Slowly but sure, the story of my Borneo trip will come to an end now that I’m gonna talk about how to get to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah from Brunei.
There are a few options that you could choose if you’re planning to travel within the route. Apart from the fastest way through a flight, you could also opt for either by bus or by ferry. For my Borneo trip, I chose the public bus as the way of my travel. Although to be honest, if I could go back to Borneo, I’d totally go for the ferry option just for the sake of experience.
As usual, I rely on Easybook for all the reservations for my transport during the trip. And this time, I chose the one and only option for Brunei-Kota Kinabalu trip by bus: Sipitang Express.
So, why did I end up using Jesselton Express instead of Sipitang in the title of this post? Well, this one will be explained later. Keep calm, and carry on. 😉
A Drama Prior to My Departure
To be honest with you, the trip from Brunei to Kota Kinabalu was probably the most challenging part that I had during my Borneo trip. I’ll tell you why.
First of all, since I booked through Easybook, I only knew that I’d use Sipitang Express bus operator for my journey. My first problem with the plan was when Suzie told me that Brunei doesn’t exactly have a bus terminal. Chances are, I had to confirm in which area the bus stop is around Bandar. As if it’s not bad enough, the date of my departure was a public holiday in Brunei.
It was Maulid Nabi when the Bandar was entirely closed as the Sultan would be there to celebrate. Lucky for me as I had Suzie to assist me with all these problems. Starting from calling Sipitang Express representative in Brunei, to even getting the phone number of the person in charge for the trip to guide me where I should get the bus in Bandar.
But dude, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be since on the day of my departure, I couldn’t freaking get the car to take me to Bandar. Most of the drivers rejected to take me as the Bandar would be closed. That, until somebody agreed to take me.
But by then, the bus already left Bandar so I had to get the bus elsewhere. Lucky that I got such a really nice Dart driver who would communicate directly to the person in charge from Sipitang Express so I could stop at the right place. Although I was clearly late for a few minutes.
Sipitang Express or Jesselton Express?
As I previously mentioned, I booked the bus ticket with Sipitang Express for Brunei-Kota Kinabalu route. However, I had to make sure to the person in charge whether it was the right bus. It was because the word ‘Sipitang’ was nowhere to be seen on the bus from behind.
It was only when we stopped by Limbang that I could see the official website of Sipitang in the front glass of the bus.
As I googled it, apparently Sipitang Express is one of the most popular bus operators in Borneo. In 2008, their subsidiary Jesselton Express was founded. The latter then started their operation for the route Kota Kinabalu-Lawas-Limbang-Brunei Darussalam and the other way around.
Price and Facilities
I reserved the ticket on Easybook using IDR as my main currency. For this journey, I paid the total amount of IDR 403,548 (around $28.5 USD) for the bus ticket.
The bus from Brunei to Kota Kinabalu by Jesselton Express is only once daily, departing at 8 AM from Bandar. That was exactly why I got really panic when I almost got late to catch the bus with all the hassles.
It is a 42-seat bus, which takes around more or less 8 hours from Brunei to Kota Kinabalu with a few stops in-between, including a few borders.
FYI, I got yet another problem with the journey as I didn’t print out the ticket from Easybook. Apparently, it’s quite different from my previous trips with some other bus operators in Borneo. The others, showing the e-ticket was usually enough as they would print out the boarding pass at the terminal.
But for this one, since there was no bus terminal, apparently it was necessary to have a printed version of your ticket. In the end, the bus attendant told me to write my name as well as my reservation code in a piece of paper. So, that’s what I did.
Immigration Stamps and Process
For this journey alone, you’ll get 8 immigration stamps in total. So, please make sure that you have enough empty pages in your passport for these stamps. The first stop would be to exit Brunei and enter the Malaysian border in Limbang, which is still a part of Sarawak in East Malaysia.
In my case, since it was during the public holiday as I mentioned previously, we had to stop by Limbang for around an hour. The reason being was because the immigration in Brunei would reopen at 1 PM due to the celebration for the whole nation.
Our second stop on the trip was to leave Limbang, where we got Sarawak exit stamp in our passport. We then reentered the Brunei area again in Temburong. As we exit Temburong, there were two boxes that we should pass in Malaysian immigration: one to get the exit stamp from Sarawak, and the other to get the entry stamp in Sabah.
Overall Review: Jesselton Express from Brunei to Kota Kinabalu
There were a few stops that the bus made throughout the journey. Apart from the break in Limbang due to the celebration of Maulid Nabi in Brunei, we also had a stop around an hour in Lawas.
From the look of it, we stopped at the terminal in Lawas where so many passengers came in to continue our journey to Kota Kinabalu. After that, there were a few stops based on the passengers’ requests. I couldn’t really remember how many stops we had in total.
However, despite the approximate total of 8 hours, it took us around 10 hours from Brunei to the last stop in Kota Kinabalu. We arrived at around 4 PM at the main bus terminal, Terminal Mahkamah, in Kota Kinabalu.
- I find the bus seat still comfortable, despite the fact that it’s a 42-seat bus in which the trip takes more than 5 hours. I picked the seat at the very front, exactly behind the driver.
- I would consider the trip as a smooth ride. It also helped that the infrastructure en-route to Kota Kinabalu from Brunei was quite decent. Not to mention that it also offers such a nice view in some locations.
- Easy reservation through Easybook.
- The original bus stop should have been easy to find around Bandar if only I could get the car sooner through Dart ride. I suppose the drama should have never happened if only it wasn’t for the public holiday.
- Unlike my previous trips with other bus operators, this one required a printed ticket.
- The staff, from bus driver to bus attendant, they are not the friendliest. I’m not sure if it had something to do with the fact that I got late, but if I could give a score to their hospitality skill, that would be 5 out of 10.
Final Verdict and Some Alternative Way to Travel from Brunei to Kota Kinabalu
To be frank with you, I think the bus option is not exactly the best one for those of you who are not a morning person. I mean, since the bus departs at 8 o’clock in the morning, it would be tough to get ready, to begin with.
And when I couldn’t get the car to get me to Bandar, it got even more stressful for me. Like, domino effect simply stroke. I even already prepared for a back-up plan just in case I couldn’t catch the Jesselton Express.
Based on the information that I got, if worse comes to worst, we could take the ferry to Labuan instead. There are at least 2 ferry ships operated on a daily basis. From Labuan, we could then take another ferry to Kota Kinabalu.
The latter option actually sounds like a plan. If one day I get a chance to come back to Brunei, I might as well take it for my next journey.
So, have you done the same route by bus? What’s your take on it? Give me your two cents, and cheerio! 🙂
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