10 ways to save your money backpacking in Kota Kinabalu

  1. Travel with somebody else. You may need to use the service from local tour and travel operator maybe once in a while, and most of the time, the budget package that they have is quoted for 2 pax (or a couple). If you are a solo traveler, there will be a 30-50% surcharge for you, and that is almost a standard practice to cover the expanses. If you want to save more, travel with more.
  2. Stay in one of the backpackers/travelers lodge inside the city center. There are more than 10 backpackers/travelers lodges here in Kota Kinabalu city center, and staying in one of the lodges, will cut your cost of moving around. By staying in the city center, you can easily get access to almost all the important places by foot. And it will be easier to get help if you are lost.
  3. Board a low cost carrier. The most popular way to get to Sabah is by air. Boarding a low cost carrier is one of the way to cut your travel cost. Airasia is the sole provider for Malaysian low cost carrier (as at the moment FAX is currently not that reliable). Airasia serve most of the capital cities around South East Asia, including Singapore, Thailand, Philippine and Indonesia. While boarding the flight will cut your cost, you still have to pay ‘some price’ for it. Free sitting, flight delays and small seats and legroom are the common complaints by the passengers.
  4. Sabah Tourism BuildingGet your free travel information from the government. It can be really difficult for you to choose the perfect travel operator for your activities, as there are so many around Kota Kinabalu. Why not head to Sabah Tourism Building at Jalan Gaya, in the city center. It is a Sabah State Government information center for travelers and tourist, where you can get free brochures and information from their information counter.
  5. Use public transport. While renting a car or 4WD may be a good idea (provided that you are familiar with the road here and have an updated map), the best way to travel in Sabah is still the public transport. However, you must carefully choose a suitable transport for you, especially if you plan to travel to Sandakan and Tawau. Some of the buses are really not comfortable, especially if you are 6′ tall!
  6. Eat seafood once in a while. While uncooked seafood is considered cheap in Kota Kinabalu, the seafood restaurants around town serves first class services, which might put a hole in your pocket. And careful with the spices. You might end up purging away your entire trip…
  7. Bring your own first aid kit. Lomotil, Imodium, Brufen and Charcoal tablets can be very useful during your difficult time. It might save you some money from spending it for a medical treatment. Oh, consider anti-malarial tablet also…
  8. Bargain up to 50% discount if you are shopping for souvenirs at the Filipino Market. Filipino Market is the best place to look for local handicraft souvenirs to take back home. Most of the traders will put the price tag almost double, purposely for the more ‘wealthy’ foreign tourist. And surprisingly, most of the time they tend to agree with the price tag for the item. There are 106 traders inside the Filipino market. Find the one that can give you the best price.
  9. Use a prepaid phone calling card. While internet connection and internet cafes are easy spot in Kota Kinabalu, it is a different story anywhere else. If you are heading to some adventurous travel where there are no mobile phone coverage, using a prepaid calling card with a public phone can save you a lot of money. For example, iTalk calling card from TM. You can get a really special rate calling overseas. Handy communication tools for emergency too.
  10. Use cash. While credit card is an easy way to pay for something you like, you have to bear in mind the interest generated. Debit card is not widely use here, so having enough cash is a better way to not get into trouble, especially if you are away in a place where barter trade is still practice…

Happy Backpacking!

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About drizad

A self employed General Practitioner who lives with his lovely family in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. He dedicates his spare time serving people with precious information on climbing the Majestic Mountain of the Borneo, Mt Kinabalu. Reachable at drizad(at)gmail.com

4 thoughts on “10 ways to save your money backpacking in Kota Kinabalu

  1. James

    if i want to get a guide to take me and a friend up to the peak, where best can i get more information for that.

    what sort of gear do i need if i want to do in December

  2. Hostelio

    When it comes to travel, there are two things you can count on: (1) you’ll always find a cheaper exchange rate after you’ve traded your money, and (2) you’ll always go over budget. I don’t mean to be negative, but these are the Murphy’s Laws of travel.

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