The Best Backpacker Hostels in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Jesselton Cabin | Courtesy of hotels.com
If you’re roughing it in Northern Borneo, you’re in luck — we have the best picks for your stay.
Akinabalu Youth Hostel, Kota Kinabalu
Akinabalu Youth Hostel | Courtesy of hotels.com
Clean, cheap, and generally quiet (with a bit of token noise from the street outside), this is the hostel where you’ll be able to get some sleep. With iron-framed bunk beds, rattan-woven chairs, and free-to-use computers, this place combines simplicity with convenience and offers you great bang for your buck.
No sky here, but there are definitely “pods” to fit you and your small valuables. Stylish, urban, and super clean, each pod has a reading light and clothes-hanging area. It’s like the bunk beds in Some Like It Hot, but updated 60 years, and you probably won’t get caught for drinking indoors. If you take advantage of the hostel’s promotions, you might even get a free airport transfer.
When you’re far from home, it’s nice to feel like you’re at home. That’s exactly what Faloe Hostel offers — easy-going staff who feel like family, a help-yourself kitchen (mostly with breakfast foods and teas), a small living area with Netflix, and a strict no-shoes-indoors policy. Beds are clean, with pale wooden frames, and if you’ve packed half your house with you, the lockers are big enough to fit it all.
Featuring wood panel floors, large colorful lockers, and well-lit rooms, Halo boasts a central Kota Kinabalu (KK) location next to Padang Merdeka, and within walking distance of popular eateries. If you play nice, the staff might offer you a free city tour (so smile and say “Terima Kasih”!). There’s no elevator though — so if you have a thick suitcase or your knees aren’t so good, you might want to request a room on the lower floor.
Starting from RM 32.50 ($8.2) per night, this place is a runaway steal. Rooms are basic, with iron-framed bunk beds, but the common area makes up for it with cozy chairs and a coffee table, complete with magazines, books, and a TV. If you’re going for the dormitory bed option, why not bump it up RM5 ($1.27) for a room with air-conditioning? The humidity in KK can be unforgiving, and it’s always best not to smell someone else’s armpit sweat.
If you’re on Jalan Gaya, you’re basically at the heart of KK — which means that Sensi is close to everything, especially the famous Sunday Gaya Street Market. There’s not much of a “traveler” vibe here, but if you don’t want to party until 3 a.m. every day, this may be a good thing. Modern facilities, including irons and hairdryers, are available.
If you know of Biru-Biru and their delightful waffles, you might know of Borneo Backpackers too. Operated by the same management, this hostel adds to the chilled out, artistic experience of Biru-Biru with an airy rooftop terrace complete with potted plants and a picnic-style seating area. Wi-Fi is a bit hit-and-miss, but staff are very friendly and accommodating.
This small, low-key hostel has a limited number of beds, so you won’t find rowdy groups of travelers here. Each capsule-style bed has a reading light and power socket, and there are laundry facilities you can use for a small fee. Air-conditioning only comes on between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. though, so you’d best be out and about during the day.
Dock In prides itself on being a “hostel of the future,” and it certainly seems like they’re headed that way. Urban and stylish, this hostel is designed like a hotel. And for a small price, you can have your piece of the “future” too. Dock In is close to Tanjung Aru, named after the casuarina trees that line the fine-sand beach. Taking a bus to the town proper will cost you RM $1.50 (US$.38), while a cab will cost you RM$15 (US$3.80) — not too bad for a 3.7-mile (6-kilometer) ride, really.