Rural Air Network to/from Miri
The interiors of Sarawak used to be inaccessible; the only way to reach the rural towns and villages were by river. Now some inaccessible destinations are served by the rural air services of Fly Asian Xpress (previously by Malaysian Airlines until last year's air rationalization exercise in Aug 2006).
The air rationalisation exercise that began on 1st August 2006 year led to Fly Asian Xpress (FAX), a subsidiary of AirAsia Bhd (Malaysia's budget airline), to take over the majority of the domestic routes in Sarawak and Sabah as well as the whole Rural Air Service (RAS) in the two states, which were previously served by Malaysia Airlines (MAS).
From Miri, Twin Otter planes operate regular flight schedules to Bario, Long Lellang, Long Banga, Marudi, Long San, Ba-Kelalan, Lawas, Long Seridan, Long Lama, and Long Akah. There are direct flights from Limbang to the Bario Highlands, and from Lawas to Ba-Kelalan. The airports in Mulu and Limbang towns support the larger Fokker Friendship aircraft.
All taxis operating in Miri is controlled by the Miri Taxi Association... Contrarily to all that is written in government and tourist brochures, the taxi fare is all but cheap... The fare is fixed for the various (popular) destinations... A 15mins trip from the airport to the Miri Marriott Resort & Spa (zone 2) is high at RM22... A similar trip from the Resort to Eastwood Valley Golf & Country Club is certainly high at RM25... But this cannot beat the 10mins ride to the City Centre from the Resort at the exorbitant fare of RM15 (for the 2km journey)...
Visitors really have not much of a choice as the public transport in Miri is not so well developed and public buses do not go to many of the tourist places and certainly not the golf courses...
Buses to/around Miri City
Miri has a generally good bus transportation system. Unfortunately, there is no printed time schedule for the bus routes (which is truly inconvienent). In general, one just estimates that there is a bus every 15-30 minutes, depending on the districts/suburbs.
Most of the buses are air-conditioned, although sometimes, it might not work very well. One can pay for the bus fare on board of the busses from the ticket conductor. You just have to tell them where you're going and they will tell you how much you have to pay. Make sure you have enough coins or change.
The main city bus station is near the vicinity of Wisma Pelita and Park Hotel. The buses usually are numbered and will have the end destination on it. If you're still unsure or confused, ask anyone there - the local Mirians are friendly and helpful to tourists, and they know quite well which bus goes to where.
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Flying to Miri
The Miri modern airport is well served with flights to many domestic and international destinations. There are 2 major airlines which service Sarawak and they are the national carrier MAS, and a low-cost airline called Air Asia.
Flight flies direct from Kuala Lumpur (2.5 hours) or from Johore Baru (just across the border from Singapore and cheaper because it is a domestic flight), and from Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. Airport tax is charged upon departure and costs RM5 for domestic flights and RM40 for international flights. These are usually included in the ticket prices.
Please refer to the MAS and Air Asia websites for current schedules, fares and booking details.
Driver & Guide
If I'm doing a lot of short trips in one day or doing a bit of sightseeing, I like to get a private driver. I found this fellow to be decent and helpful. He did airport transfers for less than the official price (14 ringgit) and got up at 5:30am to take me to the bus stop so that I could go to Brunei (7 ringgit). He was also very knowledgable about the area and gave me plenty of touring options without being pushy. He was very talkative and obviously enjoyed guiding tourists around. The best part probably was that he knew where to find the cheapest of everything - unbelievable. For once I was able to outdo the backpackers in the hostel common room as everyone exchanged stories!
Bus Terminals in Miri
There are 2 bus terminals in Miri.
There is one in Jalan Padang, adjacent to the Visitors' Information Centre, and this serves the local Miri network. Bus services to Sungei Tujuh (immigration point between Malaysia and Brunei) starts from the 1st bus terminal. At Sungei Tujuh, you will change to a Brunei bus which will proceed to Kuala Belait, Seria, and Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei. The bus service is operated by the Miri-Belait Bus Company.
The 2nd one, the Outstation Bus Terminal is located at Pujut Corner, off the Miri-Pujut Road. Buses to Niah, Lambir Hills National Park, Bintulu, Sibu, Sarikei and Kuching depart from here.
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Miri has a very nice airport terminal. I flew in twice and out once. When I arrived the first time, not only were Mike and his son there to greet me, but there was also a double rainbow. I believe the airport pick up was included in the room rate but airport drop off was RM30. The bus only costs RM3.20 but the last stop on the No. 13 bus route is on the coastal highway one mile from the Treetops Lodge. The daytime taxi rate between the airport and Treetops is RM55, and between downtown Miri and Treetops is RM40.
BTW, I flew Air Asia five times during my Malaysia-Cambodia trip. Passengers over the age of 65 are supposed to be able to preboard. In 4 of 5 cases, Air Asia boarding agents acted like this was not the case even when I inquired about it. In two cases when they finally acknowledged that I should get priority boarding, they did not know where the priority boarding area would be??? Miri was the one exception! The agent there looked at my passport and stamped my boarding pass to indicate priority boarding without me even asking.
Car & Bus from Belaga
After visiting Belaga and doing a longhouse tour, we left for Miri in a 4x4 that our longhouse tour arranger, Daniel, arranged for us. Local people also use these in order to get to Bintulu. We didn't want to go to Bintulu but instead wanted to get dropped off at the junction where the road from Belaga meets the main Miri to Bintulu highway. After about 3 hours we reached the main highway and got dropped off and waited for a bus heading to Miri which arrived after waiting for only 10-15 minutes. The bus took about 2 hours to get to Miri and cost us RM15. The 4x4 from Belaga cost us RM50.
Getting to Brunei
It's a rather convoluted journey if you want to get from Miri to Brunei that involves five buses and a river crossing. First you need to get the bus station at near the Park Hotel and the Padang and catch a Belait Transport Company bus from Miri to Kuala Belait for the first leg. Buses leave at 7am & 10am and cost RM13 with the trip taking about an hour. You'll then pass through Malaysian immigration and then get onto another bus that takes you over the border into Brunei and through Brunei immigration. You then transfer onto a Brunei bus that takes you to the Sungai Belait river where you cross over the river in a free boat. On the other side of the river is a terminal building beside a gas and oil storage depot. You then get on another bus past nodding donkey oil wells and loads of pipes through Kuala Belait and onto Seria which costs B$1. We had to wait an hour for a bus from Seria to BSB and so had some lunch near the bus station. The final bus took us right into the centre of BSB and this cost B$6.
Intra-city Public Bus Service
Public bus transport within the city is provided by the Miri City Bus company... The bus main terminal is located at Jalan Padang, in front of Wisma Pelita Tunku and Park Hotel... It is just in front of the Visitors Infromation Centre and Taman Muhibbah & Tamu Khas...
The city buses cover the city centre and the suburbs... There is generally no timetable for each bus routes but service frequency is generally every 15 to 30 mins, depending on the suburbs.
The buses are air-conditioned but not well maintained and sometimes the air-conditioning breaks down... Fare is collected by the bus conductor as one boards the bus... The fare is not listed but the conductor will tell you the fare for the journey... Like most public buses in Malaysia, commuters are expected to have small changes for the fare... Often times, no changes are given...
Inter-city Public Bus Service
There are a number of bus companies operating express buses for inter-city travel... These buses link Miri to Kuching, Sibu, Bintulu and Sarikei... Express buses include Biaramas, Suria Bus Express and Borneo Highway Express... The buses operates from the Miri Express Bus Terminal at Punjut Corner, off the main Miri Punjut Road...
For journey to the Niah Caves, Suria Bus Express departs regularly to Batu Niah... The journey takes about one hour... From Batu Niah, you can then take a speedboat or walk to the Niah National Park headquarters at Pengkalan Batu... Buses to Lambir Hills National Park also departs from this terminal...
However, if you want to go to Brunei, the Miri-Beliat bus leaves for Kuala Beliat in Brunei from the Miri Bus Station at Jalan Padang (see tips on Intra-city Public Bus)... The company runs five buses between Miri and Kuala Beliat with a change of buses at Sungai Tujuh border checkpoint... To go to Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB), one will have to change bus at Kuala Beliat and Seria... The whole Miri-BSB journey will take about 5 hours...
Flying to Miri
There are two airlines that has Miri on their route, Malaysia Airlines and the national low cost carrier, Air Asia. You can easily fget to Miri by air as there are several direct flights from Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu & Kuching.
Depending on your budget, you can choose between the two airlines and since the longest flight is about 2¼ hrs between Miri & KL, either airlines will suffice
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I flew into Miri from Johor Bahru on Air Asia. This was convenient for me because I was coming from Singapore and the fare was less than 100 ringgit. They have promotions from time to time and mid-week seems to be the time to get the cheapest fares. It's definitely a no frills airline but I never had a problem with them. They fly into Miri three times daily from Kuala Lumpur and once every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday from Johor Bahru.
Once at the airport, there are official taxis to the city proper. You state your destination at the desk by the kerb and they give you a voucher. It's all fairly simple and user-friendly.
MERRY go RoUND
We have good buses with air -con(in town), taxis or you can rent a car. Buses are easy to use.. located in the centre of the town.
The map shows where are the hotels, inns, banks,shopping complexs and the bus station.
Bus from Brunei to Miri
A very comfortable bus leaves Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei twice daily for the trip to Miri. Morning bus is at 7am and afternoon bus at 1pm. The bus stops at Tutong (on request), Seria and Kuala Belait.
I caught a morning bus - only 3 passengers at the start - which picked up a passenger at Tutong and arrived in Seria at 8.40. The driver said the bus would depart Seria at 9.00, so an opportunity to go to the toilet and stretch the legs. A few more passengers got on board as we departed Seria. The bus then took the coast road down to Kuala Belait where several passengers got on. It was then on to the immigration posts - first stamp the passport to leave Brunei, then back on the bus for a kilometre before passing through immigration to enter Malaysia.
All this was done quite swiftly - but there were only 15 passengers in total. With a full bus, obviously a little longer.
Once in Malaysia, it takes a bit more than half hour to reach the Miri bus station which is located a few kilometres from central Miri.
The bus ticket is 22 Brunei Dollars from BSB to Miri (but only 40 Malaysian Ringgit return).
Remember that if you intend returning to Brunei, you should get a multiple entry visa on arrival so there will be no hassles going back in.
Tickets can be purchased online (example below) although most days you should be able to just arrive half an hour before the bus leaves and buy a ticket from the driver.
The trip takes 3 and a half to 4 hours depending on how long it takes to get through the border crossings.
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