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Let’s face it, a great holiday is all about the experience; and in Sabah, the cost of a great experience is mostly cheaper than a buffet dinner at a swanky restaurant. Here is a Complete Frugal Guide how to spend a day in Sabah with less than RM100—from food and shopping to culture and sightseeing.

Kiansom Waterfall Centre

If you are a fan of waterfalls and not mind going for a bit of a hike, then you must definitely come to Kiansom Waterfall Centre for a dip and a picnic. Located circa 20 kilometres away from the city, Kiansom Waterfall Centre is surrounded by nature and a cool, refreshing ambience.

There are seven waterfalls in the centre for you to enjoy. Kiansom Waterfall is open daily from 6am to 5pm (6pm on weekends).

Entrance fee: RM1.50 (adults) RM0.50 (children under 12)

Resource for readers: 60 Things To Do In Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

Tanjung Aru Beach

Located just within ten minutes away from the city centre, Tanjung Aru Beach is one of KK’s main attractions. Tanjung Aru’s gorgeous stretch of beach and peaceful surrounding makes for a great place for a drink with friends, a picnic with family or a sunset run. Here, you can enjoy a refreshing coconut water drink, enjoy savoury keropok lekor go durian-hunting. The possibilities are endless!

Entrance fee: Free of charge! A token of fee for the car park if you’re driving.

Kota Kinabalu Wetlands Centre

Formerly known as the KK City Birds Sanctuary, this 60-acre piece of mangrove forest is a centre for conservation, education, research and recreation.

Learn about the uniqueness of the tropical mangrove forest ecosystem while enjoying a cool stroll on the boardwalk with a lungful of fresh air.

Keep an eye out for elusive wildlife such as mudskippers, fiddler crabs and monitor lizards. The KK Wetlands Centre is open daily (except Mondays) from 8am to 6pm.

Entrance fee: RM15 (adult) RM10 (students). Free for kids below 6 years old.

Sabah State Museum & Heritage Village

Built in 1985, the museum is located at the site where the North Borneo Governor’s palace used to stand. It consists of the main building, science & education centre, the Heritage Village, the Sabah Art Gallery and the Museum of Islamic Civilization.

You can learn about Sabah’s history, culture and its people from the myriad of items and photographs on display. The Sabah State Museum & Heritage Village is open daily from 9am to 5pm.

Entrance fee: RM2.00 (MyKad holders) and RM15 (non-MyKad holders)

What to eat?

Vegetarian Restaurant, Centre Point basement food court

With long queues of people way before lunch hour, one can always tell how yummy the foods are.

Serving a wide variety of vegetables and soy-made faux meat dishes buffet-style, you can pick and choose your dishes and desired portion size. With foods that are both healthy on the body and the wallet, you win all the way!

Price: Mixed rice with three dishes from RM3.00

Fatt Kee Kopitiam (located next to Ang’s Hotel)

Delectable Chinese coffee shop favourites are guaranteed at Fatt Kee’s. Order a cold glass of Chinese tea and sample a la carte dishes such as stir-fried Sabah veggie, salt and pepper prawns and fried tofu. Simplicity at its best!

Price: A la carte dishes start from RM5.00

Mee Soup Pipin, Kampung Inobong, Penampang

Sabahans love their ngiu chap (beef noodles soup), which is another tasty variation of its Vietnamese counterpart. For a hearty and delicious bowl of ngiu chap served in a welcoming kampong surrounding, make your way to Mee Soup Pipin home-based eatery. People also flock daily for their delicious Hakka kiew nyuk(steamed pork with yam).

Price: Small bowl of ngiu chap RM4.00, RM5.00 for ka liao (supersized portion). Kiew nyuk from RM15.00.

Sin On Market, Tawau

If you ever find yourself in Tawau, be sure to drop by Sin On Market for an economically feasible gastronomic adventure.

Situated right in the middle of the large open area, you can order anything you like from barbecued seafood and grilled chicken to mixed rice rice and a hearty bowl of pan mian(flat noodles soup).

Price: Starts from RM3.00.

Welcome Seafood Restaurant, Star City Mall, Kota Kinabalu

When it comes to seafood, Welcome Seafood Restaurant welcomes you with open arms to tantalize your tastebuds with their array of fresh succulent seafood, graced with reasonable price.

Pick and choose anything you like, from soft shell crabs and giant garoupa to lobsters and shellfish, you will be guaranteed with utter satisfaction. This restaurant is open daily from 2.30pm to 11pm.

Price: From RM35 per pax.

Where to go shopping?

Gaya Street Sunday Market

Held every Sunday, the Gaya Street Sunday Market boasts a long stretch of things to see and buy from handicrafts and clothes to local cakes and fresh produce. It’s the perfect place to shop for souvenirs and such as you can haggle your way to a great bargain.

When you’re tired from the long walk, get yourself a foot massage by the sidewalks, which are performed by blind masseuses.

KK Handicraft Market

Perfect for lovers of accessories, bags, pearls and everything pretty, the KK Handicraft Market is a must-go place for ladies who want to look pretty without getting broke.

Look for unique items such as ethnic-carved wooden bangles and colourful beaded chokers, or find a timeless set of pearl accessories to complement your outfit. There are also plenty of decorative pieces and other rare finds available, all at…

Pasar Tanjung, Tawau

Due to its location right next to Indonesia, Tawau is the next best place to find authentic Indonesian-made merchandize such as Javanese batik sarongs, lulur soaps, jamu(traditional Indonesian herbal items) and many more.

Other than that, you can also find cheap dried food products here.

Weekly district tamu market

There are plenty of sights, smells and sounds to be absorbed by making your way to different districts for their weekly tamu market.

Aside from getting great bargains on food stuffs, fresh produce and items which are sometimes only unique to that particular area, you can also get the opportunity to make more friends and be exposed to their culture.

Don’t miss popular tamu markets such as the Kota Belud tamu and Penampang tamu.

About the author: Nova Renata is a freelance writer and editor based in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. When not writing at her desk, she will be cuddling her cat, clocking some miles or rolling on the mats. She aspires to be a best-selling author with solid six pack abs one day. Read Nova’s blog at


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