Quick facts about Borneo

Territorial boundaries: North: South China Sea / Northwest: South China Sea and Philippine Islands / West: Malay Peninsula / South: Java, Indonesia / East: Sulawesi, Indonesia

Area: 743,330 km2 (3rd largest island in the world, largest in Asia)

Most important waterways: Kapuas River, Mahakam River, Barito River, Rajang River

Capitals: Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) / Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei) / Jakarta (Indonesia)

Important cities/Population: Kuching, Sarawak (617,886) / Balikpapan, East Kalimantan (557,576) / Pontianak, West Kalimantan (554,764) / Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (462,963)

Highest point: Mount Kinabalu (4,101 m.)

Lowest point: South China Sea (0 m.)

Time zones: Indonesia Western time UTC+07:00, Brunei Darussalam time UTC+08:00, Malaysia time UTC+08:00, Indonesia Central time UTC +08:00

Environment – current issue: Deforestation

Climate: Tropical; hot, humid year-round; cooler in the mountainous areas

Tourist seasons: One of Southeast Asia’s only Summer destination, but the best time to visit is between March and October.

Political regime: Federal Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy (Malaysia) / Absolute Monarchy (Brunei) / Presidential Representative Democratic Republic (Indonesia)

Population: 18.59 Million (2009)

Languages: Bahasa Melayu (Malay) and English is widely spoken

Ethnic minorities:  Dayak ethnic groups (Malay, Banjar, Orang Ulu, Chinese and Kadazandusun)

Religions:  Sunni Islam (Official), Christianity (29%), Islam (26%), Buddhism-Taoism (17%)

Main sources of revenue: Tourism, timber, agriculture (tobacco, cassava, sugarcane, spices), oil, minerals

Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (MYR) / Brunei Dollar (BND) / Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)

Gastronomy: In Borneo there’s Malaysian cuisine, Indonesian cuisine and Burneian cuisine. Burneian food is similar to both countries, being rich and spicy. Common ingredients in all cuisines include lemongrass, chili peppers, curry, coconut milk, etc.

Accessibility from Montreal (main airlines): Malaysian Airlines from many nearby countries (i.e. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), and flights from Malaysia with Air Asia. Flights from Montreal to Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta with Turkish Airlines, Air France, British Airways, Royal Dutch Airlines, Qatar

Entry requirements:
Valid passport (Valid at least 6 month beyond the departure date)

Tourist visa:

  • Malaysia: Not Required for a stay up to 3 months
  • Brunei: Not Required for a stay up to 14 days
  • Indonesia: (New) Not required for a stay up to 30 days, given you enter the country from a designated point of entry and possess a valid passport and onward ticket

Safety issues: There are no Canadian governmental warnings advising tourists not to visit the island of Borneo, as the island itself currently has no outstanding issues and it is a fairly safe place to visit. However, there have been some cases of tourist kidnappings in Indonesia, but none of them took place in any of the provinces or states on the island. Yet, you may want to be aware of possible social tensions in the province of West Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Crime: Like anywhere in the world and especially in poor areas, petty crime may occur. However, violent crime, specifically against tourists, is very rare. Widespread across Asia, Credit Card fraud is major issue, and therefore tourists should choose wisely where they use them. In most cases, it’s better to pay in cash than to take the risk.

Transportation: In terms of getting around the island through the rugged terrain and vast rainforests, there are a variety of modes of transportation. To navigate on the land, you may use anything from buses to taxis or car-rentals. However, renting a car is never really suggested in a foreign destination, as you are not aware of the countries driving standards and regulations. Additionally, considering that the road conditions are not always great, especially in the Indonesia Kalimantan provinces, as roads can go from smooth asphalt to muddy and potholed during the wet seasons. In this case, you might actually have to get out of your car and push! However, transportation by bus in the Kalimantan provinces isn’t much better. Although it is possible to find good quality comfortable buses, you might also end up on an overcrowded, poor air quality bus with an inhumanly quick driver. Although the bus is a much better way to get around than driving, you should always do some research beforehand so that you end up on a bus that you are comfortable with. The bus system can take you anywhere from city to city and also inner city. As mentioned before, taxis can also be used as a mode of transport on land; however, one should always be prudent when it comes to the price, as the driver might try to scam tourists. It’s better to ask for a flat fee at the beginning rather than find out how much it will cost at the end. Also, you should always only pay on arrival at the destination, and remember that most taxis are only available in larger cities. It’s very difficult to get around the rain forest if you don’t have a boat. By small motorboats or mortised longboats, you can get a great view of the rain forest as you sail along various rivers, and also you can use these modes of transportation to get between cities.

Health issues: Tap water is not good to drink; The sun can be very strong, risk of isolation – Recommend use of a sunblock 30 – Wear a hat; During the monsoon, mosquito’s can be very annoying and carry malaria in certain areas – Recommended is a mosquito repellent with at least 30% of DEET; Reminder about food: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it! 

Vaccines to consider:

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis B

Influenza (flu)

Rabies – Dogs are mainly active at night


Good medication to bring for:

Antibiotic to treat diarrhea (Cypro)

Antibiotic to treat salmonella

(Maggie Gruber)

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