Kota Kinabalu City: My First Impression

Kota Kinabalu City or KK wasn’t part of the itinerary when I was drafting my ideas on where to go. I was not sure why it didn’t appeal to me that much, maybe because of it’s close proximity to my home country.

But I was just so happy that I chose to fly to Kota Kinabalu.

The main reason would be, of all the places that I’ve been to in this eight-month journey, Kota Kinabalu made me feel very much at home.

I’ve met a lot of Sabahan (people from Sabah) who speaks a little Tagalog and had fun chatting with them. Some of the people I’ve met told me that their parents are from Mindanao and relocated to Sabah a few decades ago.

A lot of those people that I’ve met were really nice and helpful and surprisingly excited to talk in Tagalog. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, here’re some of my observations about Kota Kinabalu.


Hostels are very expensive compare to the mainland Southeast Asia. It’s even more expensive than the rooms I got in Peninsular Malaysia. My room in Penang only cost me RM25, which is a big fan room, my room in Genting only cost me RM48 and in KK, the average cost during the time I was there was around RM58 for a double room.

If you’re looking for the most affordable accommodation in KK, you’re best bet would be Jalan Gaya. There are lots of hostels in that area.


The food is surprisingly tasty and I like it but not as much as Thai or Chinese cuisine. But it does have a flavor that appeals to my palate.

I was also fond of their local buffet style restaurants wherein you’ll put whatever you like on your plate and they’ll charge you based on the amount and types of dishes that you took.

A plate of fried rice cost around RM1.20 and other dishes cost around RM1.5-3 per serving.

There are also seafood stalls that you can find near the harbour front and you’ll find cheap but delicious grilled seafoods there. You can also have the option to have it cooked in a variety of ways.

Tip: Hyatt Hotel has a pastry shop that offers 50% discount from 7:30PM onwards. Cheesecakes and other baked goodies can be bought for as low as RM4 per piece! Great deal huh!

Local Transportation

The main bus station would be in Wawasan (South) and Inanam (North) which is probably around 15-20 minute walk from Jalan Gaya. From there you can take a bus to different parts of the city (average fare RM1).Taxi’s average fare is around RM30.

Touristic Sights

Kota Kinabalu is a small city with a lot of local markets. You can visit some of them on foot if you’re interested to buy some souvenirs.

The most popular beach would be Tanjung Aru. It’s not exactly the most beautiful beach that I’ve seen but it has a spectacular sunset which makes it really worth visiting.

Another not to be missed sights are the Sabah State Mosque, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park and the nearby wetlands if you want to see local wildlife in their natural habitat. And of course, Mt. Kinabalu which is the main attraction of Kota Kinabalu.

Safety and Common Annoyances

I only stayed in Kota Kinabalu and I find it really safe to walk around town at night.


I saw a lot of herons and other colorful birds in different areas of Kota Kinabalu City and some monitor lizards too. I’m surprised with the variety of wildlife that still lives despite of the development. Kota Kinabalu City still has a lot of “green” areas that I hope they could maintain.

Sadly, in some areas, pollution or the ill-effects of human development seems to be creeping in. I hope that they could improve on this to maintain the ecological balance that I’m sure would bring in more tourists to their city.


  1. Kota Kinabalo is in my travel list. Hope to be there next year. Thanks for sharing this, really a good resource for my future KK trip.

  2. we already have tickets for the mt kinabalu trek next year. too bad laban rata is already full. still thinking if we will proceed. looks like tanjung aru sunset is cool.

  3. The frog wallets reminded me of Baguio. So wicked! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I went to Kota Kinabalu with Winston and Erik last year. We weren’t able to explore the whole city proper, but we managed to do some trekking at the Kinabalu Botanical Garden, island hopping (Manukan and Mamutik) and Sunday market in Gaya St. We ate at the big seafood place for three consecutive nights lol dun nga ata naubos pera namin hehe. Wanna go back pero balak ko mag-trek na sa Mt. Kinabalu next time ๐Ÿ˜€

  5. Hi, I am currently here in Kota Kinabalu City until Wednesday. Where is that seafood market? How much is the average cost per meal? I saw that one, where you can put everything on your plate… food is not as fresh though but certainly the cheapest if one is on budget (apparently I am).

    I am staying in Jalan Gaya area, and indeed this is the best choice for backpacker accommodation. One bed on a ladies’ dorm cost only 27RM, with free breakfast and nice environment. Unlimited coffee too.

    I will try to go around the city later. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hi I was there last May. There is a string of seafood stalls near the Hyatt area (I think its near the fish statue). Try to visit also Jettisson Port especially in the afternoon. Because its too hot there last summer I am usually at the Centerpoint Mall most of the time. Enjoy ur stay there.

  6. Eileen/ Possibly Pinay says:

    Will be going late next year pa but already looking forward to it because it will be the first trip with just the happy meal and yaya. Great tip on the Hyatt pastries – my daughter is a sucker for anything edible that looks pretty ๐Ÿ˜›

  7. saw those frog wallets in the the Philippines!!!!

  8. Hi flip. I might go to Kota this summer. I wonder if you know of a less expensive way to get there than just flying there from Manila :)) or possibly a more exciting travel route, say from Thailand.

  9. Hi flip. I might go to Kota this summer. I wonder if you know of a less expensive way to get there than just fly there from Manila :)) or possible a more exciting travel route, say from Thailand?

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