Every once a year, our little family will need to travel to Kuching and Sarikei to visit our families for Chinese New Year. I realised every year, we would struggle to decide which is the best time and cost saving method to travel to Sarikei from Kuching. This is because there is no airport in Sarikei! I also found information online so limiting and out of date so I decided to write it out here.
1) By Air
The most time saving but not so cost friendly method is to fly by Airasia or Malaysia Airlines from Kuching International Airport to Sibu Airport. From Sibu, it is another 1.5 hours by road to Sarikei.
Pros: It’s less tiring especially when you have older folks and young humans in tow. The actual flight is only 40 min from takeoff to landing, but do bear in mind the extra hours involved before check-in, traveling to airport etc. That said it is still the most comfortable way of traveling. H
Cons: Extremely pricey. You would not believe but sometimes it cost more to travel from Kuching to Sibu by flight than KL to Kuching. Also, since there’s no airport in Sarikei, there’s the headache of the 1.5hours car ride from Sibu to Sarikei. Sometimes we have family members to pick us up but that is not always the case. With extra money on hands, one can always hail a taxi which would cost RM130 at least or book a rental car for a minimum of RM100 per day. Grab is not easy to come by in Sarikei for the return trip. There are not many Grab drivers so it can be quite hard to even find someone willing to pick us up. Alternatively, there is the express bus for RM10 per person from Sibu to Sarikei and vice versa but the bus station is not at the Airport, so there’s another hassle of carrying luggage and all that to the bus station.
2) Self Driving
Driving from Kuching to Sarikei could be the most convenient yet the least comfortable option. It does take nearly 6 hours of the car ride and well taking a taxi can’t even be an option here. No thanks to the construction along Pan Borneo highway, driving will become extra slow and tiresome. We drove to Sarikei in 2018 and it was a really cramped and tiring ride on a very dangerous and bumpy road. The highway is not really a highway, it’s very windy and it’s one small road with oncoming traffic. One needs to be a great driver to even consider driving there. I do wonder if Pan Borneo highway will have greater improvements when it’s completely, hopefully in a couple of years in 2021 we will try it out and blog about it again.
3) Express Bus
Express Bus is similar to self-driving just that you don’t need to be a good driver to take this. It will cost about RM40 one way and again, due to the bad highway condition now, I do not recommend this method. During CNY it is always raining and chances of landslide can happen and it still takes 6 hours to arrive without any proper rest stops mind you.
4) Express Boat from Pending Kuching
This year we chose to take the express boat as it only takes 3.5 hours to arrive and it will reach directly to Sarikei. Sounds like the best method and it’s cheap as well but only for people who really can stand the rough seas. I will write in detail about this method since it’s hardly documented online and I just went through it recently.
We do not need to book a ticket online or in advance as on the boat, there’s always plenty of seats. There’s only 1 boat ride at 8.30am leaving Kuching to Sarikei, Tanjung Manis and Sibu per day. We need to arrive at the port at least by 8.00am. Tickets can then be bought at this counter. It’s RM50 to Sarikei for adults and RM30 for kids. Just add RM5 for a trip all the way to Sibu.
We rushed our breakfast at home before coming only to find there’s actually a coffee shop at the port. Quite convenient as it served all kinds of local food, fried noodles and more. Snacks for the trip can be bought here too.
This is how the Express Boat looks like, it’s called Express Bahagia. Don’t bring too heavy a luggage as you need to walk down a sloping plank. Overall, it’s quite safe to get on the boat. There’s also washroom in the boat so it’s very convenient.
The only con for taking the boat ride is your seasickness, if you have any. Once the boat enters the Sea, be prepared for at least 2 hours of non stop bopping up and down. For John and Josiah, it was a suffering time of vomitting non stop. For Jordan and me, well, we didn’t really feel anything but still, it’s very uncomfortable, like a roller coaster ride that never ends. It was more harrowing for me to see Josiah suffering so I don’t think I will be taking the boat ride anytime soon.