Getting To Sabah
Autonomy is practised by Sabah on its migration rules, mostly to ensure that non-Sabahans can’t immigrate freely and fill the state. A certain grade of immigration control apply to the Malaysians from neighbouring Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia. This includes showing of identity cards and a restricted stay of 3 months maximum at a stretch. A valid passport is needed for foreigners planning to enter Sabah.
The chief air hub is KKIA or Kota Kinabalu International Airport. AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines are the main airlines, providing links with Sarawak, Peninsular Malaysia and other several destinations including Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, Guangzhou, Taipei, Kaohsiung, Tokyo, Seoul, Macau and Osaka. Some other airlines serving Kota Kinabalu include Dragonair, Royal Brunei Airlines, Silkair, and Asiana. MASWings, a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines offers the rural service links with numerous minor airports located in Sarawak and Sabah.
Sabah enjoys international air connections to destinations in Australia and East Asia too. All international departures and arrivals are directed straight to Sabah’s capital city, Kota Kinabalu. Visitors coming from America and Europe has to transit at the major cities of South East Asia like Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bandar Seri Begawan, from where they can fly to Kota Kinabalu.
The airport is located 7 kilometres away from Kota Kinabalu. From the airport, taxi is the only form of transport. This journey from airport to Kota Kinabalu is a controlled one with airport taxis being permitted only to pick up the passengers. Taxi coupons need to purchase from the taxi counters positioned outside the arrival hall. Here, you will find two money-changers where you can change your traveller’s cheques or foreign currency. The airport trolleys is provided free of charge. There are also shuttle buses offered by certain hotels to pick up their customers from the airport.
The airport has two terminals. Terminal 1 is KKIA’s main terminal situated at Kepayan area. This terminal can be reached via Jalan Putatan, Jalan Lintas and Jalan Kepayan. This terminal is undergoing a big renovation and expansion process. Upon completion, it is equipped enough to handle 9 million passengers every year compare to its earlier capacity of 2.5 million. It also features lounges, restaurants, duty-free shops, travel agents, etc.
Terminal 2 used to be the airport’s original terminal building. This terminal is accessed via Tanjung Aru’s Jalan Mat Salleh and is located just opposite of terminal 1’s runway. Terminal 2 is mainly used by charters and low cost carriers. It might have been modernized to serve the needs of low cost carriers such as AirAsia but it is not at all a LCCT (low cost carrier terminal), with the terminal being used by full service airlines as well. Check-in counters numbers at 26 for international and domestic flights, along with 6 parking bays, 7 x- ray machines (luggage), 13 immigration counters and a VIP room. Annually, this terminal is capable enough to handle almost 3 million passengers.
Sarawak is the only place from where you can go overland into Sabah via a border crossing at Merapok. Non-residents of Sarawak and Sabah need to pass through the immigration checks positioned here. The road connecting Kota Kinabalu with the border is in good condition and is blocked all the way. If you are planning to do overland trail between Sarawak and Sabah, it is likely to get there from Brunei’s Bandar Seri Begawan or from Miri to Kota Kinabalu.
Officially, you can’t just walk across to Indonesia however there are some unoffical tracks from Sabah’s interior which are used by the locals to gain access to East Kalimantan.
You can enter Sabah by boat from Labuan and from East Kalimantan’s Nunukan. Passenger boat services however, are not available between the peninsular region of Malaysia and Sabah. From Labuan, boats depart for Sipitang and Kota Kinabalu while ferries function between Menumbok and Labuan. Labuan is the place where you have to change boats in order to move around between Kota Kinabalu and Brunei. Boats also run between Philippines’ Zamboanga and Sandakan. Between East Kalimantan’s Nunukan and Tawau, there is a ferry service operating at least once on a daily basis.