"Malaysian Borneo is such an exciting place to travel, with its fascinating mix of both modern and ancient."
"Travelling away from the bustling cities within Sabah and Sarawak we made our way into pristine wilderness and were introduced to friendly traditional communities. We had close encounters with the country’s incredible flora and fauna - in Sabah we cruised down Jungle Rivers, viewing proboscis monkeys, orangutan and other exotic wildlife including the elusive Borneo elephant ! We also spent a memorable evening on Turtle Island where we came into contact with the giant green turtle, part of a conscientious program supported by the Sabah government. In Sarawak we explored the caves of Mulu National Park, which boasts Asia’s longest underground river. One of these caves is host to millions of bats, which make a spectacular evening exodus in search of food.
Travelling through Borneo can sometimes be very challenging and physically demanding but the rewards are great. And as with most places that I have been to with the Imaginative Traveller, the people you meet are a constant delight!"
Dee Major, Travel Consultant – The Imaginative Traveller
Capital: Kuala Lumpur
Official Language: Bahasa Malaysia, English, Chinese dialects, Tamil, indigenous dialects
Religions: 52% Muslim, 17% Buddhist, 12% Taoist, 8% Christian, 8% Hindu, 2% tribal
Voltage: Supply is 220-240V, 50 cycles. Power plugs are mostly three square pin types.
On entry you are required to have a passport valid for six months. When you arrive in West Malaysia and/or Sabah, a 60-day Tourist Visa will be issued for British, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, American, Belgian, Swedish, German, Dutch and Danish. Entry into Sarawak will mean a further entry stamp valid for 30 days. This is not an additional 30 days but is within the confines of the initial period of stay allocated at the first point of entry. For other nationalities, please refer to your local embassy.
When you fly into Sabah or Sarawak you will need to show your passport to immigration. Although Sabah and Sarawak are states of Malaysia you will be issued with another 30-day visa into both states. You need six months validity on your passport only.
The currency used in Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit. It is an easy currency to use with simple notes and coins. It is easy to access money in Borneo either by using £ or US$ traveller’s cheques or cash. Credit cards are quite useful for cash advances from banks or ATMs in the big towns.
The Imaginative Traveller Recommends: We strongly suggest using a money belt/neck wallet under your clothing for additional security.
Approximate exchange rates (as at May 06) are as follows:
The Pre-Departure Booklet that you will receive once you have booked your tour contains general information about organising your spending money. Your Tour Leader will be able to advise you on local facilities.
XE.com is a useful site for currency conversion.
The Pre-Departure Booklet contains general information about the things you will need to consider when budgeting for your holiday. Below are some specific notes relevant to our tours in Borneo.
Although Traveller trips include entrance fees to all sites specified in your itinerary there are additional ancient sites that you may like to visit. Entrance fees are generally cheap.
You will find the meal plan for your tour clearly indicated in the brochure and on your Trip Dossier.
Borneo offers a great array of foods for you to try. Most of the food available in Borneo is of Chinese influence. We like to eat in the night markets and these are great places to not only try the local cuisine but also to meet the locals. Some of the food available is quite spicy but many restaurants cater for those who like less chilli in their food. Hygiene levels are usually quite high in locally run food stalls and restaurants. If in doubt, order a meal that is freshly cooked and hot.
Experimenting is the way to go. Don't be too afraid of what to eat and what not to eat. Your group leader will generally suggest or take you to places she or he has been to before. At food stalls have a good look at the food and if it doesn't look appealing to you - don’t eat it, but try to be tactful to the stall owner! In our experience it seems that Western food takes longer to prepare, doesn't match up to our expectations and may not be cooked well enough. Some of the fruits you may like to sample are the rambutan (like lychee), fresh coconut, pineapple, banana, papaya, mango, jack fruit, guava, salak (snake skin fruit), or the smelly but very popular durian. All of these fruits are seasonal.
Approximate costs for meals and snacks not included are shown below:
For a guide to the type of food you will find in Borneo see the Local Food & Drink section of this dossier.
If you’re a vegetarian you should learn how to say “tanpa daging” (no meat), when ordering. It's not uncommon that "vegetarian" dishes still contain small amounts of meat. Vegetarianism is a concept few Malaysians can comprehend.
If you have food allergies or preferences, please make them known to your Tour Leader who will do their best to ensure that your requirements are met.
Please note: Unfortunately we can give no guarantee that special requirements can always be met.
These vary in price according to what you drink. Soft drinks are safe and generally cheaper than at home. Bottled drinking water is widely available and we definitely do not suggest drinking tap water. The Malaysian government makes ice for public use. This ice is always clean but the transportation of the ice may not be highly hygienic (ie a huge block on the back of a motorbike!). Most western style restaurants make their own ice from mineral water, so is safe. Beer is not particularly expensive, but is certainly not cheap. Tiger beer is the local brew, but there are other varieties available.
The Pre-Departure Information that you will receive once you have booked your tour contains a comprehensive list of items that you should consider bringing with you. There are certain items of equipment (e.g. sleeping bags, towels) that you will need on some tours and not on others. Check your Trip Dossier for any special requirements.
As a general guideline, clothing should be lightweight, loose fitting, hard-wearing and easily washed. In Borneo with it’s year round tropical heat, cotton clothing is much more comfortable than man-made materials like nylon.
The Imaginative Traveller Recommends: A sarong is an invaluable item to carry as it can be used to instantly cover any exposed areas (i.e. head, legs). It also doesn’t go amiss to bring along a set of smart/casual clothes for the occasional night out.
In certain areas and religious sites your Tour Leader may ask you to dress conservatively. Out of respect for local values, we ask that you follow your Tour Leader’s advice at all times.
Whilst few of our tours can be described as physically demanding you will find all activities more enjoyable if you are reasonably fit and active.
Climbing Mount Kinabalu
A few travellers' tips for climbing the mountain:
There are a number of different indigenous groups of people in Borneo. In Sarawak, the largest group is the Iban people who live in longhouses on the banks of rivers. The majority of these people are animist or Christian. There are also Kenyah and Bidayuh people who each have their own language and belief system.
In Sabah, the largest group is the Dusun or Kadazan people. Within this group there are at least 10 distinct languages with a possible 30 or more dialects. The Dusun are traditionally farmers who occupy the fertile plains of the West Coast and the interior. The majority of these people are Christian.
Two other distinct groups are the Murut and Bajau. The second largest group in numbers is the Chinese. While the Chinese have been trading in Borneo for over 1000 years, mass migration started in the 1880s after the formation of the British North Borneo Chartered Company. You will meet many Chinese in the cities of Borneo running businesses. There are also Malays, who tend to work in both the public sector and on small farms. These people are Muslim, which is the national religion.
All over Borneo respectable dress is required. In the Muslim areas women should not wear sleeveless shirts or brief shorts. A sleeved shirt and pants are the most appropriate. Men are also seen as more respectable in shirts and long pants. In the areas that we visit that are Christian, there are also modest dress standards. Please do not wear brief clothing in small villages as it offends the local people. Often the best way to decide is to look at what the majority of local people are wearing or discuss this with your group leader.
We ask all our travellers to pay attention to the local customs. Your group leader will brief you on particular customs for each area you visit. It is particularly inappropriate to express anger by raised voices. If you are frustrated, discuss issues in a quiet and controlled way with the people concerned. Physical contact between people of the opposite sex is frowned upon, while touching those of the same sex is seen as quite appropriate. You should not give or receive things with your left hand. Use your right hand to be safe. Do not touch any people in Borneo on the head. While these are just a few rules that should be followed, your group leader will be your best source of information about what is appropriate behaviour. Remember that the experiences you have will be different to normal and the people you meet will have different beliefs to you. Our beliefs are in no way superior, just simply different. The discovery of these differences, which at times can be stressful or funny, is surely one of the great joys of travel.
Begging is a way of life in the much of South East Asia. Ultimately donations are a travellers personal choice, however in line with initiatives and government policy in many of our destinations, our recommendation is NOT to give money, pens, gifts or sweets as this encourages a begging mentality and is largely ineffectual. If you do want to help it is probably better to give to a recognized charity. If you choose not to give simply say no with a smile and keep on walking. If you learn nothing else of the local language, learn to say ‘no thank you’!
Haggling is a way of life in Borneo. In the shops there is no fixed price so the shop keeper will start with a high price which you are then expected to haggle down until you reach a fair price. Haggling should always be relaxed and can be a lot of fun – you will find most shop owners are very friendly and will probably invite you in for a cup of tea to break the ice before the haggling starts!
We do not provide complimentary arrival transfers from this airport. However, if you would prefer a transfer we can arrange either of the following (please see the 'Extra Services' section of our brochure for current prices).
The Meeting Point for your tour should be clearly marked on your travel vouchers. A complete list of all meeting point hotels can also be found at www.imaginative-traveller.com/ downloads.
At Kota Kinabalu Airport, you should take a taxi directly to the hotel. This should cost approx. US$8-10 and will take about 15-20 minutes.
Most people find that Borneo is a very friendly and hospitable country and feel quite comfortable wandering around alone during the day. However, as with any country you are not familiar with, it is recommended that you exercise more caution at night and generally take taxis rather than walk. Negotiate a price beforehand.
Your Tour Leader's role is to ensure all aspects of the trip run smoothly. He/she will share their local knowledge, advise on how to fill your free time and co-ordinate the day to day running of the tour – although occasionally he/she may need your understanding if things do not go according to plan. If you have any problems on the tour, please let your Tour Leader know so that steps can be taken to put it right. Tour Leaders are supported by our regionally based office staff and, in most cases, a locally based manager.
Please note that some styles of trip, such as Imaginative Escapes or Imaginative Honeymoons, do not have a Tour Leader. However, there will be representatives on hand who will be able to assist you in arranging any excursions that you wish you take.
Our main criterion for choosing hotels is cleanliness. On Adventurer tours hotels are simple, but comfortable. Bathroom facilities may sometimes be shared and rooms may sometimes be multi share rather than twin. Hotels on Traveller tours almost always have private bathrooms, air conditioning and bar / restaurant facilities. The exceptions in Borneo are the hotels at Mt Kinabalu which are multi share and very simple. Please bear in mind that hotels can sometimes suffer from minor problems and technical difficulties.
At each hotel your Tour Leader will try to organise the rooming arrangements to suit everyone's requirements. If you are travelling alone you will be allocated a room with another group member of the same sex (unless you have paid a single supplement). If you are travelling as a couple please note that we cannot guarantee the availability of double beds.
Note: Single supplements are only applicable to single travellers who wish to have their own room. Single supplements are also only available on Traveller tours and are not applicable on overnight boats, trains and while camping.
Communication in Malaysian Borneo is quite easy to access. Our guesthouses in the bigger towns have faxes and telephones although we would recommend you use the public phones located on most main streets and shopping centres, many of which have international direct facilities. International phone cards can be used in most coin phones. Faxing is easy and quite reliable.
Internet cafes are available in the big cities of Kota Kinabalu and Miri and are a reliable and cheap mode of communication. Ask your leader to assist with locating internet access.
Slide film is sometimes hard to find, and when you do find it, it is often stored in the bright sunshine or has expired. If you use a special or “professional” brand of film you would need to bring this from home.
If you have a digital camera you should ensure that you bring an adequate supply of memory cards to cover the entire trip. While you may find an internet café which will burn your memory card to CD, PCs may be infected with viruses or lack the adequate software. Similarly, camera batteries are hard to find. The best bet is to bring two sets of rechargables and your own charger (with international adapter).
Borneo has a typical tropical climate - generally hot and humid throughout the year. Temperatures stay in the high 20s most of the year dropping back to the low 20s at night. As in most tropical areas the rain falls in short heavy bursts with sunshine following. In theory, the wet season runs from November through to February, but in reality we find little difference in the seasons. It is very rare indeed that our itineraries are affected. Sabah is famed for being below the monsoon belt and is known as the "Land below the wind".
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