A guide about visiting Kuching is best written by a local Kuching person, and that’s why I thought I should do one like this.
Kuching, located in East Malaysia, is the administrative division of Sarawak. It is also home to a wide range of interesting festivals, nature parks, buzzing markets and shopping malls and landmarks.
The division, which is the Northern most of Sarawak is the most populous division in Sarawak with some 40+ ethnic groups calling it home.
Despite its reputation as being an administrative capital, Kuching has over the years, managed to retain its charm as an amazing place to visit, often referred as the ‘hidden paradise of Borneo’. In fact, the city made the list of the top 10 rising travel destinations in Asia in 2017 put together by TripAdvisor.
Kuching is close to the equator, so tropical rain and temperatures at 37°C is common, hence the need to wear comfortable sweat absorbent clothing.
INTERNET AND PHONE COVERAGE IN KUCHING
Internet coverage in Kuching is generally good, but like the rest of Sarawak, it becomes patchy outside of urban areas.
Generally speaking, Maxis (Hotlink) has the fastest network and is pretty stable in urban areas, while Celcom (Xpax) provides the widest coverage in Kuching. Digi is good in cities and several villages in Bau, Lundu and Sematan.
To ensure you have the best advice in this guide about visiting Kuching, I’ve also elaborated in more detail about getting a SIM Card and Internet plan in Kuching.
GETTING AROUND KUCHING
A good guide about visiting Kuching will tell you how you can get around Kuching, especially since Kuching is huge, and interesting spots are far apart.
Public transportation, particularly buses, in Kuching are unreliable, but they connect most parts of the city, including the Kuching sub-urbs.
Most locals prefer to either drive themselves, with taxis and ride sharing services like Grab and Uber, a major preference.
Since most of Kuching’s major tourist attractions are far apart, it is highly encouraged to check out car rental services in Kuching to book a car or motorcycle, with the later also being a popular choice among local when it comes to commuting.
HOTELS IN KUCHING
Selecting a hotel is one of the most important guide about visiting Kuching.
To help you know which hotel is located where, I’ve listed all the hotels according to specific locations in my Kuching Hotel page. Here you can find the best hotels, hotels by the sea hotels in the city center and more.
Anyway, most hotels in Kuching are located within Kuching City, with a good number of 5 star to budget hotels available for tourist. Bed and Breakfast accommodations, as well as homestays are also gaining popularity in Kuching, especially when you are required to venture outskirts of the city.
If you don’t want to break the bank on your hotel stay, these budget hotels in Kuching would be a good place to start, but if you have money to splurge, then this list of top hotels in Kuching will something you’d want to look at.
Sea side accommodation in Kuching is only available in Lundu, Sematan, Santubong and Damai, all located quite a distance from the Kuching city.
For nature lovers, and those wanting to experience life living in the middle of the rainforest, most national parks in Kuching offer basic accommodation. For a more luxury stay, try going to the Permai Rainforest Resort in Damai or the cool Borneo Highlands Resort in Padawan.
A GUIDE ABOUT VISITING KUCHING: THINGS TO DO
PLACES TO VISIT IN KUCHING
Kuching offers a variety of places to visit, depending on what you prefer. For those wanting who enjoy architecture and colonial era buildings, our Kuching historical trail will be useful as it features the Grand Post Office Building, Fort Margherita, The Astana and many more.
For nature lovers, there’s a lot of national parks and forest reserves in Kuching that retain lush flora and fauna, with the Rafflesia a major highlight at Gunung Gading National Park. Nature lovers would also enjoy the huge trekking opportunities in Kuching as some more rural trekking places such as Mount Singai and Jangkar Waterfalls giving trekkers a magnificent view from above.
For the camera friendly, landmarks in Kuching you can visit click away at several cat statues around the city, or stroll out at the lovely Kuching Waterfront which has several city landmark like the Square fort, the golden bridge, and the Warriors Monument.
Oh, don’t forget to visit the DBKU Cat Museum, as it also provides you an amazing view of Kuching City.
FOOD TO EAT IN KUCHING
When it comes to food, Kuching is a heaven for food lovers. Sarawak Laksa is the most popular dish from Kuching, and that was the inspiration to list down the best places to eat Sarawak Laksa in this website. Other dishes that make a great breakfast dish include Mee Kolok and Kueh Chap.
Lunch and dinner options vary according to what you prefer to eat then, but locals do like their seafood especially local favourites like Ambal Curry, Midin Belacan, Oyster Egg, Butter Prawns, and Sea cucumber soup. If you want to try something exotically different, there’s always frogs, water snails and deer meat on the menu. Seafood in Kuching is surprisingly cheap and here we list down where locals love eating their seafood in Kuching.
Other than seafood, Dayak food is another signature dish in Kuching with our list of places to eat Dayak food likely to help you find these exclusive Dayak food spots around town. Recommended dishes include Ayam Pansuh, Babi Pansuh, Babi cooked with tempoyak, and cucumber leaves fried with young corn.
Finally, for those with sweet tooth, deserts come in the form of ABC, White Lady and Cendol at popular desert places like the Open Air Market, Swee Kang Ice Kacang, Mimi Cendol and Lok Ann.
For a good recommendation of places to eat in a day, check out our Kuching Food Tour post.
SHOPPING IN KUCHING
Kuching is an exciting destination for shopping as it houses some of the biggest shopping malls in Borneo. It is also home to a variety number of very colourful and buzzing market places, hence making this guide about visiting Kuching quite unique, since we do mention them.
Malaysian Ringgit is used for trading, and major credit cards are only accepted at major stores and shopping malls. Markets and smaller shops usually only accept cash.
If you prefer branded items and shopping at air-conditioned settings, try checking out shopping malls in Kuching. However, if you want to see something more unique, go to the Satok Weekend Market (also known as the Satok Sunday Market), or visit the Bau Wet Market as both offers you a good experience of local shopping, especially when it comes to grocery shopping.
In past years, Serikin town had also gained popularity as a shoppers paradise as it is located nearby the Indonesian border, hence allowing locals and Indonesians to trade goods at interestingly cheap rates due to the difference in currency exchange.
Souvenir shopping in Kuching is largely concentrated to the Kuching Main Bazaar and India Street, both located nearby the Kuching Waterfront.
NIGHTLIFE IN KUCHING
Knowing the nightlife in Kuching is also an important guide about visiting Kuching.
Most nightlife places in Kuching typically have a house DJ to entertain revelers, with live band performances limited to a few larger establishments such as Lido Star, Terminal One, The Library, Victoria Arms and Bistro 21.
Except for Victoria Arms in Merdeka Palace Hotel, most lounges in other hotels around Kuching consist of a two or three piece band only.
Dayak pubs are a unique was to enjoy the Kuching night life. They combine loud dance music by the deejay, and an open karaoke session.
Usually, Kuching’s nightlife is concentrated to Wayang Street (in the centre of the Kuching Waterfront, next to Harbour View Hotel) and Jalan Petanak.
FESTIVALS AND EVENTS IN KUCHING
A guide about visiting Kuching will not be complete if it doesn’t feature festivals and events happening around Kuching.
Kuching is best known as the home of the award winning Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) which is held at the Sarawak Cultural Village in July annually. The Kuching Waterfont Jazz Festival (KWJF) is also a highlight in the city as it features a fantastic list of jazz artist performing in front of the popular Kuching Waterfront.
Kuching isn’t short of talents when it comes to local culture and arts, and two similar festivals, namely the Rainforest Fringe Festival (RFF) and the What About Kuching Festival (WAK) showcases the great talents from Kuching in June and October respectively. While the RFF is a 14 day long festival, the WAK Festival goes on for a month.
Gawai Dayak is an exciting time Kuching, as Dayak villages drum up celebrations for their yearly harvest festival on 1st and 2nd June. To mark this cultural celebration, the World Harvest Festival and the REDEEMS Gawai Celebration happens during the month of June as well. Speaking of food, the annual Kuching Festival is a massive collection of fun filled activities, with plenty of mouth savouring dishes at one place which is very popular among locals.
For marathon runners, the yearly Kuching Marathon is annual international running event recognized by Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) and listed in AIMS Race Calendar. The marathon draws thousands of international worlwide runners to Kuching. For water sports enthusiast, the Sarawak Regatta is an interesting thing to check out in September as dragon boats and kayaks race each other to be crowned ‘Kind of the River’.
Aside from the festivals and events mentioned here, smaller festivals like the Satok Festival, Padawan Festival, and Sematan Festival are also interesting festivals to check out, though these smaller festivals are similar in concept to one another. As I can’t list down all the festivals and events in Kuching, we hope you do roam around this website to find out more.
If you have any comments or suggestions to improve this guide about visiting Kuching, just leave a comment below. Else, you can DM the site’s Facebook page anytime to make a suggestion.