How to get to and from: Sandakan

How to get to Sandakan

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The domestic Sandakan Airport (SDK) is 15 kilometres outside the city centre and connects Sandakan to Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Kudat and Tawau. Taxis to the city cost 30 ringgit or 40 ringgit to Sepilok. Alternatively, walk 350 metres to the roundabout on the main road and flag down a passing bus (daytime only).

AirAsia flies to Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia Airlines to Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu and MASWings to Kota Kinabalu, Kudat and Tawau.


Sandakan’s long-distance bus station is an inconvenient eight kilometres north of the city centre in Bandar Latat Jaya. A taxi to and from town costs 20 ringgit. Or, from the city centre, catch a shared minivan near Gentingmas Mall; allow plenty of time as it won’t depart until full. A new long-distance bus station as of 2016 is being built closer to town.

Kota Kinabalu (via Kinabalu Park): Regularly from 06:30 to 20:00 (43 ringgit, 6-7 hours); Salam Bumimas, Tung Ma Express, Sida Express.
Lahad Datu: daily at 07:30 (22 ringgit, 3 hours); Chin & Sons Transport.
Semporna (via Lahad Datu): Daily 07:00; 14:00 (43 ringgit, 5-6 hours); Dyana Express.
Tawau (via Lahad Datu): Even dates from 06:30-10:00 (42 ringgit, 7 hours); Sida Express.

Chin & Sons Transport: (0198) 136 541; Dyana Express: (0138) 899 559; Salam Bumimas: (0897) 69887; Sida Express: (0892) 24990; Tung Ma Express: (0892) 18904.

Local bus #14 to Sepilok departs from the minivan terminal near the waterfront by Gentingmas Mall. Buses from Sandakan to Sepilok depart at 09:00, 11:30, 14:00 and 17:00. From Sepilok to Sandakan the times are 06:30, 10:30, 12:30 and 16:00. The fare is 4 ringgit per person and it takes about 45 minutes.


Ferries to Zamboanga in the southern Philippines depart once a week on Wednesdays at 13:00 and take about 23 hours. There is talk of the service being suspend due to security risk; it was running “maybe next week” when we checked in mid-2016. Call ahead before making plans. Fares are economy for 283 ringgit; air-con 303 ringgit; cabin 323 ringgit.

Aleson Lines: Lot 1, 1st floor, Bandar Ramai-Ramai, Jalan Leila, Sandakan; T: (089) 216 996; (089) 217 607; (089) 271 9986;;

Getting around

Taxi is the most convenient way to see the sights around Sandakan (although not the cheapest). Taxis don’t use meters, but prices are —though still negotiable. They are ubiquitous. A return journey is usually twice the standard one-way fare, but includes waiting time up to several hours. For a full-day tour expect around 200 ringgit. A recommended taxi driver is Mr Lai on (0198) 699 789.

Some standard one-way fares are:
Sepilok: 50 ringgit
Labuk Bay: 80 ringgit
Airport: 30 ringgit
Sandakan Memorial Park: 30 ringgit
Puu Jih Shih Temple: 25 ringgit
Buli Sim Sim or Agnes Keith House: 10 ringgit