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Borneo » City Info » Travel Tips

Transport

The Borneo Island consists of three nations – Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei with a major chunk of the island occupied by Indonesia (Kalimantan). Since, Borneo is the third largest island in the world; it is obvious travelling such a large span involves detailed planning. Traversing across the islands involves large distances, so, it is in the best interest of the tourist to fly by air on long journeys. Otherwise, the transportation system in Borneo is comfortable enough allowing you to move swiftly by renting cars, hire taxis, or ride in buses, charters, boats, and ferries.

Air Travel

Since Borneo is controlled by three countries as well as is an extremely large island, it sometimes becomes essential that one choose the comforts of a plane. Besides, the small islands surrounding Borneo are accessible only by helicopter or charter flights.

There are two major airports at Kuching (Sarawak) and Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) accessible by Malaysian Airlines (MAS) and Air Asia. Miri, Sibu, Bintulu, Labuan and Lahad Datu also have airports. A few rural areas inaccessible by road have airstrips for communication.

Countries like Brunei and Indonesia are accessible by air, sea and land transport. The Brunei International Airport and Jakarta's Soekarno–Hatta International Airport serve as the countries main airports.

Road Travel

Buses & Taxis are the common means of transport in all the major cities throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. Though not exactly comfortable, travelling by local transport gives a chance to set up a rapport with the locals. In addition, the beautiful scenery that one gets to capture on the camera is worth a thousand memories. Most of the overland journeys are long distance travels but it is worth the tiring expedition if the taxi driver shows his willingness.

Car rental is another excellent option available in big cities like Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. Depending on the number of people travelling, tourists can choose the size of the car. In fact, in countries like Brunei where the road network is well developed, driving a car can turn out to be a pleasurable experience.

Boat & Ferry

Borneo is surrounded by a number of small islands such as Sipadan, Pulau Tiga and Labuan that are accessible only by ferries and boats. While some are official, a few will not pass beyond the safety checks. So, make sure the boat is licensed to avoid any ruckus. In addition, ensure that the operators have taken care of all the safety precautions such as life vest, etc. In Sarawak, the boats are used to ferry passengers along the river Rajang to reach the longhouse communities, located inland. While in Brunei, the ferry terminal at Muara has regular speedboat trips to the island of Labuan off the coast of Sabah.

Travellers are charged depending on the fuel and the number of days the boat is used.

Photo Credit:Creative Commons/Lofor
Rail Travel

Rail travel in Borneo is used more for tourism & recreational purposes to explore the sights of Sabah from Kota Kinabalu to Tenom. It is a guided tour especially for tourists who want to soak in the rich natural heritage of Borneo.

Safety

Tourists are assured of their safety on the island of Borneo except for freak accidents during jungle trekking, which could result in potential injury or illness. As with tourist places the fear of pick pocketing, bag snatching & petty crime is always felt. However, these situations can be stayed clear of, if tourists know well how to secure their bag & baggage in the hotel premises and the belongings during sightseeing.

Terrorist groups and criminal gangs have been responsible for kidnapping of foreign tourists in eastern Sabah in the past. As the threat from kidnapping remains, tourists should stay extra careful while travelling in boats and at dive sites.

When to Travel

Borneo experiences a sunny tropical climate throughout the year with temperatures averaging between 23° C and 30° C. But for an all round experience of jungle trekking, diving and golfing, tourists should avoid arriving during the rainy season from November to February when heavy showers lash through the clouds, spoiling the holiday mood. However, unpredictable rains could fall at any time of the year at any place making it impossible to judge the best season for visiting. Moreover, Borneo being a large island, the climate fluctuates at different areas on the island. In Kuching, the wet season is from November to February while the dry season is from June to August. At the same time, the wet season shifts a little in Kota Kinabalu as most rains happen in October. Therefore, tourist should be aware of the fact that Borneo gets heavy, occasional rainfalls even during the dry season. In addition, during the rainy season, it is not possible to dive or jungle camp.

What to carry

Borneo enjoys a humid climate throughout the year. So carrying light, summer clothes is the best tip anyone can give to a potential tourist. Both sunshine and rain are in plenty, so prepare for a surprise shower with a poncho and not an umbrella. Carry a jacket or sweater if journeying during the rainy season as temperatures drop below 20° C in the evening.
Jungle Trekking

Jungle Trekking

Jungle Trekking is one of the most coveted tourist activities on the Borneo Island. Tourists who want to take joy in jungle hikes in national parks should keep a few points in mind.
  • Functional clothing to beat the high humidity sweat
  • Long pants and socks to avoid injuries from reedy grasses and thistle plants
  • Ponchos to protect from rain which is frequent in a tropical rainforest
  • Carry trail shoes or mountaineering boots with ankle protection to traverse uneven and steep paths. If possible, choose shoes that can dry quickly and are suitable for rough terrains.
  • Sunscreens and hats are necessary in tropical climates where the risk of sunburn is higher
  • Insect repellents to keep those annoying insects at bay
  • Personal belonging like wallet and passport should be kept in a waterproof bag
Photo Credit: Creative Commons/Mike Shanahan

Social Etiquettes

Predominantly an Islamic country, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia follow certain social etiquettes that cannot be ignored. Locals are aware that foreigners are not familiar with their local customs and traditions. However, tourists should ensure their willingness in respecting the culture of the Borneon people.
  • Tourists should dress moderately without exposing too much of skin, especially women.
  • Socialize with members of the opposite sex only if you are certain.
  • Do not point a finger, instead use the thumb with four fingers folded beneath it.
  • While entering a mosque, remove your shoes outside the mosque and cover your head, arms, and knees. No part of the skin except the face of a woman should be exposed.
  • Never refuse food. Have a bit and use the right hand to pass anything
  • During the month of Ramadan, do not eat or drink anything in front of the fasting person.
  • Consume alcohol in discreet / private or in some hotels or restaurants that have the license to serve liquor.

Emergency Numbers for Borneo

Country

Malaysia

Indonesia

Brunei

Country Code

+60

+62

+673

Fire Department

994

113

995

Universal emergency service (Police & Ambulance)

999

Ambulance

118 or 119

991

Police

110

993