Guided tours for snorkelling - not neccessary
Even as a somewhat budget traveller, I would always promote the use of local guides and companies to get a real insight into the areas I am visiting.
But, if you just want to go snorkelling at one of the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, you are wasting your money getting a guided tour. Most of the four to six hour tours were priced at around 160 RM - this included transport, snorkelling equipment and lunch.
You can do this yourself very easily for 60RM or less - easily accessible transport from Jessleton Point is 24RM to one island (or 30 if you want to visit two in a day), 7RM port fees, 10RM for Park entry (Conservation Fee) and 10RM for lunch - that is approx 50RM or 60 if you need to hire snorkelling gear.
Being unaware of how easy it was to 'go it alone', I nearly booked a tour from an agent at my hotel, but I decided to go to Jesselton Point myself to investigate more. Going alone means you can choose your time or departure, choose your island, choose your own lunch and save money!
Unique Suggestions: Note also that if you are going for a day of snorkelling, there is very little coral in the designated snorkelling area of Pulau Manukan - far more fish and some coral at the northern end of Pulau Sapi.
- Budget Travel
- Diving and Snorkeling
Changing Money at the Airports
I flew to Kota Kinabalu with Air Asia via Kuala Lumpur. When exiting the plane at Kuala Lumpur LCCT there is a Money Changer inside the terminal building (before luggage pick-up). There is no need to change money here - exchange rates are low.
Once you have picked up your luggage, you can get a much better exchange rate in the concourse of the terminal. Rates are considerable better than inside the terminal - between 5 and 10%. Change some money here if you know you will need a taxi when you arrive in Kota Kinabalu.
In Kota Kinabalu itself there are numerous money changers, some with street shop frontage and some inside shopping malls. I found the rates at these places another 5% better than at the LCCT terminal in Kuala Lumpur. No hassles changing U.S. , Australian or Euro.
It all adds up in the end!
- Budget Travel
Dining along the Waterfront & Port View
There are several restaurants along the waterfront, just south of the Handicraft Market. Please bare in mind that these restaurants are well overpriced. Granted, the location is nice and if the weather is cooperative, siting on the back deck is pleasant.
However, if you walk into the city, you could have similar quality of food for a fraction of the price. For example, we wanted to have a nice meal and enjoy or first days on holiday, but were not greatly impressed with the foods. In the days to come, we had much better food and were able to dine for the entire day for less than the cost of one appetizer.
Fun Alternatives: I highly suggest the street foods near the night market for a more authentic feel. If you are looking for elegance, walk around the city for a while and compare menus before choosing a restaurant as I believe you will find much better prices.
Admission fees to Monsopiad Cultural Village
No price stated on admission ticket. When we arrived at the village and went to the ticket booth, a lady asked us where we were from and she stated the admission price per person as MR65. When we hesitated about paying the price, she said she could offer us MR45 (meant only for Malaysians). When we still discussed if it was worth paying the amount, she decided to charge us MR20. We bought the ticket and it included a welcome drink, a chance to view the live cultural show and a walk thru the village BUT without a guide. This price also allowed us to view the House of Skulls.
Unique Suggestions: Read up about the culture so you can pay the cheaper price and go without the guide.
- Arts and Culture
Just be aware that some things do not operate on a friday (prayer day.)
There was one tour I wanted to do that just did not operate on a friday, and I also noted that some stalls and shops operated on somewhat reduced hours on a friday.
It's not a great problem, and easy to get around if you are prepared for it and can juggle you schedules.
The touristy areas selling bottled water (a necessary commodity in KK) have really marked up the prices.
If you go just across the road (in some cases) to the local shops, you can get you water there at up to 1/3 off the price being charged by shops or stalls in the tourist presincts.
u can find alot of stuff here.i bought 30cm size 5inch seashell 4 MYR3.u can get alot of cheap cheap cheap stuff here.but usually for tourist,d price can b 5x higher than d actual price. i bought freshwater pearl bangle 4 myself,at first she wanna sell for MYR30, in d end i bought it 4 MYR8.lucky i have my sabahan friend with me. atleast i dont get cheated.so if u go shopping especially at d market, please bargain..bargain..and bargain will u think its worthit.
Unique Suggestions: like i say,just bargain till u think its worthit
Fun Alternatives: every market is d same.all u need 2do is bargain..
Dealing with $$$ making opportunists
Unfortunately, there are enough people in KK willing to make a quick buck so do be careful-generally people are helpful and you can trust most shopkeepers or guides but do shop around. If you're at a market where there are no price tags, try see what the locals are paying-some folk are more than happy to rip you off; they do believe tourists are loaded.
Apart from this, even the government, despite promoting tourism has got into the act and in places like national parks tourists pay more to enter-lots of Malaysians i know support this but they don't have to pay more than locals when they go to parks in Australia or the UK, so fair's fair, I say.
Unique Suggestions: learn and observe-picking up a few Malay words won't help if these guys are speaking a particular Chinese or Indian language or any one of the hundreds of other languages!! Go with your instinct-if it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.
White water rafting 2
The price for the trip including a buffet lunch. However, the buffet is at around 3 o'clock after you finished the rafting.
Some will go for a shower first. However, it is most possible that after your shower, there is no food left.
If you ask the company how many food you have, they will tell you a lot.. well this is what the person in Trekker's Lodge told me.. they said there are a lot of food and you can eat until you fulled, continuous supplies bla bla bla.. but I only manage to grab one scoop of fried rice with 1 chicken wing and a few slices of watermelon after my shower..
Anyway, there are a total of 4/ 5 kinds of food and 2 kinds of fruits.
Unique Suggestions: Go for the food first if you can eat in wet clothes. Else you will be hungry without lunch. Even though it is said to be a 'buffet', never expect a continuous supple of food.. even mineral water, it runs out fast!
Fun Alternatives: Bring your personal lunch perhaps, if you want.. but then you have pay for the 'buffet' lunch..
White water rafting
We booked the white water rafting package from the Trekker's Lodge.
Before the trip, I asked my sabahan friend's about the market price and they told me is around rm120 per person. My friends booked the trip from the Trekker's Lodge, cost us rm180 per person. Since we have 11 person, he gave us discount- rm170 per person which is still rm50 more than the market price.
Fun Alternatives: No matter what company you booked the tour from, the one who incharge is the 'riverbug', get directly to them and bypass all the middle man, you could get a comparatively reasonable price.
Slide show at Kinabalu Park
Actually should not be serious enough as a tourist trap. Most travel books recommended people to attend this slide show before climbing the summit. However, the slide show provided only very general information which you could find in any travel books and videos. No practical information was given. You still need to pay RM2 each person to attend this slide show.
Mount Kinabalu Park
We went on a day excusion. The journey is long and not too interesting. On arrival you are taken for a route march through a jungle to see the orchids. On return to the car park you are herded indoors for a basic meal drinks(what you really want) are extra, followed by a long journey home again with a brief stop at a local village selling tourist nik-naks.
Unique Suggestions: Go on a trip that includes Poring Hot Springs. At least you can go on an interesting walk and have a bath at the end complete with a refreshing coconut!
- National/State Park
- Jungle and Rain Forest
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