If you want to travel overland between Brunei and Kota Kinabalu in Sabah you have two options. Both options will take you all day. Option 1 is a bus, a ferry and then another ferry. Option 2 is a direct bus. Now option 2 might sound like the no brainer, but I there are actually a ridiculous number of border crossing involved (5 maybe?), and border delays can extend this long bus journey even longer.
Today it was just me and Jacob travelling, so I decided to go the option that would potentially allow him more breaks and time to run around in, allowing him to burn off some steam. That was option 1.
Step 1: Bus from BSB city to the ferry terminal
The first thing you will need to do is get yourself to the Sarasa Ferry Terminal which is just outside of the town of Muara. There is an alleged express bus which goes direct to the ferry terminal from berth 39 of the bus station. For some reason I could only find up to berth 38, so either I am delusional, or…. I dont know. But there are also several busses that go to Muara town and then you simply connect to the number 33 from Muara to the ferry terminal. I took local bus 38 which was painfully slow, but the number 33 ferry terminal bus seemed to wait for us.
Tickets on the local bus cost $1. Keep your ticket as you can use this on the number 33 bus as well.
I took the 6:30 AM bus from BSB which got me there just in time for the ferry. And I mean *just* in time, as in I was buying my ticket for the 8 AM ferry at exactly 8 AM. You will also need to go through Brunei immigration as well.
Step 2: Ferry from Muara to Labuan
The first ferry of the morning is at 8 AM. You could probably also take the 9 AM ferry and still get to Labuan in time for your connection. The ferry costs $17 and takes about an hour and a half. The ride was a little choppy, but wasn’t overly terrible. I’m sensitive to these things, so I always feel sick, no matter what the conditions.
When you arrive in Labuan you will need to go through Malaysian customs and then you can buy your onward ticket to Kota Kinabalu. Labuan is a duty free haven in Malaysia, so you can stock up on alcohol, cigarettes, and chocolate while you wait. I was mainly interested in the chocolate.
Step 3: Ferry from Labuan to KK
There appears to be two ferries a day fro Labuan to KK, one in the morning, and one at 1PM. This is the longest of the journeys. I didn’t measure the time exactly as it was very choppy and I was really concentrating on not vomiting, but I think it took about 2.5 movies to arrive. (Movies are a unit of time measurement, don’t you know?)
But man, this ride was bumpy. Even my hyper active toddler who had just been fed tons of chocolate by adoring fans during our wait in Labuan was too dizzy to try to escape. Which was good was I was too sick to care about what trouble he would have gotten himself into.
This ferry will cost you 34 Ringgit. You can also pay extra for first class with comfy reclining seats, or you can be like me and just sit there anyway cause travelling with a toddler is hard and the first seat I see is the seat I sit in.
Step 4: Arrival in KK
The city of KK was such a welcome sight to my sea sick brain. I couldn’t get off that boat quick enough. Just after you pass through the immigration check (no stamp this time though) you will come to a wide promenade and a bunch of cafes and restaurants. It’s a picturesque little spot.
After 11 hours of travel Jacob and I were much too tired to so much else. We stayed at pretty much the closest hotel to the ferry terminal. The Hotel Grandis is a beautiful building attached next to the Surya Sabah shopping complex. Jacob and I both collapsed onto the firm thick mattresses as soon as we arrived into our absolutely huge family room. This room is so large that after we had recovered a little we proceeded to run miniature races back and forth the room – that is how large it is!
The bathroom is like a sanctuary, with both an extra long bathtub, a separate shower, and a rain shower to help you relax and wash the smell of ferry and sea sickness of your skin.
But our favourite spot has to be the rooftop pool and bar/ restaurant. From the pool you can watch the boats come into the harbour and watch the sun set over the ocean and the islands in the distance. Giant cushioned pods next to the pool are great for a rest, and of course, the bar will keep you hydrated. It was perfection.
Thank you to Sabah Tourism for their assistance on this trip.