We flew to Kuching from Denpasar (Bali) via Singapore with Air Asia. In Singapore, we took a bus direct from the airport for Sing$7 each to the main bus terminal in Johor Bahru, the border city on the Malaysian side. Border formalities were a smooth formality on both sides with numerous boothes in modern buildings. We disembarked and re-embarked the bus to complete the immigration formalities at each station. Journey time was about an hour in the middle of the day. Upon arrival in the bus and taxi terminus in Johor Bahru, we were able to take a bus connection to the airport which took about 30-45 minutes and cost about 8MR. Both Johor Bahru and Kuching are small modern airports and easy to get around. We had to clear immigration again upon arrival in Kuching, as Sarawak is a semi-autonomous state in Malaysia.
Airport taxi rates to anywhere in Kuching are fixed at 26MR, and this is the same on the way back.
Getting around Kuching, we hired a taxi to take us to Semenggoh for 40MR on the way. We didn’t realise that the taxi actually had a metre, and according to that it would only have cost us a little more than 30MR. On the other hand, the taxi driver agreed to wait for us while we visited the sanctuary for 90 minutes and we agreed a price of 30MR for the journey back. Overall, the total of 70MR represented a fair value for both parties. Taxis with metres are widely available.
We stayed in the Lime Tree Hotel in Kuching on Jalan Abell, a new small boutique hotel. As Kuching is built along the river, it is quite spread out. The Lime Tree is on Jalan Abell which is on most bus routes, and a walk into the centre of town takes 5-10 minutes. We highly recommend the Lime Tree Hotel for its modern and compact facilities. It has complimentary wifi throughout the hotel, and two computers for guest use at reception. Breakfast is excellent quality and variety with fresh fruit, hot dishes as well as some local Sarawak laksa. Booked through Agoda, the Lime Tree was just under €40 per night including breakfast. We also stayed in the Harbour View Hotel by accident – I meant to book another night in the Lime Tree but mistakenly selected another hotel just above it in the list. It was fine, but did not include breakfast, only had wifi in the lobby, and cost just over €40. The Lime Tree is one of the best hotels we’ve stayed at during the trip, regarding value for money.
The tourist facilities in Kuching are good without being great. The main sources of information are the Visitor Centre and the National Parks Office. They should be able to provide you with most info and brochures. Buses to Bako National Park leave on the hour every hour from 7am and cost only 3MR for around a 45 minute journey. From the bus drop-off at the park entrance (the last stop), boats leave to the park at a cost of approx 50MR per boat which can carry up to 6 people.
In Kuching, almost everyone spoke and understood basic english. It is an extremely safe city. Everything (including travel agencies) closes at 5 pm on weekdays, and are closed on Saturdays and Sundays. There are plenty of modern malls with all Western commodities available. A great place to eat is the different seafood hawker centres. There are a few branches of American fast food: McD’s, KFC and Starbucks. Electronics are a bargain. The airport is small, but extremely modern (again with all American Fast Food available).
A visit to the Sarawak Cultural Village costs 60 MR. It includes transfer to and from your hotel. All hotels can book it for you. For going to the authentic villages with traditional longhouses is better to fly to the inner cities of Sarawak as they are far away and the trip from Kuching is very expensive.
During our visit, €1 was equal to 4MR.