Labuan, the Pearl of Borneo, is a Federal Territory of Malaysia. It comprises one large and six smaller islands in East Malaysia.


Muzium Labuan


Labuan is an island with an estimated population of 100,000 people. It's quite a close community where everyone knows everyone. The main town is known as Labuan Town (Bandar Labuan in Malay) but was formerly known as Victoria during the colonial era. Labuan Town is among the cleanest towns in Malaysia. You will observe the Labuan Corporation (local authority) workers diligently doing their job. Labuan was proclaimed a Federal Territory on 16/04/1984 and declared an International Offshore Financial Centre on 1/10/1990. A few of the major businesses that are run on the island include international offshore banking, steel mills, a methanol plant, floor tiles production, flour mills as well as offshore supplies. Because of these major businesses, Labuan has many non-Labuan natives that work here.



Federal Territory of Labuan is located off the northwest coast of Borneo, north of Brunei Bay, and faces the South China Sea. It comprises the main island of Pulau Labuan and six smaller islands: Pulau Kuraman, Pulau Daat, Pulau Rusukan Besar, Pulau Rusukan Kecil, Pulau Papan and Pulau Burong. It is located at 05 latitude North and 115 longitude East, and lies approximately 10 km southeast off the coast of the East Malaysian state of Sabah and 25 km north of Brunei. The Federal Territory of Labuan covers an area of 92 km2 and the main island of Labuan is only 75 km2. The island is mainly flat and undulating and the highest point is only 85 metres.


More than 70 percent of the island is still under vegetation. Due to the fact that land utility is geared more towards property and industrial use, there is less agricultural activity in the area. Most of the island's prime land, waterfront and suburbs are utilised for residential and tourism development. A sizeable area on the south western side of the island is utilised by shipbuilding, manufacturing and oil and gas industries.


Labuan has a tropical climate with two annual monsoon seasons - the South West monsoon from April to June and the North East monsoon from September to December. It is free from hurricanes and typhoons and enjoys good climate all year round. Daily temperatures average between 28 to 32 degrees celsius.


Memorial stone from 1846

The island's name came from Brunei Malay word "labohan" which means anchorage. Labuan had a glorious history under the rule of various empires. After the demise of the Majapahit Empire in the 14th century, Labuan came under the rule of the Brunei Sultanate. On 24 December 1846, Captain G.R. Mundy, commanding H.M.S. Iris, took possession of Labuan, "In the Name of Her Majesty Victoria Queen of Great Britain and Ireland under the Direction of His Excellency Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Cochrane, C.B., Commander-in-Chief".

The British had negotiated with the Sultanate of Brunei for Labuan among other things. by 1847 the British government concluded a Treaty of Friendship and Commerce with the Sultan of Brunei, at the same time acquiring the island of Labuan. On 1 August 1848, Labuan was declared a free port and open to settlers. The Colonial Office took over Labuan in January 1906. In 1907 it became part of the Straits Settlements, a British colony comprising Singapore, Penang and Malacca.

During World War II, Labuan was occupied by the Japanese, along with other parts of what was then called British North Borneo (now Sabah). Thousands of Allied troops died in the fighting and eventual defeat of the Japanese in Labuan.

In 1963, Sabah joined the Federation of Malaysia, with Labuan included as a district of Sabah. In the 1984 Labuan Agreement, Sabah agreed to cede Labuan to the Federal Government of Malaysia. Labuan became a Federal Territory, with a status equivalent to that of the states of Malaysia.


Speaking Malay in Labuan

Please notice some basic communication terms in Labuan Malay Dialect.

  • Awu - Yes
  • Inda - No
  • Ani - This
  • Atu - That
  • Usin - Money
  • Basar - Big
  • Damit - Small
  • Padas - Spicy
  • Aing Hangat - Hot Water
  • Aing Sajuk - Cold Water
  • Aku Kan Bali Gulaian - I Would Like To Buy Vegetables
  • Kan Ke Mana Kita? - Where Are You Going?
  • Nyaman Jua Makanan Ani - This Food Is Quite Tasty
  • Mulih Ke Hotel Tah Ku Dulu - I'd Like To Go Back To Hotel
  • Bulih Kita Ngantar Kami Ke Airport?-Can You Drive Us To Airport?
  • Bulih Ku Batanya?-Can I Ask You ?

English & Malay are widely spoken. Because of the influence of the Brunei Sultanate centuries ago, the majority of local Malays speak the Brunei-Kadayan Malay dialect, which is significantly different from standard Malay. This mixture of Brunei and Kadayan dialects is sometimes called Labuan Malay Dialect. However most of the population can speak standard Malay whenever necessary. Major Chinese dialects (especially Hakka) are spoken among the Chinese community.

Get in

By plane

There are daily flights to Labuan Airport (IATA: LBU) from Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia as well as 4 flights a day to Miri with MASWings and a couple more flights to and from Kota Kinabalu.

Fountain at the Airport Roundabout, with the terminal in the background

By boat

You can arrive in Labuan by ferry from Brunei, Kota Kinabalu, Lawas, Limbang, Sipitang and Menumbok, where a vehicular ferry operates. Labuan is the usual port for changing boats for those getting from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei in a day by sea. See the Kota Kinabalu to Brunei by land page for details.

Labuan International Ferry Terminal

Get around

Labuan Town is small enough to be comfortably explored on foot. The town is one of the most pedestrian friendly towns in Malaysia. You should not encounter any problems as most of the drivers here drive their vehicle in "slow motion". Most of the drivers will give priority to pedestrians that want to cross the street, something generally unheard of in the rest of Malaysia! However, daytime temperatures maybe slightly higher than other parts of Malaysia.

For further destinations, bus services are available; some are vans which the locals refer to as 'buses'. Do take note that bus services end at 7PM everyday. Below are some bus routes that may be of interest. One way bus journeys will cost a minimum of 1 Ringgit and not more than 3 Ringgit.

Taxis are also available mainly in the town center. However, usually you may need to go to the taxi station to catch one. Do agree on the fare first before you board, since no taxis in Labuan use meters. Taxi stations can be found at:

Otherwise, you may call Sri Ganti Taxi Service (24 hours) at 013-8838 882 or 019-8408 228.

There is another way of getting around - renting a scooter. Cost is as low as RM38 per 24H, and you can find rental places at the ferry terminal.

See and Do

Labuan World War II Memorial and Burial Site
The mysterious Chimney
Labuan Clock Tower


Although it's a duty-free island, the things here are not that cheap. However, the followed items should be cheaper than other places:

Things that are really exorbitant here:


All food, especially fresh seafood, is extremely well priced. But if you get the locals as a guide, they can show you some cheaper alternatives instead.

The most famous local dessert is "Coconut Puding", which you wouldn't be able to find in anywhere else. Good coconut puddings can be found in Pulau Labuan Restaurant with RM6 each.

BBQ chicken wings are a Labuan delicacy. They are cooked on skewers over smoky charcoal and wood barbeques. 6 chicken wings for RM9. The one of the best are sold at Kampung Sungai Keling, opposite Taman Sintee. Just a roadside stall.

You may also want to try various local kuih - pastries or cakes - in the weekend market known locally as Pasar Tani (Saturday and Sunday) from morning till afternoon. Try kelupis and lamban (a food made from pulut rice and coconut milk that been wrapped by either coconut leaves for lamban or nyirik leaf for kelupis), jelurut (a sweet and creamy colored local kuih wrapped with nipah or coconut leaf) and batik cake.

Another common local food in Labuan is punjung. Made from rice flour, they are little cone-sized desserts with green jelly-like fillings wrapped in banana leaves. Don't forget to try pulut panggang, made from glutinous rice and dried shrimp. This pulut panggang then wrapped by banana leaves and grilled.


Labuan is well known for its duty free especially alcohols. The main entertainment in Labuan is its night clubs and lounges. Although the majority of bars in Labuan are actually for prostitution, there a few that are not.

Some of the famous places where people go:





Stay safe

Labuan is a very safe town. It is a very peaceful place and the people are very nice and friendly. Except road blocks with JPJ (local Department Motor Vehicle), police presence is pretty hard to notice, possibly because of the calmness and peace of the town.

You can notice lots of people jogging around in the evenings, even in the secluded roads in the hills, without fear of being mugged, like in other big cities.

Crime rate is very low, except once in a while, there used to be physical arguments between the immigrants, but only among themselves.

Roads are not busy, except occasionally in town. The driving attitude of people here are quite leisure, so it's common to have a car cruising in front of you very very slow without any purpose. There are lots of jaywalkers, and pedestrians crossing the road don't practice much caution. Several attractions such as Peace Park and Anjung Ketam are located in village area where children usually play near or at the road. So, just be careful if you're driving.

Go next

Sabah, Brunei, and Sarawak are logical places to go next (see "By boat" above for information on ferry service).

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