- Pulau Labuan - the main island
Labuan is an island with an estimated population of 100,000 people. It's quite a close community where everyone knows everyone. The main town is known as Labuan Town (Bandar Labuan in Malay) but was formerly known as Victoria during the colonial era. Labuan Town is among the cleanest towns in Malaysia. You will observe the Labuan Corporation (local authority) workers diligently doing their job. Labuan was proclaimed a Federal Territory on 16/04/1984 and declared an International Offshore Financial Centre on 1/10/1990. A few of the major businesses that are run on the island include international offshore banking, steel mills, a methanol plant, floor tiles production, flour mills as well as offshore supplies. Because of these major businesses, Labuan has many non-Labuan natives that work here.
Federal Territory of Labuan is located off the northwest coast of Borneo, north of Brunei Bay, and faces the South China Sea. It comprises the main island of Pulau Labuan and six smaller islands: Pulau Kuraman, Pulau Daat, Pulau Rusukan Besar, Pulau Rusukan Kecil, Pulau Papan and Pulau Burong. It is located at 05 latitude North and 115 longitude East, and lies approximately 10 km southeast off the coast of the East Malaysian state of Sabah and 25 km north of Brunei. The Federal Territory of Labuan covers an area of 92 km2 and the main island of Labuan is only 75 km2. The island is mainly flat and undulating and the highest point is only 85 metres.
More than 70 percent of the island is still under vegetation. Due to the fact that land utility is geared more towards property and industrial use, there is less agricultural activity in the area. Most of the island's prime land, waterfront and suburbs are utilised for residential and tourism development. A sizeable area on the south western side of the island is utilised by shipbuilding, manufacturing and oil and gas industries.
Labuan has a tropical climate with two annual monsoon seasons - the South West monsoon from April to June and the North East monsoon from September to December. It is free from hurricanes and typhoons and enjoys good climate all year round. Daily temperatures average between 28 to 32 degrees celsius.
The island's name came from Brunei Malay word "labohan" which means anchorage. Labuan had a glorious history under the rule of various empires. After the demise of the Majapahit Empire in the 14th century, Labuan came under the rule of the Brunei Sultanate. On 24 December 1846, Captain G.R. Mundy, commanding H.M.S. Iris, took possession of Labuan, "In the Name of Her Majesty Victoria Queen of Great Britain and Ireland under the Direction of His Excellency Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Cochrane, C.B., Commander-in-Chief".
The British had negotiated with the Sultanate of Brunei for Labuan among other things. by 1847 the British government concluded a Treaty of Friendship and Commerce with the Sultan of Brunei, at the same time acquiring the island of Labuan. On 1 August 1848, Labuan was declared a free port and open to settlers. The Colonial Office took over Labuan in January 1906. In 1907 it became part of the Straits Settlements, a British colony comprising Singapore, Penang and Malacca.
During World War II, Labuan was occupied by the Japanese, along with other parts of what was then called British North Borneo (now Sabah). Thousands of Allied troops died in the fighting and eventual defeat of the Japanese in Labuan.
In 1963, Sabah joined the Federation of Malaysia, with Labuan included as a district of Sabah. In the 1984 Labuan Agreement, Sabah agreed to cede Labuan to the Federal Government of Malaysia. Labuan became a Federal Territory, with a status equivalent to that of the states of Malaysia.
Speaking Malay in Labuan
Please notice some basic communication terms in Labuan Malay Dialect.
English & Malay are widely spoken. Because of the influence of the Brunei Sultanate centuries ago, the majority of local Malays speak the Brunei-Kadayan Malay dialect, which is significantly different from standard Malay. This mixture of Brunei and Kadayan dialects is sometimes called Labuan Malay Dialect. However most of the population can speak standard Malay whenever necessary. Major Chinese dialects (especially Hakka) are spoken among the Chinese community.
There are daily flights to Labuan Airport (IATA: LBU) from Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia as well as 4 flights a day to Miri with MASWings and a couple more flights to and from Kota Kinabalu.
You can arrive in Labuan by ferry from Brunei, Kota Kinabalu, Lawas, Limbang, Sipitang and Menumbok, where a vehicular ferry operates. Labuan is the usual port for changing boats for those getting from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei in a day by sea. See the Kota Kinabalu to Brunei by land page for details.
- To/from Brunei: Five ferries daily, with additional services during the weekends, run between Labuan and the Serasa Ferry Terminal in Muara, Brunei. The journey takes 1 and a half hour.
- To/from Kota Kinabalu: At least two ferries daily at 08:30 and 13:00. From Kota Kinabalu, ferries depart at 08:00 and 13:30. The journey takes about between 3 hours and 3 hours and 15 minutes. Rm34 in economy class (with air-con).
- To/from Lawas: One trip daily, departing Lawas at 08:00 and Labuan at 12:30.
- To/from Limbang: Two trips daily, departing Limbang at 07:30 and 08:00 and Labuan at 12:30 and 14:00.
- To/from Sipitang: Two ferries daily, departing Sipitang at 09:00 and 10:00 and Labuan at 09:00 and 13:00.
- To/from Menumbok: An alternative way to visit Labuan from Kota Kinabalu. Buses will leave at 6:40, 7:30AM etc. from Kota Kinabalu (RM15) and reach Menumbok in 2~2.5 hours. The bus stop and ferry jetty in Menumbok are on the same street. Speed boat will depart when it is full. It takes 20 minutes and costs RM15. There are at least two Menumbok Express trips daily to Labuan, which will take 40 min to reach.
Labuan Town is small enough to be comfortably explored on foot. The town is one of the most pedestrian friendly towns in Malaysia. You should not encounter any problems as most of the drivers here drive their vehicle in "slow motion". Most of the drivers will give priority to pedestrians that want to cross the street, something generally unheard of in the rest of Malaysia! However, daytime temperatures maybe slightly higher than other parts of Malaysia.
For further destinations, bus services are available; some are vans which the locals refer to as 'buses'. Do take note that bus services end at 7PM everyday. Below are some bus routes that may be of interest. One way bus journeys will cost a minimum of 1 Ringgit and not more than 3 Ringgit.
- Bus No. 3 (Yellow) to Labuan Hospital, Sports Complex, Sungai Bedaun, Bebuloh, Kiamsam.
- Bus No. 4 (Red) to Labuan Hospital, Layang-layangan Beach, Peace Park, Surrender Point, Sungai Labu Homestay, Sungai Lada, Sekolah Menengah Sains Labuan and Universiti Malaysia Sabah-Labuan International Campus.
- Bus No. 5 (Pink)to Kerupang, Tanjung Aru and Labuan's most famous seafood restaurants of Anjung Ketam and Terumbu Warisan, and Bukit Kuda Homestay.
- Bus No. 6 (Green) to Lajau, Labuan Matriculation College, The Chimney, Bird Park, Manikar Beach Resort, Batu Manikar Beach and Pancur Hitam Beach.
Taxis are also available mainly in the town center. However, usually you may need to go to the taxi station to catch one. Do agree on the fare first before you board, since no taxis in Labuan use meters. Taxi stations can be found at:
- Ujana Kewangan (Financial Park)
- Labuan International Ferry Terminal
- Parking area in front of Labuan Supermarket
- Labuan Airport
Otherwise, you may call Sri Ganti Taxi Service (24 hours) at 013-8838 882 or 019-8408 228.
There is another way of getting around - renting a scooter. Cost is as low as RM38 per 24H, and you can find rental places at the ferry terminal.
See and Do
- Duty-Free Shopping - This is one of Labuan's known attractions. Its modern shopping centres carry a wide range of locally-produced as well as imported goods. Most popular are spirits and tobacco, textiles and appliances. Every end of the year, the island hosts a month-long shopping carnival with attractive discounts. Cultural shows add to the excitement
- International Offshore Financial Centre - Pulau Labuan is Asia's newest international offshore financial centre. The 65 foreign banks operating on the island offer sophisticated offshore banking services and numbered accounts facilities to the world's rich and famous.
- World Class Sport Fishing Destination - Pulau Labuan is surrounded by six smaller islands namely Pulau Kuraman, Pulau Daat, Pulau Rusukan Besar, Pulau Rusukan Kecil, Pulau Papan and Pulau Burong. The blue clear water around these idyllic islands is home to one of the world's richest coral and fishing grounds which offers unlimited deep sea tackling and coastal table-fish catches.
- World War II Sites - Pulau Labuan is a significant historical destination particularly from the time of World War II. The Labuan War Cemetery, Allied Landing Point and Japanese Surrender Park are three major World War II sites attracting foreign and local visitors alike. A "Remembrance Day" is held every November at the Labuan War Cemetery to honour the 3,900 recorded graves of Fallen Heroes of World War II. This event is attended by Malaysian and foreign war veterans and family members of the Allied soldiers killed in action during the war between 1942 and 1945.
- International Sea Sport Complex - Besides the various activities already mentioned, Labuan also hosts the International Sea Challenge in May every year which comprises four events - the Underwater Treasure Hunt, Jet Sport Challenge, Cross Channel Swim Challenge and Big Game Fishing Tournament.
- Wreck Diving - Pulau Labuan has one of the best wreck diving sites in Asia. There are four wreck sites on the island's locally known as: Australian Wreck. The Australian Wreck provides a very atmospheric dive thanks to the combination of the less than 10m visibility, rich coral growth, the skeletal remains of the ship, her tragic end and a reputation to be haunted. American Wreck. The American Wreck has a rich and tragic history, having been capsized during the World War II era with the loss of 9 lives. This journey back in time is complete with the sightings of bullet clips, depth chargers, wire bottles and canon artifacts still intact. Cement Wreck. The shallowest wreck in Labuan with its super structure rising to 19m and the way it sits makes it the easiest to pass through and great for wreck diving training for beginners. The Cement Wreck also offers rare whale shark sightings to lucky divers. Blue Water Wreck. Also known as Mabini Padre, is a large Philippines fishing trawler,which caught fire and sank in 1981. The completely intact vessel with masts lies on its side and is further enhanced by an abundance of marine life. However, at this moment there are no diving operators in Labuan itself, and one has to organize a trip from Brunei or Sabah.
- The Chimney - The Chimney is just a short drive from the town just like any other destination due to the island size. This 106 feet high red brick stack, also known by the local as Punil, is an artifact from Labuan's coal mining era (1847–1912). However no one knows the true purpose of the chimney. Entry is free of charge.
- Bird Park - The bird park is just opposite of the Chimney. Consist of 3 major dome connected together. Houses a number of species of bird. Entrance is 3 RM for locals and 5 RM for foreigners.
- Beaches - As the Pearl of South China Sea, it has beautiful stretches of beaches. The famous ones are Batu Manikar, Pancur Hitam and Layang-layangan beach where the locals hang out and have a BBQ picnic during the weekend. These beaches won the United Nation COBSEA Clean Beach Award 2008. The prestigious award is well deserved as every morning Labuan Corporation workers can be seen hard at work cleaning the beach from any rubbish and debris.
- Kampung Air / Water Village - Interesting settlement where houses, shops, and mosques are built on wooden houses on the water shore. No boat is needed to get in to the village. It is accessible by road till the parking areas near the entrance. You can then, choose to walk around the village on the wooden bridge or steel concrete walkways (e.g. Patau- Patau 1). The villagers are friendly and don't mind tourists walking around their villages and snapping pictures.
- Labuan International Golf Club - The only 18-hole golf course in Labuan that boasts a championship course designed by Ted Parslow. The golf club is owned by Perbadanan Labuan and managed by Saujana Scape & Greens Sdn Bhd. The golf course boasts a beautiful setting bordered by a magnificent view of the South China Sea and cooling greenery.
- Labuan Golf Club - The 9 hole Labuan Golf Course boasts a driving range, putting green, squash and tennis courts, gymnasium, swimming pool, restaurant and karaoke lounge.
- Jamek An-Nur Mosque - The largest mosque in Labuan. Features grey futuristic architecture.
- Labuan Square - Parade ground with beautiful landscape and green field. New Year, Federal Territory Day and National Day celebrations are held here. A brand new shopping complex, Labuan Times Square currently under construction next to it.
Although it's a duty-free island, the things here are not that cheap. However, the followed items should be cheaper than other places:
- Pearl & crystals - Made into jewelleries like brooch, bracelets, pendants, earrings, and baju Melayu buttons. Bazaar Labuan is a good place to shop for them.
- Cars - Especially imported ones. But, they are subjected to taxes when transported out of the island.
- Chocolate - Lots of choices too, that hard to be found in Peninsular.
- Cigarette - The price is half of the Peninsula's, but the flavor is not that desirable to some smokers.
- Batik sarongs (RM10 is reasonable and normal price in Malaysia, if more than that, you shouldn't buy it!)
- Seafood - Wet Market near Bazaar Labuan is a recommended place. You can even ask the sellers to pack the items frozen-ready for flights. Recommended place to buy frozen ready seafood is SBS Seafood Sdn. Bhd in the center of Labuan town. Just ask the local or taxi's driver, they can show you where is the shop. Recommended to buy - frozen fish coated with flour which is RM14 per bag, deep-fried it; very crunchy + boneless fish!
Things that are really exorbitant here:
- Computer stuff - sometimes almost double the Peninsula's.
All food, especially fresh seafood, is extremely well priced. But if you get the locals as a guide, they can show you some cheaper alternatives instead.
The most famous local dessert is "Coconut Puding", which you wouldn't be able to find in anywhere else. Good coconut puddings can be found in Pulau Labuan Restaurant with RM6 each.
BBQ chicken wings are a Labuan delicacy. They are cooked on skewers over smoky charcoal and wood barbeques. 6 chicken wings for RM9. The one of the best are sold at Kampung Sungai Keling, opposite Taman Sintee. Just a roadside stall.
You may also want to try various local kuih - pastries or cakes - in the weekend market known locally as Pasar Tani (Saturday and Sunday) from morning till afternoon. Try kelupis and lamban (a food made from pulut rice and coconut milk that been wrapped by either coconut leaves for lamban or nyirik leaf for kelupis), jelurut (a sweet and creamy colored local kuih wrapped with nipah or coconut leaf) and batik cake.
Another common local food in Labuan is punjung. Made from rice flour, they are little cone-sized desserts with green jelly-like fillings wrapped in banana leaves. Don't forget to try pulut panggang, made from glutinous rice and dried shrimp. This pulut panggang then wrapped by banana leaves and grilled.
- Anjung Ketam, ☎ . Located at Tanjung Aru. Pre-book is a must. One of the main attraction in Labuan. It is said that if you come to Labuan, it's a must to enjoy its crab delicacies. "Anjung Ketam", at Tanjung Aru (not that Tanjung Aru in Kota Kinabalu) is well-known for crab dishes. This food court consists of 4 stalls, all serving fresh crabs, lobsters and other seafoods. Advance bookings are advised, especially if you want your foods to ready by the time you come, and also some ingredients may have run out if you don't book early ahead. Some of the examples are crab curry, crab in butter milk, and just boiled crab (locals prefer this because they say it retains most of the crab taste). May cost you RM 15-RM 30 per person.
- Terumbu Warisan. A floating seafood restaurant located just a few meters from Anjung Ketam. The main rival to Anjung Ketam nowadays. The crowds start to divert their attention to this well managed and great taste restaurant.
- Mawilla Seafood Restaurant is one of the best restaurants in Labuan that serves seafood delicacies - fresh fish (which you can choose), prawn, lobster and squids. Try the Butter Milk Prawn and Nestum Prawn menu. Located at the sea shore of Labuan, near to Labuan International Sea Sport Complex and Labuan Waterfront Hotel. The price is reasonable. However, this famous restaurant can't fight the super famous Anjung Ketam in term of taste. Tel 087 422 125.
- Manja Rasa Floating Restaurant, ☎ . Located at Labuan International Sea Sport Complex. All you can eat steam-board buffet. Seafood and non-seafood. RM 20 per person. But the taste may not as good as other famous restaurants in Labuan.
- Fishermen's Wharf, ☎ . Located at Jalan Kemajuan at the Labuan Town. Seafood delicacies with Chinese style. No pork serve.
- Deepsea Seafood Restaurant, ☎ . A Malay seafood restaurant. Located at Jalan Merdeka next to Labuan International Ferry Terminal. Serve lunch and dinner. Nice view of Victoria Bay.
- Island Tomyam. A Thai and Malay style restaurant. Located at Kampung Batu Arang. Not far from Labuan Airport. Reasonable price. A very basic dinner may cost you less than RM 10 per person. 5PM-12:30PM daily.
- Kedai Kopi Ceria behind Labuan Corporation Tower (Public Library) at the town center. Famous for its Soto Labuan. You may want to come there before or during lunch hour otherwise the extra-famous soto will be 'out of stock'.
- Raff Restaurant. A nice Sarawak Malay restaurant located near to Chinese temple at Labuan Town.
- Jalan Ujong Pasir. There are several Malay and Chinese restaurants in this area as well as a fast food restaurant, Chicken King. Also known by local as Utama Jaya area.
- Medan Selera. A food court that located next to Grand Dorsett hotel and in front of Financial Park complex. Famous for its local delicacies such as BBQ chicken wing, satay, ABC and much more.
- Tiara Seafood Restaurant, ☎ 087 414 300. A fresh and exquisite seafood restaurant located at Tiara Resort. Fine ambiance. Lunch 10:30AM-2:30PM and dinner 6PM-10PM. Halal.
- Singapore Chicken Rice, ☎ 087 410661. Lazenda Commercial Centre near D'One Mart 24 hr supermarket. A family restaurant providing many types of traditional and fusion chicken dishes.
- Fratini's Restaurant. The one and only restaurant in the island that serves Italian cuisine. Located next to Tabung Haji building at the town centre. Famous for its pasta and pizza.
- The Grill, ☎ 087 414 300. Of Tiara Labuan Resort. An exclusive restaurant that serve western and Asian cuisine. Halal.
- Victoria Brasserie, ☎ 087 422 000. Of Grand Dorsett Hotel. Serves high-quality western and oriental buffet dinner.
- Lee Garden at the arrival floor of Labuan Airport. Chinese cuisine. No pork served.
- KFC. Located at Jalan Merdeka (24 Hours) across HSBC bank and the other one inside Financial Park complex (10AM-10PM).
- McDonalds. Located at arrival floor of Labuan Airport. 24 hr. Free WiFi.Very good service.
- Pizza Hut. Inside Financial Park complex and next to KFC.
- Old Town White Coffee. Latest kopitiam at the arrival floor of Labuan Airport. 24 hr.
- 1901 Hot Dogs. Located inside Financial Park mall, next to bowling centre.
- Nelson's. Located inside Financial Park mall, near Parkson Ria. Famous for it's corn cup and waffle.
Labuan is well known for its duty free especially alcohols. The main entertainment in Labuan is its night clubs and lounges. Although the majority of bars in Labuan are actually for prostitution, there a few that are not.
Some of the famous places where people go:
- Some Place Else (SPE) at the Grand Dorsett Hotel
- Kings KTV
- Strawberry KTV
- Beyond 2000 - one of the few bars in town that doesn't hire prostitutes
- Blue Wave
- Lido Cafe (Hotel Aifa)
- Grand Dorsett Labuan Hotel. Is the only 5 star hotel in Labuan. Located very near to Financial Park Complex and next to Labuan Square. Rates from RM475.00+.
- Waterfront Labuan Financial Hotel a 4 star rated hotel is located by the sea, and the Financial Park, hence the name. There is a food court (Medan Selera) in front of this hotel that serve local food Tel : 087 418111.
- Hotel Aifa a 3 star hotel is the best hotel location in Labuan, 5 minutes by car to airport 5 minutes walking distance to Labuan International Ferry Terminal.
- Beta Service Apartment Financial Park Labuan, ☎ 087-453333, fax: 087-453355. Located at one of the tower in Financial Park complex. The largest and only shopping mall in Labuan is under this apartment.
- Palm Beach Resort & Spa located at Manikar Beach, about 20 minutes drive from the airport and the town. Initially known as Sheraton Manikar Resort, the new owners of the 17-acre property that offers 245 spacious rooms and a westward view over the South China Sea.
- Tiara Labuan Hotel, ☎ . A 4 star hotel that offers 'top class resort style living'. About 5 minutes drive from Labuan Town. In front of Tanjung Batu beach and not far from Labuan World War II Memorial.
- Mariner Hotel, ☎ 087 418822. a 2 star hotel located near to Financial Park, banks (Agro Bank,Bank Simpanan Nasional and Bank Islam), restaurants, cyber cafe and night clubs.
- Sara Hotel, ☎ 087 415 555/ 657. a 2 star boutique hotel located near to Labuan Museum, Labuan Square, Standard Charted Bank and next to Sri Malindo Restaurant.
- Victoria Hotel, ☎ 087 412 411. a 1 star hotel that located in front of bus station and Am Bank. One of the earliest hotel in Labuan that still exist.
- Global Hotel, ☎ 087 425 201/ 202/ 203/ 204. Located next to Labuan Bazaar and duty free shopping area of Jalan OKK Awang Besar.
- Pulau Labuan Hotel 2 (Branch), ☎ 087 422 388. a nice 2 star hotel located at town centre.
- Ambassador 1 Hotel, ☎ 087 423 233. a 1 star hotel
- Ambassador Hotel, ☎ 087 581 242.
- Pulau Labuan Hotel, ☎ 087 416 288. a 1 star hotel
- Pulau Labuan Inn, ☎ 087 416 833. a 1 star hotel.
- Asia Hotel, ☎ 087 417 712. a budget hotel. RM63-RM68.
- Pantai View Hotel, ☎ 087 411 339/ 904.
- Melati Inn, ☎ 087 416 307.
- Wilayah Inn, ☎ 087 411 277. RM75.
- Southern Hotel, ☎ 087 414 211.
- Millenium Hotel, ☎ 087 421 278.
- Skyglobal Hotel, ☎ 087 431 219/ 218.
- Oriental Hotel, ☎ 087 419 019.
- One Hotel, ☎ 087 451 369/ 452 369/ 453 369.
- Perdana Hotel, ☎ 087 420 922.
- Homestay Patau-patau II Water Village, ☎ Mobile Phone 016 8246 193 or 013 8540 217. One of homestay program area in Labuan. Not really far from town. You can enjoy the richness of Brunei Malay culture, villager activities (such as fishing) and local food in this beautiful traditional water village (all house built above sea water).
- Sungai Labu Village Homestay, ☎ 016 8041 147 or 019 8821 049. Explore the uniqueness of Kadayan Malay way of life in this tranquilly sea side village. Located about 20 min drive from town or airport. Take your time to watch the sun that beautifully merge into South China Sea.
- Labuan Backpacker (5 min from the ferry terminal, look for Utama Java Superstore, above Olympic Pool & Snooker, 2nd Floor), ☎ 0168030868, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Probably the cheapest you will find, owned and run by friendly people. Still a little rough around the edges and you can hear the singing from the local bars. Dorm room has air con. Fast free internet and great breakfast at RM 25-RM 30 - motorbike for rent as cheap as RM 30 if you stay at labuan backpacker and lsland hopping RM 25-45 per-person,and you can around the lsland in 3 hrs. 25-30.
Not that you'd probably be tempted to do so, but do not tell the Labuanese that they are Sabahan. Furthermore, do not say that Labuan is a part of the State of Sabah. Most natives of Labuan, especially youngsters, are proud of Labuan's status as a Federal Territory of Malaysia with its own flag and state anthem.
Labuan is a very safe town. It is a very peaceful place and the people are very nice and friendly. Except road blocks with JPJ (local Department Motor Vehicle), police presence is pretty hard to notice, possibly because of the calmness and peace of the town.
You can notice lots of people jogging around in the evenings, even in the secluded roads in the hills, without fear of being mugged, like in other big cities.
Crime rate is very low, except once in a while, there used to be physical arguments between the immigrants, but only among themselves.
Roads are not busy, except occasionally in town. The driving attitude of people here are quite leisure, so it's common to have a car cruising in front of you very very slow without any purpose. There are lots of jaywalkers, and pedestrians crossing the road don't practice much caution. Several attractions such as Peace Park and Anjung Ketam are located in village area where children usually play near or at the road. So, just be careful if you're driving.