Sabah – Malaysia – GRANDPAcking Costs

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JULY 2015:


My costs start in Kota Kinabalu (“KK”) and include:

  • A total of 8 nights in KK itself
  • A round trip to Labuan Island; 4 nights in Labuan; a 1-day car rental in Labuan
  • A day trip from KK to the Klia Wetlands for a River Cruise
  • Transport to and 2 nights in Kudat; a round trip to Banggi Island
  • Transport to and 6 nights in Sandakan
  • A day trip to Sepilok to see the Urang Utan, Sun Bear, and Rainforest parks
  • Transport to and 2 nights in Semporna
  • 7 all-inclusive nights as a TRACC Turtle Conservation Volunteer on Pom Pom Island
  • Transport back to KK

My costs end in KK with me taking a flight from there to Denpasar, Bali.


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Read About – GRANDPAcking Costs if you don’t know how to interpret my figures.


Sabah GRANDPAcking Costs


As with my trips to Penang and Melaka, I found the cost of accommodation too high and, as a consequence, sometimes dropped my standards and settled for a slightly lower quality of accommodation. I did this in an effort to keep my solo accommodation costs at or below my MYR75 / night target figure.

Accommodation: Typical accommodation was a FLASHPACKING Double Room with hot water en suite, ‘iffy’ in-room WiFi, and aircon. Sometimes the room came with a TV but, if it did, the channels were not satellite.

Transport: I used public transport – mainly long distance aircon busses. As a result, my transport costs are lower than they should have been when compared to what I have been doing in other GRANDPAcking locations (i.e. where I have rented a scooter).

Communications / Fees: Because the wifi in my accommodation was so bad, I had to spend a lot more on my Mobile Data Plan than usual and Malaysia is one of the most expensive countries in the area. I got through 11Gb of data in 1 month.

Food: Typical food for the day would be about MYR25.50.

  • Breakfast: A couple of Roti Chanai with a couple of fried eggs, a black coffee and water = average MYR7
  • Lunch: A Noodle Dish or Fried Rice or Curry with Rice or Tom Yam Soup with Rice or Laksa, big bottle of water = average MYR8.50
  • Dinner: Similar to or a variant of lunch or Kebabs and rice with Juice =MYR10 average

My ‘Cost of Existing / Day’ was MYR143 / NZ$59 / US$40 / €36 / £26.

This put a reasonable roof over my head, gave me public transport, gave me all of my other basic necessities, fed me 3 times each day in a ‘reasonably priced’ restaurant, and paid for my refreshments. It also gave me 9 nights in 2 resorts (so it is not a true ‘Cost Of Existing’ figure as it includes some LIVING costs).

My remaining ‘LIVING Funds’ each day were MYR50 / NZ$21 / US$14 / €13 / £8.

I put that LIVING allowance to good use. I had a few beers – especially during the 9 nights that I was in the resorts. I also took 2 other day trips:

  • The Klia Wetlands
  • The Sepilok Urang Utan, Sun Bear, and Rainforest parks

I also spent a bit on clothes on Labuan.

All up, I pretty much spent all of my daily budget LIVING IT UP in Sabah and taking full advantage of the eco-tourism that Sabah has to offer.

My actual GRANDPAcking costs came in at MYR181 / NZ$75 / US$51 / €46 / £32 per day. Not bad really – considering what is included.


I DO NOT recommend anyone to follow what I did. Quite a lot of what I did (and the costs involved) were wasted. So, instead, I have put together a 2 week itinerary of the BEST BITS for GRANDPAckers to consider. All costs start in KK. This would be a nice 2 weeks…

1Fly in to KK. Book an Island Hopping & Snorkelling Trip to the KK Islands. Book a bus to Sandakan.KK
2Island Hopping & Snorkelling Trip to the KK Islands.KK
3Bus to Sandakan. Book a 6 Day / 5 Night Trip to Kinabatangan.Sandakan
4Walk the Sandakan Heritage Trail.Sandakan
5-9Bus to Kinabatangan.Kinabatangan x 5
10Bus to Sandakan. Book bus to KK.Sandakan
11Do-It-Yourself Day Trip to Sepilok.Sandakan
12Bus to KK.KK
14Fly out of KK.

Follow the links in the itinerary to find the information on how to do all of this. PLEASE NOTE that TRACC Pom Pom Island is NOT included in the itinerary at this point in time. If TRACC make the necessary changes, you can include a round trip from Sandakan to Semporna and 7 nights on Pom Pom Island.

Accommodation: No matter where you go in Sabah (and Malaysia in general), it seems that you have to budget MYR90 / night to get a decent GRANDPAcking Double room.

Transport: As GRANDPAckers you will use minimal transport in the cities and long distance aircon busses. In KK and Sandakan and Sepilok, everything is within walking distance.

Food: Your costs will be very similar to mine.

In / Out Costs: I have NOT included a taxi budget to and from KK Airport to your hotel at MYR30 each way. You can save money by catching the Airport Shuttle Bus which costs MYR5 each and stops at a couple of places in central KK before terminating at the Dreamtel Hotel. From Dreamtel, it is only a 5-10 minute walk to almost any hotel in central KK. If you take the shuttle bus, you save MYR40 (which is enough to buy 1.5 days worth of restaurant meals).

The ‘Costs Of Existence’ of 2 GRANDPAckers will be about MYR4,000 / NZ$1,650 / US$1,125 / €1,000 / £700 for the 2 weeks (inclusive of all excursions).

Bring some spending money on top.


You live in a GRANDPAcking Retirement Location where you (typically) have about 35% of your State Pension as your LIVING allowance…

You have saved up for 3 months and saved a total of about MYR6,000 / NZ$2,500 / US$1,650 / €1,500 / £1,200. That means that you managed to save MYR66 / NZ$28 / US$18 / €16.50 / £13 per day.

You haven’t had to suffer much… even your ‘costs of existence’ provide a pretty decent lifestyle… you’ve been living on a tropical island (in a modern 2 bedroom rental property in the best area of town) and eating in restaurants 3 times every day…

It’s time for another break…

You get a cheap, booked-well-in-advance Air Asia return flight ticket to KK for a couple of dollars more than bugger all.

You have picked up the maximum allowance of your favourite duty free spirits on the way (because alcohol in Malaysia is relatively expensive).

You have already scanned the internet and pre-booked your accommodation in KK and Sandakan to get the best prices.

You may have also contacted the Harbouside Backpacker Hostel in advance to book your trip to Kinabatangan…

Have fun.

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