There are several housing estates in Bintulu where expatriates live, Taman Matahari, MLNG Housing, ABF Housing in Kidurong area and Condominiums in Tajung Batu area. SMDS employees usually live in Taman Matahari by arrangement of SMDS HR, please refer to the HR Department to find out their current housing policy and procedure. For MLNG emplyee, you need to look at the open market for housing resources, and Outpost can provide you some contacts with the local housing agency. Please have a look at the Gallery-Housing for the housing type and appearance as well as surrounding areas.
The household items provided depends on the house, but usually a washing machine/dryer/freezer/dishwasher etc., has to be bought by the occupant of the house and is available in Bintulu (not all brands are available but you can also find some nice ones like Panasonic, Samsung, Hitachi, etc.)
The gardens around most of the houses (Taman Matahari, MLNG Housing, ABF Housing) are large. There are several good nurseries nearby. Most people employ a gardener to cut the grass and do the heavy work.
There is quite a good selection of furniture for sale, but locally made settees, chairs and beds tend to be too short (for Western people). Some shops import European furniture (Miri or Bintulu). It is better to bring furniture from your home country to fit your own size and style.
There is a good choice of bookcases, desks (nice modern ones), desk chairs, salon tables, music cabinets etc. Wooden patio furniture can be bought , or made locally. You can have anything made out of beautiful wood, but it may take some time. A limited choice of imported furniture can be bought at some furniture shops.
There is a rattan factory where you can have beautiful cane furniture made. They do a very good and fast job and will make anything from bars/barstools/beds/dining tables and chairs/terrace sets/cupboards, baby high chairs and storage boxes etc. Bring a picture from a magazine as an example and they will manufacture it for you.
In Miri (approx. 3 hours drive), there is a larger choice of furniture shops.
Healthcare and Safety
In general, Sarawak is a very safe country to live in and enjoy. But as in any country, when going on leave, inform your neighbours or have an alarm system installed. For personal safety, standard precautions apply, such as: lock your doors even when at home, lock your car doors when driving etc.
Driving is on the left side of the road. Some of the roads are not of the quality you might be used to. There is slow moving traffic on the road. Sometimes there are no walkways and often people cross and walk along the road (where you are allowed to drive 80 kms per hour!). Also the rules of the road (official or practical) might be different from what you are used to. A warning for non-British people: bear in mind that a different (the British) rule of right of way is applied to T-junctions.
Health wise Sarawak is a good place to live. It is strongly advised to buy bottled water or a water filter for your tap.
Officially there are no malaria cases and it is not necessary to take anti malaria drugs. Good care is taken when one makes a jungle trip by using insect repellent and protective clothing. There is the occasional case of dengue fever. In the rainy season when there are more mosquitoes than usual, a fogging / fumigating program is undertaken with petroleum gasses blown into the gardens. This kills the mosquitoes and their larvae living in stagnant water. When people are sitting on the terrace at night, it is advisable to burn mosquito coils.
Occasionally there can be a long dry spell. At times bush fires occur, which result in an increase of the content of airborne particles and a strong smell. In such situations the public is advised to lessen their outdoor activities until the air is cleared.
Bintulu has a modern general hospital and two private hospitals. It is a bit understaffed, the specialists are on rotation and contact Outpost Bintulu for the doctors' visiting schedule. If one needs special care, one can go to a hospital in Kuching, Miri, KL or Singapore.
There are several private doctors/clinics in town. There is a very well stocked pharmacy (Pharmacy Ling), but if you have to take medicines on a daily basis, it is advisable to bring at first a good supply with you. It is possible to order your brand/kind of medication (or equivalent) if it is not in stock/available here.
Specialists can be consulted in Bintulu town on a regular basis. You can ask your doctor about their visiting schedules. Maternity care is available from (the Shell approved) clinics as long as it is normal routine ante-natal care. Usually women prefer to go to Dr. Mattu (Columbia Asia Medical Centre) in Miri, unless referred to Kuching or Kuala Lumpur by the specialist.
Shops in Bintulu have all the ‘basics’ you require. The range of imported food products varies with the size of the expat community. However, expatriates with a medium frame and above are advised to do their shopping for clothes and shoes in Kuala Lumpur or in their base country as they may not find the sizes they need here. Staff with children should bring lots of quality toys and books since the choice of those is limited in Bintulu.
A detailed map with the major shops is available from OUTPOST BINTULU on arrival. Some shopkeepers adapt well to the expatriate needs. The types of products on the shelves change according to the nationalities present. There are too many shops to mention here. If you want any specific info on availability of certain items, please email to OUTPOST BINTULU:firstname.lastname@example.org
In general new cars (left hand gearing), which have been assembled locally, are reasonably priced. Imported cars like Honda or Mitsubishi Pajero are more expensive.
Second-hand cars are quite expensive. It is advisable to bring a recent original (copies not accepted!) No Claims Certificate. There are no restrictions for women to drive here. It is possible to learn to drive and obtain a Malaysian drivers' license. There is a special driving school circuit.
In Bintulu there are several dealers like Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, Perodua and Proton. Almost all dealers are conveniently located in each others vicinity.
All people driving in Malaysia are required to have a valid driving license. This can be a Malaysian domestic driving license, a foreign driving license or an international driving permit. A foreign driving license can be used in Malaysia for as long as it is valid. As there is no reciprocal agreement between the UK and Malaysia on the automatic conversion of driving licenses, British applicants normally have to undergo a Malaysian driving test. For more information please refer to our Inside Guide.
It is very difficult, expensive and complicated to import a pet. Most animals, like cats and dogs, require a quarantine period of 6 months in Miri/Bintulu (government kennels) before the animal is allowed to live in Bintulu (exceptions are pets that stayed 6 months in Britain, New Zealand or Australia). The nearest quarantine station is 10 km from Bintulu on the Miri road. Borneo does not have rabies, so the main concern is to keep the island rabies free.
Please refer to our Inside guide Bintulu for further details regarding importing and transporting of your pet.
It is easy to get cats and dogs of a local breed. Occasionally pedigree dogs and cats are for sale in Bintulu and Miri. Also available are aquarium fish, guinea pigs, birds etc. Dog- and catfood can be bought at any supermarket.