Practical Information: Malaysian Borneo
Here are a few helpful tips for practical issues in Malaysian Borneo. If you can't find what you're looking for, check out our Borneo Trip Preparation page.
Do I need a visa to visit Borneo?
Free ninety day visas are granted on arrival to citizens from fifty-eight countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, EU states, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, UK and the USA. Free thirty day visas are granted on arrival to citizens from Russia.
Every person entering Malaysia must possess a passport valid for more than six months from the date of entry into Malaysia and an onward flight within the visa allowance.
A yellow fever certificate is required upon landing in Malaysia for all travellers coming from, or having visited the in the last six months, countries as listed below:
Angola, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Djibouti, Equador, Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, St. Kitts & Nevis, Suriname, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Venezuela, Zaire and Zambia.
Please be sure to check with the travel department from your home country to see the most up to date visa information regarding travel to Borneo.
Where Do I Arrive When Visiting Borneo?
Most travellers will arrive via air to the island of Borneo. The cities of Kuching (KCH) in Sarawak and Kota Kinabalu (BKI) in Sabah both have international flights. Both of these airports are smaller as far as international airports go, but they have all of the normal amenities you would expect to find in an international airport.
Will I Be Able to Contact Home While I Am Away?
Borneo time is GMT/UTC plus 8 hours. Malaysia’s country code is +60. For making calls back home, international rates can be quite expensive, be sure to check with your local carrier prior to visiting Borneo. Consider downloading WhatsApp, a free internet-based texting and calling service to keep in touch with loved ones. Most larger cities and major towns have wi-fi available. Most restaurants, cafes, and fast food outlets provide wi-fi for free. However, keep in mind the internet in these areas is often slower than what would be expected back home.
Cellular service is available in major cities and it is easy to get a local, pre-paid SIM card. You can purchase your SIM card in the international airports, malls, and kiosks in town. Often times, small shops and convenience stores will have cards you can buy to top up on minutes and data. If you choose to buy a pre-paid sim card, stick to the larger carriers such as Digi, Celcom and Maxis. Once you are out in the jungle wi-fi and cellular service is limited.
What Vaccinations Do I Need?
We heavily advise that you schedule an appointment with your doctor, or a travel-specific doctor prior to coming to Borneo to discuss your health needs. Everything competes for attention in the jungle, this includes viruses and bacteria. For specific advice on how to prepare for the jungle please see our Health and Comfort section.
Malaria is often a concern for people travelling to the jungle. Although we cannot replace a visit with your doctor, we do have some valuable information on Malaria. Please do visit with your doctor to decide what prevention method would be best for you.
Do plan on bringing any prescriptions you may require during your stay. Medication is available in larger cities and towns in Borneo, however, we suggest you bring some basics from home.
What Are the Quality of Medical Facilities in Borneo?
Malaysia has modern medical facilities in major cities and towns with western trained doctors. However, medical help is limited in rural jungle areas. We are trained to handle emergencies and can coordinate rescue for you should something go wrong.
Although we do not anticipate any problems during your trek, accidents do happen in the jungle. We require that you carry traveller’s insurance. Please be sure that you are covered for the activity you will be doing. For more information see our travel insurance page.
Will I have Access to an ATM in Borneo?
Cash withdrawal from ATMs is available in most major towns and all major cities in Borneo. You can withdraw Ringgit, Euros and sometimes British Pounds and the US Dollar. However, most places only accept the Malaysian Ringgit. It is a good idea to carry cash on hand for smaller purchases in major cities, as retail outlets often require a minimum purchase of 50 Ringgit to use a card. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted. However, when visiting villages, we advise that you use cash.
Maximum withdrawals from ATMs do not exist in Malaysia, however, your home bank may have a limit.
What Can I Expect from Toilet Facilities?
Toilet facilities vary widely in Borneo. In major cities and towns, expect to find standard western toilets in most hotels and lodges. Public toilet facilities will vary in quality depending on location. These toilets often have both western and eastern squat style options. Most all toilet facilities in Borneo that are piped will have a washing hose. This can often mean that stalls and facilities are quite wet, including the seats themselves. Always carry toilet paper with you, as many places do not have paper.
In rural jungle areas, expect facilities to be much more rudimentary. Often in villages, there will be outhouses that are pit style drop toilets with a slat to squat over. It is encouraged to bring your own toilet paper for such houses and to use hand sanitizer after using a less-than-clean facility.
What Is the Water Quality in Borneo?
The tap water in Borneo is safe to drink, however, some people do have stomach problems when adjusting. Here at Adventure Alternative, we do not promote the use of disposable plastic water bottles. A great option for treating water while in Borneo is with a SteriPen.
SteriPens use a UV light to treat water. Ice in drinks also tends to be a problem while travelling in hot regions. Although the ice used in drink found in restaurants, cafes, and street stalls typically comes from a factory, if you are nervous, ask for a drink without ice. Cold beverages are prevalent throughout Borneo, even in smaller villages. It is possible to have a cool beverage while in the jungle.
Are There Any Local Laws I Should Be Aware of?
Every country has individual laws and customs that should be observed. For the most up to date information concerning the laws of Nepal please visit the UK Foreign Travel Advice pages on travel to Borneo.
How Do I Protect Myself from Leeches and Mosquitoes in Borneo?
Bugs and creepy crawlies are a part of everyday life in the jungle. Most of the time, the creepy crawlies are more afraid of you than you are of them and they will go out of their way to avoid you. The exception to this rule is leeches and mosquitoes.
The best protection from mosquitoes and leeches is to cover up exposed areas of skin. We recommend always wearing pants when travelling through the jungle. Using a mosquito repellent that contains at least 35% DEET will also help keep the bugs at bay. Some people use leech socks to protect themselves from leeches, but this is not required. Be sure to check yourself for leeches after trekking through the jungle. They are easily removed and more of a nuisance than dangerous.