How much does it cost to backpack in Borneo

We spent twelve days in Borneo in February 2018, which was enough time to see plenty of animals in the rainforests and do a lot of hiking in the various national parks.

We tracked our spend as we went, and are actuals are below, alongside what we would budget if we returned with the benefit of hindsight.

The costs below are for two people; we didn’t find too many financial benefits of travelling as a couple, as all of the attractions are charged per person, so for solo travellers, dividing the total below by two would be a good rule of thumb.

We broke our costs into five main categories; accomodation, food & drink, activities, travel & other.

Cost per night (per couple) Our Trip Budget
Accomodation  37.50 37.00
Food & Drink  32.00 30.00
Activities  40.00 40.00
Travel 13.00 13.00
Other 13.00 5.00
Total 135.50  125.00 

We stayed in a range of accomodation during our time in Borneo; hostels and even budget hotels in the main cities such as KK were really good value for money. Towards the more remote areas, the homestay’s and BnB’s were a little bit more expensive. We also travelled during Lunar New Year, which was a very busy time, so ended up with a slightly higher rate in some places as a result.

Overall, budget AUD$37 per night for accomodation in Borneo.

Food & Drink
Roti Canai (bread, served with a choice of curry sauces) makes for an excellent lunch on the go and is usually less than AUD$1 a time. The more expensive meals were in the more remote areas, but this was offset by the huge availability of well priced street food in Kota Kinabalu.

Overall, budget AUD$30 per night for food in Borneo.


Whilst the cost of activities is high in Borneo, it is well worth the money as there are only a few places in the world where you can be so close to some of these animals in their natural habitat. Although our cruise along the Kinabatangan River could have been cheaper if we had organised it ourselves, a lot of the places were quite difficult to get to so we found it a lot easier being booked onto an organised tour.


Overall, budget AUD$40 per day for activities in Borneo.

Uber and Grab make getting round the cities a doddle. Large buses do a good job at getting people to and from the other parts of the island but due to the long journeys and the harshness of the roads we found bus fare to be quite expensive. Due to the remoteness of some locations, our only option was to take organised drivers, so make sure you allow something in the kitty for travel.

Overall, budget AUD$13 per day for travel.

As usual, we purchased a couple of sim cards in the airport but these will last us for a couple of weeks in Peninsular Malaysia as well. We did a bit of shopping in the impressive malls of Kuching and Kota Kinabalu so that we had enough gear to last us through the trip; if we were just popping in for a holiday then we wouldn’t need this spend. 

Overall, budget AUD$5 per day for other costs.