After hearing time and time again that Borneo is extremely expensive, we were hesitant to put our hard-earned money on the line for a four day getaway. Along the way, however, we discovered that whilst certain tour packages might not be the cheapest, the region is not as expensive as many people make out. We spent a total of four days in Malaysian Borneo. One night in Sandakan, one night at a River Lodge and our final night in Kota Kinabalu. Out of these three nights, the only one that cost a significant amount of money was the night we spent at the river lodge, and even then, we did not find it to be too expensive.
We arrived in Sandakan around 16:00 and caught a taxi for 30MYR to our hotel. We booked a stay at the Sandakan Hotel which was tucked away a few streets from the waterfront promenade. Our hotel included breakfast and cost only 140MYR. We ordered room service for dinner which amounted to just 50MYR.
Total for day 1: 220MYR for two people.
For our stay in the jungle, we purchased a package which included a visits to the orangutan and sun bear sanctuaries, a one-night stay in a private chalet at a Kinabatangan River Lodge, two river cruises, one night walk, a Gomantong Cave tour and all meals. Altogether this cost us 1750MYR for two people. Not bad at all, considering it is an all-inclusive package!
Total for day 2: 1750MYR
The package we booked included an airport drop off service, so we did not need to pay for a taxi. At the airport we spend about 40MYR on a meal as we waited for our flight back to Kota Kinabalu. On arrival in Kota Kinabalu, we had to catch a taxi to our hotel, which is a flat rate of 30MYR. We stayed at the Dreamtel hotel which cost a mere 355MYR, including breakfast. From the hotel we caught another taxi to the City Mosque which cost 30MYR. From the Mosque, we walked along the Promenade until we reached the Saria Sabah Mall. Here, we ate a basic meal which cost us about 50MYR, including an appetizer and drinks.
Total for day 3: 505MYR
On this morning, we had a hearty breakfast and relaxed all morning before our afternoon flight. We spent about 100MYR at the airport on some coffee and snacks. Additionally, we spent 100MYR on a Bornean Tribe Mask as a souvenir.
Total for day 4: 200MYR
Total expenditure for four days: 2675MYR (around 620 USD!)
Borneo is definitely a destination which can cost a lot, but it needn’t be so. Careful spending and money management can make it a very memorable experience which doesn’t break the bank. Anyway, these views are worth it!