Entering Borneo is very straightforward for most travellers, though to enter Kalimantan most visitors require a visa (which can be obtained on arrival in designated airports and seaports).
- Tourists to Malaysia and Indonesia can bring up to 1L of liquor and 200 cigarettes duty free.
- Non-Muslim visitors to Brunei, provided you're 18 or older, are allowed to import 12 cans of beer and two bottles of wine or spirits for personal consumption. The importation of tobacco is forbidden.
- For travellers coming from Malaysia, Singapore's duty-free liquor allowance is zero. Travellers to Singapore, whatever your port of embarkation, must declare all cigarettes they are carrying.
Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your date of entry and, if you'll be travelling overland through Brunei, that you have enough pages for lots of entry stamps. Holders of Israeli passports may not enter either Brunei or Indonesia; Malaysian visas are only granted in exceptional circumstances.
Visas are issued on arrival for Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia (Balikpapan, Tarakan, Pontianak or Tebedu–Entikong). Obtain Indonesian visas in advance for other Kalimantan entry points.
- Americans and travellers from the European Union, Switzerland and Norway get a free 90-day visa on arrival, while visitors from New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and a few other countries score 30 days at the border. Canadians and Japanese get 14 days. Israelis are not permitted to enter the country.
- Australians don't need to apply for a visa in advance, but do have to pay B$5 (payable only in Brunei or Singapore dollars) for a three-day transit visa (you need to show a ticket out), B$20 for a single-entry visa valid for two weeks, or B$30 for a multiple-entry visa valid for a month (this is the one to get if you'll be going overland between Sarawak and Sabah).
- People of most other nationalities must obtain a visa (single/multiple entry B$20/30) in advance from a Brunei Darussalam diplomatic mission – unless, that is, you'll just be transiting through Brunei (defined as arriving from one country and continuing on to a different country), in which case a 72-hour visa is available upon arrival.
- For more information, see the website of the Immigration Department (www.immigration.gov.bn).
- Tourists from 61 countries, including Australia, Canada, the EU, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and the US, can receive a 30-day Indonesian visa on arrival (VOA) at four entry points to Kalimantan: the Tebedu–Entikong land crossing between Kuching (Sarawak) and Pontianak (West Kalimantan), Balikpapan (Sepinggan Airport), Pontianak (Supadio Airport) and Tarakan (both seaport and airport).
- The cost is US$35, payable in US dollars (at the Tebedu–Entikong crossing, at least, ringgit and rupiah may not be accepted). Once in the country, a VOA can be extended by another 30 days for US$35.
- If you arrive in Kalimantan – by land, sea or air – from outside Indonesia at any other entry point, or if your passport is not from one of the designated VOA countries, you must obtain a visa in advance. You might also want to apply for a visa ahead of time if you know you'll be staying in Kalimantan for longer than 30 days.
- In Sabah, Indonesia has consulates in KK and Tawau, and in Sarawak there's a consulate in Kuching. A 60-day visa costs RM170; bring a photo, your ticket out of Indonesia, and a credit card or cash to show that you've got funds. Visas are generally issued the same day.
- For a full list of the countries whose nationals score a VOA and details on the entry points at which they are issued, see https://consular.embassyofindonesia.org.
Sabah & Sarawak
- Visas valid for three months are issued upon arrival to citizens of the US, Canada, Western Europe (except Greece, Monaco and Portugal, whose nationals get one month), Japan, South Korea and most Commonwealth countries.
- One-month visas are issued on arrival to citizens of Singapore, most countries in Latin America and most countries in the former Soviet Union.
- Israeli passport holders are issued Malaysian visas only with permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- For complete information on visa types, who needs them and how to get them, see the website of Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.kln.gov.my) – under 'Our services', click 'Visa Information'.
Sabah & Sarawak Passport Stamps
Under the terms of Sabah and Sarawak's entry into Malaysia, both states retain a certain degree of state-level control of their borders. Malaysian citizens from Peninsular Malaysia (West Malaysia) cannot work legally in Malaysian Borneo (East Malaysia) without special permits, and tourists travelling within Malaysia must go through passport control and have their passports stamped whenever they:
- Arrive in Sabah or Sarawak from Peninsular Malaysia or the federal district of Pulau Labuan.
- Exit Sabah or Sarawak on their way to Peninsular Malaysia or Pulau Labuan.
- Travel between Sabah and Sarawak.
Note: When you enter Sabah or Sarawak from another part of Malaysia, your new visa stamp will be valid only for the remainder of the period left on your original Malaysian visa.
- Malaysian visas can be extended in the Sarawak towns of Kuching, Bintulu, Kapit, Lawas, Limbang, Miri and Sibu, and in the Sabah towns of KK, Keningau, Kudat, Lahad Datu, Sandakan, Semporna, Sipitang, Tawau and Tenom.
- In general Malaysian visas can be extended for 60 days. Bring your departure ticket and be ready to explain why you would like to stay longer and where you'll be staying; a photo is not required. Approval is usually given on the same day.
- Extensions take effect on the day they're issued, so the best time to extend a visa is right before the old one expires. If your visa still has a month of validity left, that time will not be added to the period covered by the extension.
- Some travellers report they've been able to extend their Malaysian visas by going through Malaysian border control at the Brunei border and then, without officially entering Brunei, turning around and re-entering Malaysia. Others do visa runs by crossing from Sarawak into Indonesia at Tebedu–Entikong.
- Overstaying your visa by a few days is not usually a big deal, especially if you're a genuine tourist and have no prior offences. However, at the discretion of immigration officers, any violation of Malaysia's visa rules can result in your being turned over to the Immigration Department's enforcement section and, if you're in Sarawak, taken to Serian, 60km southeast of Kuching, for questioning.