Airasia has flights to Kota Kinabalu twice a day, often much cheaper than Malaysia Airlines because they are budget airline.
A rule of thumb, the earlier you book, the cheaper it is (prices varies for weekdays and weekends)!
From KK, the best option I found was the UNSER van. Take the UNSER minivan (to Ranau) from the bus station at Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman (near Merdeka Field). It cost RM15 (same as the non-aircond minivan) and it only takes 7 passengers. The journey to Kinabalu Prak HQ takes about 2 hours. It is the BEST option available. The van will leave when it is full.
The mini bus leaves at 8am. The other minivan (white color) carries 11 or 12 passengers and old. All cost RM15.
Coming back from Kinabalu Park, you can call them and ask to reserve seats for you. You can get on the van on the bus stop just outside the park. There is a van that leaves Ranau at 3:30pm arriving at Park Headquarters bus stop at about 4pm. Contact: Zain (+6016 8800410)
There is a minibus terminal in KK town walking distance from most hotels / hostels. We stayed at Promenade Hotel (Marina Court Condo) and walked there in 15 mins. The men at the mini bus terminal quoted us RM15 per person for the ride to Mt K so we booked this a day in advance. However when we arrived there on the morning we were told we needed to hop on a bus for RM1.50 to get to an outside bus station where we would board the bus that would then take us to Mt Kinabalu.
RM15 is the normal going rate for minibus or a/c large buses from KK to Mt K.
Kinabalu Park is about 90km from Kota Kinabalu, about 2 hrs bus ride.
Buses going to Sandakan or Ranau town pass by the entrance to Kinabalu Park. There are aircon buses but the last one leaves at 2pm. We missed it by an hour.
For us Pinoys, we had no problem asking for directions because there are Pinoy drivers/dispatchers at the terminal. They come from Mindanao and have made KK their home. When they heard us talking in Tagalog, they said "Uy Pinoy pala kayo. Saan kayo pupunta?" (Filipinos? Where are you headed?). "Kinabalu? Dito kayo sa minivan" (To Kinabalu? Take the minivan).
The public minivan was headed to Sandakan and we had to wait for it to fill up before we finally went our way. Fare was 10 ringgit per person.
From Ranau we arrived at KK with enough time for lunch at a local restaurant.
True to form, another Pinoy approached us at the bus terminal and offered a ride to the airport in his car for 13 ringgit. He works as a dispatcher at the terminal and is moonlighting as a driver/guide when not on duty. We agreed, had our lunch and off we went to the airport.
On the way, our conversation with the driver was mostly about his life as a migrant in KK. When we commented that he looked a lot like the Filipino actor Robin Padilla, he whipped out a photo of the actor from his wallet and declared that he's a fan... We made a little detour to the Tanjung Aru beach, very near to the airport... At the airport, we said goodbye to Robin and gave him all our leftover ringgits. It was not much, only about 15 ringgit, so dont go thinking we were being so generous haha
Back to the airport tip... we didnt have to pay the airport tax, it was included in our Air Asia fare. And we had to wait outside the terminal for some time as they dont let passengers in until its almost time to board.
We had a 2pm flight to catch at KK so it was an early start for us from Poring. Not wanting to risk any delays waiting for a public minivan infront of Poring, we booked a car at the visitors center to take us to the Ranau bus terminal.
At the bus terminal, we hopped on a waiting minivan for KK. I asked the dispatcher, in halting Bahasa, how many hours to KK and he replied "dalawang oras" (2 hours). Ooops, another Pinoy encounter!
We had to wait for more passengers so we whiled away the time staring proudly at Mt Kinabalu in the distance.
Car hire from Poring to Ranau: 30 ringgit
Minivan fare from Ranau to KK: 15 ringgit per person
After the climb to Kinabalu we went to Poring Hotsprings, about 1.5 hr drive from Kinabalu Park.
Enquiring at the Kinabalu Park HQ, we were told that we could hire a van for 100 ringgit or so (can't remember the exact amount). Too much for our budget and the little ringgit we have left.
We lingered infront of the HQ hoping to find some people we could share the van with. A guy approached us, offered to take us to Poring in his car for 80 ringgit. We haggled and agreed on 70. Plus we found an English couple who just came down from the hike and they were also heading to Poring. We split the bill, cramped our tired butts in the car and left.
Coming from Manila, we flew direct to Kota Kinabalu with budget airline Air Asia. Air Asia flies from Clark Airport in Pampanga, 2 hrs away from Manila. Philtranco shuttle buses leave for Clark from the back of SM Megamall building A. We were on the 7am bus. We had no booking so we were in Megamall really early.
We booked our return trip to Manila with the lady in the bus. Glad we did because there was a long queue at the Philtranco counter when we returned from KK.
Here's the shuttle bus schedule:
Manila to Clark 7:00 11:00 12:00
Clark to Manila 12:30 17:30 18:00
Fare: P300 one way
Had our peso exchanged to ringgit at the Clark airport. Clark airport terminal fee is P350. Bring your own snacks as food is not provided on the plane. Otherwise, buy food onboard.
In Kota Kinabalu, if you have arranged for a transport pick up, do inform the driver which airport you will be arriving at and which flight and where you'd be coming from.
This is because there are two airports in KK. An international airport and a local one called Terminal 2. They are located not too far from each other, and they both share the same runway, but the passenger pick up points different. So, it is better to be specific.
The picture shows the international airport.
People had bad reviews about Air Asia being slow and delayed most of the time. My flights with them were pleasant and on time (if not early). The touch down was quite smooth and the service polite, brisk and efficient.
It cost me RM139-RM159 each way from KL to KK, which is cheaper than MAS, and I arrived at reasonable times.
Just bring your own food as the flight is close to 2 1/2 hours, if you like snacking. Otherwise you can purchase food on board for US$1-2 for food and drinks.
From there, I caught a taxi (pre arranged) to my accommodation place near the park for RM90. I think, if you get a taxi from the airport, it can cost you from RM60 onwards, but you need to look around and haggle a little.
If you are climbing Mt. Kinabalu, you need to board the bus (shown in the picture) to transfer to Timpohon Gate or Mesilau Gate depends on which road you take.
The "bus" could mean the van if there are not many passanger.
The bus to Timpohon gate costs rm2.5 one way. You need to pay and register at the Kinabalu Park HQ for the service.
If you have a group of people, you can charter a van to Kinabalu park with RM15 for a person.
In this way you save the trouble to walk to the bus terminal and can get the service from point to point. They pick you up at your hotel and drop you right in front of the Kinabalu Park office.
Yes, after on the bus for 2.5 hours, the bus will drop you here. See the big board welcoming you?
From this sign board, walk about 100m up, you will see the entrance to Kinabalu park. Pay RM3 per person to enter the park. For non Malaysia, the entrance fee to the park is RM15.
Taking a public bus, it cost you RM10 from KK to Kinabalu park.
Take the bus from long distance bus terminal at Jalan Padang, near the stadium. Look for the bus to Sandakan and ask for Kinabalu park. They will try to charge you higher but the actual price is RM10. See more in Tourist Traps.
The bus takes around 2.5 hours to reach Kinabalu Park.
Buses leave for the national park from 7am everyday! Takes ard 3hrs and fare is abt RM15. Can also take any buses going to Ranau or Sandakan. Just ask to alight at the park entrance, walk abt 100m to the park HQ