Kuching translates to ‘cat’ in Malay which makes sense if you come here because you will see cats ALL over this city. Statues of cats, cat museums, cat cafes, and actual cats. Kuching is a chill hipsterey town along the river with relaxing vibes and trendy bars. Definitely a place to stop on your travels through Borneo.
LANGUAGE: Bahasa Malaysia, English
CURRENCY: Malaysian Ringgit
CLIMATE: Tropical (hot & humid), Rainy season is Oct-Feb
DRESS CODE: Casual
GETTING AROUND: Grab, Local taxi
COST OF VISITING: $ – Hostels start at $5 per night and street food is a little as $2 to $3 (USD) per meal
TIPPING: Tipping is not expected and most restaurants don’t even give you the option
SAFETY: Generally a safe city, watch out for pickpockets as you would in any other city
PACKING ESSENTIALS: Sunscreen, Mosquito repellent
VISA: No visa needed for tourist visits under 90 days for US citizens, Must have passport valid for at least 6 months
FROM KUCHING INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KIA)
Kuching International Airport is located about 30 minutes from the city center. A taxi should cost you around RM26 ($6.35 USD). Grab is also available in Kuching which should be slightly cheaper. I took one to the airport but not from the airport. KIA is small enough that it should be easy to get picked up right outside of arrivals, but the app should tell you exactly where to go to meet your driver.
Kuching Sentral Bus Terminal is about 40 minutes from the city center. We easily were able to order a Grab here to pick us up for cheaper than a taxi. We arrived late at night and there wasn’t a taxi in sight so make sure to have the Grab app downloaded ahead of time if you are arriving late at night.
WHERE TO STAY
Singghasana Lodge is a hostel where I really felt at home. I stayed here for a week because it is a really chill place. The rooms are basic with air con and bunk beds. They have an area to work and chill plus a rooftop bar with a pool table and lounge areas. You can also rent bikes from here for free for the first 2 hours which helped us explore around town. Great location, walking distance to most places in town.
WHAT TO EAT
FOODS TO TRY
Kolo Mee, Sarawak Laksa, Sarawak Kueh Chap, Kueh Lapis (Layer Cakes), Roti (all types), Paku Midin
WHERE TO EAT
Below are some restaurants to go to but honestly the best ones I ate at, I do not remember the names. They were small little local shops and some street food that we found around our hostel and while walking around town. For that reason, I also added some popular dishes to make sure to try if you see them around town.
I tried to come here a few times but every single time there was a wait and I was too hungry. A place that is always crowded is a good sign, especially in off season. I was told that the entire menu is delicious, especially their Sarawak Laksa. Enjoy!
I also didn’t go here but was told they are one of the best for kolo mee which I ate ate every place I could. Something to note: kolo mee is only available at certain times at most restaurants I went to.
Topspot Seafood Court is located on the top of a 6 story carpark. Here you will find several restaurants offering mostly seafood options. Bukit Mata Seafood has their second location here and it was highly recommended.
The Junk is a popular spot among tourists. You will find it in the middle of a row of old shop houses on Wayang Street. The food is slightly pricier than your local food but you are also paying for the ambiance. The interior is dimly lit and the decor is cool. They also have live music on various nights making it a popular drinking spot.
WHAT TO DRINK
I loved this place because it is a bottle shop with a huge selection of beer. You will find local and imported beer which you can purchase here or pick up a bottle of Tuak (their local rice wine). The place is big with lots of seating both inside and on the front patio. They have a menu with pretty good food as well. There is a bomb ass pizza stand out front which has excellent reviews but there is no telling when they are open and when they aren’t. Please try some for me if you catch it open because I kept missing it.
Set up like a barber shop, this is a pretty cool place to grab a drink.
Unique vintage decor giving you a dark local whiskey bar vibe. Perfect place to stop in for a drink. They offer a variety of wine, spirits, and beer.
Monkeebar is a cool place in that 50% of profits go to the Orangutan Project, a wildlife conservation NGO that works at Matang Wildlife Centre. Here you will find cheap drinks, shisa, and a young crowd.
Not all drinking spots need to serve beer right? For coffee lovers, this is a local favorite. Cute coffee shop with strong, flavorful coffee.
Cozy little bar with a pretty good selection of beer and wine. New guests will be given a shot of Tuak (the local rice wine). They also serve pizza, sandwiches, and other snacks. A chill spot with a relaxing vibe.
WHAT TO DO
EXPLORE THE NATURAL BEAUTY
Bako National Park is only 37 km from Kuching, making it a great idea for a day trip. Here you will find rainforest, a variety of wildlife, jungle streams, waterfalls, beaches, perfect trekking trails, and more. Make sure to bring your anti-leech hiking socks!
The Fairy Caves are about a 50 minute drive from Kuching. This cave is just a few minutes from another popular cave, Wind Cave, making it a good combination for a day trip. This cave is pretty massive but there are still a few parts that can be slightly claustrophobic. The views are stunning. Admission is currently free and the cave is open until 4:30pm.
Not exactly natural as it was man made but the flowers are real. Very pretty little garden with lots of orchids and other plant life. I saw many plants here that I had never seen before which was cool. Pretty small but free, cute, and peaceful.
HANG OUT UPSIDE DOWN
The Upside Down House was actually pretty fun. If you want to get some fun photos or get a couple of laughs, this is good place to go. There was a small entrance fee, I think around the equivalent of $5 USD. I really wish my niece and nephews could have been in Malaysia with me because this would have been a super fun place to bring them.
THE CAT MUSEUM
We rode our bikes here and arrived right when it was closing so we were unable to go inside, but it was still worth the trek. This museum overlooks the entire city and has an amazing view. It is definitely a good work out to walk from the street to the top of here. The building was impressive and looks more like some sort of grand government building that is an office for the most important people in the city. Just shows you how much they are into cats.