Tourists, vacationers and backpackers frequent this important tourist city in Malaysia, Kota Kinabalu or KK. What’s really cool about this modern tropical city is that all its attractions are within walking distance of each other or accessible from your hotel by a short taxi ride. Getting around Kota Kinabalu is easy since the city is just 3-km long (from the harbor on one end and the Wawasan Plaza at the other end) and a kilometer wide.
Getting around Kota Kinabalu by land is most scenic and cultural when done on foot. The city center is so small that one can walk from end to end in only 30 minutes. Some travelers who know KK very well even decide to walk all the way from the airport to the city proper. That hike is about 1-2 hours, perfect for backpackers and adventure-seekers. There are clear sidewalks and paths so that tourists can walk from anywhere to anywhere in the city. The only hassle here is the tropical sun, which can get inconveniently hot at times. Another challenge is crossing the street. Traffic is oriented according to British traffic, which means driving is on the left side, the opposite of what Americans are used to.
For those not wishing to brave the scorching sun, taxis are everywhere and they are not costly at all. A short ride costs around RM10 (US$3.30), longer ones about RM20 (US$6.60) and an entire day of traveling could not be more than RM300 (US$100.30). And since this is Asia, haggling is fine. Bargaining and negotiating for the best price is expected not only at local markets but also when getting a ride, especially for the fact that Malaysian taxi drivers are known to raise fare rates unreasonably and without warning. They also have a habit of taking unsuspecting tourists to the wrong hotels so that they can get a commission from the hotels.
Meanwhile, returning tourists who may have had a bad experience with a taxi driver before would rather take the public bus. Bus ride from the airport to the city is just RM1 (US$0.30) to RM1.5 (US$0.50). Airport buses are available until 6:00-7:00 PM. The city bus outside the airport is even cheaper at just around RM0.50 (US$0.15) to the city, but tourists need to walk away from the airport to get to the public bus terminal. City buses are known to be very clean, reliable and cheap.
Perhaps the best and coolest way to get around Kota Kinabalu is on rental car or rental motorcycle. There are car rental booths at the airport but make sure to compare companies or negotiate before renting out a car. Motorbike rentals cost about RM20 (US$6.65) and with an array of models to choose from such as scooters and semi automatic. For first-time visitors, the best way to get to know the city is to drive around for a half-day city tour to simply get familiar with the sights and sounds of KK. There are several restaurants, bars, cafés, cultural landmarks and nearby beaches to keep tourists busy and excited. At nights, the city offers a number of joints for dinner and cultural shows.