Situated on the beautiful island of Borneo, Sabah is one of the thirteen states which Malaysia is made of. Sabah is the second largest state in Malaysia and shares the island of Borneo with Sarawak, Brunei, and Indonesian Kalimantan.
Ideal for backpackers, Sabah is richly blessed with nature diversity, unique cultures, fun adventure, beautiful beaches, and fantastic cuisines for the adventurous taste buds. We have it all, from the world’s largest flower - the Rafflesia, one of the highest mountains is South East Asia - Mount Kinabalu, to one of the world’s top dive sites - Sipadan Island.
Not only will you be amazed by the places to see and things to do here, you will also be treated with unique Sabahan hospitality. Explore the unique culture and tradition of Sabah and get ready to experience sweet memories to last a lifetime!
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located at the centre of the Maritime Southeast Asia. This island is divided between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Indonesians refer to the Borneo Island as “Kalimantan”.
Nevertheless, for people outside of Indonesia, “Kalimantan” refers to the area which is occupied by Indonesia on the island of Borneo. Malaysia’s region of Borneo is called East Malaysia or Malaysian Borneo. The independent nation of Brunei occupies the remainder of the island, being the wealthiest of the rest.
Once known as North Borneo, Sabah was under the British colony during the late 19th century till the early 20th century. Sabah gained its independence through Malaysia on September 16, 1963. At 76, 115 square kilometers large, Sabah is the second biggest state in Malaysia after Sarawak.
People, Language and Common Customs
The people of Sabah are known as Sabahans. Sabah is the third most populous state in Malaysia after Selangor and Johor; it also has one of the highest population growth rates in the country.
There are currently 32 officially recognized ethnic groups in Sabah with the largest non-indigenous ethnic group being the Chinese and the largest indigenous group being the Kadazan-Dusun people. Two other larger ethnic groups in Sabah are the Bajau and Murut, compared to other states in the country; Sabah has relatively very small population of Indians and South Asians. Apart from the Sabahans’ very own diverse mother tongues, Bahasa Malaysia (national language) and English is widely spoken; Mandarin and some Chinese dialects are also widely spoken. In Sabah, we greet people by saying “selamat datang” (welcome) and/or “terima kasih” (thank you) with a smile. Due to religious reasons, some may prefer not to have physical contact with others. However, a handshake is generally acceptable as a way of introducing oneself.
It’s customary to remove shoes before entering a mosque as well as homes. In places of worship, visitors are required to dress modestly. Nude sunbathing is not allowed and is very frowned upon. Avoid pointing your index finger at others, as this is considered rude in the local custom.
Facts and Figures on Sabah Sabah is a state with a democratic political system with universal suffrage. Here, the Yang di-Pertua Negeri (Head of State of Sabah) sits on top of the hierarchy, followed by the State Legislative Assembly and the State Cabinet. A general Election takes place every five years for both the State and the Federal level officials.
Sabah’s economy was traditionally lumber dependent. However, with the increasing depletion of natural forests as well as ecological efforts to conserve the rainforest; palm oil has proven to be a more sustainable resource.Other than that, Sabah’s economy is highly dependent on agricultural products such rubber and cocoa. Sabah also exports other produces such as vegetables and seafood. Tourism, particularly eco-tourism, is presently the second largest contributor to the economy.
Other Important Information
Equatorial/Tropical—the climate is generally hot and sunny all year round; visitors need to wear comfortable clothing to avoid heatstroke. We also have scattered unpredictable rains, therefore, it’s advisable to always bring an umbrella in case it rains.
Lowlands (Kota Kinabalu, Kudat, Sandakan, Tawau) – 32 degrees CentigradeHighlands (Ranau, Kundasang, Tambunan) – 21 degrees Centigrade.
Bear in mind though, that Mount Kinabalu has its own climate. Temperatures can drop to freezing level above 3500 meters.
Malaysian Ringgit (RM)
Travelers’ cheques and foreign currencies can be changed for Malaysian Ringgit at banks and hotels. However, there are also money changer kiosks available at major shopping complexes and airport. Most major hotels charge a nominal fee for currency conversion.
Major Credit and Charge Cards
VISA, MasterCrad, American Express, Diners Club - credit and charge cards are accepted in almost all departmental stores , supermarkets, petrol stations and restaurants.
Standard Malaysian Time is 8 hours ahead of GMT (GMT+8)
Monday through Friday from 9.30am to 3pm
Usual Office Hours
Monday to Friday from 8am – 1pm and 2pm – 5pm; Saturday from 8am – 1pm
Shopping centers, supermarkets, restaurants and mini markets are generally open daily from 10am to 10pm.
As for tipping; food and beverages in exclusive restaurants, cafes and clubs, as well as accommodations normally include 5 per cent service charges.
Tipping is not obligatory in most places.
Electricity & Water Facilities
Electricity is on the 240 Volts AC/ 50-Cycle system; treated pipe water is available in most urban and sub-urban areas.
Mobile telecommunications cover many parts of Sabah with the exception of some remote areas. Public phones are scarcely available in most places.
Government hospitals, clinics and dispensaries are available in all towns. The list of private medical practitioners and pharmacies are available in the local phone directory. However, those with specific medical needs are advised to have a good supply of medications.