Kota Kinabalu

Should you rent a car in Kota KinabaluMalaysia>Kota Kinabalu

There’s no need for a hire car if you just plan on staying in a resort and heading into the centre of Kota Kinabalu. Plenty of buses and taxis are availablein and around the city.

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  • A car would certainly be useful for visiting places like the orang utan sanctuary at Sepilok. A car is useful for stopping of at on the way. However, this can also all be done by bus. Sepilok is on the same route as Mount Kinabalu National Park, but some distance further. Allow around 7-8 hours to get there. You may still prefer to let someone else drive. There are limited places of intrerest on the way.

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In & around Kota Kinabalu

  • For visiting Mount Kinabalu, or just the Kinabalu national park around it, then we certainly wouldn’t recommend a hire car, as it is just going to stay parked at the entrance. If you are in a group, but don’t want to go by bus, it might be cheaper to pay a taxi driver to take you each way.
  • Mount Kinabalu is one of the most technically accessible mountains in Asia, in that no special equipment is needed to go right up to the 4,096m summit. However, the rapid ascent from sea level can make visitors prone to altitude sickness. If you do choose to make this trip, you will have to go with organised guides, and the number of permits is limited to just a couple of busloads each day, so book well ahead. Either way, a hire car isn’t going to help your ascent!
  • To visit Poring Hot Spring, on the edge of Kinabalu National Park, take a bus via Ranau. Buses from Kota Kinabalu are typically every hour, taking around two hours, with an additional transfer from Ranau to Poring taking about half an hour, every 30 minutes.

Further afield

  • Generally, there are very few driving roads, once outside Kota Kinabalu.
  • For a really impressive train experience, take the train all the way to Tenom. Note that this is not the same as the tourist train, which only goes as far as Papar. However, this full excursion will need an overnight stay in Tenom, in order to see the most impressive parts of the line, which are where it runs through the jungle to the south of Beaufort. There is no road anywhere near the rail line, although there is a main road back to KK from Tenom. You could combine bus and train between KK and Tenom, although I cannot find a way to do this within the same day.
  • Go one better and combine the jungle train and white water rafting.

James says - a few trip notes:

I visited Borneo back in 1990, and I have to say that the state of Sabah is one of the few places I have visited that has a railway system, but that I didn’t manage to use. Granted, I was on a tour at the time, so I didn’t have a chance, and the system has also been cut back from Kota Kinabalu to Tanjung Aru.

North Borneo Railway

When I have the chance to go back again, there’s no doubt that I will go on this jungle railway, and I’m tempted by the option of going rafting at the same time! However, I don’t think the option to see the line in it’s full glory should be confused with the tourist line, which costs RM 345, and only goes as far as Papar. That price might include gourmet meals and free transfers if you are staying at the Sutera Harbour resort which promotes the line, but it misses out on the best of the line, which is the stretch below Beaufort, where it clings to the sides of the muddy river.

Now although you can’t do it in a day, a return trip on the whole stretch of the line is going to set you back a mere RM 15.10, so you could make the trip 23 times for the price of the luxury tourist train!

I’ve listed a few blogs which detail this line, although all were written around five years ago. Seat 61 has some excellent information on booking trains between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to book this trip online. Bearing in mind that it’s basically treated as a regional service, turning up on the day should be fine – but allow plenty of time to get to the station and buy your ticket, as there is only one option to cover the whole line each day.

(Rail) Links

  • North Borneo Railway photos and guide
  • Whitewater Rafting – using the railway
  • Tenom by rail – blog.
  • Sutera Harbour – for the tourist train.

Should you rent a car in Kota Kinabalu? Verdict – no

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Author: Carometer

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