What I Learned Moving Cross-Country - From Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu

Early this month I finally moved to Kota Kinabalu as personal venture to start a new life. I’ve been planning about it for months since last year and a lot of people have been asking me why i made such a decision to settle in a small town rather than main city, considering i’m working in the technology field. For me, i love the atmosphere and there’s a lot of opportunity and excitement waiting to be unfolded in here as the progress move on. I believe i can make a living anywhere and money is only a tool. I will try to share what i learned so far by moving cross-country in this post.

Apartment Hunting

I scheduled a visit around a week before the date i’m going to make the move. Sadly, the original plan did not work out and I ended up staying at the hotel while searching for an apartment. You might want to take at least a week or two because 4-5 days definitely isn’t enough. Once i’ve checked in at the hotel, I browsed through the Mudah.my and look for openings. I was looking for 1 room studio apartment since i’m going to live alone, and fortunately there’s few units 1 room studios you can pick depends on location. My area of interest would be near Sepanggar and Cyber City, which the latter quite a privacy because its located quite far from the main road and there’s nearby shops where you can just take a walk to buy groceries.

I didn’t get much luck in getting a studio unit, so i’d have to fall back in getting a room instead. I found a few openings available in Menggatal and Sepanggar area and had to adjust my expectation according to budget and found two landlords that returned my calls. I scheduled to visit both places on the same day, and decided to stay in Sepanggar since its much secure and easy access to nearest shop. I paid a security deposit and first month rental right away, received the key and moved in the next day. Most landlords require 2+1 with some utilities fees and 1-year tenancy agreement. Some even asked for salary slips and banking history to prove you’d be able to pay the rent. There’s fully furnished units available that cost twice as much, but i’m not looking for that.

View from my apartment. Its not great, but its pleasant enough for short-term stay.

I asked few local people about the price for the room that i rented, and be told that its quite expensive for an empty unit without furniture. Nevertheless, the price and time is right and i didn’t plan to rent for a long time, I’ll be keeping a hawk eye out for studio unit that I wanted.

Here’s some tips during apartment hunting - rent a car and pick a hotel far away from the town area. Its much cheaper (twice as cheap) and still offer the same level of comfort. And as a bonus you’re able to explore a few places along the way. There’s car rental you can find on the web that will deliver to you at the airport for no extra charges and cost even less than the ones at the airport. Do note to avoid visiting during the time everyone’s getting their paycheck. You’re going to have a hard time to rent a car. I need to remind you about how local people do business. If you call or leave a message and didn’t get pickup or reply, don’t wait longer than two hours. They simply won’t return your calls or message once their apartments get occupied. Same thing with car rental, so make sure you didn’t waste too much time waiting for a reply.


As soon as I moved in, I spent next few days exploring nearby areas. I’m still having a hard time to find great food where i can eat everyday, and i didn’t want to eat sushi every weekend. If you’re vegetarian, there’s a lot of fresh vegetables where you can find here, and if you’re adventurous enough to visit Ranau every weekend, there’s a lot of small shops selling cheap and fresh vegetables by locals. If you’re looking for cheap seafood, there’s only one place in Kota Kinabalu where you can eat in bulk - Pasar Philippines. Do make sure to keep valuable stuff out of sight. I’d get my dinner once every week over there and it’s fantastic.

If you want to bring your own car from peninsular, it would cost from RM1800 depends on the size of your car. You can put in your stuff as much as you can without any extra charges, and they will pick your car at home, ship it oversea and call you once it’s arrived at the port. It would take up to two weeks for the shipment to arrive. I’d seriously consider to bring own transportation as it makes much economical sense in long run. As for public parking, there’s local authority who will write down the tickets, put on your windshield and you find the person in-charge and pay for it. I don’t know how long you can waive it, but best bet is not to take it for granted especially if you’re outsider. Its much better than paying by coin back in KL, but drawback you’d have to find the person to pay for it.

Do note that drivers here are pretty slow. And traffic spikes during peak hours caused by roundabouts. If you’re quick enough, you can make the chase. If not, just stay in the lane and enjoy the ride. You might favor auto transmission compared to manual if you’re looking to drive around the town. And beware, there’s a lot of reckless drivers that won’t tolerate in giving away or into their lane. Especially drivers outside of KK. Based on terrains in here, i’d say 4x4 definitely suit up very well compare to conventional cars.

Getting Connected

I’ve been visiting Starbucks and Mcd’s once in every week and during peak session, i’d frequently visit as much as twice a day just for the internet. There’s wifi service in my apartment that you can subscribe for RM60/2Mbps per month without data caps, but since the free trial didn’t work out very well, i’m less certain to sign up for it. I ended up tethering connection from my iPhone, and eventhough its full bar and connected to the 3G networks, the speeds are noticeably slower comparing to west Malaysia. Probably of much higher latency.

You might won’t be able to use the data once you’re out from the Kota Kinabalu area. I witnessed there are absolutely no signals for data connection in Ranau and Tenom. But i’m on DIGI, and mileage might be different if you’re on different network. I’m looking forward to subscribe for Unifi or Streamyx once I settle down in my own studio apartment.


Fortunately, since I didn’t value my stuff too much, that comes in handy to help me sell tons of stuff months before moving in. Mac Pro? Sold. 24inch LCD? Sold. Few other gadgets? Sold/donated. Clothes? Disposed. I’d only need to carry 3 bags with me, so i can skip extra charges for luggages. I didn’t need much stuff few than important ones, so i plan to just buy stuff that i need later. There’s a lot of shopping center you can go now than back in 2008 when first I came here. I get most of my stuff at 1Borneo. And if you’re looking to go there, make sure to park at the lower level. Its much cheaper than parking on top. Look at for the first entrance on your left after passing UMS. You can park outside, but i don’t mind paying for extra peace of mind and not to mention excessive heat.

Gaya Streets’ entrance.

Every sunday, there’s a market on Gaya Streets where you can find local made stuff. If you want to take a look at local cultures, do visit. I visit once and its really crowded. It’s a long walk and you might enjoy such attraction. If you’re looking for premium reseller of Apple’s products, there’s few places you can get it with Apple Care. I found one premium reseller in Suria Sabah and one in 1 Borneo. Don’t worry about the price, its still the same back as in KL. For non-Apple products and accessories, basically in every shopping mall you visit, there’s a computer shop around. But i’d only recommend one stop place, which is Karamunsing Plaza. Short of like Low Yat’s, only not much. Furniture-wise, i didn’t really shop for it yet, but my housemate bought his brand new bed for RM50 from local factories.

Place of Interest that i’ve been so far :

View of Mount Kinabalu from Ranau. I’m looking forward to climb it one day.

Tamparuli’s bridge.

Heavy fog during daylight while crossing Crocker Range.

Previous spot during night. Visibility is almost zero.

Kota Kinabalu from Signal Hill.

Waterfront, Kota Kinabalu.

Beach near Tip of Borneo (Simpang Mengayau).

I’ve been here for almost a month now and looking forward for what’s about to come. So far its been a wonderful honeymoon and taught me a lot of things about living independently. It didn’t start romantically as i expected, but nevertheless the future is long and the journey itself would be great rewards.

Some Notes :

1. Stay positive. Moving is not easy, and you have to learn how to embrace the changes. Leave every bits as you can behind at old place so you can make a room for new one. Loneliness will come knocking once in a while. And there is nothing wrong with, as time progress you will make new friends, have few that you can trust and just keep exploring new places. Food hunting will be the best start.

2. Handful a lot of cash if you plan to live alone. I wasted almost RM2k on first week alone looking for house, having spent mostly on car rental and hotel. I’d say 6-8k would be decent rate without shipping your car here, although if you’re careful enough, you can do it with just 4k.

3. Don’t believe all those hypes about the war in here. Lahad Datu, Semporna are on the other side of Kota Kinabalu. Sure, there’s a lot of security inspection on the road, but authority’s way more polite comparing to west Malaysia.

4. There’s also a 90-day visitor pass will be given if you choose to enter using your IC instead of passport. Valid to those from West Malaysia and Sarawak, including Labuan. Those who didn’t skip history class should be aware about this.

5. Do not stop for Sinalau Bakas if you can’t eat non-halal.

Posted March 28, 2013