The unique thing about Malaysia, to get to another state in the country itself, you need a passport. Yes, that is true for the particular state here in borneo Island. Malaysia, historically divided into 2 separate land. Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah-Sarawak. For people coming from Peninsular Malaysia, passport requirement is a must. They will need passport to enter Sabah and Sarawak.
However, since both of this land considered as Malaysian, going from state to state in regular basis is not a problem. They will only need their identification card to smoothly travel in and out of the state. If Malaysian thought that they can travel as much as they can between the state, this is not true for Sabahan to travel to Sarawak, simply per say.
The border of Sarawak and Sabah is divided by another country, Brunei. I wonder why did Malaysia build road across Brunei or to say, they connect their road to Brunei road so that all Sabahan that want to cross the border will require official passport from immigration office.
For the last two days was my first attempt to cross the border. It was successful as I am in Sarikei, Sarawak now but with a bit of technical difficulties.
The requirement to cross the border is:
- Passport. Official passport. You can ask for special type of passport just to cross Brunei but I suggest international passport cause maybe you can use it later to travel to other country,
- Check your car- service your tyre, suspension system, engine cause its going to be a 1000 km journey. Or almost 1000 km.
- Well enough sleep and rest.
- Book a hotel either at Miri, Sarawak or Bintulu. I prefer Miri. Or both Miri and Bintulu
- Good GPS system or map. I use Garmin Nuvi 42LM with latest map update.
- Money, preferably Ringgit Brunei ( or dollars they said)
- Car Permit – You can obtain this from Brunei Custom counter at the border.
- Enough petrol. Petrol is expensive in Brunei so make sure to top up in Malaysia.
As I travel from Sabah to Sarawak, this will be a description more on to my direction of journey but if you are travelling from Sarawak, you can pretty much reverse it. For Sarawakian you can enter Sabah at your own will. No need to use passport but since you are crossing Brunei, you need passport also.
The first destination from Sabah is to go to Lawas, the northern district of Sarawak. Before you enter Lawas, you have to pass through the first check point. Sindumin immigration check point, just before you enter Merapok, a small village in Sarawak. There you need to stamp your passport. The first stamp is always exciting. At least for me.
Then you will drive through Lawas, please top up your supply in Lawas, drinking water, snack… I am travelling during fasting month of Ramadhan so I don’t need that stuff.
After crossing Lawas, you will arrive at second check point. That place is called Mengkalap if I am not mistaken. Or something else. Don’t bother to remember it but you will find it eventually. No other way to cross the border except you are doing off road inside the jungle. There you will need to stamp your passport. They will stamped “out” from Sarawak for you.
Then you will enter brunei and you will bump with their immigration checkpoint a few metres from the previous check point. There you will stamp “in”, meaning to enter Brunei. One thing you must not forget, you will need a car permit here. They won’t tell you what to do. You have to ask for it. You will need to ask the Custom counter for a form which you will fill up and get their official chop on it. You will need to enter your car number, your car engine number, your chassis number, your insurance expiry date. This permit is valid for a month period.
Now you are ready to travel through brunei. You will cross Temburong. Less than 30 minutes later you will find immigration counter at the left side of the road, do not miss it. You will need to check out from Brunei back to Malaysia. They will ask for your passport and the car permit you get earlier.
After this check point you will eventually arrive in Limbang. You can stop in Limbang if you want. Small town. So-so. Nothing much. Or you can just continue your journey to the next check point. Before you arrive in Limbang you will need to cross a river via small ferry. Rm10 one way. Quite expensive but that is the only way to cross the river. I wonder why they did not build a bridge there. Maybe because its on the border of two countries, so no one want to build bridge there.
After Limbang, you will stumble upon another check point. You will enter Brunei again. You will check out from Malaysia via Malaysia Immgiration check point then later in a few hundred meters you will arrive at another Brunei Immgiration check point. This is where you need to make sure your petrol is enough (top up in Limbang earlier). You will enter Brunei and basically you are crossing the whole length of Brunei to get to Miri. After check in to Brunei where they will stamp your passport again and ask for your car permit, you will then enter Brunei.
Driving in Brunei highway is not a problem. Very smooth. You can go up to 100km per hour. By an hour or maybe less, you will find yourself at another immigration check point. If your petrol is not enough there are plenty of petrol station on the way, but you need to think about their price. Unsubsidized petrol for Malaysian car in Ringgit Brunei currency. In this immigration check point, you will check out as usual, show your car permit, and then finally you enter Miri border. In Miri Border, you will check in back to Sarawak. They will ask for your passport. After that you are free and do what you want like its your country. Yes, you are back in your country, Your passport will be filled with a lot of stamp like you are travelling like hell to multiple country, yet you are actually just crossing the border to get to your own country!!
Then from here you can travel to Miri and it take about 30 minutes. In total, you will arrive from Sabah (sipitang) to Miri in 7 hours. Take your time here, you can pretty much drive straight to Bintulu or Sibu but that will be damned tiring. If you depart from Sipitang at 7 am, you will arrive in Miri by 2pm. Get a good hotel, and of you are not fasting, go find something delicious to eat. If you are fasting then go shopping and take picture or sleep in your hotel.
The next day, as early as possible, you need to drive to Bintulu which take about 3 hours from Miri. Then another 3 hours to Sibu and another 1 and half hour to Sarikei. Then 5 hours to Kuching.
You can stop in Sarikei and get a good and cheap hotel. My family prefer Wawasan Inn because of the big rioom and they provide 3 bed ( 2 queen size and 1 king size bed). The next day you can drive to Kuching for another 5 hours journey.
In conclusion, you can arrive in Kuching from Sabah by 3 days with a lot of immigration checkpoint, petrol, good tyre and superb driving skill. You need a good driving skill to arrive at your destination in time and in one pieces.
Is the journey worth it? Yes. But why the hell that we need a passport and a lot of immigration check point. Why don’t they build a road around Brunei border so that we do not need a passport to travel within our own country. Hopefully in the future they will do something about it.