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A friend and I will be visiting Kota Kinabalu in a month's time. I was told recently there were incidents of tourists being kidnapped while in Sabah. Is safety a concern in Kota Kinabalu? Are there places I should avoid?

Asked by Cecilia via Site_iconTravellr.com

15 Answers

  • +1

    I flew out of there today and and it seems perfectly safe. The UK FCO suggests caution in remote areas, but that's only sensible and could apply to anywhere: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/asia-oceania/malaysia over 5 years ago

    Answered by Steve via Site_iconTravellr.com
  • 0

    This is a pity. I am considering a trip to S.E. Asia & to be included in it was to possibly include a trip to East Malaysia. Now this has scared the hell out of me:( over 5 years ago

    Answered by Hilary via Site_iconWorldNomads.com
  • +1

    Cecillia (and Hillary), the kidnappings happen on the remote eastern side of Sabah and Borneo, Kota Kinabalu (KK) is on the western coast. As far as anywhere is "safe" (think about how unsafe your own kitchen can be!) there's no need to worry about KK too much.
    Although there’s a political situation that is causing some tension.
    It's a bit complicated - eastern Borneo/Sabah borders with the southern Philippines. Since the 1990’s an Islamist separatist (terror?) group, Abu Sayyaf, has operated in the southern Philippines. They fund their operations by occasionally kidnapping people for ransom. Sometimes they do 'raids' across the border to the remote tourist resorts. Sometimes they kidnap westerners. They’re responsible for piracy in the region. Sometimes it gets ugly: beheadings in the late 90’s. They think nothing of holding victims for months on end until the ransom is paid (or the victims escape). Abu Sayyaf is a group you don’t want to meet.

    Back to KK (which has a minority Fillipino-descended population) - Abu Sayyaf has allegedly decided to support a man who claims to be the direct descendent of the Sultan of Sulu and the rightful ruler of Sabah and parts of Southern Philippines. He has a small band of supporters for secession from Malaysia, and there are no mass demonstrations or anything like that. Still, religion and politics – never a good mix.

    This is a personal opinion based on what I’ve read, but I wouldn’t go to far eastern Sabah especially the town of Semporna, and the nearby islands of Mabul and Sipadan (despite the excellent dive sites). Stay right away from the border region with the Philippines.

    KK: don’t get into the local politics, and in the unlikely event there is a political gathering/protest, walk the other way.
    Sandakan in north-eastern Sabah, the stepping-off point for eco-tourism (orang-utan watching), also seems fine. The greatest danger there is flooding and landslides from heavy rain in January. over 5 years ago

    Answered by Ask Phil via Site_iconWorldNomads.com
  • +1

    Hi, I live in Sabah (Kota Kinabalu) and we run a Dive business here. So I have personal, and business, experience on safety here for tourists.

    Firstly, whichever country you are travelling to you should always view the travel advice from your country's Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) - as advised by Steve.

    There was a kidnapping incident from Sipadan several years a go (early 2000's). Sipadan is on the south east coast of Sabah. Since then there have been increased security measures in place with regular, daily navy patrols (boat & plane) and navy stationed on Sipadan, Mabul & Kapalai. There have been no reported security incidents since.

    Kota Kinabalu is on the west coast of Sabah and I am not aware of any security incidents or security threats for the capital city. It is a relatively, a safe place to visit and stay in Asia. You just need to apply common sense when visiting any foreign country / city (e.g. don't walk down dark alley's late at night on your own).

    You need to make your own personal decision about your safety when visiting any country in the world. However, Sabah is generally a safe place if you follow advice from your FCO and visit areas recommended for tourists.

    Enjoy your holiday in Kota Kinabalu!

    Joanne over 5 years ago

    Answered by Joanne Cotterill via Site_iconTravellr.com
    • Hey Joanne, I agree with you and great to hear from someone on the ground. I'd love to be able to contact you to 'take the temperature of KK' from time to time.... what's the name of your dive business (and are there contact details online?). cheers, Phil from safety hub. Ask Phil over 5 years ago
  • 0

    Hi Phil,

    Nice to hear from you. I'm pleased you appreciated the travel advice I shared.

    Our company is called Borneo Dream (http://www.borneodream.com). If you need feedback / travel information about Sabah, Borneo you can contact me via info@borneodream.com

    Stay safe ;)

    Joanne over 5 years ago

    Answered by Joanne Cotterill via Site_iconTravellr.com
  • 0

    hi there..1st time i travelled on my own..i went to sabah..it was very exciting..everyone was so friendly n willing to help me..i did hitch hike too..im a girl..i managed to safe huge amount of money n did so many activities..from wat i hv experienced..sabah is a safe area..it also promise u a lot of fun...however about the kidnapping..

    im feel sorry bout it..it shudnt be happen at such a beautiful area..do take care of urself..n i advised u to report urself to the local police station if u plan to go to any rural area by cheap transportation..i did it once and the policeman really care about me..he also meet the boatman to recognize his face and his boat..

    worry free and enjoy ur trip..;) over 5 years ago

    Answered by via Site_iconWorldNomads.com
  • 0

    Hi, I live in Sabah and Kota Kinabalu is absolutely safe. I feel so much safer walking along the streets of Kota Kinabalu and Semporna than the streets of downtown LA or San Francisco. about 5 years ago

  • 0

    Where do u plan to go anyway? Semporna is safe as well as the island around it... about 5 years ago

  • 0

    I loved KK! Was just there three weeks ago and it was quite safe about 5 years ago

  • 0

    Walked all over town .... No problems....2 months ago about 5 years ago

    Answered by via Site_iconAsk a Nomad iPad app
  • 0

    Those safety issues were over ten years ago and it's an extreme shame that the deconstructive attention seeeking actions of a very very small misguided minority long ago still lingers to sully the name of Sabah today.

    Today, joint international efforts against religious extremism has seen the Abu Sayyaf and MILF groups weakened considerably at various fronts. Ten years ago, as with the rest of the world, Sabah maritime borders were ill prepared to act against terrorist attacks. These days there is a huge military effort to combat, weaken and control the efforts of such groups and as such, I would dare say that Sabah is one of the safest parts of the Asia where there is genuine cultural harmony and peaceful disposition. almost 5 years ago

  • 0

    Yeah right, safe? Look at the grills on the stores and residential areas and it speaks ALL.

    When you are a tourist, you are marked for potential kidnapping or mugging. I know what I am talking about. almost 5 years ago

    Answered by Jonathan via Site_iconWorldNomads.com
  • 0

    The safest place in Asia is STILL Brunei Darussalam followed by Singapore. almost 5 years ago

    Answered by Jonathan via Site_iconWorldNomads.com
  • 0

    Wanna bet, Ask your respective Embassy or Consular representative !!! almost 5 years ago

    Answered by Jonathan via Site_iconWorldNomads.com
  • 0

    There is no kidnapping in sabah. Ur information is ancient almost 5 years ago

    Answered by via Site_iconAsk a Nomad iPad app

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