There are a couple of really important things to know about getting around in Kuching.
The first is that public transport is not very reliable and really you don’t want to have to be at its mercy.
The bus service is improving but we only use it if we want to take the kids out for a fun trip into town. I wouldn’t like to have to rely on it to get me someplace at a certain time.
Taxis are ok, but they do get quite expensive. If you are able to find a good driver soon into your visit ask for his business card and call him direct rather than through the company. This is perfectly acceptable and is often preferable.
Usually people end up hiring or buying a car if they know they are going to be here for a while. There are a number of car hire companies based at the airport and you should be able to negotiate a more reasonable rate for long term hire. It is costly though so be prepared. Buying a car is also costly but if you know you are going to be here for a while then it is probably your best option.
Hire care companies should be able to advise you on license requirements. To the best of my knowledge you are able to drive with your home country’s license for only three months. After that you either need to be driving with an International license or change to a Malaysian one.
After 13 years of driving on my home license, and numerous police checks where they have looked at it and waved me through, I have been caught out and been told that I have to change to an International one (apparently only policemen in the service for over 10 years know this rule – what I was told). The onus really is on you as the driver to be aware. The only complication really would be if you were to have an accident and your insurer refuses to pay out based on the fact that you weren’t driving with a legal license… The policeman told me that to change your license to an International one is actually very simple. You just go to the JPJ Department at 12th Mile on the Serian Road. At block B, you are able to get the form you need. Fill in the form, supply a copy of your passport, your visa, your current driver’s license, and one passport photo. It costs only RM20. I went to do it and their computer system was down. I will let you know if it really is as easy as it sounds once I have actually done it. (OK, I have done it, and it was that easy! The only thing was that it is RM20 for the processing fee and then RM30 per year that you want to do the license for i.e. 3 years is RM30 x 3 + RM20 = Rm110.)
You will also need a map. There is quite a good one out at the moment and they sell it at MPH at The Spring Mall and at Times Bookstore at The Hills shopping centre. Just be aware that there is no IKEA here, nor is there a Jusco, or a theme park….I know they are on the map, but they do not exist 🙂
Strollers are often hard work in the city. The pavements are not level and every shop seems to have its own idea of how high the pavement should be. Sturdy strollers that are not too big are probably your best option. I have a Maclaren and it is perfect. We will try and remember to include whether a place to visit is stroller friendly or not.