Borneo doesn’t seem to do ‘budget’ very well on the surface, certainly not compared to other, more well-known countries on the South East Asian backpacker trail. However, Kuching in Malaysian Borneo has started to appreciate what budget travelers are looking for in terms of both accommodation, and not charging over- inflated entrance fees for its prime tourist attractions.
Getting To Borneo
Air Asia, amongst many other airlines, flies direct from Kuala Lumpur’s Low Cost Carrier Terminal into Kuching, so Borneo no longer has to be quite such a distant and removed destination for budget travellers. It also means it is possible to catch a glimpse of the island cheaply and quickly as a short diversion from a journey around mainland South East Asia.
Accommodation in Kuching
Kuching is one of the only cities in Borneo that has started to cotton on to what backpackers are looking for, even though it will still be a bit of a shock to the wallet for those used to paying only a few US dollars for a bed for the night.
Two hostels that seem to be the best value for money are the Waterfront Lodge, situated as the name suggests, right in the heart of Kuching’s waterfront tourist attractions, and Singgahsana Lodge, close by. If neither of these options appeal, there are numerous other small bed and breakfast hotels dotted around the back streets close to the river to choose from.
City Center Attractions
Most of Kuching’s museums are free to get into, including the Natural History Museum, Art Museum and the Ethnology Museum. Fort Margherita, a picturesque legacy from the 1800’s and the days of the white Rajah’s of Sarawak, is also free, and it only costs 1 Ringgit for 2 people to get across to the other side of the river to see it. Kuching is a very pleasant city to stroll around, browsing the local handicraft shops and galleries and generally soaking up the relaxing atmosphere, a cheap way to spend some time unless you make a purchase, of course!
Budget Options For Eating Out In Kuching
Kuching is positively littered with cheap Chinese and Asian restaurants. Zhun San Yen Vegetarian Food Center, for example, is a haven for non-meat eaters or fans of Chinese food. They charge 1.5 ringgit per 100 grams of food taken from the buffet of over ten dishes. A full plate of food for one person came to just over 5 Ringgit, equivalent to less than two US dollars. Other cheap options to suit any taste or dietary requirement can be found in the large number of stalls and street-side cafes littering the waterfront and maze of back streets.
Orang-utans – Borneo’s Prime Tourist Attraction Semenggoh Orang-utan rehabilitation center is likely to be one of the most costly days out for a budget traveller, but even this must-see attraction does not have to cost the earth. It is easily reached from town by bus for those who are really watching their cents and dollars, or a taxi can be hired for the return journey, including waiting time, for as little as 80 Ringgit for the car, (approximately 25 US dollars.) Sharing expenses like taxi fares between at least one traveling buddy makes some of the expensive attractions a lot more affordable. Semenggoh certainly works out to be a lot more affordable than some to other wildlife experiences on the island, for example, Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary in neighboring Sabah charges over ten times Semenggoh’s entrance fee of 3 Ringgit per person, including permission to take a camera in, and still involves a taxi journey several kilometers out of town.