Kota Kinabalu Holidays

Kota Kinabalu

Your Kota Kinabalu holiday

Although the settlement has been around since at least the late 19th century, the name Kota Kinabalu was given less than fifty years ago.

Before that, the town was known as Jesselton, due to its close connection with the British North Borneo Company (BNBC), which was then run by Charles Jessel. The port became a major hub of commercial activity for the BNBC, with the British successfully seeing off several revolts from local inhabitants.

Jesselton was eventually surrendered, however, to the Japanese Empire during World War II. The retreating allied forces destroyed the city to stall the enemy’s advance, and then, as the war drew to a close, bombed it heavily again to expel the occupying troops.

In 1945, the British government took control of the city—in ruins with only a few buildings still intact—and began the post-war reconstruction. In the early 1960s, negotiations to form the unified state of Malaysia were well underway, and in 1963, the city became part of the Sabah state. Five years later, the city was reborn as Kota Kinabalu (‘The City of Kinabalu’), after the mountain that dominates the horizon.

Since then, Kota Kinabalu has regained its status as an important port, and more recently has made its mark on the global tourism industry due to the abundance of nature reserves and sandy islands in close proximity. As the number of foreign arrivals accelerated, so the population expanded, almost doubling to around 600,000 in the last decade.

Holidays Deals

Kota Kinabalu Holidays

Novotel Kota Kinabalu 1Borneo

4 stars
4.0 / 5 1 reviews
Novotel Kota Kinabalu 1Borneo is an integral part of 1Borneo Hypermall, the largest mall in Borneo. It is within 10 minutes drive from the city centre and 25 minutes from the airport. All rooms are uniquely designed with comfort in mind. Enjoy the different dining experience at the 3 outlets available in the hotel. We have 3 meeting rooms, 1 boardroom and a Biz Centre to support your meeting needs. Guests can enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of our outdoor swimming pool located at level 7.
Flight + Hotel
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Nightly rates from £22.80

Ming Garden Hotel and Residences

4 stars
3.7 / 5 3 reviews
Ming Garden Hotel & Residences welcomes you with warm Sabahan hospitality. Situated near the junction of several thoroughfares, our strategic location along the Coastal Highway allows fast access to Kota Kinabalu's central business, commercial and places of interest.
Value Book 7 Days In Advance & Save 25% (Min 2 Nights)
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Nightly rates from £34.15

Sabah Oriental Hotel

4 stars
4.2 / 5 5 reviews
Our rooms are designed with your comfort in mind. At The Beverly you'll discover that attention to details is our hallmarks to ensure your stay in Beverly is a perfect one. NOTE FROM HOTEL (11 Oct 2011): We currently upgrading the room key card system, therefore we are unable to provide guest room key during their stay. During check in and stay time our staff will escort all guests for entering their room. We regret for the inconvenience caused and we are doing our best to solve the matter within 2 weeks times.
Value FREE WIFI + 1x Dinner + Minibar
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Nightly rates from £31.34

Hyatt Regency Kinabalu

5 stars
4.5 / 5 4 reviews
Hyatt Regency Kinabalu is a 14 story highrise in the heart of Kota Kinabalu city overlooking the island-studded South China Sea. Features a 5 story atrium lobby in the heart of of the business, shopping and entertainment district. Dec 2013 to end of year 2014, Hyatt Regency Kinabalu will undergo a major renovation project to upgrade its restaurants. The renovation will involve its main coffeehouse Tanjung Ria Cafe, The Chinese Restaurant, The Atrium, the lobby and our kitchens. Please be advised that during this period, our menu offerings may be limited and intermittent noise is expected during working hours.
Value Free High-Speed Internet, 15% off at Avantang Spa
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Nightly rates from £90.53

Cititel Express Kota Kinabalu

3 stars
5.0 / 5 1 reviews
Cititel Express Kota Kinabalu is strategically located in the heart of Kota Kinabalu City Centre, offer 275 guestrooms with all the essential amenities for a refreshing experience with great value. Within walking distance to the commercial district, banks, government agencies, local eateries & bars and various tourist sites, its one address you would not want to miss.It is a mere 10-minute walk to the Filipino market, KK Esplanade, local malls & eateries, a short drive to 1Borneo shopping centre and other cultural attractionsCititel Express, Kota Kinabalu - Smart, Clean, Simple, in the heart of Kota Kinabalu City Centre, a hotel that offers a refreshingly simple, comfortable and value experience
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Nightly rates from £25.46

Brahminy Kite Holiday Home

4 stars
Not yet reviewed
Situated in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Brahminy Kite Holiday Home is just a 5-minute drive from the Kota Kinabalu City Centre. This luxurious resort-styled vacation rental houses a self-contained 5-bedroom unit with an outdoor patio offering breathtaking mountain and garden views which guest can enjoy on a daily basis. All rooms are decorated with art, paintings & photography done by local Sabahan & Malaysian artists. The holiday home is situated on a private hill, but is still only a 5-minute walk from the Signal Hill Observatory Tower & 5-minute drive from the Kota Kinabalu Jetty and local attractions such as the Gaya Street Market, Kinabalu Wetlands Bird Park, KK Esplanade, and the Atkinson Clock Tower. It is a 15-minute drive from Kota Kinabalu International Airport and 30 minutes by boat to the islands of Sapi, Mamutik, Sulug, Gaya and Manukan. A home away from home perfect for group trips & family vacations. 3-storey resort-styled villa is able to accommodate a maximum of 12 people. The holiday home features peaceful living and dining areas and 4 bathrooms with hot shower facilities. It also offers a kitchen with full-facilities which guest can use to do their own cooking. A chargeable laundry service, cable TV and DVD player are included. Guests can enjoy free WiFi access in Brahminy Kite's public areas. Complimentary private parking is provided. The property also has a library and a tour desk where guest can book tour activities & packages in Kota Kinabalu.
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Nightly rates from £65.57

The Pacific Sutera Hotel

5 stars
4.6 / 5 5 reviews
Subtle elegance permeates The Pacific Sutera Hotel with its grand entrance, high ceiling lobby lounge, panoramic views of the sea and 500 immaculately appointed suites and guestrooms, superlative amenities, and excellent services. The lavish inventory was designed especially for the people who appreciate the finer things in life. At Pacific Sutera Hotel, discover unrivalled elegance and comfort. Here, you will also find the Graham Marsh designed 27-hole championship golf course and 104-berth marina. In addition, there are two Mandara Spas and a host of dining and recreational facilities.
Value Save 25% on your stay
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Nightly rates from £110.16

Kinabalu Park Hotel

3 stars
5.0 / 5 1 reviews
The area around Mount Kinabalu, spanning 754 square kilometers, was converted into a National Park in 1964 because of its geographical and geological importance and the abundance of diverse flora, 4500 species of plants, 1200 types of orchids, 290 known species of butterflies and 326 types of birds. At 4,095.2m, Mount Kinabalu is Malaysia's highest mountain. In December 2000, UNESCO recognised Mount Kinabalu as Malaysia's first World Heritage Site for its outstanding universal values and its role as one of the most important biological sites in the world. Located at 1,585 metres above sea level, Kinabalu Park showcases a complete and interesting ecological system unrivalled anywhere else in the world and is the main starting point for the summit trail up the mountain. It also carries lowland, mountain and alpine vegetation that are not seen anywhere else between the Himalayas and the snow-capped peaks of New Guinea. Managed by Sutera Sanctuary Lodges, Kinabalu Park also hosts the annual Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon event, proclaimed as the 'World's Toughest Mountain Race' which attracts top mountain racers from around the world to climb up and down the mountain in a few hours. The climbathon is part of the Sky Runners World Series Circuit
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Nightly rates from £110.00

Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu

5 stars
3.8 / 5 4 reviews
A great city-centre location with stunning views of the South China Sea and Borneo sunsets, Le Mridien Kota Kinabalu lies next to the citys best retail, dining and entertainment facilities as well as the renowned Handicraft and night markets. With 306 spacious, well-appointed rooms, and four restaurants and bars that offer great dining, refreshments and live band entertainment options, the hotels unique city-centre location and spectacular views make the perfect locale for a journey of discovery to Sabah.
Value Club Lounge Access!
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Nightly rates from £69.04

Gaya Island Resort

5 stars
5.0 / 5 1 reviews
There is a place, accessible only by boat, where all that nature has created, from sheltered coral reefs to protected mangroves, over thousands of years has been preserved by those devoted to its care. A place called Gaya Island Resort at Pulau Gaya. Within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park off the coast of Kota Kinabalu in Borneo, Gaya Island Resort rests along the coast of Malohom Bay, a natural sanctuary nestled in the hillside of an ancient rainforest with a stunning outline of Mount Kinabalu on the horizon. The resort's architecture respects Sabahan elements; its 120 villas and two-bedroom suite use local materials and blend harmoniously with the natural environment while villa interiors are designed with a contemporary elegance. Yet this is more than just a beautiful beachfront resort in stunning surroundings; with its PURE activities, this is a place for the curious to actively engage or peacefully absorb all Borneo has to offer. Seamlessly integrated within the mangroves is Spa Village, offering a rich tapestry of spa programmes that reflect the ancient healing practices of the region while restoring balance to alleviate modern stresses. Dining is a burst of freshness and flavour; exquisite, sensory and sublime. Discoveries, authentic experiences and a sense of intimacy with the natural world all prevail across the land and seascape of this resort, with its youthful vibe and sun-dappled moments, offering travellers and families an escape that is distinctively Borneo. Gaya Island Resort is committed to ecologically-sustainable practices to minimise the carbon footprint within its environment. Therefore, the resort is a walking resort and only minimal motorised vehicles are used for operational purposes. Travel by air Major airlines such as Malaysia Airlines and Royal Brunei operate direct international flights from major destinations around the world to Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA). From Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia operate direct flights to Kota Kinabalu. Those traveling to and from Singapore can connect directly to Kota Kinabalu via SilkAir, Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia. The journey continues by land transfer towards Sutera Harbour Marina. Land Transfers For guests who require return transfers between Kota Kinabalu International Airport and Sutera Harbour Marina, arrangements can be made for a private vehicle. The driving time between Kota Kinabalu International Airport and Sutera Harbour Marina takes approximately 15 minutes. Sea Transfer From Sutera Harbour Marina, guests are transported via speedboat to Gaya Island Resort. Journey time is approximately 15 minutes. From Sutera Harbour Marina: 0800hrs, 1000hrs, 1200hrs, 1400hrs, 1600hrs, 1800hrs From Gaya Island Resort: 0900hrs, 1100hrs, 1300hrs, 1500hrs, 1700hrs, 1830hrs Return transfers: Adult : RM140.00 Child (3 -12 years old) : RM70.00 One way private boat charters between 7am to 9pm - RM500 One way private boat charters between 9pm to 7am - RM700 * Rates are subject to change without prior notice.
Flight + Hotel
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Nightly rates from £146.89
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Hotels

Kota Kinabalu Hotels

Nightly rates from £22.80

Novotel Kota Kinabalu 1Borneo

4 stars
4.0 / 5 1 reviews
Novotel Kota Kinabalu 1Borneo is an integral part of 1Borneo Hypermall, the largest mall in Borneo. It is within 10 minutes drive from the city centre and 25 minutes from the airport. All rooms are uniquely designed with comfort in mind. Enjoy the different dining experience at the 3 outlets available in the hotel. We have 3 meeting rooms, 1 boardroom and a Biz Centre to support your meeting needs. Guests can enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of our outdoor swimming pool located at level 7.
Nightly rates from £34.15

Ming Garden Hotel and Residences

4 stars
3.7 / 5 3 reviews
Ming Garden Hotel & Residences welcomes you with warm Sabahan hospitality. Situated near the junction of several thoroughfares, our strategic location along the Coastal Highway allows fast access to Kota Kinabalu's central business, commercial and places of interest.
Value Book 7 Days In Advance & Save 25% (Min 2 Nights)
Nightly rates from £31.34

Sabah Oriental Hotel

4 stars
4.2 / 5 5 reviews
Our rooms are designed with your comfort in mind. At The Beverly you'll discover that attention to details is our hallmarks to ensure your stay in Beverly is a perfect one. NOTE FROM HOTEL (11 Oct 2011): We currently upgrading the room key card system, therefore we are unable to provide guest room key during their stay. During check in and stay time our staff will escort all guests for entering their room. We regret for the inconvenience caused and we are doing our best to solve the matter within 2 weeks times.
Value FREE WIFI + 1x Dinner + Minibar
Nightly rates from £90.53

Hyatt Regency Kinabalu

5 stars
4.5 / 5 4 reviews
Hyatt Regency Kinabalu is a 14 story highrise in the heart of Kota Kinabalu city overlooking the island-studded South China Sea. Features a 5 story atrium lobby in the heart of of the business, shopping and entertainment district. Dec 2013 to end of year 2014, Hyatt Regency Kinabalu will undergo a major renovation project to upgrade its restaurants. The renovation will involve its main coffeehouse Tanjung Ria Cafe, The Chinese Restaurant, The Atrium, the lobby and our kitchens. Please be advised that during this period, our menu offerings may be limited and intermittent noise is expected during working hours.
Value Free High-Speed Internet, 15% off at Avantang Spa
Nightly rates from £25.46

Cititel Express Kota Kinabalu

3 stars
5.0 / 5 1 reviews
Cititel Express Kota Kinabalu is strategically located in the heart of Kota Kinabalu City Centre, offer 275 guestrooms with all the essential amenities for a refreshing experience with great value. Within walking distance to the commercial district, banks, government agencies, local eateries & bars and various tourist sites, its one address you would not want to miss.It is a mere 10-minute walk to the Filipino market, KK Esplanade, local malls & eateries, a short drive to 1Borneo shopping centre and other cultural attractionsCititel Express, Kota Kinabalu - Smart, Clean, Simple, in the heart of Kota Kinabalu City Centre, a hotel that offers a refreshingly simple, comfortable and value experience
Value Book Now & Save 30%
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Flights

Flights to Kota Kinabalu

Departure Arrival Travel dates Round-trip fares
London Kota Kinabalu Wed, 21 May - Wed, 4 Jun £593
Kuala Lumpur Kota Kinabalu Wed, 7 May - Wed, 14 May £98
Tawau Kota Kinabalu Sat, 26 Apr - Wed, 14 May £82
Sandakan Kota Kinabalu Sat, 21 Jun - Tue, 24 Jun £82
Hong Kong Kota Kinabalu Sat, 31 May - Tue, 3 Jun £262
Bandar Seri Begawan Kota Kinabalu Sat, 24 May - Sat, 31 May £115
Singapore Kota Kinabalu Tue, 29 Apr - Mon, 5 May £235
Brisbane Kota Kinabalu Wed, 30 Apr - Wed, 7 May Check rates
Al Manamah Kota Kinabalu Wed, 30 Apr - Wed, 7 May Check rates
Kuching Kota Kinabalu Sun, 27 Apr - Tue, 29 Apr £93
Manchester Kota Kinabalu Sat, 7 Jun - Sun, 29 Jun £995
Bangkok Kota Kinabalu Fri, 23 May - Tue, 27 May £192
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Kota Kinabalu highlights

  • Climb Mount Kinabalu

    It’s impossible not to see this towering massif from town—the summit reaches above 4,000 metres, making it one of the tallest peaks in Southeast Asia. Getting to the top is easier than you’d expect, with no specialist mountaineering gear required for someone in good physical condition.

    Aside from the tremendous views across Sabah, the whole mountain area is renowned for its remarkably diverse vegetation and birdlife, with many species unique to these slopes.

    Monkey around at Lok Kawi Wildlife Park

    This 280-acre reserve, just a half hour drive from KK centre, is one of the largest in the country. There are two main sections—animal and botanical—with the Orang-utan enclosure the highlight for most guests.

    These intelligent animals are our closest cousins, and Borneo is one of the only places where they still live in the wild. Lok Kawi is involved in a conservation programme for Orang-utans and other endangered species.

    Sample Local Delicacies at the Night Market

    Kota Kinabalu’s seething night market, which runs from 5 p.m. every day, is a mesmerising mesh of sights and smells that is sure to get your stomach juices flowing. You can find some of the finest seafood in the city roasting on the open-flame barbecues here, as well as an endless supply of exotic fruits and vegetables.

    Go fishing in the South China Sea

    Go one step further and try and catch your own seafood dinner. The impossibly clear waters off the coast of Kota Kinabalu are great for a spot of fishing, and licensed boats will take you out from the capital in search of barracudas, marlin, and tuna, among others.

    If you’re short of luck, the local experts will be happy to sell you one of their catches right off the boat when you get back to shore. There is also an annual fishing tournament held here, with the ironic-sounding theme “Save our Seas” actually part of a major drive to cut down on illegal fishing in the coastal waters.

Top Kota Kinabalu attractions

  • Kota Kinabalu

    Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

    This national marine park comprises five islands just off the coast of Sabah, each a mini tropical paradise where mellow turquoise waters lap up against white palm-strewn beaches. There is a range of scuba-diving options off the islands, including around some small coral reefs that teem with colourful fish.

    The larger isles, like Gaya Island, also have interesting hiking options through lush rainforest. Or, you can just as well take a book and settle under a palm tree for a day of peaceful bliss.

    Sabah State Museum and Heritage Village

    This sprawling complex actually contains several museums, as well as a traditional village and small zoo. The main building mimics traditional Sabah architecture, and its principal galleries cover art, Islamic culture, and local history.

    Keep an eye out for the human skulls kept from the times when headhunting was common in Sabah. The heritage village is a collection of simple, wooden houses with styles that represent the various ethnic groups indigenous to the region.

    Tun Mustapha Tower

    At the other extreme is this futuristic tower, the second tallest in Borneo. Built in the 1970s, this cylindrical tower soars over 120 metres and is one of only a handful of buildings in the world designed so that each floor is supported by steel rods fanning out from a central core.

    The best feature is the revolving restaurant on the 18th floor: it takes about an hour to go all the way around, meaning you can look out over every corner of Kota Kinabalu before dessert.

    City Mosque

    Though the Sabah State Mosque is the most important in religious terms, the Kota Kinabalu City Mosque is arguably the more impressive structure, capable of welcoming up to 12,000 worshippers. The white walls gleam in the sunlight, while the man-made lagoon surrounding the building makes it especially attractive when reflected at sunset.

    Tip * Booking your Tours, Transfers & Airport Parking before you go will save your money & time and ensure a stress free start to your holiday

     

Kota Kinabalu holiday travel tips

  • When to Visit

    East Malaysia has a tropical climate, with hot and humid days most of the year round. It’s not advisable to visit Malaysia during rainy season, which lasts from November to February.

    Airport Arrival

    Your flight will arrive at the KK international airport, which is just to the southwest of the city itself. A taxi from the airport to the city centre will cost around 25 ringgit (£5). Your hotel might also be able to arrange a transfer service, so make sure you enquire when you make a reservation.

    Getting Around

    The city centre is relatively small and mostly accessible on foot. The local bus network is adequate and cheap, with single journeys costing as little as RM1 (20p). Taxis are easy to encounter on the streets, make sure the driver initiates the meter or that you agree on a fixed fare before the journey starts. There are several ferries that can take you to the islands just off the shore of KK.

    One way to explore the breathtaking scenery of Sabah is by car hire in Kota Kinabalu. Be warned, however, that roads are not always in great condition, and other drivers can be aggressive.

Where to stay in Kota Kinabalu

  • Your hotel in Kota Kinabalu can range from a luxurious international resort to a simple, good-value lodging.

    It’s not going to be cheap, but if you want the full works, stay in the Sutera Harbour Resort Hotel, a 380-room mega-complex sitting right on the shores of the South China Sea. On the vast grounds there are two luxury hotels—the Pacific and Magellan—a golf course, spas, pools, and a marina. As you’d expect, rooms are large and exquisitely decked out, and there are several excellent restaurants and bars to choose from. Thankfully, there are vehicles to ship you from one area of the resort to another, and—should you ever decide to leave this wonderland—a free hourly shuttle running to the town centre throughout the day.

    Towering above the famous night market, Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu Hotel is in the perfect position to watch the crowds as they wander around the tightly packed stalls below. For an altogether more soothing vista, save a spot around the outdoor swimming pool, order a cocktail from the bar, and gaze out into the eternity of the turquoise sea.

    Tucked inside the largest shopping centre in Sabah, the Novotel Kota Kinabalu 1Borneo Hotel is a comfortable place to stay away from the noise and heat of the city centre. Rooms are spotless and come with everything you’d expect from this reputable international brand. Heading into the city will require transport, but if it’s shopping you’re after, you won’t find a more convenient spot.

Kota Kinabalu restaurants

  • Cuisine in Sabah is influenced by many cultures, but the undoubted specialty is the fabulous seafood pulled from the local waters. And there aren’t many better places to sample the latest catch than at the Kampung Nelayan Floating Seafood Market Restaurant (Taman Tun Fuad, Bukit Padang). It’s a short ride out of the city centre, but you’ll forget about that minor inconvenience when you pick your dinner right from the tank. Nightly cultural shows involving fire displays are an entertaining after-dinner distraction.

    Chinese food is a big part of the Malaysian diet, and Yu Kee Bak Kut Teh (Gaya Street) is a no-nonsense canteen on one of the city’s liveliest strips. Within minutes of sitting under the harsh fluorescent lighting, you’ll be served a large bowl of soup with a choice of pork meat, ribs, or offal, depending on what you’re in the mood for. Whatever you order, you are likely to be satisfied with both the food and the bill—this place is permanently busy for a reason.

    For a casual late afternoon drink and bite to eat, you can’t beat First Beach Café (Aru Drive), which backs right up to the sandy shore. The kitchen serves up basic Asian noodle and rice dishes, but the real draw here is the view of the beautiful Borneo sunsets.

    For something a little bit more familiar and carb-heavy, stop in at Little Italy (Jln Haji Saman). All the standard Italian dishes appear on the menu, with the pizzas and pasta better than you might expect to encounter in Malaysia.

Health & Safety

  • Vaccinations

    The city of Kota Kinabalu and the surrounding coastal region is an area with a low risk of malaria, though care should always be taken to avoid attention from mosquitoes. However, if you intend to travel inland, preventative treatment via oral medication is strongly recommended. If you have a temperature or other flu-like symptoms, even after coming back from your holiday in Malaysia, you ought to seek medical assistance immediately.

    No other vaccinations are compulsory, unless you are arriving from a country with a yellow fever epidemic. Make sure you are current with all of your standard booster injections at least four weeks before you travel.

    Health and Hygiene

    In Malaysia, you should filter your tap water, or, better still, drink bottled water, which is easy to find.

    The health infrastructure is pretty good, though it deteriorates rapidly as you head into rural areas. The number to call for an ambulance is the same as in the UK: 999.

    Safety

    Malaysia is relatively safe, but the usual recommendations about not walking unaccompanied at night and remaining vigilant on public transport apply. Bag snatching is relatively common in the bigger cities.

    There have been isolated cases of kidnappings of foreigners in East Malaysia, especially on the Eastern coast of Sabah. There is also a moderate risk of terrorism, with Western foreigners the target.

    General Advice

    The British influence in the country’s history means that English is spoken in most cities and tourist spots. Malaysia is a mostly Islamic nation, however, and you should show respect for local religious and legal customs.

    Anti-drugs laws are extremely severe in Malaysia, and possession of a tiny amount could lead to imprisonment if caught. If you are found carrying a quantity deemed sufficient for you to be trafficking, you may be given the death penalty.

Your trip

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