Bus terminal

Traveling in Sabah by Buses

For backpackers, taking bus is the most economic way of travelling in Sabah. I had seen many tourists came to bus stations with very limited info, asking about the bus service and timetable. Though our bus services can take them to most part of Sabah, it’s hard for foreigners without any comprehensive guide.

In general, there are 4 types of buses around Kota Kinabalu city (KK), the capital of Sabah:
1. Long-Distance Bus: take you to other major towns/cities in Sabah.
2. Local Bus: take you to suburban areas and vicinity of KK.
3. City Bus: take you around every corner of KK.
4. Airport Bus: transfer passengers between KK International Airports and KK City.

I’ll briefly go through each of them below.

1. Long-Distance Bus

Also known as Express Bus, Long-Distance Bus is colorful and air-conditionedbig bus that can bring you to important cities/towns such as Sandakan, Tawau, Semporna, Lahad Datu, Kunak and Keningau. Normally, the earliest departure time is 6:30am, the last bus departs around 8:00pm. Just go to the terminal before departure time, purchase the fare at ticket counter and get on the bus. Long-Distance Bus will stop in the bus terminal of your destination city. Taxi is available around bus terminal for you to move on to other places. In KK, there are 3 bus terminals to take Long-Distance Bus.

Sabah road map
Pic: main road and towns/cities of Sabah

a. Inanam Bus Terminal (North)

Located in Inanam, about 10 KM away from KK, this is the MOST important Long-Distance Bus Terminal. Most buses here take you to key cities of East Coast, and most buseswill pass by Kinabalu Park in 90 minutes (you can ask them to drop you there). City Bus (Zone North (Utara)) can take you from KK city to this terminal.

Tour package to Kinabatangan

City Bus Terminal (North)
Terminal Bas Bandaraya (Utara)
Pic: North Bus Terminal Inanam

Below is its location map:

View My Sabah Map in a larger map

For the same destination, there would be a few bus operators. Just walk around their ticket counters and pick the one that departs at your preferred time. Personally I like Tung Ma Express and Dyana Express. Since it’s a long journey, the long-distance buses will stop for breakfast/lunch/dinner and toilet break along the way. You can find their mobile phone numbers on the bus ticket. You can even call them to fetch you at Kinabalu Park and Sepilok junction in returning trip.

b. Padang Merdeka

Padang Merdeka (Merdeka Field) Bus Terminal is near the KK city center and very convenient. You can take buses to most city/towns in West Coast and Interior of Sabah. e.g. Kundasang (Kinabalu Park), Ranau, Keningau, Tuaran, Kota Belud, Kudat, Kota Marudu, Tenom and Tambunan.

Padang Merdeka Bus Terminal
Pic: Padang Merdeka Bus Terminal

Below is its location map:

View My Sabah Map in a larger map

Though there are some big buses, most are mini-van, which only departs when the car is full. You would end up waiting for an hour.

c. City Park Bus Terminal

This bus terminal is in KK city center too, in front of the Court. From there, you can travel to Sipitang, Sarawak (Lawas, Miri) and Brunei.

City Park Bus Terminal
Pic: City Park Bus Terminal

View My Sabah Map in a larger map

You may Click the picture below to download the 28-page Long-Distance Bus service guide:
Long-Distance Bus service guide
Or Click Here to view the Long-Distance Bus Guide of Sabah online. This guide has the info on bus fares, timetable, trip duration, bus terminals (of all cities), list of bus operators and contact.

Note: USD1 = RM3 (Malaysian Ringgit)

2. Local Bus (Kota Kinabalu)

Local bus (known as Mini-Bus locally) can take you to suburban areas and vicinity of KK. e.g. Inanam, Menggatal, Telipok, Tuaran, Tamparuli, Penampang, Dongongon, Luyang, Kepayan, Putatan, Tanjung Aru, Lok Kawi, Papar. Most of them are mini-bus without air-conditioning, and they don’t have any schedule. During non-peak hours, you need to wait some time, until the bus is full, only then they depart.

Local Bus
The local mini-bus terminals (each serves different route) arefound3 locations in city centre:

  1. Marina Court Terminal: buses to Luyang, Penampang, Sembulan, Tanjung Aru, Lok Kawi, Papar, etc. (see location map)
  2. KK Shangri-La Hotel Terminal: buses to Likas, Inanam, City Mall, Menggatal, Menggatal, Tuaran, Tamparuli, etc. (see location map)
  3. Wisma Bandaraya Terminal: buses to Sepangar, Tuaran, Sulaman, etc. (see location map)

Temporary bus routes in and out of KK city centre
You may check out the route map (bus routes in and out of KK city centre) and follow www.kotakinabalucitybus.com for updates.

3. City Bus (Kota Kinabalu)

To go to other location in KK city center, you can take air-conditioned City Bus that moves on three fixed routes in 10-min to 60-min interval. The bus fare costs RM1.50 (?USD0.50) per way.

KK City Bus
The City Bus terminals (each serves different route)are found in3 locations in city centre:

  1. Marina Court: city bus circling in Route A. i.e. Marina Court ? Wawasan Plaza ? Waterfront ? Kota Kinabalu Central Market ? Wisma Sabah ? Suria Sabah ? Jesselton Point ? Old Warehouse ? Jalan Pantai Road ? Warisan Square ? Marina Court (see location map)
  2. Wisma Budaya: city bus moving in Route B. i.e. Wisma Budaya ? Kota Kinabalu City Hall ? Old Warehouse ? Wisma Merdeka ? KK Plaza ? Asia City ? Indonesia Consulate ? Chung Hwa School (see location map)
  3. Bandaran Berjaya: city bus circling in Route C. i.e. Karamunsing Police Station ? Karamunsing Complex ? Wisma Radio ? Karamunsing Capital ? BSN Bank ? Marina Court (see location map)

Note: City Bus is constantly adding new routes to outskirt area of KK. A few new routes are not added to the list above (Sorry, I’ll update it as soon as I can). You may look at the route map of KK City Bus below for full info:
Kota Kinabalu City Bus routes
You may download or check out the full route map (Kota Kinabalu City Bus Routes), visit www.kotakinabalucitybus.com or follow KK City Bus Facebook for info and updates. (Update: (May 2015) new Luyang / Damai route is in operation)

Do download all guides above. All the files are in PDF or PNG format so you can save them on your smartphone and iPad for reference anytime.

4. Airport Bus (Kota Kinabalu)

Airport Bus transfers passengers between KK City and two KK International Airports (KKIA), i.e., Terminal 1 and 2. This is a new shuttle service started in Dec 2013, and its station is located in Padang Merdeka (Merdeka Field).

Airport Bus
For more info on its schedule and route, please read my article Bus Service between Kota Kinabalu and KKIA Airports (Terminal 1 & 2).

Popular Destinations

Below are the top 3 attractions that backpackers ask for direction by bus. Our bus companies are very used to such requests. Just let them know your destination and they will be happy to help you.

1. How to go to Kinabalu Park?
Go to Long-Distance Bus Terminal in Inanam, get on any bus that heads to Sandakan, Lahad Datu or Tawau. About 1.5 hour later, you will reach Kinabalu Park. You will see the signage before Kinabalu Park. Or, take the mini-van (no air-conditioning) at Padang Merdeka (Merdeka Field). Taxi and limo are also available in both terminals.

2. How to go to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center?
Go to Long-Distance Bus Terminal in Inanam, get on any bus that heads to Sandakan. Tell the bus conductor that you want to go to Sepilok. The bus will drop you at the roundabout of Sepilok junction. You need to walk only 2 KM to reach Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center.

3. How to go to Semporna?
Go to Long-Distance Bus Terminal in Inanam, get on any bus that heads to Semporna. Easy.

Things to Note

  1. Take care of your personal belonging. Keep your valuable stuffs close with you. Beware of pickpocket in the bus. This is common sense, no matter which country you travel, not that Sabah is not safe.
  2. Taxi is readily available near bus terminal. They don’t use meter and many charge tourist higher price. Do negotiate with them.
  3. Don’t take unlicensed taxi. Illegal taxi driver is the first to approach you once you step out of bus. Just ignore them. Registered taxi vehicles are in red+white or yellow+black colors.
  4. Be warned that if you take unlicensed transport, it’ll badly affect your insurance compensation in case any untoward happens.
  5. For lady, don’t travel alone in public transport at night.
  6. You are welcome to ask the locals for direction and information. Sabah people are very friendly and helpful. Many speak well in English. In Malaysia language, Bus is “Bas” and Taxi is “Teksi”.
  7. All transaction is in cash term. Prepare small change.
  8. If no taxi in sight, you can walk to the reception counter of any hotel nearby. They can call a taxi for you. Of course the fee is higher.
  9. You can request the bus conductor to alert you when you reach the destination.
  10. Bus and van with upper half in white color and lower half in green color are vehicles of travel agents. They are not public transport.

Special Thanks

Please thank Mr. Toshihiro Inoue, a kind Japanese working for Public Transport Unit, Ministry of Infrastructure Development, Sabah as a JICA Volunteer (Apr 2011 – Mar 2013). He spends months of hardwork to collect information of Sabah bus services and write three extremely useful guides, which I’ll share in this blog. Please leave a comment here to thank him if you find it useful.

42 thoughts on “Traveling in Sabah by Buses

  1. Excellent guide, and it is rather embarrassing that it is done by a Japanese volunteer and not our Ministry of Transportation or Tourism…..

    1. I totally agree with you LHS. But to be frank, it’s quite a painstaking process to collect all this and write a guide.

  2. Thanks for collecting all this information and providing these PDFs, Mr. Toshihiro Inoue!
    And thanks mysabah for sharing it here!

  3. If you’re going to Ranau Town or Kundasang, there are vans and 4WD (Toyota Unser) in Padang Merdeka. I should know because my hometown is Ranau. Fares (one way): Van RM15, Unser RM16. I normally travel by Unser 🙂

    1. Hi Ennie,

      My friends and I are going to Mount Kinabalu in February 2015, our flight reach KK airport is around 12 something, is that possible for us to go Padang merdeka and on the spot get a taxi or van service to go Kota Kinabalu National Park? Because I called a few car rental services and they want to charge for RM 700 round trip. And is there any taxi services in Kundasang if we want to go Desa Farm? Appreciate your advice. Thanks.

      1. If you take Airport Bus to KK, the bus will stop at Padang Merdeka where you can find van or taxi to Kinabalu Park. There are some unlicensed taxi around Kundasang town, but you need to haggle for better rate.

  4. Thank you very much, I do find it extremely useful and helpful to a tourist who wants to save money (from the crazy expensive taxi fare). So thank you, again. You did an incredible job.

  5. Hi thanks Murphy and Toshihiro! Thank you so much for your great effort!
    May I know the wawasan bus station is it still closed for upgrading?
    Thank you

  6. Since some of the city bus terminals are temporarily closed, if I stayed at Dreamtel and I want to go to the KK central market/handicraft market, should I take the bus that stop at KK25 that follows route C, then hop off at KK05, which is near the handicraft market??

  7. Another great post ! so useful for anybody wishing to make the most out of their time in Sabah and their money also 🙂 I have one question though, if you can clarify it for me . We plan to take the morning bus from Padang Merdeka ( we’re thinking to stay at the Mandarin Hotel -any thoughts pro/con ? ) to go to Kinabalu Park but I see you recommend the ‘Long-Distance Bus Terminal in Inanam’ . Is it safer/ better /cheaper or quicker to go to Inanam to take a big bus then a mini-bus from Padang Merdeka ? We’re 4 people , I think that it could shorten the time for a mini-bus to fill up 🙂 but maybe I’m wrong. If it is better to go to Inanam how can we reach it on a Sunday morning from Mandarin Hotel or Gaya/central area (if we’ll choose another hotel)? And do you have any idea about the earliest hour the minivans or buses take off in that direction or if there is a need to make a reservation or something like that one day before the trip ? I realize it’s more than one question so thank you in advance and I hope your answers will prove useful for other tourists as well 😀

    1. The mini-bus in Padang Merdeka is more convenient and they operate as early as 7am, but they will only depart when the van is full (have to wait up to an hour or more). It is about RM15 to 20 per pax to Kinabalu Park. You also can take taxi / limo there, which is about RM25 – 30 per pax per way. (The prices might have changed) You don’t need to book them in advance.

      My concern is that I’m not sure whether those mini-buses are licensed and insured. The vans are quite shabby too, and no air-conditioning. If you take the long-distance bus at Inanam bus, it is bigger, more comfortable, has air-conditioning and are licensed.

      To go to Inanam Bus Terminal, you can go by taxi, or walk 2-min further to the mini-bus terminal near to Kota Kinabalu Shangri-La Hotel (Note: not Tanjung Aru Shangri-La Hotel) to get a mini bus.

      1. Thank you for the detailed reply ! then we’ll definitely try to go to Inanam to get a bigger, safer bus 🙂

      2. Hi murphy,
        We are staying in danum valley for a few night then wanting to head to kudat for a few nights before we fly out of KK. What do you think is the best way to go about getting there from lahad datu?

        1. Hi Leith, the common way is to take a 45-min flight (by MASwings) from Lahad Datu to KK, then take a bus / taxi to Kudat (2.5 hours by road). Note: MASwings flight from Lahad Datu may get cancelled or delayed sometimes, which is very frustrating.

  8. Thank you for all the bus information! it is the best I have found. We want to travel from Kudat to Sepilok. I cannot find any recent information about this. Is it possible to get an express bus from Kudat to Sandakan? If not from Kudat, can you get a reserved seat on an express bus from KK to Sandakan and intercept it on its route? I am thinking we could get hire a taxi for the four us from Kudat to intercept the express bus. Thoughts?

    1. Thank you Linda. Yes, you can get a bus to go to Sandakan from Kudat. The bus departs at 9:45am and the journey takes 8 hours. The ticket costs about MYR60. However, I advise you to check with the company Salam Bumimas, their phone number is +60 13-8855178, just in case my info is outdated.

  9. Thank u for detailed information about Sabah bus. I’m Korean traveler and I prepare to go to KK. I have some questions.

    1. From KK to Menumbok: Recently, I checked there is only 2 times available; 7:30 a.m and 1:30 p.m. by Sipitang Express (MYR 18). Is it right? Is there any more bus from KK to Memunbok?

    2. From KK to Kinabalu park: Thanks to u, I checked mini van is only MYR 20. If I use Inanam terminal, I have to pay the whole fee?
    ex) From KK to Lahad Datu: MYR 50
    I want to drop off Kinabalu Park. I also pay MYR 50 wholly?

    3. From Kinabalu park to KK (back again): How can I come back to KK? Please advise 🙂

  10. Really useful site, thanks Murphy.

    Question for you: do you know if it is possible to put a bike on a long-distance bus?

  11. Really useful site, Murphy, thanks a lot.

    Qu: Can you put a bike on a long-distance bus to Keningau?

    Also, are there buses going beyond Keningau in the direction of Maliau?

  12. Wow, in 20 days I will be leaving between Peninsular Malaysia-Singapore and Borneo, and it was great to find your site.
    But I can’t find the bus site, to see the updated timetables to today. You can help me?

    1. Hi Vertigo, my apology on the outdated bus information. For example, the city bus shuttle in KK has stopped, the bus station near DBKK has moved. You may post your question and I’ll try my best to answer.

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