It’s the year-end and also travel season. But, you’re stuck at home because you don’t have the budget or money for a trip.

Want a travel destination that won’t make you break the bank? Head over to Kota Kinabalu and worry no more about FOMO.

Located in East Malaysia, this seaside city is home to the 2nd busiest airport in Malaysia. KKIA has flights that go to and from many countries. So, it’s no trouble to get cheap flights here.

Transportation, dining, accommodation and tourist attractions don’t make you break the bank. Continue reading to find out how to travel on a budget in KK.




Transportation in and around KK isn’t expensive. You can travel by car, bus, or taxi. To save money, only use Grab or ride the bus. KK city is actually quite small so most places are in the vicinity of each other.

If you’re up for walking you can easily walk to most places and save more cash. KK is a very walker-friendly city with its nice sidewalks and many crossings.



Budget Accommodation

KK budget hotel - KK budget hostel - KK budget capsule hotel

It’s really easy to find a bargain hostel or hotel within the KK city center. These range anywhere from 20 to 200 MYR a night.

These places are also in the vicinity of convenience stores and many cheap food spots. So, you don’t need to worry about getting around.



KK hawker center - KK street food - KK night market food

KK is littered with cheap dining spots that serve great food. Stick to local cuisine and you could save a lot of money. A delicious meal at the many hawker centers or street sides could run you only 15 MYR.

Seafood is very cheap here. So, if you love seafood you could get an amazing seafood meal for about 30 MYR at the many seafood restaurants.



Tourist attractions

Below are a few things to do and places you can visit that won’t make you break your budget.



Go see historical buildings

Sabah state museum - KK City Mosque - Atkinson Clock Tower

Most were bombed during World War II. But, there are a few left in KK. Among them are the General Post Office, the Land and Survey Building, and the Atkinson Clock Tower. You can visit them to see the colonial influences for free. The Sabah State Museum is also a great place to visit.

Or, visit one of Malaysia’s biggest mosques, Sabah State Mosque. KK City Mosque, also known as Floating Mosque is also popular and as beautiful. Non-muslims are allowed to visit if dressed appropriately.



Visit Local Markets

KK night market - KK market souvenirs and handicraft - KK market seller - KK Philippine market

Want to sample local cuisine for a bargain? Want to buy local handicraft and souvenirs for your loved ones back home? Or, you just want to see the unique local fare? Head over to one of the many local markets.

For food, Central Market is a good place to visit. In the Philipino Market, tourists can shop for a variety of local handicraft. Beautiful sarongs, woodwork, souvenirs and handmade jewelry are cheap here.
For a real deal local market experience, go see the Gaya Street Sunday Market. They have anything here. From antiques, local handicraft, Sabahan coffee beans, and even pets.



Visit Kinabalu National Park

Mount kinabalu - proboscis monkey - people hiking mount kinabalu - mount kinabalu check in point

Want a hands-on experience seeing Borneo’s lush forest and diverse nature? Kinabalu National Park is Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Entry into the park is only 3 MYR for locals and 15 MYR for internationals.

Into trekking? For about 1000 MYR, you can hike Mount Kinabalu, one of South East Asia’s highest mountains. On the hike, let the diversity of nature and beautiful scenery take your breath away.

Want something more laidback? Explore the lowland forests, meadows and botanical gardens at the mountain base. Make sure you bring a sweater as the area gets quite chilly.



Visit Poring Hot Springs and Nature Park

Poring hot springs path - poring hot springs sulfur pool - poring hot springs baths - poring hot springs and nature park pathway bridge

Here, have a relaxing bath in the natural sulfur hot spring water or mud baths. The scenery is lush with greenery of the many giant bamboo trees. It’s perfect for gazing at while relaxing.

Entry into the park is only 3 MYR for locals and 15 MYR for internationals. The park also has a butterfly farm, bat cave, and two waterfalls.



Visit Desa Cattle Dairy Farm

Cattle at desa cattle dairy farm - man posing at desa dairy farm scenery - desa dairy farm welcome sign

It’s situated in what people call “Little New Zealand”. East Malaysia’s only dairy farm is a very popular tourist destination. Entry is only 5 MYR per person.

There, you can pet baby cows and goats. Or, see the cattle barn, watch factory operations, and sample their many dairy products.



Visit the cultural village

Mari mari cultural village cultural performance - mari mari cultural village men in cultural outfit - mari mari cultural village cultural dancing

Want to get an authentic cultural experience? Mari Mari Cultural Village is a secluded cultural village and interactive museum of Bornean ethnic culture. Here, have an immersive experience of the culture of Sabah’s indigenous tribes.

The village showcases 5 different major tribes. These include the Kadazan-Dusun, the Rungus, the Lundayeh, the Bajau and the Murut tribe. You can book a tour here for 160 MYR. Buffet lunch and cultural performances are included in the tour package. You definitely get your money’s worth.



Go island hopping

KK island beach - KK island jetty

A trip to KK is incomplete without a visit to some of its popular blue water islands.

Here, you can get the same experience the Maldives or Bora-bora has to offer for a fraction of the price. Island hopping costs 33 MYR for 1 island and 10 MYR extra for every additional island. There is also a 10 MYR conservation fee.

You can swim, snorkel or try the variety of fun water activities. Parasailing, zip lining, scuba diving, and more activities are available on the islands.

There are so many things you can do in KK without breaking your budget. This travel destination is a Malaysian gem that’ll surely leave an impression on you.  

What are you waiting for? Go ahead and plan your budget vacation now.

Leave a comment if you know other great tourist attractions or things to do that are budget friendly.