EXACTLY How To Go From Sandakan To Lahad Datu [2024]

Published Categorized as Sabah, Sandakan
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Exploring Borneo and want to know how to go from Sandakan to Lahad Datu? We can help!

While Lahad Datu is not as well known as Sandakan, it does provide some great wildlife and marine life experiences and it’s a place you may want to find yourself while in Sabah.

While it’s not far from Sandakan to Lahad Datu, this journey can seem complicated, especially as there is a lack of information online. However, if you take it step-by-step, it’s actually quite straightforward with many people taking this trip each day.

Tabin Wildlife Reserve suspension bridge at the resort
Suspension Bridge at Tabin Wildlife Resort

Below, I break up exactly how to get to Lahad Datu from Sandakan so you know exactly what you need to do, when, whether you are looking for a Sandakan to Lahad Datu bus or a flight from Sandakan to Lahad Datu. This way, you will be exploring as quick as possible!

I also describe the reverse journey from Lahad Datu to Sandakan.

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Map: Sandakan To Lahad Datu

Sandakan to Lahad Datu map
Click the map to open it in Google Maps.

The distance between Sandakan and Lahad Datu is around 190 kilometres and it takes around three hours to drive depending on traffic.

BEST OPTION: How To Go From Sandakan To Lahad Datu

The quickest and best option for travelling from Sandakan to Lahad Datu is to take a private taxi.

The cheapest option is to take a bus.

Here’s a summary of your options:

Mode of transportDurationBest For?
Flight2.5 hoursPeople who would rather fly and possibly save a little time
Bus5 hoursPeople who want the cheapest option
Car3 hoursPeople who are happy to hire a car or who like to stop along the way
Taxi3 hoursAnyone who wants the easiest and most straightforward way to get between Lahad Datu and Sandakan
Durations take into account an approximate time getting to and from bus stations/airports to a central location as well as waiting time

Option 1: Sandakan To Lahad Datu Flight

Lahad Datu Airport
Lahad Datu Airport – it’s tiny!

There is currently a daily flight between Sandakan and Lahad Datu. This takes just 35 minutes and is operated by MASWings which is a regional carrier of Malaysia Airlines.

The flight is quite affordable and leaves around lunch time. It’s perfect for matching up with check in and out times.

Note that if you travelling to Lahad Datu to visit a lodge like Tabin or in the Danum Valley, this may arrive too late for you to travel onward that day.

Click here to see the prices for your dates.

Option 2: Bus From Sandakan To Lahad Datu

Sandakan Central Bus Station
Sandakan Central Bus Station

The cheapest way to travel is by bus. Buses and minibuses leave regularly, but unfortunately, do not have their latest schedules online at the time of publishing.

There should be at least one express bus in the morning from Sandakan’s long distance bus station at Batu 2.5, four kilometres north of town. This takes about four hours. There are also buses and minibuses that leave regularly but can stop anywhere along the way, so these can be quite slow, albeit, a little cheaper.

Your best bet is to check with your hotel in Sandakan for the latest express bus times and turn up for that. Otherwise, you can go to the bus station and find out for yourself.

In Lahad Datu, express buses arrive at the Lahad Datu bus station. More frequent buses and minibuses leave from a vacant lot on Jalan Bunga Raya near Tabin Lodge.

Click here to see if the latest timetables and prices are available online now.

Option 3: Sandakan To Lahad Datu By Car

If you hire a car, you can also travel between Sandakan and Lahad Datu by driving yourself.

The journey is on a major highway and you won’t get lost. It’s straightforward and will take around three hours.

You simply take Route 22 out of Sandakan and then turn on to Route 13/AH150 when you hit it for the rest of the journey to Lahad Datu.

I did find some rough patches when I last did this journey, but it was not hard to navigate at all.

Click here to read more about driving in Malaysia or here to see car rental prices.

Tebah Batang Village, Lahad Datu Sabah
Tebah Batang Village in Lahad Datu

Option 4: Sandakan To Lahad Datu By Taxi

The easiest way to travel between Sandakan and Lahad Datu is in a taxi. It can also take on flying to be the quickest way. You also get to choose what time to go.

In a private taxi, you can be picked up at your hotel in Sandakan and dropped at your hotel in Lahad Datu (or wherever else you choose). It doesn’t come easier than this!

The harder part can be finding a taxi to book. Your accommodation or tour providers in either Lahad Datu or Sandakan should be able to help you organise this.

I booked with this driver on a recent trip and had a positive experience.

You can also try to use Grab. Grab prices vary depending on how busy the network is. When I tried it in April 2024, it was RM285 and later I saw it for RM320. I am not sure if it is easy to find a driver who will accept this fare though.

Lahad Datu to Sandakan

Sandakan fountain in Downtown
Sandakan fountain

If you need to travel Lahad Datu Sandakan instead, making the journey is the same as the way here. You simply reverse the directions above.

You can fly in the morning from Lahad Datu to Sandakan on MASWings.

Buses also run regularly. Express buses depart from the Lahad Datu bus station. More frequent buses and minibuses leave from a vacant lot on Jalan Bunga Raya near Tabin Lodge.

Click here to see if express bus timetables are online yet.

You can also take a taxi back (for example, with Grab) or drive yourself.

Final Words

It’s easy to travel between Sandakan and Lahad Datu as the distance is not far.

Flying is maybe the fastest way – but once you add in time to get to the airports and wait time, it’s not necessarily faster than taking a private taxi and the taxi can be more comfortable and much easier.

A bus is also an option to save money.

Whatever you do, I hope you have a great time in Sabah!

I hope you found this guide to how to travel from Sandakan to Lahad Datu useful. Check out all the best things to do in Lahad Datu here. You can find our complete travel guide to Sabah here or to Sandakan here.

Planning a trip to Malaysia? Have any questions? Join our Malaysia Travel Planning Facebook group here now! It’s the perfect place to ask any questions and to be inspired!

By Sharon Gourlay

Sharon is a certified Malaysia travel expert and can't get enough of travelling and talking about Malaysia since she first visited 21 years ago. She travels around Malaysia multiple times a year both alone and with her kids. She used to call Penang home and especially loves this food paradise. Sharon also has a Bachelor of Arts in Asian Studies, a Certificate III in International Travel Sales and has been certified by Tourism Malaysia as a Malaysia Travel Expert. Through this site, she'll help you have the perfect trip to this amazing destination.