FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Got questions to ask about your trip? Or something about Borneo? We got you covered, email us at info@stickyricetravel.com or click below for a list of questions frequently asked by our previous clients that have joined our meaningful adventures.

BEFORE YOU DEPART

Located in the South China Sea, Borneo is the third largest island in the world, and is divided between three countries, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. Malaysian Borneo consists of two states, Sabah and Sarawak, and makes up the top one quarter of the island. Sticky Rice Travel operates out of Kota Kinabalu, the state capital of Sabah, and specializes in running custom trips throughout East Malaysia.

Get to Borneo via flights to the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) or to Sandakan Airport. KKIA is the second busiest airport in Malaysia, and Sandakan Airport is located in the nature city of Sabah where nature and wildlife attractions are conveniently accessible. A number of direct flights are available to KKIA and Sandakan Airport otherwise other major hubs such as Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are convenient transit points.

Borneo is located in the tropics and is considered to be equatorial, temperatures are fairly consistent year round as things don’t get extremely hot nor extremely cold. One thing you can usually be sure of in the tropics is rain throughout the year but the wetter months tend to be from October to February. Temperatures can differ between coastal areas and highlands with areas around Mount Kinabalu. Malaysian Borneo benefits from year-round temperatures averaging between 27-32 degrees celsius, with a relative humidity of around 80% for much of the year. Rainfall can exceed 4,000mm per annum in pockets of Borneo although in most destinations an average of about 220mm per month is the norm. The weather on land is affected by the weather patterns of the South China, Sulu and Sulawesi Seas and the seasonal winds or ‘monsoons’, which can bring either warm dry weather, or heavy rains depending on their nature and origin. Broadly speaking Sabah has two seasons: the wetter season runs from October to February and the drier season from March to September.

The local currency in Malaysia is Ringgit Malaysia. The Ringgit is the only currency widely accepted in areas where you are visiting. US Dollars, along with other major currencies can easily be exchanged at money changers in the main cities – bring bigger notes 50/100 USD for better exchange rates, and make sure all your notes are new and crisps. Money changers tend to reject torn or old notes everywhere in Southeast Asia and provide a less favourable exchange rate on smaller denomination notes. You should exchange money only with licensed money changers – these are everywhere; at the airports, shopping malls etc. Your guides can assist with these transactions for you when necessary, or do so at the airport on arrival.

In cities and in larger hotels, restaurants, and shops, credit cards are readily accepted. The most common credit cards are Visa and MasterCard, and sometimes American Express. It is very easy to access ATMs in all major cities including towns, but keep in mind that outside the main cities or towns, these are predominantly cash societies. The major cities and towns are Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Tawau, Ranau, Kundasang, Tenghilan, Tenom, Beluran, Nabawan, Telupid, Beaufort, Kota Belud, Tambunan, Keningau, Kudat, Papar, Tuaran, Kunak, Tamparuli, Sipitang, and Bongawan.

In Kota Kinabalu, besides having access to international banks such as HSBC and Standard Chartered, local banks can also be used for cash withdrawals provided the ATMs are under MEPS. The ATM machines or banks provide information on whether it can process international withdrawals or not.

Sabah is a great year-round destination, offering memorable experiences for all kinds of adventures. July to August are the peak summer months; the weather is delightfully warm and it’s a popular time for travellers to visit for holidays. If you wish to have a relaxing journey in Sabah with less crowds, the shoulder months of February to June and September to October are ideal. It is also during these months where better rates for adventures are offered. To truly experience a “rainforest”, November and January are the months that get the most rain.

Passport
If you don’t have a passport, apply for one now because the process can be lengthy. If you do have a passport, find it and check the expiration date. Many countries, including Malaysia, won’t let you enter unless your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the date you complete your trip. Countries requiring visas require a completely blank passport page, so be sure your passport contains at least one blank page for each country you plan to visit. It is usually possible to get extra passport pages added before your passport expires.

Visa
Most nationalities do not require a visa to enter Malaysia as a tourist for up to 3 months. However, the visa requirements for your trip will vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. It is important that you check your visa requirements, especially if you have a layover in another country before or after your time here.

For the entry requirements into Malaysia, please read the official page here.

Depending on your preference you can either arrange your own flights for your adventures with us or request for your flights to be included in your quotation. Please check with us before purchasing or obtaining your tickets so that we can verify your arrival and departure schedule and ensure it matches your planned itinerary.

What type of clothing should I bring?
The tropics is a warm and often sweaty place, especially walking around in the humid Bornean jungle. So that you know exactly what to bring on your Borneo adventure we’ve prepared the ultimate packing list for the tropics.

What kind of footwear should I bring? Tell me about the Adidas Kampung?
Sturdy lightweight footwear with good ventilation is a must in the jungle. Things can get a little muddy, slippery and sometimes wet crossing streams. The made-in-Malaysia Adidas Kampungs are practical and perfect for jungle trekking, and they’re the most stylish shoes in the jungle. In fact, most jungle guides swear by the Adidas Kampung! However, they are available up to only a certain size. But you can easily look for your size because they can be found just about anywhere including small villages. Read about our blog post dedicated to this wonderful pair of jungle kicks here.

What about leech socks?
We provide leech socks for all our clients scheduled to explore our beloved Borneo rainforests. You certainly won’t be making any fashion statements in the jungle wearing these beauties but they will do a pretty good job at keeping the leeches at bay.

Immunisations
Regulations and recommendations change frequently, so we advise you to check with your local health department. Currently, if you fly directly from the US or Europe, no vaccinations are required. Discuss your travel plans and personal health with a healthcare provider to determine which vaccines you will need. Ask your doctor for an International Certificate of Vaccination (“yellow card”), and have your immunizations entered on the certificate. The certificate acts as proof of your immunization history. In addition, it will help you keep track of all the immunizations you have received throughout the years.

Personal Medication
Prior to your adventures, we highly advise that you consult with your physician to obtain personal medications. Specific regimens will depend on your travel plans, medical problems, or medication allergies.

Mosquitoes and things that bite
Insects transmit numerous infectious diseases. Malaria is the most prevalent and pertinent disease in this group, but there are many more. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants in the early morning and early evening hours is a good precaution against bites. You can use an insect repellent containing DEET (N,N diethyl-meta-toluamide) to prevent bites of mosquitoes and biting flies. These products have an excellent safety record over decades of use, but they are harmful for the environment so we advise you to use them wisely.

Personal first aid kit
We bring a basic first aid kit for emergencies, but you must bring your own personal first aid supplies (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on your trip. For legal reasons our trip leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of medications including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared for the more remote areas that you will travel to. Be sure to bring Moleskin or Second Skin for blisters, as well as Band-Aids and antibiotic ointment. Please discuss this information with your physician, as well as other medications you should bring with you such as antibiotics (Cipro or other), pain killers, allergy medicine (epi-pens for allergic reactions to bee stings), prescription or over-the-counter medications you use regularly. If you have a serious allergy (e.g. bees, ants and other insects) please inform us before your trip so that we can advise our guides accordingly. Small cuts can get infected quickly in the tropics so be sure to treat any skin breakage with an antiseptic of some sort.

Personal first aid kit
We bring a basic first aid kit for emergencies, but you must bring your own personal first aid supplies (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on your trip. For legal reasons our trip leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of medications including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared for the more remote areas that you will travel to. Be sure to bring Moleskin or Second Skin for blisters, as well as Band-Aids and antibiotic ointment. Please discuss this information with your physician, as well as other medications you should bring with you such as antibiotics (Cipro or other), pain killers, allergy medicine (epi-pens for allergic reactions to bee stings), prescription or over-the-counter medications you use regularly. If you have a serious allergy (e.g. bees, ants and other insects) please inform us before your trip so that we can advise our guides accordingly. Small cuts can get infected quickly in the tropics so be sure to treat any skin breakage with an antiseptic of some sort.

It is important that you prepare physically for your trip, especially if your trip is rated moderate to strenuous. Take into consideration the heat and humidity in the area as well – a short walk sometimes can feel a lot more strenuous simply because you are not used to the weather. Unless you are climbing Mt Kinabalu or some of the other more active trips such as Maliau Basin, Mt Trusmadi etc, the amount of walking on rainforest and jungle trails on your trip is usually quite flexible and up to you, and more geared towards nature appreciation along the way. For example if going to Danum Valley, most walks last on average of 2-3 hours and you have the option of choosing trail difficulty. If you’d like to prepare, we suggest some moderate aerobic activities (hiking, jogging, and/or cycling) for at least 30 minutes a session at least three times a week for about a month before you go. Check with your doctor before undertaking any new fitness program.

Accommodation
Tourism in Malaysian Borneo is not as developed as some other Southeast Asian countries so accommodation options are still relatively limited. You will find that prices for Malaysian Borneo are higher compared to other areas in the region. To further explain this to set trip expectation, for example, Tabin Wildlife Resort is the only option available for experiencing the rainforest and wildlife of Tabin Wildlife Reserve. While we would not say staying at Tabin Wildlife Resort is ‘roughing it out’, we only rate the accommodation here 3 star as opposed to what is portrayed and priced at around 4 star by the operator. Reasons to visit Tabin is the abundance of wildlife and convenience of spotting them.

Food
Food consists of delicious local cuisine that is served family-style or buffet at lunch and dinner in order to allow you to taste a variety of dishes. Southeast Asia enjoys a tropical climate year round, so there is always plenty of fresh fruit on the menu.

Overland Travel
If you are on a full package trip with Sticky Rice Travel, you will be traveling in comfortable vans or 4WD. Most roads in the Malaysian Borneo that you will be on are paved roads, with the exception of some unsealed roads when going into areas such as Tabin Wildlife Reserve and Danum Valley Conservation Area. However, these unsealed roads are well-maintained and do not require any serious 4WD off-roading, and provides excellent chance to spot wildlife in their habitat.

WIFI
All hotels have wifi but connection is spotty in more remote areas such as Tabin Wildlife Reserve and Danum Valley Conservation Area. 

Wildlife
Not all trip destinations offer the opportunity to see the iconic wildlife of Borneo. Please keep this in mind when choosing your destinations. If you wish to see orangutans, proboscis monkeys, pygmy elephants among other iconic wildlife there are certain locations such as Danum Valley and Kinabatangan River that will offer the best chance to see these animals. In the forest you will always get the chance to experience the crazy amount of biodiversity but you will mostly see this in the plants, insects and smaller animals that often get little notice. Keep in mind that this is the best chance to understand the sheer number of species that call the Bornean jungle home.

ON YOUR TRIP

If your itinerary includes an airport pick-up, you will find your guide holding a Sticky Rice Travel sign after you exit the arrival and immigration hall with your name on it. If you need any assistance upon arrival, your guide or driver will be happy to help.

The travel industry in Borneo is not as developed as some of its Southeast Asian counterparts. Although prices can be high it is important to realize that the level of infrastructure and service quality is not yet comparable to other more established tourist destinations in the region. We would like to ask you to travel with an open mind and consider that minor inconveniences are an integral part of your travel experience in Malaysian Borneo. We also provide our own ratings for accommodation, which we feel, are more in-line with international systems.

You may be asked to present your passport during your travel as it will be your primary form of identification in the event that you will need it. Hotels and accommodation facilities will often require that you show your passport at check-in or send through passport details to secure bookings. It is best to leave your passport in the hotel safe rather than carrying it around with you during your day to day activities.

We highly recommend that you purchase travel insurance before your departure. All of our field staff are trained as emergency first responders in the event that something goes wrong and carry basic first aid equipment. For remote expedition style adventures such as Maliau Basin our guides will carry a satellite phone for in the event of an emergency. In extreme cases Medical Evacuation via helicopter is available at your own expense or the expense of your insurer.

Telephones, Internet access, and fax machines are available at some hotels, but sometimes connection can be more challenging in remote areas. Keep in mind that phone calls placed at the hotels can be expensive. Cell phones can usually get a signal at most places, but in some remote areas such as Danum Valley, the signal is quite weak. If you choose, you can easily purchase an inexpensive sim card with your guide’s assistance to use in your mobile phone. Generally 3G and 4G are available in built up areas and sometimes in rural Borneo. Check with your phone service provider to see if your device will work in Southeast Asia with roaming. For assistance, speak with your trip coordinator or guide, they will be more than happy to help you stay connected.

Laundry service in the big hotels in the Malaysian Borneo is fast and efficient; done by hand or machine. Not all accommodation offers laundry services; if they do there will be an additional fee. In major cities and towns there are also laundry services provided along with laundromats if you would like to wash and dry clothes yourself.

Please list all dietary restrictions and/or allergies prior to your departure, especially if you have critical allergies (nut or wheat). We do our best to convey your dietary restrictions and allergies to our local guides who will relay your information to the chef/cook. In most cases we are able to respond favourably to these requests; however, due to regional limitations, local cuisine or cooking facilities, we may not be able to fulfill all requests. If your dietary needs are critical we recommend you bring a supply of your preferred sustenance to supplement your meals. 

Breakfasts on trip are usually buffets with a wide variety of Western and Asian breakfast foods. There is always coffee, green or black tea, juice, milk and water. Lunches and dinners in this region are usually family-style, as that is the Asian way. This provides you with the most variety of dishes and an opportunity to try many new foods. There will usually be several dishes including meat, fish, seafood, vegetables and rice or noodles. Sometimes you will have a packed lunch enroute to your next destination. At most jungle lodges, drinking water, coffee and tea are provided free-flow. Alcoholic, carbonated and other beverages are at your own expense.

Tap water in Asia is not fit to drink. Purified water is available everywhere, and we provide it in all of our Sticky Rice Travel vehicles. At most jungle accommodations, purified drinking water is included and rest assured that this is safe to drink. In our efforts to minimise single use plastic, we also provide durable and easy-to-carry steel water bottles to all our guests to avoid the usage of plastic bottled water. At most tourist accommodation, ice is okay to consume. Practice common sense if you are in remote villages. It’s always a good idea to bring water purification tablets just in case.

We pride ourselves on being an environmentally responsible company. We request that on your trip you carry out whatever you carry in, including non-biodegradable items such as batteries, flashlight bulbs, empty plastic containers, and so on. As you pack for your trip, think about ways to minimise the trash that you will have to bring home.

Batteries of all kinds release dangerous chemicals into the environment as they decay, potentially affecting plant and animal life for years. Southeast Asia does not have adequate services for safe battery disposal, so please bring any batteries with you for disposal at a proper facility back home. Please consider using rechargeable batteries so that you can use them time and time again. We have thoroughly field tested Panasonic Eneloop rechargeable batteries and found them to a great option.

If you are a smoker, we request that you do not smoke in vehicles and at meals. We have asked our guides, drivers, and staff who smoke to follow the same consideration.

Tips to local guides, drivers, and boat staff are not included in your land cost. Tipping is at your own discretion, and you are under no obligation. If you choose to tip, any amount is acceptable and will be appreciated. Tips are best paid in cash in local currency or US dollars.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MALAYSIAN BORNEO

Malaysian Borneo is culturally diverse, with over one hundred ethnic groups between Sabah and Sarawak speaking a multitude of different languages. There are many languages and dialects spoken in Borneo, but the official language of Malaysia is Bahasa Malaysia, which is very similar to Bahasa Indonesia. For the majority of cases, especially in areas that receive a lot of tourists you will get by just fine speaking english as many people have good command of the language or will at least be able to provide basic conversation. Learning some Malay before and during your stay will be sure to impress the locals whilst enhancing your experience.

The concept of face
The concept of face is one that embraces qualities such as good name, good character and being held in esteem by peers and extends to family, school, company and even the nation itself. The desire to maintain face encourages harmonious relationships amongst Malaysians who are often from a multitude of ethnicities, cultural backgrounds and belief systems. Face can be lost by openly criticising, insulting, or putting someone on the spot; showing anger at another person; or disagreeing with someone publicly. Conversely, face can be saved by remaining calm and courteous, especially in a public setting. Generally the people you interact with will treat you with respect and courtesy avoiding confrontational situations, we simply ask that you please do the same and act as a decent human being.

Religion and faith
Malaysia is officially a Muslim country as the dominant religion is Islam. You will however find many different religions from the different branches of Christianity, to Buddhism & Taoism, along with a number of Hindus and Sikhs from the Indian sector of the population. Each religion has the freedom to practice their beliefs freely in an atmosphere of acceptance and tolerance to maintain a general harmony amongst Malaysia’s citizens. As a result Malaysia now celebrates a very colourful heritage.

How to behave during your stay
Remember that you are traveling to a foreign country where you are the visitor and need to adapt to the culture and customs of the local people, not vice-versa. Although English is fast becoming the international language, it should not be assumed that everyone could understand or speak it, particularly in smaller hotels, restaurants, and villages. Should you have difficulty communicating with any of the locals, please ask your guide for assistance. It is also common for events to arise that place your own cultural beliefs in contrast with those of your hosts. On a short trip you will not learn all, or even most, of the cultural differences. It is possible, however, to learn enough to better understand these differences and to attune your behaviour to that of the people around you. A lot of the comforts you are accustomed to may not be available, and time flows at a different pace, you will soon learn the meaning of Sabah time. Patience and respect are the crucial ingredients for a successful trip and an enriching experience. 

Whilst it is true that Borneo, at one point had a number of head hunting tribes, this tradition has long passed adopting a much more peaceful approach to ‘outsiders’. These days the remote communities of interior Borneo are more interested in opening the doors of their longhouses inviting their guests to share a meal and communally drink rice wine. The hospitality of rural communities in Malaysian Borneo is incredibly heartwarming and will leave you feeling overwhelmingly humbled.