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Tawau Travel Essentials


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Ideal duration: 1-2 Days

Best Time: December to February Read More

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"Sabah's Best Seafood"

Tawau Tourism

Tawau, formerly known as Tawao, is a popular tourist destination popular for cocoa, prawn farming, and Sabah's best seafood. Located on the Semporna Peninsula on the southeast coast of the state, Tawau is the third-largest town in Sabah. Gateway to Tawau Hills Park and a coalescence of ethnicities and religions, Tawau has a rich history that is reflected in its various tourist attractions and architectural buildings of the town. It is also the only place where foreigners can get a visa to enter Indonesia and the starting point for long drives with the most scenic routes in Sabah.

The town of Tawau has two twin towns, Zhangping in China, and Pare-Pare in Indonesia, and is surrounded by hills and mountains for most of it. The harmonious mix of religions in Tawau is well-displayed in the establishments of religious places. The main attractions in Tawau are the Al-Kauthar Mosque which is also the largest mosque in Sabah, St. Patrick's which is an Anglican church, The Holy Trinity Church which is a catholic church, Pu Zhao Temple which happens to be a Buddhist lodge temple, Thirumurugan Temple which is a Hindu temple, and the Gurdwara Sahib, a place of worship for the Sikhs.

The historical attractions of the town include the Tawau Bell Tower which was established by the Japanese to memorialize the armistice treaty post World War 1, Tawau Japanese War Memorial (once a Japanese Cemetry),  the Public Service Memorial, the Twin Town Memorial, and the Teck Guan Cocoa Museum. Other notable attractions dedicated to leisure include Tawau Hills National Park and Fat Hill, also called Bukit Gemok.

Tawau is also famous for its market, famously called The Tawau Tanjung Market, the largest indoor market in Malaysia, which has more than 6000 stalls selling dry produce and seafood. Other shopping centers in Tawau include the Eastern Plaza and the Sabindo Plaza. Tawau Handicraft Market, also called Pasar Gantung, is a popular place to shop for souvenirs. 

The town of Tawau provides real insights into history and culture. The flora and fauna here are untouched, allowed to grow in their natural habitat, which is very rare to come by today. Interestingly, the world's tallest tropical tree can be found here in Tawau Hills Park! Tawau is a perfect blend of colloquial buildings, historical tales, and the hues of greens! 

How to Reach Tawau

How to Reach Overview

Pan Borneo Highway links Tawau to various destinations. The Federal Route 13, a part of the Pan Borneo highway links Tawau to Sandakan. Destinations like Semporna, Kota Kinabalu,  Ranau, etc can also be easily reached through various interchanges on the highway. 

How to reach Tawau by flight

The nearest airport is the Tawau Airport (TWU) which is both the nearest international as well as domestic airport. It connects Tawau to Kota Kinabalu, Sepang, Sandakan, Senai, and Kuching. The other nearest international airports include  Juwata Airport (TRK), and  Brunei International Airport (BWN). The other nearest domestic airports include - Juwata Airport (TRK), and  Lahad Datu Airport (LDU).

How to reach Tawau by bus

The long-distance bus services ply daily buses to and from various destinations like Lahad Datu, Kota Kinabalu, etc. from Tawau. These buses arrive at Terminal Bus Sri Indah, which has readily available taxis to travel the town centre.

How to reach Tawau by waterways

Accessing Tawau through ferry is another option available. These ferries establish a commuting link between Tawau and, Nunukan and Tarakan, both of which are Indonesian cities. Tawindo Express and Labuan Express depart daily from Tawau for Nunukan at 10 AM and 3 PM correspondingly, which again depart from Nunukam for Tawau at 9 AM and 2 PM correspondingly. The travel time is an hour and cost RM 41 for a one-way trip.

Tawindo Express and Indomaya Express are two ferries that sail between Tawau and Tarakan on distinct days of the week. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are for Tawindo Express to sail, whereas Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday are for Indomaya Express to sail. It is vital to note that there are no ferries sailing to and from Tarakan on Sunday. The one-way trip cost RM 140. The Tawindo express and Indomaya Express depart at 11:30 AM and 11:00 AM correspondingly from Tawau and the journey is 4 hours long.

Local transport in Tawau

Bus: Jalan Stephen Tan Bus Terminal, a bus depot in Tawau runs non-ac minibuses to various places in Tawau like Kg Muhibbah, Jalan Apas, Tawau Hill Park and Airport. These minibuses charge RM 2 for travelling within the town area and roughly around RM 2 or more for travelling to rural areas.

Taxi: Taxis can be easily spotted in the town, especially in crowded areas. The taxis here don’t use meters, and hence, decide on a fare before getting into a taxi. The taxis from the airport have a fixed fare. 

Most hotels would be courteous to arrange for transport. These arrangements can be made for an extra fee. 

Mobile apps for cabs like Grab can come in handy in towns like Tawau.

Tawau Photos

Tawau Bell Tower is the oldest standing structure of the town
Confrontational Memorial in Tawau is dedicated to the soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the country
Teck Guan Cocoa Museum is a one-of-a-kind cocoa museum and factory in Tawau

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