Do I need specific vaccinations (COVID-19 and other) to visit Borneo?

As of this writing, there aren’t any vaccination requirements for entering Malaysia if you are flying directly from a Western country. However, there are several you should get or consider getting:

  • Flu shot
  • COVID shot/latest booster (recommended to bring proof as guidelines may change in the future)
  • Hepatitis A and B (highly recommended)
  • Malaria – talk to your local public health unit as there is a possible risk.
  • Japanese encephalitis if you are at high risk (talk to your local public health unit)

Full Canadian vaccination recommendations are here (check your own country’s travel advisories for your government’s recommendations).

Is Borneo safe?

Borneo is generally safe and experiences relatively low crime, especially in the areas where we will be trekking. However, as is advisable in any foreign country, keep aware of your surroundings, protect your valuables, and avoid “sketchy” situations, especially in larger urban areas. We will be travelling together as a group most of the time, which increase safety.

What is the weather like?

Borneo’s climate is tropical rainforest with high humidity and stable-but-hot temperatures (27-32 degrees Celsius year-round). There is rainfall throughout the year, though it is heaviest from November to February.

What is the food like?

Food in Malaysian Borneo is about what you’d expect from an island nation in South East Asia: grilled fish and seafood, rice, noodles, and local vegetables seasoned with garlic and ginger, and often served with wonderful sauces. Camp meals like the ones we will have on the trek tend to be more basic than that you’d find in a restaurant. (But then, that’s a good description of “camp food” in most places in the world!)

I’m still nervous about the physicality. How fit should I be?

Look, I won’t sugarcoat it. Trekking through the Maliau Basin is hot, humid, and a little leech-y in places. We will be doing vertical climbs (with the help of ladders). We’ll be going up and down mountains through the jungle. We will be pushing ourselves harder than your average trek.

Your body should be physically fit enough to endure long hikes and long days of exertion. You should feel comfortable on narrow paths and, yes, the aforementioned ladders. This isn’t a walk through a paved botanical gardens by any means! You don’t need to be a triathlete or ultramarathoner, but you do need to be in great health and shape. Please consult with your doctor if you have any concerns about your physicality.

If you have access to hiking trails in hilly or mountainous terrain, this is the ideal way to train. If not, we recommend using the Stairmaster machine with rotating stairs or actually training on stairs. Nothing prepares you for a trip better than the activity itself!

Train at least 3 days a week. Start with short hikes or workouts (1 hour in length) with a light daypack. From week to week build the length and intensity of your hikes/workouts and gradually increase your pack weight until you’re comfortably able to hike 6-8 hours a day carrying the weight you’ll have on your trip. It’s best to begin your training regimen at least 12 weeks prior to your trip (or earlier, depending on your current state of health). Also be sure to use the footwear you’ll have on your trip to break them in. Getting a brand new pair of hikers for a trip sounds like a great idea, but it’s better to get them worn and used before you set out!

What happens if I can’t finish the walk due to injury or sickness?

While we hope that nothing untoward will come your way, shit can happen. That’s why travel insurance is so important. All participants are required to purchase mandatory Emergency Travel Health Insurance (minimum $200,000 of coverage), including coverage specific to trekking.

Rest assured, if something major happens, your travel insurance will be there to help pick up the pieces. But it’s a wise idea to have a back-up plan should you have nothing left in the tank for the following day’ hike. 

We will discuss insurance and what happens in the case of injury in more detail during our meeting.

What happens if I’m slow?

This is not a race, in fact, the whole idea is to SLOW-THE-EFF-DOWN. Hiking in the Maliau Basin and Borneo in general is more about savouring the moments.

If you’re realllllyyyy concerned, check with Sam. She’ll tell you she’s always the turtle. And she likes to hang out at the back. We leave no soldier behind. We are a team, and it’s not a death march.

What about tipping?

Tipping of tour guides and porters is normal and expected on this trek. Tipping in restaurants is generally not part of the culture, but may be expected in some. Other restaurants automatically add a 10% service charge. We will talk more about tipping during our meetings.

Do I need a travel visa?

As of this writing, visitors from Canada, the US, and the UK do not require a visa for stays under 90 days. Please consult your government website for the most up-to-date information.

What about currency?

The island of Borneo is divided among three countries: Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia in the south. Kota Kinabalu and the Maliau Basin are in Malaysian Borneo, and the currency is the Malaysian ringgit.

Most major hotels and businesses accept credit cards, but you should plan to exchange for Malaysian ringgits for shopping in local markets, etc.

What about jet lag?

Jet lag should be a legit concern of yours. For an optimal experience, we recommend arriving in South East Asia a few days early to help get your circadian rhythms reoriented, especially if you live in North America or Europe.

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