Health wise, if you are adventurous to visit local cafés (where most delicious authentic local foods are found), do make sure the utensils are clean before you put into your mouth. General practice is to wipe with tissue or dunk them into hot water. Local cafés do provide a small bowl of soup which is predominantly MSG and shallots (fresh/fried). A good local café will give you proper soup. You could use horrible tasting MSG soup to cleanse the utensils. If your tummy is not strong enough do avoid the chili in vinegar which is commonly found on the table along with soy sauce, white vinegar and white pepper. The chili may gives your diarrhea for days.

In a Malay or Indian Muslim cafés, you may see a kettle/tea pot on the table, never drink from that kettle/tea pot. It is for washing hand.

Hygiene for food stalls is debatable. Observe carefully and see where they get their water from.

It is generally safe to eat at any restaurants. You will see DBKK (the city municipal council) rating for overall cleanliness.

Take note on the waiter/waitress, certified staffs must have DBKK Health Card. Green is permanent and pink is temporary. Food and Beverage industry in Kota Kinabalu (KK) must send their staffs to DBKK for hygiene course and medical check (screening for Hepatitis and Tuberculosis). A good local café will have staff wearing the DBKK Health Card, utensils dunked in a mug of hot water and a trash bin underneath the table.


Safety in Sabah is not a huge concern, though one should practice caution when traveling by not flaunting valuables. Sabahans, and Malaysians in general, are a peace-loving and friendly people. It is rare to hear of any violent crime committed within KK, especially not against tourists.

In 1999 there was the issue with some tourists who were abducted from Sipadan Island to the Phillipines, but immediately following that incident, the Malaysian government sent guards to the islands and since then, no further incidents were reported. The closest town to Sipadan Island is Semporna. As a reminder, that incident happened on the other side of Borneo which is 10 to 12 hours drive from KK to Semporna. KK is considered far away from the Philippine islands for any militia to cash-in on tourists. Today, although the presence of guards is less pronounced, law enforcement frequently patrols the waters to keep locals safeand visitors alike around Semporna region.

On the streets, bag-snatching or being pick-pocketed is very uncommon. You will see signage to warn anyone of pickpockets at crowded areas.

On the islands, it is not uncommon for people to leave their belongings alone whilst they go swimming. Although, use common sense and cover up your valuables, as the tourist spots are not just used by honest, law abiding citizens from Malaysia or any country.

Walking around at all hours of the night is also without problem, although there are drunken lads and prostitutes but they are generally found around Kg Air area. Beggars seldom disturb anyone. They just tend to keep to the darker and quiet areas of the city. Beware of little kids begging anytime of the day. These are kids from the opposite islands or from hidden shanty towns in KK suburbia. They are often kids of illegal immigrants and can be relentless.

The police station is easily found around the KK CBD. Their uniform colours are dark blue. Occasionally, you might see large police truck with cage parked on the side of the road for special operation to clear illegal immigrants. Those with white shirt and black pants are Traffic Police. Watch out for these officers, usually on larger engine motorcycles.