Toot or Boot? Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

After taking some poor advice from a friend and failing to double check its geographical location before purchasing flights, I ended up flying to Kota Kinabalu. Turns out this city is in fact an 8 hour coach journey away from Sepilok. This being the destination I was really aiming for and home of orphaned orang-utans. Today, I’m tootin’ and bootin’ Kota Kinabalu; a place where I should never have ended up.


  • (Somewhat) cheap and cheerful: There’s nothing wrong with a hearty meal, in a local cafe and it only costing you the change in your back pocket. Kota Kinabalu isn’t too bad for cost…but then again it doesn’t have many nearby attractions which are worth bumping up its prices for.
  • Get rid of any leftover cash: Since Kota Kinabalu accepts Malaysian Ringgit (see my Toot or Boot for Kuala Lumpur here), Indonesian Rupiah (see my Toot or Boot for Ubud here) and Brunei Dollars, you can spend any spare money which you have sitting in your wallet. This is ideal for travellers who go away for months at a time and hit up a few different countries along the way.


  • Not much going on: Unfortunately, Kota Kinabalu is “just another city” and although it’s situated in a beautiful country, close to rainforests and the sea, there’s nothing that really catches your attention about the city itself.
  • There are better places to visit in Borneo: Travellers are more likely to use Kota Kinabalu as a stopover point to get to the more alluring areas such as Sandakan, Turtle Island or even Mount Kinabalu, which is a 2 hour drive away and ideal for keen hikers.

Toot or boot?

Maybe I’m just being a bit snobby but I didn’t rate Kota Kinabalu and felt that despite certain positives, such as a few beach coves and the city mosque, I just wasn’t “wowed” by my stay. For that reason, I’m giving Kota Kinabalu the boot! Maybe you think differently? I’m all ears.

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