Borneo Driving Advice and Car Hire Info

Driving In Borneo-

Cars are driven on the left as in the UK and you can rent a car with your own country’s licence, though an international driving permit is recommended in addition. By Asian standards, roads are usually in good condition and driving standards are generally acceptable. The main road network covering the island is the Pan Borneo Highway / Trans-Borneo Highway which connects Sabah and Sarawak, with Brunei and the Kalimantan region in Indonesia. Construction on the road began in 2015 and continues to the present day.

Road signs are usually written in English but in rural areas may by in Malay. Some translations of commons signs are-

Most road signs are in English or are clearly understandable. There are some exceptions:

Dilarang Memotong = No Overtaking

Awas = Caution or Danger

Ikut Kiri = Keep Left

Beri Laluan = Give Way

Kurangkan Laju = Reduce Speed

Sekolah Dihadapan = School Ahead

Kampung Dihadapan = Village Ahead

Had Tinggi = Height Limit

Roads in Sabah are generally in good condition and driving abroad in Borneo is easy by Asian standards, even in Kota Kinabalu town, though parking can be an issue there. I drove at night from Kota Belud on the coast over the mountains to the foothills of Mt Kinabalu in the dark which seemed to shock the locals but was nowhere near the scariest drive I’ve done. This road may take longer in the daytime with slow moving trucks impeding your progress. Even driving in the jungle areas around Sandakan and down to the Kinabatangan River wasn’t too bad in February though I believe the dirt roads in the region deteriorate badly in the rainy season and a 4WD is probably needed then.

Most main roads in Sarawak are also in a good condition and driving style in Kuching is relaced by Asian standards. Driving at peak times might entail some delays but nothing in comparison to those seen in places such as Kuala Lumpur. Some roads can flood or be prone to landslides after heavy rain. Although roads are in a passable condition, it can easily take a full day’s driving to travel between Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, esppecially if you get stuck behind a slow-moving logging truck or oil palm tanker.

Indonesian Kalimantan accounts for around 70% of Borneo’s land mass and the road system isn’t as advanced as that in the Malaysian parts of Borneo.  The Trans-Kalimantan Highway starts from Sambas Regency on the border with Sarawak and runs along the coastline of Kalimantan passing through most major towns in Western Kalimantan. The journey from Kalimantan to Sarawak is challenging as the roads in Kalimantan is in bad condition in places. From Pontianak to Kuching, expect a journey of 8 to 10 hours. You will also need to clear immigration at  the Entikong checkpoint. Drivers will again require to report vehicles entering Malaysia and pay for a one-month vehicle entry permit. The interior of Kalimantan has few roads and travellers tend to use rivers to get about. If you do drive, expect some rough conditions and lengthy journeys, particularly after rain.

For information on Brunei see my page on the country.

Although I try and keep the information in the site updated as much as possible, in a rapidly moving world, situations can change daily. Therefore please use the site as an approximate guide, and in conjunction with other resources in order to form your view on driving conditions, roads, safety etc.

Borneo Car Rental –
Sixt,Hertz, Avis and Europcar have branches in Kota Kinabalu and Kuching. Sixt and Hertz have outlets at Balikpapan in Kalimantan.

We currently have no local car rental partners in Borneo. If you are a local car rental company who would like to feature on please check details on our Partnering page or contact us on

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