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THINGS TO DO IN KOTA KINABALU: 3 DAYS ITINERARY with a ₱15,000 Budget for 2 Persons!

Things to Do in Kota Kinabalu Tourist Spots Itinerary with a 15,000 Pesos Budget for 2 Persons

We recently traveled to Kota Kinabalu for 3 full days and spent ₱15,000 for 2 persons! Here's how we did it!


Kota Kinabalu in the state of Sabah in Malaysia is one of my favorite destinations in Malaysia with direct flights from the Philippines. I love it here because there are so many excting things to do and amazing places to visit in Kota Kinabalu. It has beautiful islands and beaches, museums, mosques, historical sites, and it's also an excellent choice if you want to go on a food trip. More to that, hotels, transportation, and activities in Kota Kinabalu are also cheap and very affordable.

So, for our recent trip to Kota Kinabalu, we only spent ₱15,000 pesos during our 3 days trip. In this KK Travel Guide Blog, I share to you our DIY itinerary with list of top things to do in Kota Kinabalu, best places to eat, where to shop for bargain souvenirs, and where to stay in Kota Kinabalu. I hope this would help you in planning a memorable and budget-friendly Malaysia adventure soon!

Best Things to do in Kota Kinabalu, Tourist Spots & Sample Itinerary



WHAT'S COVERED IN THIS KOTA KINABALU MALAYSIA TRAVEL GUIDE BLOG?


How to get to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia from Manila, Philippines?


MALAYSIA TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS for Tourists Cebu Pacific

Cebu Pacific Air flies from Manila to Kota Kinabalu twice a week!

Flights depart Manila from Ninoy Aquino International Aiport (NAIA) Terminal 3 every Monday and Friday night at 11:25 PM and arrive at Kota Kinabalu International Airport (BKI) at 01:50 AM the following day. Flights from Kota Kinabalu depart every Saturday and Tuesday at 02:35 AM and arrive in Manila at 04:40 AM.

Book your flight via www.cebupacificair.com and #LetsFlyJuansMore to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia!



IMPORTANT TRAVEL TIP: Getting a travel insurance is highly-recommended when traveling abroad. Travel with confidence anytime, anywhere you go! Get a travel insurance with Covid-19 coverage for your peace of mind!

√ GET A TRAVEL INSURANCE WITH COVID-19 COVERAGE HERE!




Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia 3 Days Itinerary for ₱15,000 Budget


Here's how we spent ₱15,000 pesos for 3 full days in Kota Kinabalu.


DAY 0 - Departure from Manila to Kota Kinabalu


From Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3, we took a Cebu Pacific Air flight from Manila to Kota Kinabalu at 11:25 pm (Friday). We arrived in Kota Kinabalu at 01:30 am the following day (Saturday). You may watch our full flight experience, starting from flight check-in to our flight arrival in Kota Kinabalu in the video below.

MUST-READ: Updated MALAYSIA TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS for Tourists



DAY 1 - Arrival, Island Hopping & Night Market


01:30 AM - Arrival in Kota Kinabalu


Upon arrival at Kota Kinabalu International Airport, we went through immigration and customs check procedures. Then, when we reached the arrival hall, we proceeded to the ATM machines to withdraw money. When we already have money in Malaysian Riggit (MYR), we bought local SIM cards to keep us connected to the internet during our trip. The SIM card costs 30 MYR each, good for 7 days.

Then we went out of the airport and booked a Grab Car to our hotel. The ride from the airport to our hotel costs 11 MYR.

02:30 AM - Check-in at the hotel


We booked for 4 nights at Pantai Inn which is a budget hotel located at the city center near Gaya Street in Kota Kinabalu. Our 4-night stay costs 5,524 pesos with set breakfast for 2 persons. It's quite a good deal considering the excellent location of the hotel. I highly recommend that you stay here for your KK trip.

SEE ROOM RATES & AVAILABILITY HERE

Hotels in Kota Kinabalu Pantai Inn near Gaya Street

NOTE: We booked for 4 nights because we want to have a place to stay as soon as we arrive in Kota Kinabalu, as well as before our flight back to Manila. For more budget hotel options in Kota Kinabalu, PLEASE CLICK HERE.

OTHER HOTELS & RESORTS IN KOTA KINABALU



CLICK HERE TO SEARCH FOR OTHER HOTELS IN KOTA KINABALU


08:00 AM - Breakfast at the hotel


The breakfast at Pantai Inn is served at their in-house restaurant called Thien Thien Restaurant at the ground floor of the hotel. For 3 days, the breakfast choices are the same, you just need to be creative in mixing and matching the dishes. You could choose from rice and noodles (mee and nasi), vegetables and beancurd (sayur dan tauhu), chicken (fried or curry), and side dishes such as chicken sausage, chicken nuggets, fish ball, fried egg, anchovies and peanuts. It also comes with brewed coffee! Breakfast for 2 persons are already included in the room rate. I personally loved their breakfast because it's authentic Malay food.

Pantai Inn Hotels in Kota Kinabalu Malaysia

09:30 AM - Depart for Jesselton Ferry Terminal


For our island hopping adventure, we went to the Jesselton Ferry Terminal where we took the speedboat going to the islands. The ferry terminal is one kilometer away from our hotel. We booked a Grab car from the hotel to the ferry terminal for 5 MYR. Travel time is around 10 minutes.

09:45 AM - Arrive at Jesselton Ferry Terminal, register and avail tour package


Since this is already our 3rd time in Kota Kinabalu, and it's our 2nd time to do this island hopping activity, we opted to do it DIY-style. Upon arrival at the Jesselton Ferry Terminal, we proceeded to the booking kiosks, registered and availed the 2 islands tour for 45.00 MYR per person.

Before proceeding to the speedboat docking area, we went to the stores and bought some breads, sandwich, and water for our lunch. We spent 30.00 MYR for our lunch.

NOTE: Additional 20 MYR per person for "Conservation Fee" will be collected when you reach the first island. Keep the conservation fee ticket because you need to present that when visiting the other islands. Below is the complete list of fees.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park Entrance Fee

10:30 AM - Start of Island Hopping Tour


When traveling to Kota Kinabalu, island hopping and enjoying the beach are two of the top activities to do in Kota Kinabalu. Here are the islands we visited on this island hopping adventure.

MANUKAN ISLAND


Manukan Island is the 2nd largest island in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. It is also the most developed in terms of facilities. It has a resort, several restaurants, and cottages for visiting tourists. Also, water activities such as scuba diving, kayaking, parasailing, banana boat ride, and many more are available here.

Things to do in Kota Kinabalu Island Hopping Budget Itinerary

We just enjoyed the beach, the sand, and the sun here. After about two hours, we decided to go to the next island.

TRAVEL TIP: If you wish to stay here overnight, you may book a room or a villa at Sutera Sanctuary Lodges on Manukan Island.

Things to do in Kota Kinabalu Island Hopping Budget Itinerary

SAPI ISLAND


On Sapi island, you could enjoy swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, and many water activities. If there's one island you should visit, this has to be it. Sapi Island has one of the nicest beaches in this marine park!

Things to do in Kota Kinabalu Island Hopping Budget Itinerary

Things to do in Kota Kinabalu Island Hopping Budget Itinerary

Here, we enjoyed our lunch that we bought from Jesselton Ferry Terminal. This is where we stayed much longer and just enjoyed exploring the island, taking photos, swimming, and so much more.

Things to do in Kota Kinabalu Island Hopping Budget Itinerary

04:00 PM - Go back to the main island


At around 4:00 pm, we decided to go back to Jesselton Ferry Terminal on the main island. When we arrived at the ferry terminal, we just walked to our hotel since we're still in our wet clothes. It's just a kilometer away, so the leisurely walk took just around 30 minutes. We then took a bath, rested for a while, and prepared for dinner at the night market.




TRAVEL TIP: For ease and convenience I highly recommend booking a Sapi and Manukan Island day tour and just enjoy the tour! With a hassle-free and all-in tour, all you need to do is relax and enjoy these two beautiful islands of Kota Kinabalu. BOOK AN ISLAND HOPPING ADVENTURE HERE!

√ For a hassle-free experience, check out these tours:



07:00 PM - Api Api Night Food Market


The best thing about traveling to Kota Kinabalu on a weekend is you'll get to experience the Api Api Night Food Market along Gaya Street every Friday and Saturday from 6:00 pm to 12:00 mn. Here, you could have a taste and enjoy so many different Malay food and drinks made especially by the locals.

Api-api Night Food Market in Kota Kinabalu Sabah Malaysia

After buying the food you want, you may go to the park across the street to enjoy your food while watching some locals perform. This night market in Kota Kinabalu is definitely a must-visit!

For dinner, we spent 30.00 MYR for 2 persons. Watch the video below for our full experience.



DAY 2 - Gaya St. Sunday Market, Handicraft Market, Seafoods Market and More!


08:00 AM - Breakfast the the hotel


Complimentary breakfast at Thien Thien Restaurant at Pantai Inn.

09:00 AM - Gaya Street Sunday Market


One of the best places to shop in Kota Kinabalu is the Gaya Street Sunday Market. Happening every Sunday from 06:00 am to 12:00 nn along the historical Gaya Street, it is an awesome place to spend your weekend morning in Kota Kinabalu.

Where to shop in Kota Kinabalu Gaya Street Sunday Market

Formerly named "Bond Street", Gaya Street is located at the business center of Kota Kinabalu. It has been the city’s center of business for more than a hundred years - where you could also find family restaurants and shops that were passed on from generations to generations.

Where to shop in Kota Kinabalu Gaya Street Sunday Market
Where to shop in Kota Kinabalu Gaya Street Sunday Market
Where to shop in Kota Kinabalu Gaya Street Sunday Market

The Sunday Market is another good reason why you should travel to Kota Kinabalu on a weekend. Here, you can buy almost everything. From various arts and handicrafts, fruits, vegetables, and plants, to souvenir items, coffee, toys, clothes, bags, and so much more! The Gaya Street Sunday Market is definitely a good place to experience the local shopping culture!

We bought ref magnets, a t-shirt, and some snacks for 38 MYR. Please watch the video below for our full experience.


12:00 NN - Lunch at Kedai Kopi Yee Fung


Where to eat in Kota Kinabalu? Located along Gaya Street, Malaysia, Kedai Kopi Yee Fung has been in operation since 1984. Highly recommended by the locals, they are known for their three signature dishes: Curry Laksa, Claypot Chicken Rice, and Beef Noodles.

Best Restaurants in KK Kedai Kopi Yee Fung Laksa

We got to try the Curry Laksa and the Claypot Chicken Rice! Masarap mga beshhhh!!! At mura lang! 8.50 MYR lang per serving! Sobrang sulit! For drinks, we had Ice Lemon Kitchai for 3.50 MYR and Teh Tarik Ice for 4.00 MYR. All in all, we spent 25.95 MYR, tax included.

Best Restaurants in KK Kedai Kopi Yee Fung Laksa
Best Restaurants in KK Kedai Kopi Yee Fung Laksa
Best Restaurants in KK Kedai Kopi Yee Fung Laksa

Kedai Kopi Yee Fung is open from Monday to Friday from 06:30 am to 06:00 pm. Every Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays, they are open from 06:30 am to 04:00 pm.


01:00 PM - Coffee at OldTown White Coffee


When you walk around Kota Kinabalu, Kopitiams or Coffee Shops are all over the place. One of the most popular coffee shop chain in Malaysia is OldTown White Coffee which we got to try for the first time during our recent KK trip. Founded in 1999, it is not just a coffee shop but a restaurant that serves a wide variety of dishes such as pasta, sandwiches, rice meals, and many more. So, aside from coffee, you could also enjoy their menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Here, we had White Coffee Latte (11.40 MYR), Teh Tarik Float (9.20 MYR) and Garlic Toast (5.60 MYR). All in all, we spent 26.20 MYR, inclusive of tax and service charge at OldTown White Coffee.



Since we've been eating a lot, we decided to go the the Handicraft Market so we could walk around and maybe find some souvenirs that we could bring back home.

02:30 PM - Handicraft Market


Where to shop for souvernirs and pasalubong in Kota Kinabalu? Go to the Handicraft Market along Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens, Pusat Bandar, near Pasar Besar Kota Kinabalu (Big Market in Kota Kinabalu).

Also known as "Filipino Market", it is a popular shopping destination for local and foreign tourists hunting for bargain souvenirs, arts, handicrafts, and many items and local products that they could bring back home. Here, you'll find pearl jewelries and accessories, bags, clothes, ref magnets, key chains, home decors, and so much more. Always be ready with your haggling skills so you'll get some good discounts.


We bought a souvenit shirt for 27.00 MYR and a wallet for 10.00 MYR. We spent a total of 37.00 MYR at Handicraft Market.

Handicraft Market is open daily from 08:00 am to 10:00 pm. Don't miss to include this in your Kota Kinabalu itinerary!

04:00 PM - Back at the hotel


We walked back to our hotel to rest and to freshen up.

05:00 PM - Sunset at Todak Waterfront


At around 5:00 pm, we went out of the hotel and walked for about 15 minutes to Todak Waterfront. Also located along Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens, the waterfront is where many locals and tourists go, especially in the late afternoon to hangout and to watch the sunset. This is also where you could find the Marlin Monument, the I Love KK sign, and the Todak Waterfront Seafood Market.

Best Things to Do in KOTA KINABALU 2023

06:00 PM - Dinner at Todak Waterfront Seafood Market


After enjoying the sunset, we went to the Todak Waterfront Seafood Market or Hawkers Center to have dinner. It's a seafood market where you choose live and fresh seafoods and they will cook it for you. Food were great and it's also quite cheap! We only spent 60 MYR for our dinner that is good for 2 persons.

Please watch the video below to know what we ordered and how we really enjoyed our seafoods dinner.



√ For hassle-free culinary tour in Kota Kinabalu, you may join a Kota Kinabalu City Night Tour with Seafood Dinner.



DAY 3 - Mari Mari Cultural Village, Sabahan Dinner and Departure


07:00 AM - Breakfast at the hotel


We woke up early and had our complimentary breakfast at Pantai Inn's Thien Thien Restaurant.

09:00 AM - Depart for Mari Mari Cultutal Village


After breakfast, we prepared and left the hotel at around 09:00 am because we need to be at Mari Mari Cultural Village before the scheduled tour at 10:00 am. To get to the village, we booked a Grab Car for 22 MYR. Travel time from Kota Kinabalu City center to the village is around 30 minutes.

Places to visit in Kota Kinabalu Tourist Spots and Things to do in Sabah Malaysia

09:30 AM - Arrival at Mari Mari Cultural Village


Upon arrival, we proceded to the registration area to buy our tickets. Entrance fee is 100 MYR for adults and 90 MYR for children aged 5 to 11 years old. Included in package are the entrance fee, guided tour, demonstrations and activities, cultural performances, and lunch or high tea. PRE-BOOK YOUR ENTRANCE TICKETS HERE!

Places to visit in Kota Kinabalu Tourist Spots and Things to do in Sabah Malaysia

09:45 AM - Introduction and Orientation


When visiting Mari Mari Cultural Village, you may join one of the two scheduled sessions. The morning session starts at 10:00 am and the afternoon session starts at 02:00 pm. Be sure to be there at least 15 minutes before the start of the scheduled tour.
Places to visit in Kota Kinabalu Tourist Spots and Things to do in Sabah Malaysia

10:00 AM - Start of Tour


Mari Mari Cultural Village is one of the best places to visit in Kota Kinabalu. Located deep in the countryside, it offers an opportunity to experience a little of Sabah’s culture and traditions - a perfect getaway for the whole family!

Places to visit in Kota Kinabalu Tourist Spots and Things to do in Sabah Malaysia
Places to visit in Kota Kinabalu Tourist Spots and Things to do in Sabah Malaysia
Places to visit in Kota Kinabalu Tourist Spots and Things to do in Sabah Malaysia

Here, you'll get to have a glimpse of the culture and lifestyle of the 5 indigenous tribes of Sabah communities, namely Bajau, Lundayeh, Murut, Rungus and Dusun. Not only that, you'll also get to enter their traditional houses, see their costumes and witness their tribal skills such as rope making, cooking, fire starting, rice wine making and many more. As a living museum, visitors could also learn the tribes’ culinary specialties and have a taste of their traditional dishes and drinks through live cooking demonstrations and taste tests.



The tour ends with a cultural show and a hearty buffet lunch for morning session or high tea for afternoon session.

√ For hassle-free Mari Mari Cultural Village tour, you may join a Mari Mari Cultural Village Tour with Klias River and Fireflies Cruise.



01:30 PM - End of tour


From Mari Mari Cultural Village, we booked a Grab Car to Kota Kinabalu City Center. Fare is 22 MYR and travel time is around 30 minutes.

02:15 PM - Back the the hotel


We took a rest and freshen-up.

04:00 PM - Aftenoon Coffee and Snacks


As I mentioned, kopitiams or coffee shops can be found in many places in Kota Kinabalu. For our afternoon coffee and snacks, we went to Guan Kopitiam along Gaya Street. We had Hot White Coffee (3.50 MYR), Cold Cham (4.50 MYR), Soft Bun (3.80 MYR) and Kaya Butter Toast (3.50 MYR). All in all, we spent 16.20 MYR including taxes and service charge at Guan Kopitiam.

Guan Kopitiam Coffee Shops Gaya Street Kota Kinabalu

05:30 PM - Back at the hotel


We then walked back to our hotel and fixed our things and prepared our bags for our flight.

07:00 PM - Dinner at Little Sulap


Little Sulap is a small local restaurant serving Sabahan cuisines and some western choices for those who want to try other dishes. At Little Sulap, we got to try their Original Sabahan Set (18 MYR) which is served with brown rice, crispy Ginuring Basung (fried fish), four local side dishes, salted egg, and turmeric sour soup. We also ordered Chicken Delight (12 MYR) and two shakes (22 MYR) for our drinks. All in all, we spent 52 MYR for our dinner at Little Sulap.

Restaurants in Kota Kinabalu Little Sulap Original Sabahan Cuisines

Little Sulap is located at No. 3A, Garden Hotel, along Jalan Dewan, Austalia Lane, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Just use Google maps to find it. They are open daily from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm.

09:00 PM - Back at the hotel


We walked back to our hotel to prepare, fix our bags and to check out.

11:00 PM - Hotel check out and travel to airport


We checked-out of our hotel and booked a Grab car to Kota Kinabalu International Airport for our flight back to Manila at 02:35 am the following day. Travel time from the city center to the airport is around 15-20 minutes and fare is 11 MYR.

MALAYSIA TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS for Tourists Cebu Pacific

At around 11:45 pm, we're done checking-in for our flight and just waited in the airport for our 02:35 am flight to Manila via Cebu Pacific Air.

For more details on the travel requirements and process in traveling back to the Philippines, please read this post.

√ For more things to do in Kota Kinabalu, tourist spots and places to visit, check out my previous post Kota Kinabalu Travel Guide Blog with Sample DIY Itinerary.


SUMMARY OF EXPENSES


Here's a summary of our expenses for 3 full days in Kota Kinabalu.
DAY 1 Per Person (MYR) For 2 Persons (MYR)
SIM Card 30.00 60.00
Grab Car (Airport to Hotel) 11.00
Grab Car (Hotel to Jesselton Ferry Terminal) 5.00
Ferry Transfers to the islands 45.00 90.00
Lunch 15.00 30.00
Conservation Fee 20.00 40.00
Dinner at the Night Market 15.00 30.00
TOTAL 266.00


DAY 2 Per Person (MYR) For 2 Persons (MYR)
Gaya Street Sunday Market Souvenirs and Snacks 38.00
Lunch at Kedai Kopi Yee Fung 25.95
Coffee and Snacks at OldTown White Coffee 26.20
Handicraft Market Souvenirs 37.00
Dinner at Todak Waterfront Seafood Market 60.00
TOTAL 187.15


DAY 3 Per Person (MYR) For 2 Persons (MYR)
Grab Car from Hotel to Mari Mari Cultural Village 22.00
Mari Mari Cultural Village Entrance Fee 100.00 200.00
Grab Car from Mari Mari Cultural Village to Hotel 22.00
Coffee and Snacks at Guan Kopitiam 16.20
Dinner at Little Sulap 52.00
Grab Car from Hotel to Airport 11.00
TOTAL 323.20

BREAKDOWN:

  • DAY 1 - 266.00 MYR
  • DAY 2 - 187.15 MYR
  • Day 3 - 323.20 MYR

TOTAL - 776.35 MYR or 9,471.47 PHP


+ HOTEL (4 NIGHTS) - 5,524.00 PHP


GRAND TOTAL - 14,995.47 PHP for 2 Persons



NOTES:
  • Exchange rate during our trip is 1 MYR = 12.20 PHP.
  • Not included in the budget are the roundtrip airfare, travel insurance, NAIA terminal fee, travel tax, and check-in baggage fees.
  • Exchange rates, ticket prices, hotel room rates, tour prices, and other expenses are subject to change and depend on the date of your trip. Feel free to tweak this itinerary based on the tourist spots you want to visit and the things you want to do in Kota Kinabalu.
  • Always make sure to have extra money for any emergencies and unexpected expenses.


KOTA KINABALU TRAVEL TIPS AND REMINDERS FOR FIRST-TIMERS


  • Plan your trip on a weekend. I recommend that you take the Cebu Pacific flight to Kota Kinabalu that leaves Manila every Friday night. This will let you experience the Api-api Night Market and the Gaya Street Sunday Market, which happens every weekend.
  • Weather in Kota Kinabalu is most of the time hot and humid. I recommend that you wear light and breathable clothes, but not too revealing. Also, don't forget to bring light jacket, umbrella or raincoat for occasional rains.
  • Don't forget to bring your swimming clothes if you'll go island hopping.
  • Since you'll be walking a lot during the tours, wear comfortable shoes or sandals.
  • When visiting places of worship such as mosques, do not wear tank tops (or other sleeveless shirts), see-through shirts, or shorts. For men, it is important to wear long trousers or pants, short-sleeved shirts are okay. Women should cover their hair and arms, ankle-length skirts or pants are required. Always take off your shoes before entering a mosque.
  • To save on travel expenses, book a hotel that comes with free breakfast. Also, if you're traveling alone, you may book a hostel which are really cheap and won't break your wallet. For the list of hotels and hostels in Kota Kinabalu, PLEASE CLICK HERE.
  • Walk if you can. Many of the destinations and restaurants in Kota Kinabalu can be reached by walking if you are staying within the city center or near Gaya Street. So, it's better if you book a hotel that is located at the city center.
  • If you need to use public transportation, I suggest that you use the Grab App. It's so convenient to use and it's not that expensive to get from one place to another. We usually use this if the destination we want to visit is more that one kilometer away, otherwise, we just walk to save on travel expenses.



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