Borneo Culture Tips

Below is some information about how to behave while staying in a Borneo Homestay, be it with the Murut Tribe, Abai village or the Penan communities.


  • If you would like to take a gift for the families you stay with this will always be appreciated. Souvenirs from your home country/town are always popular! Some ideas are photos and postcards of where you live, something which has a personal link rather than something generic. 


  • A tip would be welcome. The exact amount will depend on whether you have the same guide all the time or not, if you have porters and how long you are there for. You will need to take advice from our main office staff about this. 


  • Please don’t smoke in the houses, please go a distance away
  • Take off your shoes and socks before entering someone’s house.
  • Bathing: women should cover up. All the Penan women wear a sarong when bathing so this would be ideal, but a t-shirt and shorts would be fine too. 
  • Clothing: the Penan people are fairly relaxed regarding this; but be considerate that you are staying in other people’s houses and villages, however, as an example women are fine to wear a strap top and shorts.
  • Some houses don’t have tables so you may be eating in a circle on the floor; if eating on the floor then don’t walk over any plates or any food.
  • The majority of the Penan are Christian and pray before meals – so please wait to pray with the family before starting to eat.

Money & Souvenirs

You cannot buy things such as soft drinks and snacks, however, you may want to take money for souvenirs. For example, you can buy a beautiful basket woven out of rattan for about 50MYR (about £10), bracelets woven from rattan for about 5MYR (about £1), a Penan Machete for about 75MYR (about £15).

The Penan were once solely nomadic people, carrying little in the way of possessions. They did carry these beautiful rattan backpacks/baskets called keva. These are the pride of the Penan women, and represent the Penan’s bond with the forest. Although many of the Penan are now settled in villages, including the Penan people Adventure Alternative work with, these traditional weaving techniques are still practised by Penan women and passed down from mother to daughter. The men still use keva when they go hunting or fishing and the women when they collect the vegetable and fruit. Rattan mats are used on the floor of the Penan houses. The baskets and bracelets are made from wild jungle rattan. This is stripped, smoothed and treated with the sap of a plant, then certain strips are coloured. The rattan is then carefully woven into intricate designs.