Travellers coming through Malaysian Borneo often complain that it is much more expensive than the rest of Southeast Asia. Travel and accommodation can often be double the prices of West Malaysia and public transport in Borneo is often non-existent, forcing travellers to use taxis. However with a little bit of know-how and forward planning, it can be easy to bring down the cost of travelling in Borneo, although admittedly not to say Thai or Cambodian prices.
The first to follow is to book your flights ahead as far as possible. I realise that this may make you recoil in horror — after all, the backpacking ethos is all about going where the wind takes you. However backpacking for long distances can also require careful saving of the pennies so, I say again, book ahead. The three main airlines in Borneo are Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia and MasWings and often their tickets will be cheaper than travelling by bus — if you book in advance, say by one to two months.
Next up, know your holidays. The great thing about living in Malaysia is its ethnic diversity; this also means that there are public holidays galore: Hari Raya, Chinese New Year and Gawai, to name but a few. During these times, travelling can be incredibly difficult. This year during Gawai, airplane tickets from East Malaysia to West Malaysia were harder to come by than a herd of unicorns frolicking in a field of four-leaf clover.
Bus travel was a smidgen easier, but only if you were travelling solo. Even if do get your hands on that golden ticket, then it will probably cost you the best part of your offsprings’ inheritance. I exaggerate a little bit but it is notoriously difficult and expensive to travel during holiday periods. It’s instead best to settle in one place and enjoy the festivities and if you’re lucky, as happened to a friend of mine, you may get invited back to someone’s kampung (village) and feast on barbecued python while lounging in the equatorial sun.
Which brings me to my next point: manage your expectations. Many come to Borneo expecting swathes of lush jungle creeping over the walls of the airport while orang utans puzzlingly gaze at their hairless cousins alighting their loud, shiny flying machines. Let me tell you that this romanticised version of Borneo no longer exists. Rapid development of the Malaysian economy has led to much of the jungle in Sarawak, and especially Sabah, to be cut down and turned into palm oil plantations.
Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: How to save money while travelling in Borneo.