Found near Borneo, Kota Kinabalu is one of Malaysia’s top holiday destinations. It boasts of pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and of course, the famous Mount Kinabalu.
Equally stunning, Sandakan is one of Borneo’s underrated destinations. It features gems like Kampung Pukat Fisherman Floating Village, and is close to the famous Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. It’s also an ideal place to go if you want wildlife watching.
If you’re planning on traveling from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan, then you’re in luck as this guide will show you how to get between the two destinations. Below, I describe exactly how to get from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan whether you are looking for a Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan flight, a bus from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan or want to drive from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan.
I also describe the reverse journey from Sandakan to Kota Kinabalu.
Note: There is no Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan train.
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Map: Travel From Kota Kinabalu To Sandakan
This map shows you the Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan distance.
The distance from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan is 227 km, and takes approximately 4.5-7 hrs.
BEST OPTION: How To Get From Kota Kinabalu To Sandakan
Option 1: Flights Kota Kinabalu To Sandakan
One of the easiest ways to get your destination is to fly Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan via AirAsia, Malindo Air, Malaysia Airlines or Firefly.
The cost of a Kota Kinabalu Sandakan flight ticket is around RM 160 – RM 410, depending on any current sales and the season. If you’re wanting a flight from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan, keep an eye out for the AirAsia sales where sometimes you can get a flight for barely any ringgit at all. The approximate flight time from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan is 1 hour.
The main city centre is only 13.2 km from Sandakan Airport, and just a quick 12-minute drive via taxi, or Grab, so you don’t have to worry about long transfer times.
Option 2: Kota Kinabalu To Sandakan Bus
Another convenient (and budget-friendly) option is to take the bus from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan at Kota Kinabalu North Bus Terminal Inanam.
Buses regularly depart throughout the day between 7am to 8pm, and are mostly operated by Sida Ekspres and Tung Ma Express. Travel time is approximately 6-7 hrs from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan by bus.
It’s best to check the Kota Kinabalu to Brunei bus schedule and book your tickets in advance to avoid long queues and the influx of travellers, especially during the weekends and peak season.
If you’re a budget-traveller, taking the bus is the cheapest option, with bus fares costing around RM 65-RM69.
Option 3: Driving From Kota Kinabalu To Sandakan
If you’re travelling by car from Kota Kinabalu, you’ll be driving a distance of 227 km, and the journey will take 4-5 hrs.
Travelling from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan by car allows you to create a flexible itinerary, giving you plenty of time to stop at notable attractions along the way. It’s also easier to go from one attraction to the next.
However, if you want to cut on costs, you might as well take the bus.
Sandakan To Kota Kinabalu
In terms of how to get from Sandakan to Kota Kinabalu, all you need to do is to take the above transportation options in reverse.
To get to your destination, you can either fly via plane, take the bus or travel by car.
If you’re after a flight to Sandakan from Kota Kinabalu, AirAsia, Malindo Air, Malaysia Airlines and Firefly are the airlines to check out. A Sandakan to Kota Kinabalu flight will cost around RM 160 – RM 410, with a flight time of 1 hr.
Similarly, you can take the Sandakan Kota Kinabalu bus. Buses bound for Kota Kinabalu North Bus Terminal Inanam will cost RM 65-RM69.
Finally, you can also travel by car, and it will take approximately 4-5 hrs. The Sandakan to Kota Kinabalu distance is 227 km.
In this post, we’ve covered the different transportation options that you can take if you’re travelling from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan (and vice versa!)
The fastest way to get to your destination is to travel by plane. But if you want to take a more budget-friendly alternative, you can travel by bus.
Meanwhile, if you want convenience and flexibility in your itinerary, you can travel via car or private vehicle.
I hope you found this guide to how to travel from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan useful. We also have travel guides for reaching Kota Kinabalu from other places such as Tawau, Labuan and Brunei. You can find our Kota Kinabalu itinerary here and guide on things to do in Sandakan here. You may also be interested in our guide on things to do in Tawau here.
Sharon is an Australian who has fallen in love with Malaysia! She explores Malaysia multiple times a year, often with her kids, and has previously lived in Penang.