EXACTLY How To Go From Sandakan To Tawau [2024]

Published Categorized as Sandakan, Tawau
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Want to explore more of Sabah and wondering how to go from Sandakan To Tawau? We can help!

Sandakan and Tawau are both places with surrounding areas that are amazing to explore while you are in this part of the world.

While it’s not far from Sandakan to Tawau, this journey can seem complicated, especially because there is not much information online. However, it’s quite straightforward with many people taking this trip every day. These are the second and third biggest cities in Sabah, after all.

Table Waterfall in Tawau Hill Park, Sabah
Table Waterfall in Tawau Hill Park

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

I also describe the reverse journey from Tawau to Sandakan.

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Map: Sandakan To Tawau

Sandakan To Tawau map
Click the Map to open in Google Maps. You can then access directions to each of the locations discussed in this article.

It’s about 315 kilometres between Sandakan and Tawau, and it takes around 5.25 hours to make the drive depending on traffic and road conditions.

BEST OPTION: How To Go From Sandakan To Tawau

The quickest option for travelling from Sandakan to Tawau is to fly. The easiest option 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?Book
Flight2.5 hoursPeople who want the fastest optionBook here
Bus7.5 hoursPeople who want the cheapest optionBook here
Car5.25 hoursPeople who are happy to hire a car or who like to stop along the wayBook here
Taxi5.25 hoursAnyone who wants the easiest and most straightforward way to get between Sandakan and Tawau
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: Flight Sandakan To Tawau

Tawau Airport
Tawau Airport

There is currently one direct flight a day between Sandakan and Tawau. It’s flown by MASWings which is a regional carrier for Malaysia Airlines.

The flight takes about 40 minutes and, at the time of publishing, flies in the morning. If you book in advance, the prices are reasonable.

Click here to see the prices for your dates.

Option 2: Sandakan To Tawau Bus

Sandakan Central Bus Station
Sandakan Central Bus Station

The Sandakan Tawau bus options depart from the long distance bus station in Sandakan on Jalan Lintas Utara in a large carpark. This is about four kilometres north from the centre of Sandakan.

Express buses depart for Tawau from 6:30am to 10:30am and take about six and a half hours. They cost around RM47.

If you miss the express buses, you can also take a minibus from here to Tawau.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible at the time of publishing to see the latest schedules and to book your tickets online.

Click here to see if they have returned online when you are reading this.

Note that you can find tickets online when travelling in the reverse direction from Tawau to Sandakan.

Otherwise, ask at your hotel for help getting the latest schedules.

Option 3: Sandakan To Tawau By Car

As stated above, the Sandakan to Tawau distance is about 315 kilometres, and it takes about 5.25 hours to drive. Obviously, this depends on traffic and road conditions.

Generally, it’s an easy drive with nothing to worry about. It’s on major highways, and these are major cities with signs, so you shouldn’t get lost.

You simply take Route 22 out of Sandakan and then turn on to Route 13/AH150 when you reach it. Continue on the AH150 which turns into Route 13 all the way to Tawau.

Last time I drove this, there were some damaged sections of highway on the Sandakan end, but, otherwise, the journey was super smooth.

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

Option 4: Sandakan To Tawau By Taxi

Taking a taxi is the easiest way to make this journey. You can be picked up at your hotel in Sandakan (or anywhere else you like) and dropped off at your hotel in Tawau.

This means no dealing with bus stations or airports. No lugging round your suitcase in the heat. You’ll get to Tawau with a minimum of fuss.

Finding a taxi that will take you this far can be the hardest part of this option. Checking with your accommodation at both ends is your best bet to getting a safe and reliable operator.

This is too far for it to be covered by the Grap app.

Tawau To Sandakan

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary Watching the monkeys eat and interact
Watching the monkeys eat and interact at Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary near Sandakan

Travelling Tawau to Sandakan is just as straightforward as the opposite way around. You simply have to reverse the directions you followed above.

A Tawau to Sandakan flight also operates on MASWings daily. It leaves just before midday at present and also takes forty minutes.

Click here for the latest flight details.

The Tawau to Sandakan bus departs from the Sri Indah Bus Terminal about 17 kilometres east of Tawau. You can catch a Grab taxi here. Express buses generally leave around 8am and 2pm and take about 6.5 hours. A ticket costs around RM47.

You can find the latest bus timetables and buy your tickets here.

If you miss the express bus Tawau to Sandakan options, there are also minivans that depart from the Sabindo Square minibus stand approximately hourly until 2pm. They cost a similar price to the express buses.

Of course, you can also drive or take a taxi to travel Tawau Sandakan.

Final Words

It’s easy to travel from Sandakan to Tawau and vice versa. Simply, follow the instructions above, and you’ll be fine.

The fastest way to travel is to fly with the easiest being by taxi. You can also hire a car and drive or take a bus which is the cheapest option.

However you travel, I hope you have a fabulous time exploring Tawau and Sandakan and everything Sabah has to offer.

I hope you found this guide to how to travel from Sandakan to Tawau useful. If you’re coming from Kota Kinabalu, find out exactly how to get to Tawau here. Also check out all the best things to do in Tawau here and the best hotels in Tawau here. You can find our complete travel guide to Tawau 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.