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Kota Kinabalu Travel Guide - Things You Need To Know Before Travelling Here

Kota Kinabalu or often reffed as ‘KK’ by the locals is the capital of Sabah. The city is located on the northwest coast of Borneo, facing the South China Sea. As for now, the statistic shows that the population in the city are around 550,000 people.

Just a short trip from Kuala Lumpur, KK sometimes be a transit stop for travellers who headed to the wild jungles or the pristine coral reefs.

I remember way back when I took a 6-hour bus ride from Sandakan to Kota Kinabalu. Manage to catch the 12 pm bus and reach KK around 8 pm and it is the best and memorable trip ever!



Malaysia runs on 220v, and most modern hotels use UK style 3 pin plugs, but you often also find 2 pin sockets and plugs.


Equatorial/Tropical—the climate is generally hot and sunny all year round; visitors need to wear comfortable clothing to avoid heatstroke. We also have scattered unpredictable rains, therefore, it’s advisable to always bring an umbrella in case it rains.

The average temperature at the Lowlands (Kota Kinabalu, Kudat, Sandakan, Tawau) – 32 degrees Centigrade while in the Highlands (Ranau, Kundasang, Tambunan) – 21 degrees Centigrade

Bear in mind though, that Mount Kinabalu has its own climate. Temperatures can drop to freezing level above 3500 meters.

Travel Around

KK is a relatively small city, and the centre is easy to navigate on foot. The only other real transport option is by taxi, and the rates are reasonable. If you are heading to the outlying areas like Tawau, Inanam, Penampang, Luyang, Beverly Hills, a less expensive alternative would be the popular minibuses. However, be aware that they are not air-conditioned.

Another option is, you might consider using Grab. Do note that sometimes if you go to slightly outside of town (Lok Kawi Zoo as an example) Grab are quite hard to find since the area is outskirt.



Kota Kinabalu is booming and this means every level of accommodation has had to up their game. You can find any accommodation type according to your preferences and budget from backpackers hostel to five-star joints.

Do note that the city centre of KK is small and all is walkable.

If you want to explore the city, find somewhere near the waterfront and most of the city attractions such as the Filipino Market, KK Waterfront, Observatory tower and others are in walking distance. 

Best Things To Do

There is a lot of possibilities of things that can be done in KK; depends on your preferences from city tour or you can go by sea to Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park which comprises a group of 5 islands of Gaya, Sapi, Manukan, Mamutik and Sulug.

Located between 3 and 8 km off Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia, the park is spread over 4,929 hectares, two-thirds of which cover the sea and you can catch a boat to the area at Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal in downtown Kota Kinabalu. Pricing around RM30 return including the fare and terminal.

Do note that there will be a conservation fee that needs to be paid upon arrival at the respective island. RM 3 for Malaysian, RM 10 for non-Malaysian.

If you look into TripAdvisor, Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park is among 76 things to do in Kota Kinabalu and based on the rank, the most preferred things or can be said the best things to do in Kota Kinabalu are visiting Tanjung Aru Beach.

Tanjung Aru Beach; is the most popular beach in Kota Kinabalu. It became the tourist attraction because of its beautiful long white beaches filled with casuarina trees. A place to be to view beautiful captivating sunsets. So, if you are a fan of beaches, sand and sunset, Tanjung Aru is a must.

If you want something different, you can take a ride on the North Borneo Railway and relive the nostalgic romance of British North Borneo.

Passengers hop on a steam train straight out of the 1900s, chugging along the tracks from Tanjung Aru, through Kinarut before arriving in the Rice Bowl of Sabah, Papar. Along the way, soak in the greens of sprawling paddy fields, traditional village homes and buffaloes ambling in the distance.

Onboard, passengers are treated to a rare delight: A Tiffin-style breakfast and lunch, comprising of Asian and Continental cuisine.

The train features five fully refurbished colonial-style passenger train carriages that can accommodate a total of 180 passengers. The North Borneo Railway is built and operated to the highest of international standards and is fully compliant with modern safety standards.

The North Borneo Railway runs two weekly departures (Wednesday and Saturday) and a trip typically runs for 4 hours. Early booking of at least 1 (one) day before departure is required.

If you want to skip the train, why not take around 45 minutes drive from Kota Kinabalu city centre and be surrounded by nature and fresh cool air, at Kokol Hill. Kokol Hill is located at Menggatal and it is a favourite place for locals around Kota Kinabalu to relax and enjoy the wonderful scenery of Kota Kinabalu city.

Kokol Hill offers a sunrise view of Mount Kinabalu and sunset view overlooking the city and over the years, there are resorts, restaurant, and guesthouse opening around Kokol Hill area offering rooms and foods for visiting guest with the amazing view of Kota Kinabalu City.

Last but not least, if you happened to be in Kota Kinabalu over the weekends, why not take a walk to Gaya Street on Sunday and experience the cross-section of the local population when entire families enjoy a Sunday outing because the whole stretch of Gaya Street will be closed to traffic to make way for the weekend market.

Shop for anything under shady trees and over-sized umbrellas, things like batik sarongs, fruits and flowers, arts and craft, footwear, antiques and souvenirs, cakes, even pets and herbs can be found here at the market.

Originally named Bond Street, Gaya Street located in the Kota Kinabalu Central Business District has been the centre of business for over a hundred years where generations-old family businesses are still thriving passed down from father to son.


Kota Kinabalu Tour Package

At Smart Leisure Travels; we are able to provide the following travel services including accommodation reservation, transportation ticketing, packaged tour and corporate travel management and for Kota Kinabalu, we are offering 3D2N Kota Kinabalu Tour Package from RM710*!!!

Click for the package below for details :



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