Solo Travel to Kota Kinabalu for Less Than $200

Kota Kinabalu offers its own unique wonders. Being a budget traveler, it is possible to enjoy a 4-day tour of KK on a shoestring budget coming from Manila to Kota Kinabalu. 

image by Lara Guiked

Book a sale airline ticket. You can get one from Air Asia for a little over $32, or depending on any ticket sale available during your online shopping time.  Same goes with the accommodation, which can be purchased via Agoda or Airbnb. If you still haven't signed up for Airbnb yet, you're missing out on a lot of benefits. Get your $75 gift here. There’s this fairly new in named Sakot Hostel with clean facilities and is located within the city. The staff and receptionists were very accommodating as well. There are other hostels near the area, where you can get a lodging for around $10 per night for dorm type accommodations. Solo rooms are also available. 

Taxi at Kota Kinabalu is quite expensive as compared to the taxi rates in Manila. If on a budget, better go for Uber or Grab services instead. Just be sure that you have wi-fi access, or better yet, get a local sim with data good for the duration of your stay. Wi-fi is not  readily available on the streets unlike in South Korea, so be sure to purchase a data sim particularly if you need to access Google Maps, Waze, and other travel apps and social media sites on the go. The local sims are available at the airport. Choose between Celcom or Digi, but better ask them the best signal strength with regards to the location you are headed. A sim good for 4 days would set you back around $5 which contains 1.4 GB of data.

From the airport (don’t forget to grab a map), you can take the bus to Kota Kinabalu City. The fare would be 5 rinngit (just a little over a dollar). You can purchase the ticket from a booth in the airport. Just let the ticket attendant know where you are headed so you can get directions. 

Island Hopping

image by Lina Hsieh

 Start off by heading to Jesselton Point. It’s a 10-15 minute walk from the city. You will see various counters tended by different boat companies. Locals suggest choosing between counters 8 to counters 10 for more affordable rates. Choose how many islands you would want to visit. There are around 5 islands you can visit. But if you want to relax and lounge by the beach a little longer, you may just go for an island or two. 

 image by Jack Tan Boon Hian 

If you are unsure of where to go, the boatmen can always give you good suggestions depending on your taste.  I would always go for a more peaceful island with least number of people, so Mamutik is the choice for me. You can even set up a hammock if you like.

Airfare and travel tax – $65.49
Accommodation - $40
Food, snacks, and drinks - $31
Bus, taxi, Grab, and Uber - $710
Island hopping fee - $10
Environmental fee - $3
Total Expenses for 4 days:  Roughly around $166