Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah, Malaysia, in Borneo, the world's third largest island. Although a small city it offers and differs a lot from its South East Asian neighbours for the budget conscious tourist. With pristine clean streets, weekly street markets, a world renown night food court and islands a mere stones throw away it's a remarkable city.
Due to its excellent location, Kota Kinabalu can make a great launching pad for jungle treks, rafting, snorkelling, orange-utan and wildlife watching, not to mention trips to Brunei, Sarawak or mainland Malaysia.
If you're looking for affordable accommodation beside a beach in Kota Kinabalu this is the area you'll find it in. A short ten minute bus trip (No 16 bus) from the Wawasan plaza area and with cheap metered taxis offering even shorter rides you are never far away from the city centre. The beaches are not world class, but they do offer world class sunsets and a chance to mix with locals who often frequent them. For budget eats, day time cafés or hotel lodgings are best, while at night you can try the evening food stalls set up along Tanjung Aru Beach.
Jalan Gaya is the main tourist street in Kota Kinabalu at the heart of the city and only a ten minute taxi ride away from the airport. Both along the street itself and off its side streets are a host of budget hotels and hostels. On Sundays the street closes to traffic and hosts an ever popular weekend market filled with handicrafts, souvenirs, food stalls and several live local musicians.
For the rest of the week Jalan Gaya is a pleasant street made up of popular cafés and restaurants. For budget conscious travellers try the cafés at either end of the street rather than in the middle. Better yet in the evening just head straight to Kota Kinabalu's night market for freshly cooked dishes from all of South East Asia.
A short walk from Jalan Gaya is Lorong Dewan where budget travellers can find excellent value accommodation. Lorong Dewan is the main road area in front of Atkinson Clock Tower and on either side are several backpacker style lodgings and cheap hotels to choose from. For those looking to be away from the crowds and weekend markets, accommodation here is perfect. Though crossing the main road can be a little tricky so make sure you use the pedestrian crossings at either end.
With Kota Kinabalu being a very walkable city you will have no problem staying here and walking across the city to the famous night café in a leisurely 15 minute stroll during the evening. During the daytime, try visiting the Atkinson Clock tower before continuing on to the look-out point on the hillside above that gives a full view of the city below.
This content was contributed by David Ways.