Cheap flights to Kota Kinabalu leave from Perth and Melbourne, transiting through Kuala Lumpur or Brunei. Other cheap flight options take travellers there via Singapore. Australians visiting Malaysia do not need a visa for stays of less than three months. Kota Kinabalu International Airport is located about 8 km southwest of the city centre. A taxi service operates to ferry passengers from the airport. A fixed rate applies from the airport to the town centre of RM30 (about A$10) per taxi for up to 4 people. Travellers need to buy a voucher from the Airport Taxi counter in the middle of arrivals on level one, then head to the taxi rank outside. There is no urban bus service at the airport, but visitors can catch a cheap minibus on the main road to the city centre that will cost A50cents.
Getting around Kota Kinabalu is easy, thanks to the bus system which leave from the stand by the city park, between the municipal offices and Jln Tun Razak. Minivans that pass the airport also pass the train station. Taxis are plentiful and mostly have metres installed, though visitors can still negotiate a price in advance if that’s preferred. There are several points in the city centre where taxis congregate – try near the Milimewa Superstore or any major hotel. There are also ferries to the islands. Central Kota Kinabalu is very pedestrian friendly. Most of the city centre is flat, with Signal Hill the only destination which will need a little exertion. And renting a bicycle is also a cheap option.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is only minutes away from the city is made up of five islands Pulau (island) Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sulug, which boast white sandy beaches, clear waters, shallow reefs, coral gardens and lowland rain forests. It is a perfect spot for novice divers to take their first plunge. Turning to the man-made wonders, the 30-storeys 122m high Tun Mustapha Tower is a must-see. The building is one of only four hanging structures in the world with a glass façade. The unique 72-sided polygon, column-free floors leaves travellers agog. The Sabah State Mosque is a masterpiece of architecture with its dove-grey walls and glittering majestic domes with gold inlay. It is centrally located at Jalan Tunku Abdul Raman. For the best views of the area head to the Signal Hill Observatory. Along the bluff at Signal Hill there is also the Atkinson Clock Tower which is one of only three buildings which survived the air raids in World War II.
Kota Kinabalu’s five major shopping malls are Centrepoint, Karamunsing Complex, KK Plaza, Wawasan Plaza and Wisma Merdeka, but for cheap wares check out the urban Gaya Street Fair that starts every Sunday at 8am. It is at the lower end of Gaya St and the stalls offer a wide and varied collection of products. Travellers can chose from a variety of cuisine in hotels and restaurants and also by hawker’s stalls. More than 30 ethnic groups are represented in the town and that is reflected in the food on offer. The stalls at the night markets are where you will find the cheap and tasty meals. Nightlife activities start with nature putting on a show at sunset, with the best vantage point being the waterfront. After the sun goes down and dinner is over it is time to hit the many karaoke bars the city has to offer. Many of the bigger hotels also host live bands if you prefer to let professionals do the singing.