If you’re taking a flight, the nearest point of entry would be Tawau Airport, with a distance of approximately 1 hour. The second nearest airport (within Sabah’s domestic flight range) is Lahad Datu Airport. However, I strongly encourage you readers to fly to Tawau Airport.
Need help in finding cheap fares?
If you need help in selecting the cheapest fares, go to www.adioso.com and search destination as “Tawau”. However, being the cheapest is not necessarily the better option, but of course that’s a material for a different story on a different date (yes, I’m looking at you, AirAsia. You suck, big time and you’re a thorn in Borneo).
Editor’s note: You can also try MASWings if you’re flying domestically, especially within Sabah.
Here’s what you should do after arriving Tawau airport
Now, right outside of the airport, you can grab a taxi and go straight to Semporna, for a whopping RM100-150, depending on whether you’ve got a land transfer, arranged by tour agencies, or an airport limousine or even chartered “prirates” to settle your transportation needs.
However, if you have the time to spare, I would generally advise you to take a taxi / bus down to Tawau (taxi fare RM35 per car, bus fare RM5 per person) and then take a bus up to Semporna from Tawau.
However, there’s a catch.
Taking a bus from Tawau to Semporna
You will have two types: the Minivans or the Express Busses. The minivans will operate from dawn till dusk, but they only will depart once the minivan has reached full capacity.
On the other hand, express busses generally leave the bus stations on time, but they only operate within the 9am-3pm (first bus leaving from Tawau at 9pm, and the last bus leaves around 3-4pm) schedule.
The two express bus companies, TungTalun Express and Manis Express, have counters next to each another, and they depart around 30 minutes each of one another. The minibuses are in the opposite end of the bus terminal, and they are supposed to be in white. They will have the words “Bandar Sabindo Tawau-Semporna” written on their sides. You can’t miss it.
Tawau Mini Bus
Tawau Mini Vans
Read: You can also refer to information here.
NOTE:Minibus / minivan public transport are available from as early as 6.00am to as late as 5.30pm, both in Semporna and Tawau. Remember this carefully, as the minivans may be your last resort, but very reliable once the minivans start moving!
NOTE TO FOREIGNERS: You’ll still be charged full fare at RM14.80 cents, whereas locals will be charged at RM10.00 each, for each trip with the express busses. For the trips using minivans, each FOREIGNER TOURIST will be charged RM18.90 per person one way, whereas a local will still be charged RM10.00.
Traveling time: 2 hours /3-5 hours
Regardless whether you take a bus or a minibus, you’ll end up spending about 2 hours worth of travel. Therefore, the average for any traveller spending the time to get down to Tawau then to Semporna, would be within the range of 3 hours to 5 hours of transit (and waiting time).
If you want to skip all that, just book a trip with your resort company that you’re with and ask for a land transfer. If you are travelling in a group, the value is so much better (worth the money in every sense). Heck, you can even tell them to just stop by at the TAWAU > LAHAD DATU > KUNAK checkpoint and have a quick visit to the fruit stalls! A stop that is definitely worth making!
Kind reminder if you’re travelling from Semporna to airport
If you’re travelling from Semporna to the airport, there are few things that you need to remember:
The last bus from Semporna to Tawau departs at 3.00pm. Any later, you’ll need to take the minibus. Remember the fares, and the timing (minibus will always wait for the passenger capacity to be filled up, even if you are going to the airport).
Private chartered transport is always better
If you’re travelling in groups of two but less than four, a private chartered transport is always better; regardless whether you arrange it yourself or you have the resort companies arrange a private transfer. It is not worth spending the entire day travelling, you’ll lose a lot of stamina, and your fatigue increases dramatically due to the journey.
Image credit: eTawau.com
Guest post by Badi Yee:
- I am a very avid fan of motorcycle touring riding, and I enjoy local delicacies. Proud to be a Liverpool F.C supporter. I can always be reached at @badiyee if I am needed.