Borneo Travel Information
What to Wear
Clients often ask what they should wear on one of our Borneo holidays. Borneo has a hot and humid climate all year round so we recommend taking light summer clothes for your travels. Due to the possibility of the occasional sharp downpour we suggest taking lightweight rainwear or an umbrella at all times of the year. Alternatively you can also buy a plastic poncho very cheaply in the local markets. Whilst trekking in the jungle neutral coloured, loose fitting and relaxed clothing is the most appropriate (greens, browns etc). Sturdy sandals or walking shoes are necessary for rainforest trails. Leeches are relatively common in the jungle and although not harmful some clients have found ‘leach socks’ useful. Alternatively, tuck your trousers in to your socks. If trekking on Mount Kinabalu you will need a warm jumper/fleece and a waterproof jacket for the cool nights on Kinabalu. We also suggest taking gloves and a hat for the ascent to the summit. For more details please see below.
When travelling to foreign destinations it is always respectful to dress modestly and we suggest the emphasis is on comfortable clothing. When visiting mosques and places of worship it is polite to cover your shoulders and knees. Most hotels and lodges have laundry services, so an excessive amount of clothing should be unnecessary. Please note that most hotels and lodges hand wash clothing. P.S. Don't forget your swimming costume!
Trekking on Mt Kinabalu
Trekking on Mt. Kinabalu doesn’t require any specialised equipment; however the weather conditions can change rapidly on the mountain. A clear, warm day can suddenly turn into heavy sleeting rain in a matter of minutes, so trekkers must be well prepared for any eventuality. All bedding requirements are provided at the mountain huts (Pendant/Laban Rata), so there's no need to take a sleeping bag. Although we do suggest taking a sleeping bag liner, either cotton or silk (silk being a luxury touch!). Hot meals can be purchased relatively cheaply at the Laban Rata hut, so climbers need only take snacks and lunch on the first day (if it's not included). As such, the trip can be completed comfortably with a small backpack of about 35- 40 litres. A larger pack will be fine but it’s best to keep weight to a minimum. After all, it's hard enough climbing the mountain without lugging any unnecessary weight!
Please bear in mind the average temperature at the Park Headquarters is 20 degrees Celsius, whilst at the Pendant/Laban Rata mountain huts (3,200m+) and on the peak, the nightly temperatures can drop below the freezing point. Here's a list of items and equipment that every climber should carry:
- Waterproof /breathable jacket
- Warm, lightweight jumper (polarfleece or windfleece is ideal)
- Lightweight trousers (not denim, as it remains cold when wet)
- Spare socks and underwear
- Beanie/woollen hat
- Sturdy woollen or fleece gloves
- Snacks (chocolate, dried fruit, nuts, jelly beans) for the climb
- Water bottles (at least one litre, preferably in small bottles)
- Small first aid kit + headache tablets
- Plastic bags or waterproof stuff sack (large black bin bags are just as good)
- Whistle (in case of emergency in bad weather and visibility)
- Torch (head-mounted is ideal for the night climb to the summit)
- Spare batteries
- All your gear should be packed inside waterproof plastic bags in case of rain on the mountain. The last thing you want when you arrive tired and sweaty at your mountain hut is for all your clean, dry clothes to be soaking wet! Keep in mind that the above list of equipment does not include what you wear on the trail as you set out from park headquarters. What you wear on the trail is really a matter of personal preference. Some climbers prefer to go light and just wear a t-shirt and shorts for the early stages, adding a jumper as they reach higher altitude. Others prefer to wear long trousers and a long-sleeved shirt - it's up to you. The climb is strenuous and you will get very warm, simply through your exertions. Layering of clothes is always a good strategy, so you can adjust your clothing depending on the situation.
Suggested Walking Clothes for Early Stages (Not Carried in Pack)
- Shorts (or lightweight trousers)
- T-shirt (synthetic wicking/quick drying are much better than cotton) or long-sleeved shirt
- Woollen socks
- Sturdy shoes with good grip and ankle support – training shoes are not ideal
- Hat to keep the sun off your face
- It's a different story for the early morning trek to the summit. It gets very windy and quite cold at Low's Peak, so you'll need everything you've carried up in your backpack. Wear your warm socks, trousers, shirt, warm jumper and waterproof jacket when you head off. Gloves and hat are also essential. Carry a litre of water, snacks and a camera in your jacket, or in a very small day pack. You may get quite warm in the early stages of the climb after Laban Rata, but you'll be glad of the protection as you trek above the tree line.
Please limit baggage to two items per person and always use soft bags rather than suitcases (they are easier to stow in vehicles). In specific cases i.e. for internal flights, luggage may be limited to 15kg per person.
Getting There & Away
If Natural World Safaris has arranged your international flights you will be sent your flight itinerary separately. Please note that once your flights have been booked these will be subject to their respective terms and conditions. If you haven’t booked your flights with Natural World Safaris clients will need to make their own arrangements to arrive and leave in accordance with their itinerary. We can arrange these flights for you if needed, please ask for further details.
Upon arrival at your destination, you will be met by our local representative. They will hold a ‘welcome card’ with your name on it. We have provided local contact details in the accompanying information but if you have any problems please call our 24-hour UK telephone number on +44 (0)7887 637 628.
Hotels & Lodges
Borneo and Sumatra are still emerging as tourist destinations and the lodges and hotels do vary in terms of the facilities they offer and in most cases are generally not as luxurious or well-appointed as the lodges/camps in Africa. The accommodation in Sumatra can be fairly basic. Generally lodging in the main towns and resorts is in western style three to five star hotels or guest houses. The jungle lodges do vary in standard but almost all have en-suite rooms with hot and cold water. Air conditioning is not always provided but most have fans that are a good alternative. We do always attempt to use environmentally friendly lodges who are committed to helping the local communities.
Most lodges are able to offer laundry facilities but please note that the cost is not always included. Check with reception for current prices. Due to natural drying and variable climatic conditions your clothing might not always come back ‘bone dry’. As most laundry is hand washed please avoid handing in delicate clothing. Most lodges won’t wash underwear but will happily provide washing powder to use in your room.
Food & Water
Food varies from destination to destination. Please bear in mind that we try to use lodges/camps that use local produce which supports the local communities. Sabah has a varied cuisine with Malaysian curries, local fruits and vegetables found in no other place, so do not be afraid to try local produce it is part of the experience!
We recommend that you only drink bottled water but whenever possible try to get large bottles, which saves using lots of little ones and creating unnecessary waste.
International telephone communications are good from the major cities but more difficult from some remote areas. Mobile network coverage is reasonable throughout most of Borneo & Sumatra and mobile phones are now the most reliable means of communication, though you may have to travel a short distance to reach an area of coverage. All drivers/guides will have mobile phones for emergency use. Pre-paid phone cards are readily available. Wireless Internet is available in many of the larger hotels and resorts. We are not able to provide contact details for individual hotels, lodges or camps, as many do not have the facilities to handle guest calls/communications. We will provide contact details for our ground agents, please see accompanying information.
Sabah, Borneo is eight hours (+8) ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
Sunrise is around 06:30 hours and sunset at about 19:30 hours. This varies slightly, depending on the location within Borneo and the time of year.
The electricity supply in Borneo & Sumatra is 220-240 volts. Plug sockets do vary and we advise visitors to take multi-adaptors to cope with 3 square pin sockets (UK) and 2 round pin sockets (European). All the major hotels and lodges have good power supplies and most have in room electrical sockets. Some smaller establishments and jungle lodges may not have a socket in your room but will have charging facilities available at reception.
The local currency in Sabah is the Malaysian Ringgit (RM), also known as the Malaysian Dollar. It is issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Ringgit notes. Coin denominations are 50, 20, 10, 5, and 1 sen (cents). Most foreign currencies (US$, Pound Sterling & Euro) can be changed for Malaysian Ringgits at banks and hotels. However, there are also money changer kiosks available at major shopping complexes and at the key airports. If transferring through Kuala Lumpur we suggest changing money at the airport or at your hotel upon arrival. Hotels may charge a nominal fee for currency conversion. There are ATM machines available in Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and at the airports but these are not always reliable. The most widely accepted cards are Visa & Mastercard. All ATMs will only dispense Malaysian Ringgits. Banking Hours Monday through Friday from 9.30am to 3pm.
As most meals, park fees, guiding fees etc are covered in the cost of your safari we generally recommend allowing approximately US$25 per person per day for spending money on drinks, souvenirs and crafts items. You may wish to take extra funds to make contributions or donations to organisations that we encourage clients to visit. Donations and contributions are entirely voluntary.
In our experience it is preferable to travel with cash rather than travellers cheques or credit cards (cards are useful as an emergency back–up), often it is only possible to use these in main cities. Cash is easily exchanged in Borneo and Sumatra. We recommend that you carry a mix of cash denominations. Pounds Sterling (£GBP) is widely accepted in Borneo along with
US Dollars ($USD) whilst in Sumatra it’s best to take $USD. Never keep all of your cash in the same place, keep it in different pockets and split in up between different bags.
If you are carrying $USD, please take bills dated 2006 or later as earlier dated bills can be very difficult to change and may not be accepted (as well as torn and dirty bills – the crisper the better!). You will get a better exchange rate for $50 or $100 USD bills. A number of low denomination $USD bills are useful for tipping although many people are just as happy to accept tips in their local currency. All tips are gladly received.
Tipping is entirely at your discretion. There is no obligation to pay any tips. A service charge is usually added to restaurant bills and so tipping here is usually not necessary. If you do wish to tip please do so in local currency. Bellboys, restaurant staff and rickshaw drivers will, however, accept a small tip gratefully. Should you wish to tip, the following may be used as a guideline depending on the service you have received:
Driver guides RM10-20 per day
Park guides RM20-30 per day
Outside Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Medan credit cards are only accepted in the largest lodges and hotels (Visa, Mastercard and Amex are generally accepted). Most department stores, larger shops and some restaurants may also accept payment by credit card but payments may subject to a surcharge. In Borneo most of the major hotels and lodges will take credit cards.
At time of writing there is no departure tax.
A valid passport with a minimum of 6 months validity on arrival is mandatory.
Whilst we are happy to advise you on visa requirements please ensure you have arranged all the necessary visas well before your intended date of departure as these are your responsibility.
UK, US, Australian, Canadian and EU passport holders do not require a visa for Malaysia; other nationals should check. We advise all our clients to check the latest visa requirements with their local Malaysian embassy.
Embassy Contact Details
Malaysian High Commission in the UK
45-46 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8QT, UK
Tel: (020) 7235 8033.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 0900-1200 (consular section).
Embassy of Malaysia in the USA
3516 International Court, NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA
Tel: (202) 572 9700.
All of our local operators conform to local safety regulations. If you at any time feel that this is not the case please do not hesitate to contact us.
Know Before You Go is an ongoing campaign from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to help Brits stay safe abroad, however in our opinion it has useful information for all nationalities. The campaign was launched in 2001 to promote these key messages:
- Get adequate travel insurance
- Check the FCO’s country travel advise
- Visit your GP as soon as possible before travelling
- Check your passport is in good condition and valid and you have all necessary visas
- Make copies of important documents and/or store them online using a secure data storage site.
- Tell someone where you are going and leave emergency contact details with them
- Take enough money and have access to emergency funds.
- We suggest that you go to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website to get up to date information on your specific destination and important travel tips before you travel.
Go to: https://travelaware.campaign.gov.uk/ for relevant and important travel tips to plan your trip abroad.
Borneo has a progressive and democratic government and has done for many years. Clients should take the usual precautions when travelling abroad in unfamiliar surroundings and we recommend that clients take a taxi rather than walk at night. Please use your common sense and do not draw attention to cameras, video equipment, jewellery, etc. Do not flaunt money and always use safes when provided at hotels/lodges. If in doubt please ask your guide.
For latest travel advice please contact us, at our UK office, or alternatively use the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.
Health & Medical
Always seek medical advice before travelling; please consult your GP or Doctor who will be able to advise you on required vaccinations and anti-malarial prophylaxis.
In the UK we recommended visiting the ‘Fit for Travel’ website.
In the USA we suggest consulting CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) - www.cdc.gov/
Please bring any personal medication required. Anti-malaria tablets and mosquito repellents are essential. Drink bottled or boiled water only. Travel from some countries requires a Yellow Fever inoculation and certificate. When travelling between South Africa and Zambia a Yellow Fever inoculation and certificate is compulsory, even if just in transit. Please seek medical advice before travelling and ensure you have all of your relevant vaccinations.
Medical services, especially in rural areas, are basic so it is essential you have appropriate travel insurance with adequate medical cover, air repatriation with a 24-hour contact telephone number for emergencies.
It is a condition of booking that all clients must have, and must demonstrate to the company prior to their departure, adequate insurance for the duration of the tour.
Proof of the following items of insurance is required on booking; cancellation or curtailment of your trip, medical expenses, repatriation, loss of luggage, personal injury, adventure activities such as white-water rafting, tracking wild animals, theft of personal belongings.
Please report any theft, trip disruption immediately to your guide during your trip and also in writing to Natural World Safaris immediately on return to your home country.
We strongly believe that smoking in national parks should be avoided and is often not permitted.
Travel times can vary considerably in Borneo. Main roads are generally good but travel is much slower than on European or American roads. Some roads in rural areas are often dusty or muddy and bumpy due to poor local maintenance and weather conditions. All the vehicles we use in Borneo are regularly and well maintained, if you feel that this is not the case please do let us know as soon as possible. In some instances you may have shared transportation in mini-buses. Journeys can, on occasions, be long, however we always try to break these up with refreshment stops and there is always a lot to look at as you travel by!
Sabah has an equatorial climate. Temperatures rarely rise above 32°C (90°F) except on exceptionally hot days, and along the coastal areas rarely drop below 20°C (68°F) at night. In the interior and at higher altitudes it can get quite cold at night. Relative humidity is usually 85-95 per cent. Rainfall is common throughout the year, and varies from about 150 cm (60 inches) to over 450 cm (180 inches) per year. In most parts of Sabah the wetter period occurs during the North East Monsoon from October to February and the drier season during the South West Monsoon from March to September but often there is no really sharp division between the two. It is sufficient to say that on the whole, sunny blue skies are the norm but when it rains, the heavens open.
Mount Kinabalu influences the local weather patterns considerably and ensures the surrounding region has a slightly different weather pattern than elsewhere. Seasonal weather patterns can be unpredictable.
Please refrain from photography of military personnel, military installations and airports. Always ask for permission when taking photos of local people or alternatively ask your guide for advice. Please bring extra batteries as it may not always be possible to re-charge them at the lodges. In addition it might be useful to bring a car charger (cigarette lighter variety). For photographing wildlife a zoom lens of 300mm or more is highly recommended.
It is wise to refrain from using flash photography when with the orangutans and other wild animals. Please note flash photography of any wildlife usually causes disturbance and should be avoided.
Prices include airport transfers; accommodation; meals and drinks as stated; an English speaking driver / guide where stated; porterage of two items of baggage per person on the trip (subject to weight restrictions); boat trips; park fees; and permits where appropriate.
Prices exclude all items of a personal nature, entry visas, international flights, tips, telephone calls, drinks (unless otherwise stated), laundry and airport taxes.
These are just rough guidelines and some may differ depending on the itinerary chosen.
Charitable Giving & Community Projects
We recommend as part of our responsible travel policy that you do not give money or gifts directly to local people. We have links with local projects/schools that would appreciate your support. Please ask your guide for further details. If you would like to contribute to these donations of clothing, pens and pencils are greatly appreciated.
When you buy an ATOL protected flight or flight inclusive holiday from us you will receive an ATOL Certificate. This lists the flight, accommodation, car hire and/or other services that are financially protected, where you can get information on what this means for you and who to contact if things go wrong. Company Name: Natural World Safaris Ltd. ATOL Number 9826. For more information please visit their website.
As a member of the Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust Limited (ABTOT), Natural World Safaris Ltd has provided a bond to meet the requirements of the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992.
In the event of insolvency, protection is provided for non-flight packages commencing in and returning to the UK and other non-flight packages excluding pre arranged travel to and from your destination. Please note that packages booked outside the UK are only protected when purchased directly with Natural World Safaris Ltd.
In the above circumstances, if you have not yet travelled you may claim a refund, or if you have already travelled, you may claim repatriation to the starting point of your non-flight package.
The ABTOT number is 5127.