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Kota Kinabalu

landscape of a mosqueKota Kinabalu, formerly called Jesselton, is the capital and largest city in the state of Sabah. It is located on the northwestern coast of the famous island of Borneo, at the foot of the high Mount Kinabalu.

During the Second World War, the city was destroyed twice, and was rebuilt only in 1967. Its modern appearance is a unique mixture of Malay, Chinese and European cultures, so here, next to high-rise buildings, ancient Chinese shops are adjacent, and bustling traditional bazaars are full of modern shopping complexes.

Now Kota Kinabalu, which locals call KK, is a popular tourist destination and is the main gateway to the state of Sabah and the entire island of Borneo. The city is quite modern with skyscrapers, shopping malls, an international airport and many great hotels and restaurants. And thanks to its favorable geographical location, a visit to Kota Kinabalu can be combined with trips to neighboring cities and countries.

state of Sabah
Population 617 972 people (2009)
Founded 1882 g.
Square 351 km 2
Population density 1760 people / km 2
Currency Malaysian ringgit (MYR)
Timezone UTS+12
Postal code 689350
International dialing code +60–42739

Climate and weather

Kota Kinabalu is located in a humid equatorial climate zone, so the weather is always sunny and warm here. On average, the temperature here varies from +27 ° C to +32 ° C , and the relative humidity here is 70-80% . The city can be visited in almost any season, however, some periods are characterized by the most favorable climate. In general, two opposite seasons can be distinguished in this region: wet (from October to February) and dry (the rest of the year). The period from May to September is considered the hottest period, however, even at this time, short and warm tropical showers are possible.


Kota Kinabalu lies in the northwestern part of the famous island of Borneo , which is washed by the warm waters of the South China Sea . Not far from the city is the Tenku Abdul Rahman National Marine Reserve , and on the other side is Mount Kinabalu . There are six islands along the coast of Kota Kanibalu: Gaya, Sapi, Sulug, Manukan, Sepangar and Mamutik .

In general, the island of Borneo can boast of its rich and unique nature, but it has practically not survived on the territory of the city. It is mainly represented by several steep hills covered with tropical vegetation, such as Signal Hill . Also within the city is the remains of the Kota Kinabalu City Bird Sanctuary , which is under the protection of the country’s government.


The appearance of Kota Kinabalu is a mixture of Chinese, Malay and European cultures, so there are interesting and colorful buildings that any visitor to the city should see. For an overview of Kota Kinabalu, it is worth taking a walk to Signal Hill , which is the highest point in the city. The panorama that opens from this place is truly beautiful and breathtaking. From here you can see the tallest building on the island – Yayasan Sabah Tower , which is a unique cylindrical structure. Another very remarkable structure is the Atkinson wooden clock tower , which was built without a single nail. It should be noted that this tower is the oldest building in the entire state. Also worth noting is the gold-domed mosque.accommodating up to 5,000 people, the Borneo Art Gallery in the Asian City Complex and the Sabah State Museum , which is a large complex consisting of a main building, an art gallery, a science and education center, an Islamic and cultural village.

Outside of Kota Kinabalu, you can also find many interesting objects. First of all, this is the Tenku Abdul Rahman Marine Park , which consists of five islands near the city pier. Each of the islands is an idyllic place with white beaches, emerald greenery and coral reefs. Mount Kinabalu with the National Park of the same name and the Poring hot springs are no less remarkable . Also worth seeing is the village of Tenom , where the Murut peoples live, the town of Tuaran with an agricultural station, and the pile village of Mengkabong . In general, in this area there are a great many interesting villages and towns. For example, the city of Kota Baludis famous for its Sunday fairs, and the town of Tambunan is famous for its liching rice wine .


Kota Kinabalu has a ton of restaurants, eateries and sidewalk cafes that offer a wide variety of Asian and European cuisine. Most of the city’s gastronomic establishments are concentrated on the central promenade, which is simply replete with small restaurants where you can taste traditional Malaysian dishes. I must say that the local cuisine is very interesting and unusual, as it carries Chinese, Indian and Portuguese features. For this reason, most of the traditional dishes are hot spices, rice, seafood and sauces. The basis of Malay cuisine can be safely called ” nasi ” rice , but all other products are called ” lauk“(Addition to rice). For example, rice is used to make noodles with different fillings, pancakes and even desserts. In general, it is boiled, fried and stewed here with a variety of products. Also in the local cuisine, seafood, vegetables, coconut milk and exotic fruits (durian, rambutan, mangosteen, etc.) are widespread. The most popular Malay treats include rice with chicken and noodles, fried rice ” nasi goreng “, pineapple salad ” rojak “, fish curry with rice ” nasi dagang ” and chicken kebabs ” sati ayam “, as well as shark fin soup and fried scallops. In addition, Kota Kanibalu has its own specialties, such as bak kut teh (meat bone tea) soup and tom yam fish soup».

As for drinks, strong alcohol can only be found in expensive restaurants. But the beer that is produced in Malaysia is widespread almost everywhere. Popular soft drinks include juices and coconut milk, which is sold on the streets. Moreover, the seller immediately cuts off the top of the nut and inserts a straw there so that the buyer can immediately enjoy the fresh taste of this drink.


Kota Kinabalu has a developed and modern hotel infrastructure, so there will be no problems with the choice of temporary housing. Travelers can choose here as a luxury resort hotel, as well as a democratic 3 * hotel or an inexpensive guest house. Perhaps the best hotel in the city is the Bunga Raya Island Resort (from $ 412), which is located on Gaya Island. Almost all possible amenities and services are provided here. The Magellan Sutera resort hotels (from $ 144) and ShangriLa’s Tanjung Aru Resort also deserve high praise.(from $ 222). In general, the city has a wide selection of hotels designed for average tourists who want to relax comfortably, but are not ready to pay too much money for a hotel. These are mainly hotels of category 2 and 3 *, for example, Zaras Boutique Hotel and Harbor City (from $ 37).

Entertainment and recreation

The most popular holiday destination in Kota Kinabalu is the city beach Tanjung Aru , which is located on the western outskirts of the city. It is a real oasis with white sand and clear sea water, which is surrounded by tall palm trees. There is also a yacht club and an excellent rental point for diving equipment. Almost all types of water sports are also available here, and the local instructors are highly professional. Another ideal place for diving is the National Marine Park. Tunku Abdul Rahman , which consists of five islands with white beaches, excellent coral reefs and an amazing underwater world. There you can always just swim and go snorkelling or underwater photography.

There is also plenty to do in the city itself. First of all, it is recommended to stroll along its central streets, which are simply replete with cozy restaurants and interesting shops. Then you can visit the Green Connection Aquarium and Water World Theme Park . There are also 4 cinemas with 8 cinemas, shopping centers with entertainment facilities and the Likas sports complex with a large football stadium, hockey field, tennis, squash and badminton courts, as well as a swimming pool, gym and climbing center. Nightlife in the city at 18.00: at this time all the fountains turn on and the bars and then the clubs begin to work.


Borneo is a duty-free island, so many of the goods here are sold tax-free. Of course, shopping opportunities in Kota Kinabalu are not as rich as in Kuala Lumpur, but you can also buy quality clothing, electronics and all kinds of souvenirs here.

The main shopping center of the city and the entire state is BORNEO , which contains 5,000 retail premises, 7 cinemas, a game center, a SPA center and much more. Another great place to shop is Warisan Square with many small clothing and souvenir shops. It is also worth walking along Gaya Street , where a large number of shopping centers, shops and banks are concentrated. And on Sundays, a large Sunday market opens here: the street becomes pedestrianized and local merchants put their goods right on its sidewalks. On such days, you can always buy a variety of souvenirs, national clothes, old coins, T-shirts with views of Borneo and even edged weapons. It is also recommended to visit the Philippine Market for local souvenirs, exotic fruits and seafood. Well, another main place for shopping in Kota Kinabalu is the Central Market , which is located halfway to the village of Kampung Aer . He mainly specializes in all kinds of seafood, as well as fruits and vegetables from local farms.


The easiest way to get to the city is by air, since the large international airport KKIA is located here , which has direct air links with Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru and some other cities of the country, as well as with Singapore, Hong Kong, Brunei, Manila, Jakarta and Taipei … You can also get here by sea, train or bus. It is worth noting that all cities in the state of Sabah are connected by excellent roads with express buses, intercity buses and taxis.

Urban public transport is represented by many buses that run both in Kota Kinabalu itself and in its suburbs. There are also “minibuses” and taxis. I must say that bus drivers often open doors on the go, rarely announce stops and do not always adhere to the schedule. Therefore, upon arrival in the city, it is recommended to take a taxi, which can be easily “caught” on the street or called by phone. On average, a trip of 20 minutes will cost only $ 2-3. At night, the fare increases significantly.

There are many car rental companies in the city, for example, you can rent a car right at the airport. This will require international law, while the driver’s age must be within the range from 23 to 60 years. In addition, you will have to pay for insurance against theft and several local taxes.


A modern communication system operates on the territory of Malaysia, so there are no problems with communication. In Kota Kinabalu, telephone booths are installed in all public places: at transport stops, near government offices, shopping centers, etc. They work with special cards, which are sold almost everywhere (in kiosks, supermarkets, gas stations and Telekom stores). In some places, you still come across outdated devices that accept only coins, but it is impossible to call from them abroad. International calls can be made from card machines or telephone points. Most hotels also have international direct dial telephones.

Cellular communication in Malaysia operates in the GSM standard. It is provided by the operators My Celcom, My Maxis and My Digi , whose coverage area includes not only the entire territory of Malaysia, but also Singapore. Roaming rates are quite high, so it is recommended to purchase a SIM card from a local operator.

Internet access is provided by numerous city Internet cafes and most hotels.


Kota Kinabalu is considered to be quite calm and safe city. As a rule, tourists here are most often faced with pickpocketing and theft of photographic equipment and handbags. Basically, such crimes occur in the most crowded places: in shopping centers, near attractions, etc.

Before the trip, it is definitely recommended to get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, tetanus and polio. It is advised to drink only boiled or bottled water. Be sure to take with you the most necessary set of medicines: remedies for stomach disorders and allergies, pain relievers and antibiotics.

We must not forget that Malaysia is a Muslim country, so a number of rules and regulations must be observed here. For example, women are encouraged to wear modest clothing. Also, before entering a residential building or a temple, it is imperative to take off your shoes.

Business climate

Kota Kinabalu is the main financial, industrial, administrative and commercial center of the state of Sabah. Also, this city is an important transport hub, for which it is called the “eastern gate” to Malaysia. Tourism, manufacturing and agriculture play a major role in the local economy. The city is home to many international commercial banks, headquarters and representative offices of foreign companies, as well as industrial and manufacturing companies. In addition, an entire industrial park is being built here, which is designed to enhance commercial and industrial activities. Numerous national and international exhibitions and conferences are also held in Kota Kinabalu, for example, the Sabah International Expo or the Australian Engineering Congress.

The property

Today the Kota Kinabalu real estate market offers a wide range of apartments in multi-storey condominiums and commercial properties. In general, prices here are the same as throughout the country, however, some objects are quite expensive. This is due to the economic potential of the city, its location and the availability of modern and well-developed infrastructure. It must be said that the country’s government actively encourages all foreigners to buy property. This is carried out within the framework of the national program ” Malaysia is my second home “. And if earlier there were some restrictions here, now there are no limits on the acquisition of residential property for foreigners. Although several categories of real estate are still excluded from the sale.

Travel tips

Upon arrival at almost any hotel at the reception, you will be asked to make a mandatory security deposit ($ 70 per day). The amount must be paid immediately and in full for the entire vacation period, for example, $ 700 for 10 days. This deposit is a kind of prepayment for possible future expenses, for example, dinners in the hotel’s restaurants. It is highly recommended that you pay the requested amount in cash only. The fact is that if you make a deposit using a credit card, this amount will be blocked and will be available only a month after unlocking.

Kota Kinabalu
See also  Georgetown
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