Included in this Borneo Packing List:
- Weather in Borneo
- Borneo Packing List for Two Weeks
- What to pack for jungle trekking in Borneo
- What you need to know about leeches in Borneo
- Medicines to bring with you before you visit Borneo
- Do you need malaria pills for Borneo
What’s the weather in Borneo?
Keep mind that Borneo is actually composed of THREE countries (Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia) and it’s a huge island. Depending on where you are planning on visiting, the weather might be quite different.
That said, on average, there’s a dry and a rainy season. Expect Borneo weather to be hot and humid with average temperatures in winter being about 27 degrees Celsius (81 F) and average temperatures in summer nearing 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees). That said, the humidity is often an issue, so it will feel hotter than it is. I was constantly sweating through my clothes.
Rainy season in Borneo can bring a lot of rain, on average, over 400mm of rain in January/December, although the average drops significantly in summer and spring. If you’re trying to guarantee good conditions for trekking in Borneo, you might want to avoid rainy season.
Borneo Packing List for Two Weeks
Keep in mind that my itinerary for Borneo was a diverse one, including a mix of cities as well as trekking. I’d say that I spent most of my trip out in nature although I stayed each night in a basic accommodation or hotel. If your trip is more trekking intense, you might want to ask your tour guide on what is specifically needed for long-term trekking hikes as this Borneo packing list is more intended for people who intend to do daily day hikes rather than week-long trekking.
My trip was more nature focused with nine of our days spent doing day trekking in the Malaysian and Bruneian jungle with returning to our accommodation each night. It wasn’t continuous as I had never done jungle trekking before this trip and I wasn’t sure how it would be.
The rest of the trip was split between city sightseeing in Malaysia (Sabah/Sarawak) and Brunei, paragliding in Ranau, and snorkeling off the coast. I did not do a week-long trek like some people, but you still might find some useful advice for your Borneo packing list here.
This is what I actually brought with me to Borneo plus a few things that I wish that I had packed for Borneo. Nobody sponsored our trip and this is a no-bs guide to packing for Borneo. My goal is to have you prepared for your trip to Borneo as I really felt like nobody gave me definitive answers in terms of preparations before leaving. I’m not about expensive gear, so don’t worry and save your money for the incredible wildlife experiences in Borneo that you’re visiting it for!
What to wear for jungle trekking in Borneo
Borneo was a dream trip for me, so although I definitely splurged on experiences, I was not interested in spending a lot on fancy jungle trekking clothes as we weren’t doing weeks of jungle trekking. That said, if you’re doing a lot of trekking, you might want to bring more sets of clothing. You’ll want to be aware of how quickly your clothes dry as the humidity means that your clothes dry slowly .
We did proper jungle trekking for about nine days out of our two week trip, but it wasn’t all in a row and I had 3 sets of “hiking” clothes to ensure that I always had something that wasn’t dripping with sweat. You do not need “safari” clothes.
Lightweight, sturdy long pants for Borneo trekking
A few quick-dry long sleeve shirts for jungle trekking
Good waterproof hiking shoes for trekking in Borneo
A waterproof day-pack
If you’ll be visiting Mount Kinabalu, a fleece sweater/sweatshirt
Enough pairs of underwear and socks
Leech socks (coupled with a surprise item below)
..So, I actually got bit by a leech while in Borneo because I didn’t wear leech socks. Our guide told me that we’d know when there was a leech on us, however depending on the leech variety and how new you are to this, you might not realize it’s a leech and assume it’s something else.
I was fairly careful, but my biggest mistake (beyond not wearing leech socks) was wearing long dark pants and dark socks as it made it difficult to visually check my leg for leeches. The leech that got me chewed through my sock until it got to my ankle. I didn’t see a leech, but I felt a mild buzzing pain (apparently typical for a tiger leech). I checked myself and didn’t see anything.
I kept going and I can only assume that the leech happily fell off after drinking my blood. It took hours for my ankle to stop bleeding although my pride was still more hurt from bragging to my husband (who the leeches kept hopping onto) that I didn’t manage to attract any leeches.
Luckily, leeches don’t carry diseases. Beyond the obvious disgusting factor and your wound bleeding, you’ll be fine.
I struggled to find any cheap leech socks before we left, so if you have an extra day in a major city (e.g. Kota Kinabalu), you should be able to buy a more reasonable leech sock. Some say that tightly woven soccer socks are mostly effective against leeches, but I wasn’t comfortable doing this in the end. Be sure to pull the socks OVER your pants and consider soaking them in tobacco.
Items to pack for sightseeing in Borneo
Women: One dress
A light layer (sweater)
One pair of Jeans or clean non-trekking pants (Can be substituted for shorts)
Other items to pack for Borneo
A DSLR with a zoom lens
A bag of loose cheap tobacco (for your leech socks)
A good water bottle
One set of Tupperware
Large sealable plastic bags
A good deodorant
A travel adapter
A good 50L backpack with a rain cover
Soap and Shampoo + toiletries
Optional: Phone bungee
Optional: Trekking poles
What to do before you leave for Borneo: Vaccinations and Medicines
Although some people choose to visit Borneo with few preparations, your physician may disagree as depending on your activities, you’ll probably need some vaccinations, just in case.
All travelers are encouraged to get the Tetanus, the same updated shot that you may have had as a child (Diphtheria, Measles, Mumps and Rubella), and Hepatitis A. It’s good to know that if you get the follow-up injection for Hepatitis A about six months after your first injection, it will last for around a year.
Be sure to talk to your physician about your plans for traveling to Borneo with specifics as they’ll need to know what vaccinations you need as well as if you need malaria medicine. Similarly, if you’re allergic to many antibiotics, it might be worth it to carry a small prescription on you for antibiotics as well as epipen if you’re taking malaria medication as access to a stocked pharmacy will be difficult if you intend to do a lot of trekking.
I’m not a doctor, so I recommend discussing your trip with your doctor as you might require additional vaccinations/requirements if you intend to do more trekking or stay in very rural areas. You might need to go to a special travel doctor as your doctor might not be knowledgeable enough.
If you’re planning on doing more adventurous activities (like at least a week of jungle trekking), you might be encouraged to get the Hepatitis B and Rabies vaccination. I opted not to get these as I didn’t feel that our jungle trekking was that intense, but I might have gotten the Rabies vaccination considering how many close calls we had with aggressive macaques while in Borneo. The vaccinations cost me about 100 euros in the Netherlands.
Do you need Malaria tablets for Borneo?
Depending on where in Borneo that you’re visiting, you may need to get malaria tablets. Your travel doctor should have a map of the regions of Borneo where you need malaria tablets and which one is appropriate.
Not all of Borneo has mosquitos that carry malaria, so definitely tell your doctor your plan and keep in mind that it’s often worth it to get the more expensive malaria tablets to avoid the nasty side effects that you’ll get with the cheaper ones.
Keep in mind that some malaria medicines require that you start taking them almost two weeks before your trip, so if you’re planning your trip to Borneo on the wire, this might impact your malaria medicine. Make sure that you give yourself enough time to look into the medications that you will need to take and to find a doctor that can prescribe what is needed.
Talk to your doctor and do your research on malaria drugs.
Your Borneo Packing Checklist.
Thank you for this list – it’s made packing ten times easier!
This is a great blog post and I really appreciate the information as I’m heading to Borneo for 3 weeks in August 2018. Thanks for posting!
Note that the US CDC says that malaria in Borneo is Chloroquine-resistant so it is not on the list of recommended anti-malarial drugs for Borneo. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2018/infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/yellow-fever-malaria-information-by-country/malaysia#seldyfm879
I’ve updated the post to be more broad as these things change. At the time that I went, choloquine was fine, however I see that it’s not according to the CDC now. I also did my vaccinations in the Netherlands, so I wonder if there are slight differences in recommendations country-by-country. It’s best to ask your doctor for their recommendation. 🙂
I hope that you have a fantastic trip.
Awesome guide! I felt exceedingly prepared following some of these tips for my hiking trip in Borneo earlier this year. And this year, thankfully, I didn’t have a problem with the highly invasive leeches:) Thanks to leech socks and a worth mention ‘barrier’ repellent my guide recommended to us called Leech Hound – Leech Repellent Barrier. It worked very well on top of leech sock, surprisingly no leeches made its way up our legs. Its like an impenetrable shield! I tried it without leech socks on the last day of trek and its still very effective. I think I am ready to dump the fashion disaster pair of socks:) Hope this helps another fellow jungle trekker.
Great blog! Not many write ups are this level of comprehensiveness
Thank you for such useful packing lists. I am travelling to Borneo in July and was planning on wearing fitness leggings as I already have lots of pairs and have spent so much on the trip alone. Do you think these would be suitable? They will be sweat wicking and full length.
Hi Laura, I think that fitness leggings would work well although I’d pick a pair that is not dark to make it easier to see leeches and possibly a bit thicker in case you go jungle trekking! Otherwise, fitness leggings would work well for day-to-day activities. I wore jeans a lot, but I was quite warm… Hope that you have a great trip.
WOW ! Appreciate all the great tips. I had not thought of many of things. What tour group did you use ? I am a Solo traveller and finding it difficult to find reasonable prices.
Did you visit Kinkubula ?
I didn’t go with a tour except for one part of the trip. Some of the tours can be quite pricey, but if you can *get* to Borneo, you might have some luck booking locally at a travel agency for a 1-2 day trip (rather than the whole trip). I did this with one day trip from Kota Kinabulu.