1. When is the best time to go to Borneo?
Travelers can visit Borneo any time of the year, though the country does have two very distinct seasons. The dry season runs from March through August, and the wet season runs from September through February. Rainfall is typically quite sporadic in the wet season, with some weeks seeing no rain and others being completely drenched. This creates the possibility of planning a trip to Borneo with fewer tourists, smaller crowds, and perhaps great weather during the wet season. Temperatures are affected by the altitude as well, with the higher elevation parts of the region being significantly cooler than the coastline. The entire region enjoys consistent temperatures year-round, ranging from 80F - 90F in the lowlands and 65F - 75F in the mountains.
2. What are the accommodations like?
In Borneo, we strive to use charming accommodations that are locally owned and characteristic of the area. These range from unique, family-run bed & breakfasts to luxurious, boutique island hotels. Most hotels have private baths, hot water and clean, comfortable rooms except in instances where noted such as the Laban Rata climbing hut on Mount Kinabalu or rural family-run guesthouses. We strive to also find hotels in good locations, whether that be walking distance to main attractions, or deep in the jungle where wildlife viewing is at its prime. Larger hotels are used in metropolitan areas as typically these are the only available options.
3. Do I need a converter/adapter for the electricity?
Borneo uses 230/240 Volts, 50Hz electricity. They use type G power sockets, similar to those used in Britain. It is recommended to bring a converter or to purchase one upon arrival.
4. Are meals included?
We have tried to balance flexibility and convenience regarding meal options. For this reason, we include meals on any of our tour days when you are traveling off the beaten path where restaurant choices are limited. In the major cities, where there are a wide variety of restaurants, we generally do not include meals, to allow our travelers the flexibility of choosing their own food preferences. Your tour leader will always recommend some great restaurant options and will usually offer to join any group members who would like to go out to eat together. Your hotel will also provide a light continental breakfast on these days.
5. What are the tour guides like?
Our tour leaders are exceptional! They are fluent in English and Malay, and some speak other rural dialects as well. Our tour leaders receive an official guide license after fulfilling a government training program. In addition, guides go through an Adventure Life training specific to our services and tours. Many were born and raised in the local areas where they guide and are among the very best guides available in each region. Some specialize in specific adventure activities as well, such as hiking. All of our tour leaders treat our travelers like friends, showing visitors both the major highlights and the local treasures.
6. What type of transportation is used?
Our Borneo tours utilize a variety of transportation including private vans/cars, internal flights, etc. We use a mix of private/public transit to provide travelers with the safest and most efficient transportation in each area. Occasionally, we may include non-typical transportation modes (bicycle, ferry, taxi, etc.) for short distances to give travelers a sense of local flavor. Each tour itinerary page has a description of the transportation included on that tour. If you have additional questions, just ask!
7. What type of food is typical of Borneo?
Fitting Bornean cuisine into a neat category is an impossible task - in the northeastern Malaysian state of Sabah, there are 28 recognized indigenous groups and over half a million ethnic Chinese, each with their own distinct style in the kitchen. When dining out in Kota Kinabalu or Sandakan, you’ll find that seafood and freshwater fish are a staple ingredient. Fish or pork can be grilled, barbecued, fried with rice, combined with noodles in spicy soup, or sautéed with local vegetables like garlic and ginger, and topped off with rich sauces. Dishes are easily made vegetarian, and most restaurant staff speak English, so don’t be shy to customize your order.
8. Are these trips suitable for kids?
It depends. If your children enjoy wildlife, learning about other cultures, and meeting new people, Borneo may be a great choice. Keep in mind that US food, video games, television, etc. may not be readily available so prepare your kids ahead of time so that they will have reasonable expectations. We realize that you know your kids best so we will be happy to answer all of your questions and try to give you the most accurate impression of what to expect. However, please remember that these are adventure tours and flexibility is essential! To make family tours easier, we often recommend having a private group and guide, though families with well-behaved children are welcome on our group departures as well. We have special private tour rates for families- please ask your trip coordinator if you are interested.
9. What is the typical age range on the Borneo tours?
Typically, ages range from 25 to 65, however we have seen children as young as 6 and the "young at heart" as old as 90 on our trips!
10. Are these trips a good choice for solo travelers?
Absolutely! Our Borneo tours tend to attract a great mix of solo travelers, families, friends, etc. We can often match you up with another group traveling on one of the set tours, or one with a more customized twist so long as it lines up with your dates and budget. Solo travelers should also take a look at our exclusive Solo Traveler Departures.
11. Do tour rates include international flights?
Tour rates do not include international flights. We find that it is usually less expensive for travelers to book these separately and this also allows you the flexibility to choose the schedule and routing that is most convenient for you. You can purchase international flights on your own, or we can certainly help you arrange these flights with an airfare consolidator who specializes in international flights.
12. How do I get to the hotel from the airport when I arrive?
We can arrange an airport transfer for you or you can take a local taxi. There is a transportation desk inside the airport that can help you arrange an official taxi when you arrive if desired.
13. Are there any discounts available?
Absolutely! We offer select trip discounts periodically throughout the year. Check out our Travel Discounts page for the latest offers and on-going discounts.
14. How much should I budget for tips?
Tips are not required on any of our tours. However, it is customary to offer a small tip for exceptional service. Tipping amounts vary widely, but we recommend $7-$10 per day for your guide and $2-$3 per day for a driver for a full day tour. Other travelers opt to bring small gifts from their home to give to service providers along the way.
15. How far in advance should I book?
You can book your Borneo tour at any time and generally the earlier you book, the better. Booking early (3 months or more recommended) is especially important for travelers visiting during the high season to ensure that first choice hotels are still available. It is particularly important for travelers who wish to climb Mt. Kinabalu to book as far in advance as possible, as there are a limited number of climbing passes issued for each day. Further, we usually recommend that you wait to book your international flights until after your tour is confirmed. The sooner that we arrange your tour, the sooner that you can take advantage of flight deals as they become available. We are often able to accommodate last minute travelers as well (some even departing in less than one week!!), so give us a call and we will do our best! For last minute bookings, it helps to be flexible and organized. Your first choice hotel may not be available for your selected dates, but your trip planner can recommend some similar options that would be equally interesting!
16. Are tour dates flexible?
YES. Please contact us if you are not able to travel on the set departure dates listed online. Most tours can be arranged on alternative departure dates for a minimum of two travelers as long as hotels and a guide are available.
17. Can I extend or change my stay?
Absolutely! Give us a call for suggestions in the region. We can easily arrange for extensions to other Southeast Asia destinations such as mainland Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam or Thailand. Let us know how you would like to customize your trip and we will do our best to accommodate you.
18. What should I pack?
You will receive a detailed packing list after you book your tour. Since the climate varies depending upon locations and season, it is difficult to offer many generalizations. Comfort is the rule and fancy clothes are not necessary for any of our Borneo tours.
19. How concerned should I be about the altitude?
Travelers planning to visit Kinabalu National Park, climb Mt. Kinabalu or trek the Crocker Range should be aware of the altitude difference between these locations and sea level. Kinabalu National Park Headquarters sits at 5,000 feet, the summit of Mt. Kinabalu is 13,435 feet, and the Crocker Range Trek will reach altitudes of 5,000 feet. For travelers planning to climb Mt. Kinabalu, keep in mind that severe altitude sickness is rare. In this case, the best treatment is to go down in elevation as soon as possible. We have never had a traveler that had to be evacuated to low altitude. Many severe cases of altitude sickness are the result of a pre-existing condition that is aggravated by the altitude. It is important to ask your doctor whether or not travel to high altitude is advised, especially if you have a pre-existing heart or lung condition such as high blood pressure, asthma, angina, etc. You might also want to ask your doctor about prescription Diamox, a diuretic that many travelers swear by to help them adjust to the altitude more readily.
20. Are leeches a problem during jungle treks?
Leeches are a common occurrence in the jungles of Borneo and if you are hiking during the wet season or after a rainshower, you may find a leech has tagged along for a ride on your shoes or pants. If the leech does get to your skin and bites you, it is not a cause for alarm. Leech bites can cause some irritation but they are generally not considered harmful. Your guide will be quick to help you remove the leech, which can be easily done by detaching it with your fingernail. Keep the bite clean and it will heal quickly. It is recommended to avoid leeches by wearing long pants tucked into your socks, wearing insect repellent, or by wearing specialized leech socks which you can order online before your trip or purchase in Kota Kinabalu when you arrive.
21. How safe is Borneo?
Malaysia (Borneo is an island, our tours operate in the northern state of Sabah, Malaysia) is a relatively safe country both in the rural countryside as well as in larger cities. As always, travelers need to be aware of their surroundings and use common sense when venturing out at night. However, crime rates in general are very low, particularly against tourists. The most common issue reported are pickpockets when visiting crowded marketplaces or shopping areas. Be wise and keep your possessions hidden under your top layer of clothing to prevent anything from being stolen.
22. Is the water safe to drink?
The tap water is generally NOT safe to drink anywhere in Borneo. Bottled water is readily available at tourist sites, hotels, & restaurants, and hot water (boiled to make it safe) or hot tea is generally offered with a meal at a restaurant. Travelers can also use bottled water when brushing your teeth to be extra cautious.
23. Can I use US dollars or do I need local currency? What is the local currency, exchange rate, etc.?
The Malaysian Ringgit (RM) is the official currency. It's a good idea to arrive in Borneo with US dollars which you can exchange locally. You can also order Ringgit from your bank before you travel. Note that torn and old US dollar notes are not generally accepted in Borneo. Make sure to bring crisp, untorn and unmarked bills with you for exchange. Upon arrival, you should plan to exchange your money at a bank. The airports and hotels generally will give you a worse exchange rate. Check out a currency converter such as, www.oanda.com/currency/converter/, for the latest exchange rates.
24. Should I bring cash or Traveler's checks? Are ATMs available? Can I use credit cards?
Credit cards (Visa & MasterCard) are accepted in major hotels and in most cafes and restaurants. Smaller, local shops and grocery stores will only accept cash. American Express is not widely accepted. Please note that there is usually a levy of 2 - 3% charged on credit card purchases. ATM's are widely available in cities and towns. Traveler's checks are fine, but they can be more difficult to exchange and you will usually receive a poorer rate or be charged an additional fee.
25. Can I use my cell phone?
Depending on your provider, some mobile phones will receive a signal in major towns like Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan. You should contact your phone carrier to find out if your phone will work properly. Another option is to buy a local SIM card once you are in Borneo if you do have an unlocked phone. It is advised to also double check your international calling rates with your provider. Services for making international phone calls are widely available in tourist areas. All major tourism centers offer internet access and some provide chat-webcams, however keep in mind that the internet connection is much slower than what you are used to at home and video-chat may be frustrating. Email is the cheapest and fastest way to communicate while traveling in Borneo. All hotels will have free wifi in the lobby and common areas, although not all accommodations will have wifi available in your room.
26. Do I need a visa/passport?
To travel to Malaysia, all travelers will all need a passport valid for at least 6 months after they depart. Currently, citizens from the US do not need a visa, and will receive an immigration stamp upon arrival and are allowed to stay in Malaysia for up to 90 days. Travelers from other nationalities should check with the Malaysian Embassy for visa information. Entry requirements change with surprising frequency. It is each traveler's responsibility to check with the consulate for the most up-to-date visa information.
27. What immunizations are recommended/required?
No immunizations are currently required for visiting Borneo. A yellow fever vaccination is required if you are arriving from another country with risk of yellow fever. This vaccination, which is valid for 10 years, must be administered at least 10 days before your arrival in the destination with yellow fever risk. Travelers must bring along their International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) as proof of vaccination. Hepatitis A and Typhoid are recommended. Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, Malaria, and Rabies preventatives are also loosely recommended depending on where you plan to travel in Malaysia. For the most current information, please consult your doctor and/or check out the Center for Disease Control web-site.
28. What time zone is Borneo?
Borneo is in the Malaysia Time Zone (MYT), or UTC+08:00.
29. Is travel insurance recommended?
Absolutely!!! We work with a company called TravelGuard that provides reasonably priced insurance for trip cancellation, medical expenses, medical evacuation, lost bags, etc. They have two different types of insurance available, depending upon whether or not you will need the cancellation coverage. Check out our Once You're Booked page for more information.