy ice cream sticks before you depart the international airport of KK. There are prepacked boxes of 12 or 24 sticks for you to bring home. The ice cream sticks can be kept frozen for up to 5 hours. I found that they were still diamond hard after travelling from KK to my home in Hong Kong.
There's 2 (not so big) in KK town itself - Centrepoint has Pacific Nu Kui, near the Hyatt there's a Millimewa. On the fringes of the CBD at Karamunsing, you'll find a mid-sized Giant. At City Mall, a good 20 minutes by taxi, there's a larger Giant, and at 1Borneo Shopping Centre there's the biggest Giant of them all.
The Philippino Market near Le Meridien is always popular. There's a vegetable market and wet market right next to it - it's daily. The Sunday market is the Gaya Street market which starts early and packs-up around midday. Out at Papar and in Kota Belud there are big, regional markets which are on specific days of the months (check local listings). Pretty much the same thing as at Gaya Street, perhaps just bigger.
Boat trip to Brunei-
You can't go via boat directly from KK. You have to go to Labuan (1-2 hours) and then from there to Brunei (2-3 hours) depending on the sea conditions. You might want to consider flying with MAS or Royal Brunei - little more expensive but time is money.
Getting around KK-
The KK CBD is not all that big - perhaps 3km from Wisma Wawasan on the one side to Jessleton point on the other. Once in the CBD you can walk where you like. To get around further than that, taxis are cheap and although they have meters they charge set fees for set distances - they should have a chart in the car to show you the cost to different destinations. To Kinabalu Park and Sandakan you can take a long distance bus, or a minibus. To tourist attractions, either do a tour or rent a car.
Hope that's helpful.
Favorite thing: Due to the small size of the airport at Kota Kinabalu, it is best to make sure that you have enough currency in your pocket as there is no foreign exchange booth. At least have 20ringit spare, as this will cover your taxi into town. I had come directly from Bangkok on Air Asia and had no currency with me at the time of arrival. The taxi driver charged me an extra 5 ringit for stopping off at the cash machine.
Expect the food in sabah to be more expensive than in peninsular malaysia.
Here, a plate of chicken rice costs you RM3.50 to RM4, which is a ringgit or so more than in peninsular Malaysia. However, a bigger portion is given as well compare to peninsular.
Favorite thing: For Malaysians who live in the Peninsula, upon arrival in Sabah, you will be given an immigration slip as shown on the picture. Malaysians are only allowed to stay in the state of Sabah for 3 months! Can you believe it? We are from the same country called MALAYSIA, aren't we?
If you were a prawn lover like me, you'll never forget the big and delicious prawns avaliable everywhere in KK with reasonable price. Frozen packs are found in the airport and bring them home if you love it!
Fondest memory: A nearly perfect match of KK prawns and my cooking skills ;-))
If Sabahan said 'take the bus', it is very likely that it is a van.
There are local public buses which is really a bus; but sometimes for some longer distance journey, such as from ranau-KK, the 'bus' is actually a van.
Please try famous local tropical fruit ice-lolly! There are various flavors like durian, taro, jackfruit, adzuki beans, mango, avocado and so on. They keep the original flavor of the fruits with coconut milk and are very tasty!
Fondest memory: When I was in Sabah, I had ice-lolly every day. In big super market it cost only 1 RM but its common price was 1.5 RM in convenience store and resort area. The most expensive one I got was in Sutera Harbour Resort--2,6 RM!! My favorite flavors were durian and jackfruit. P.S. We have ice-lolly of taro, jackfruit, adzuki beans, mango and avocado in Taiwan so I prefer extraordinary flavors in Sabah.
The capital of Sabah is called Kota Kinabalu (mostly known as KK) but has had several other names during its history. The city started as a small fishermens town named Api Api (Fire Fire). When the British came to Sabah at the end of the 19th century the British North Borneo Company needed a homebase for its business. They chose a small island called Gaya Island, right in front of the coastline of Api Api.
Because a base at the mainland was easier to be defended the British took over Api Api not much later. They named the new town Jesselton, after the director of the British North Borneo Company: Charles Jessel. The new town became an important tradingbase of the English for many decades.
During the Second World War the town was completely destroyed by the Japanese, and later was bombed once again when the British fought back. The name changed back into Api Api in the Japanese time, but became Jesselton again at the end of the war.
In 1968, when Sabah already joined the union of Malaysia, the growing town was called Kota Kinabalu, after the high mountain in the inland nearby. The place was expanding rapidly and got the official city-status in 2000. Nowadays the city of KK has almost 400.000 inhabitants, and including the region around it is close to 900.000.
Fondest memory: Sabah is definitely famous for wild life. What else could you say when you saw this walking slowly on the beach, and you were just sitting on the same beach enjoying sea breeze? (It's about half meter long from head to tail)
I just came back from a South East Asia Trip. I was in Kota Kinabalu and climbed Mount Kinabalu. No problem to buy headlight. If you are going to climb Mount Kinabalu you will be able to rent a haedlight even there. Just ask the guides. But I'm sure you can get it in KK.
Have fun... I loved it!!
I happened to enquire on this, from someone familiar with it, so I can answer such questions on VT Forum! ;-)
The answer is that last minute climbs are only possible if there is a last minute cancellation and you are lucky to get it! Otherwise it is 6-9 months booking ahead, even for base camp :(
This bus company provides a good service to MT. Kinabalu head quarter. clean, spacious, free water+bread,and with a TV showing Jet Li movies.
Fondest memory: And the view at the first half an hour ride is really nice.