Our Kuching gay travel guide has all the best gay friendly hotels, LGBTQ friendly hangouts, where to eat, things to do, and more.
It may be small, but it’s packed full of character… rather like us, don’t you think?
Winding streets that meander around bustling shop fronts, narrow high-rise buildings that soar toward the sky, and the occasional grand temple; there is nothing like Kuching. The first thing to say guys: don't come here expecting big gay parties, Pride events, or any gay bars or clubs. Kuching is more about the beautiful landscapes and nature of Sarawak – if you're looking for parties, get this out of your system in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore before heading here.
Located by the Sarawak River in the northwest of Borneo, the experience of this city is addictive. We couldn’t get enough of the loud chatter from the market vendors, the concoction of smells that swam through the humid air, and the happy, friendly faces of the locals.
“I feel like a star!” Seby swooned, as another passerby smiled at us.
“Oh honey, they’re laughing at you because you have rice stuck on your face…”
In all seriousness, the people of Kuching really do smile at each other and at tourists… just because! After all, who wouldn’t love living in a place that is so wonderful? It’s made up of a hodgepodge of cultures, all living in harmony together. There are gorgeous temples that dot the city landscape, the meandering Sarawak River that cuts through the busy streets, as well as the temptation of wild natural parks nearby to run off to and live up your nomad fantasy.
Getting online in Kuching
The Malaysian government monitors Internet usage and is increasingly blocking more and more LGBTQ websites and apps. We recommend that all gay travelers to Kuching get a VPN before visiting. This will not only allow you to access all blocked apps/websites but it will also enable you to browse the Internet safely and anonymously.
Is Kuching safe for gay travelers?
Hmmm, this is a tricky question to answer. On one hand, the Malaysian government adamantly tries to deny the existence of queer people in its country. They uphold archaic and horrible anti-gay laws. Plus, public acceptance of LGBTQ people is drastically low (even by Asian standards).
There are signs of things getting better though. In early 2021, the High Court ruled that a law banning gay intercourse was unconstitutional. In 2015, Kuching was the first city in the world to be declared the “city of unity” due to its harmonious spirit, welcoming citizens, and tolerance for different people.
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Everyone we met was so kind and sweet to us. Whether it was the hotel staff or restaurant owners, or even random strangers on the street; we received nothing but happy smiles and warm greetings. No one cared that we were a gay couple, they were just glad to see two people enjoying their city.
However, we would recommend minimizing any public affection just to be on the safe side. For more info, check out our interview with local Kuching guy, Ronnie, who told us all about gay life in Malaysia.
Gay hotels in Kuching
There are no exclusively gay hotels in Kuching, although we didn’t really expect as much. Initially, we were worried that owners would reject us upon discovering we were a gay couple. Therefore, we called ahead to make sure it was ay okay. Each hotel told us they had no problem. Thus, proving our earlier point that Malaysian people are gay-friendly, it’s mostly just the government who has issues. These are some of the best gay-friendly hotels in Kuching to check out.
In a nutshell
- Situated among the oldest streets of Kuching
- Beautiful wood furnishings and cosy aesthetics
- Refreshments by the poolside
- Car rental service available
If you’ve ever wanted to experience going back in time, the Marian could be your answer.
Based in a colonial-style building among the city’s oldest streets, the Marian takes the aesthetics of the past, whilst adding subtle touches to make it feel brand new. This house is utterly stunning, with sparkling white walls, high ceilings, timber wooden furnishings, and surrounded by lush gardens.
They have seven distinct room styles, each named after former matrons and headmistress from when the building was a boarding house for nearby St Mary's School. Depending on your group size or penchant for design, you’ll find the perfect fit for you. We opted for the Mary Sharp room, which is the best choice for couples.
For eating, look no further than the onsite Granary Kitchen + Bar, which whips up tasty Asian cuisine and (praise be) delicious cocktails. Best of all is the pool, which feels like the center of the universe. When we were relaxing in the cool waters (drink in hand, of course), we were able to appreciate just how breathtakingly beautiful the house is. Our rich lady fantasy was truly in full swing!
Hard to believe that just outside the door is one of the busiest parts of Kuching, including the charming waterfront, Sarawak Museum, and the Old Court House.
Prices at The Marian start from $19 per night:
STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL
Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, voiding any nasty surprises when you check-in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off our first booking.
In a nutshell
- Dine in one of the hotel’s several restaurants
- Stay near the hustle and bustle of the Kuching high street
- Sleep in a comfy king-sized bed
- Relax by the swimming pool or next to the river
When it comes to staying at the Hilton, you know exactly what to expect – lavish, lush, luxurious and gay friendly.
Even the most standard rooms are filled with stylish décor, fitted with a massive king-sized bed, minibar, panoramic windows, and an LCD TV. If you’re up for splurging, you can opt for a suite or executive room. This will get you a view of the iconic Sarawak River, plus complimentary breakfast, and refreshments.
We take eating out very seriously – so we love when a hotel has multiple options for us to choose from. The Hilton’s Toh Yuen restaurant was a true delight, with opulent Malay-style décor, matched up with fine dining and exquisite cuisine. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, perhaps a steakhouse would? Or a buffet-style café that features dishes from around the world? Luckily, there are five different dining options to choose from, and that's not even mentioning all the delicious spots in the rest of the city!
If you're in need of working off some of those calories there's a spacious fitness center with plenty of equipment to get you sweating. You can also swim laps in the outdoor pool, or just relax and work on your tan.
The best part of it all is how close you’ll be to Kuching’s main thoroughfare. Hotspots like Kuching's Waterfront, the famous cat statue and the Tua Pek Kong Temple are practically on your doorstep, making getting around the city so darn simple.
Prices at Hilton Kuching start from $46 per night:
SPOT ON 89904 Marco Polo's
In a nutshell
- Sweet and welcoming owners
- Scrumptious breakfast and coffee each morning
- Comfy and clean
- Excellent budget option
For the experience that we got, we couldn’t believe the price tag! Marco Polo's is truly the best choice for gay travelers on a budget.
It doesn’t look like much from the outside. In fact, we thought the taxi driver was playing a cruel joke and had dumped us in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully, the owners, Sam and Jen, came over to welcome us and bring us inside.
They are two of the loveliest people we’ve ever met. Not just in their hospitality, but in their dedication to immersing their visitors into Malay life – even going as far as to take us out to eat in a local restaurant. They recommended so many fun activities for us to try out around the city – part of which helped make our trip so memorable.
They can also whip up a darn good breakfast, particularly their coffee, which got us pumped up for each day. The rooms are clean and comfortable, without any unnecessary frills. After all, it is a budget hotel. And whilst you are sharing a bathroom with other guests, it is always kept exceptionally clean.
Prices at Marco Polo's start from $10 per night:
Gay bars and clubs in Kuching
Unsurprisingly, there are no gay bars or clubs in Kuching. In fact, the after-hours scene in general was virtually non-existent. Our options for a drink were limited to late-night restaurants, like Zinc or the RJ Café. However, Junk was the one exception, which combines a restaurant, bar, and club all in one. Whilst not exclusively gay, it attracts a large international crowd, which means it has a very free-spirited mantra. When we visited, we were delighted to meet people of our community.
Seby and I were quite taken aback when a random dude approached and asked us if we wanted to see “the junk.” Turn out, he didn’t mean his d!©k. He was talking about The Junk – a multi-room venue consisting of a bar, a restaurant, a lounge area known as The Red Room, a club nicknamed Backstage, and a garden. We popped in for a bite to eat in the restaurant, munching on delicious Malaysian cuisine, before heading over to the Red Room for some karaoke and a dance. Saturday nights are the best time to get down for a boogie!
Open: Junk is open every day (except Tuesdays) from 6pm until midnight
Location: It's located at 80 Wayang Street
Just like the chemical, Zinc Bar gave us quite the explosive experience! Mainly due to its high-energy wait staff, and a food menu that marries Chinese with French cuisine – who knew such polarizing palates would work so well? Our highlight was the home-brewed cocktails made by an expert mixologist. They were super tasty, whilst remaining inexpensive. The atmosphere was quite boisterous, with spirited patrons who were happy to chat with total strangers and some fun music playing in the background.
Open: Zinc Bar is open every day (except Monday) from midday until 9pm
Location: It's located at 38 Tabuan Road
One word: DESSERT! We skipped right over the main courses and drinks in this joint when we saw the array of sweets on display – including a multi-colored cake. We don’t think it was intended to be Pride-themed (given Malaysia’s track record on LGBTQ rights!), but we coined it the gay cake anyway. This café/bar has a living room vibe to its design, so visitors feel at home when they arrive. Easily our favorite place to hang out for drinks, snacks or meals and, of course, cake!
Open: RJ Cafe is open everyday from 11am until 10pm
Location: You can find it at 2 Jalan Nagor
Where to eat in Kuching
We make no secret of it. We love food and we won’t be shamed for it! With a whole new cuisine to try out, we were bursting to dine in Kuching's most beloved restaurants. Rice is a big thing in Malaysia, so expect to get tons of it with every meal. They also like to use a lot of spices and flavor, which we LIVE for! These are a handful of our favorite places to eat out in Kuching:
One word to describe this place? Magical! From the twinkling lanterns that hung over our heads, to the wicker fences that wrapped around the restaurant walls, dining in Lepau felt like a romantic night in a farmhouse beneath the stars. Their cook, Madame Roselyn, is renowned in Kuching for her authentic Orang Ulu and Dayak food – serving up dishes like pansuh chicken, pineapple curry, and dried chilli calamari. Absolutely delish!
A rather unique dining experience, the Granary is in a warehouse (connected to The Marian boutique hotel from above), with long tables and high ceilings. It’s easy to see why this place is so popular with weddings and parties – there's fabulous food, cheery wait staff, and occasionally, a live band will play. The menu is bursting with a variety of items to suit any type of eater – the Aglio Olio pasta was a particular favorite of ours. The highlight is that everything is made fresh on the same day.
The name may be bla bla bla, but their food is YAS YAS YAS! Taking design inspiration from the jungle, the décor uses a combo of dark woods, wicker chairs, mesh mosquito nets, and tropical tree plants, all of which creates a true “lost in the wilderness” vibe. The menu is a mix of Asian cuisine and seafood, with plenty of veggie and vegan options. Our favorite dish was the cashew nut prawns – sooo good!
What to do in Kuching
It’s always a difficult feat picking out what to do when exploring a new city, especially when you’re pressed for time. We got plenty packed in during our short stay in Kuching though. Here are some must of the best things to do for gay travelers:
Rainforest World Music Festival
For us, the Rainforest World Music Festival is THE highlight of Kuching! Taking place every summer, the RWMF is a 3-day event that takes place every summer featuring both local indigenous artists and international…oh and did we mention it’s set in the middle of the jungle? Held to honor Borneo culture, you can expect to find afternoon workshops, musical lectures, and mini concerts by day. By night, extravagant performances by some of the world’s most famous musicians. It takes place at the Sarawak Cultural Village, which is around 45-minutes outside Kuching.
Yep, we think you’d love this museum, which is dedicated to the 2019 musical movie… ‘Cats’. Kidding! It’s not about the film, of course. We’ll stop pu$$yfooting around and get to the point! This museum is about everyone’s favorite furry felines. Much like Egypt, cats are revered in Kuching… did you know the word “kuching” even means cat in Malay? At the Cat Museum you’ll learn all about the cultural significance of the creature, with plenty of adorable cat paintings and sculptures.
It’s not far from the Cat Museum, so why not make a day of it and also swing by the Sarawak Orchid Garden? It’s free admission and offers the chance to see a collection of over 75,000 beautiful plants. Walk through the stunning landscaped gardens, spotting over 80 different flower varieties, including the green and black flowered orchid, and the famous stinking Bulbophyllum Beccarii! We loved it because it makes for the perfect backdrop for a few Insta pics too…
Kuching Food Festival
Did we mention we like to eat? We use any excuse to stuff our faces, so we couldn’t believe our perfect timing upon discovering the annual Food Festival coincided with our trip (especially with the Rainforest World Music Festival also taking place). Floating around dozens of food stalls, we were bowled over by the array of colors, scents, and sounds of food being prepared and displayed. There are also cooking demonstrations that take place, so you can pick up a trick or two on how to perfect your own kuching skills… (see what we did there?)!
Bako National Park
Everyone told us how this was the place to go to see the “hilarious” proboscis monkeys. But we particularly fell in love with the flying lemurs as they swung from tree to tree. Truth be told, while the monkeys are great, this park has so much more to see, including lizards, squirrels, hundreds of bird species, and dazzling cliff-side views of the Bako coastline. Bako is located on an island – a day trip from Kuching, which you reach via a car ride and boat transfer.
Semenggoh Wildlife Centre
There is no better place to go orangutan spotting. The Semenggoh Wildlife Centre is a fantastic organization that provides sanctuary for injured or abandoned orang-utans. It’s also used as a research center, where scientists can conduct studies on the creature’s behavior. Sadly, orangutans are classified as an endangered animal, with just 104,700 of the Bornean species left in the world. We highly recommend taking a day trip out of Kuching to see them.
Mulu National Park
This Park is so isolated from the rest of the world that you can only reach it via a short 80-minute flight. It is WELL worth the journey though. The Mulu National Park is considered one of the most important natural sites in South Asia. It is easily one of the most stunning places we’ve ever witnessed. Cascading waterfalls, wondrous caves, and trails through dense forests – be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime!
Plan your trip to Kuching
We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Kuching. Read on to find out everything the gay traveler should know before they go.
How to get there: To get directly to Kuching you can fly into the Kuching International Airport from Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, as well as other airports within Malaysia. Obviously if you're traveling from somewhere other than Singapore or Malaysia, then you will need to transfer at one of those airports. If you're already in Sarawak then you can also get to Kuching from other towns via bus.
For those who arrive by flight, it can take between 20 minutes to an hour to get into the city center from the airport, via taxi or bus. We prefer to pre-book a private arrival transfer though, as that ensures your driver will be waiting to pick you up no matter how late you arrive.
Visa requirements: Citizens of many countries are able to visit Malaysia visa-free for up to 90 days as a tourist, so long as you have at least six month's validity remaining on your passport. Make sure you check your personal visa requirements before making any travel plans for Kuching.
Getting around: The main old town area of Kuching is easily explored on foot but if you want to head further afield we recommend joining a reputable tour or using a ride-hailing service like GrabCar and Maxim. You can also hail taxis but sometimes they may overcharge and the bus system is quite inconsistent. We also recommend checking if your accommodation offers any shuttle services to the city center or other popular spots.
Power Plugs: Malaysia uses the same type of power plugs as those in the United Kingdom, but if you're traveling from anywhere else you will need to bring a travel adapter with you to ensure you can charge your electronic devices.
Travel insurance: We never travel without travel insurance and always urge others to do the same. You just never know when illness, a missed flight or lost luggage might completely ruin your trip, but with travel insurance you can at least breathe easy knowing you will be covered for any out-of-pocket expenses. We've been using World Nomads Travel Insurance for years and definitely recommend them for your own trip to Kuching. Their coverage is affordable yet comprehensive and it's easy to make a claim online when something does go wrong.
Vaccinations: All travelers to Malaysia should be up to date with routine vaccinations for things like measles, mumps and chickenpox, as well as Covid-19. Most travelers should also be vaccinated for hepatitis A and typhoid. Some travelers may also need vaccinations for hepatitis B, cholera, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, yellow fever and rabies, depending on what you'll be doing. Check the CDC website for the most up to date info and also consult your doctor or travel nurse before making plans to visit Kuching.
Currency: The currency used in Malaysia is called the Malaysian ringgit. The official currency code is MYR and it's usually written as RM. $1 converts to around RM 4.33, €1 is worth about RM 4.70 and £1 makes around RM 5.31.
Tipping culture: In general, Malaysia doesn't have a strong tipping culture, so you will never be expected to tip. A service charge is often included on restaurant bills and locals will sometimes round up the bill to the nearest ringgit. You can tip if you want while you're in Kuching – it certainly won't be refused – but it's also not required.
Internet access: Most hotels, restaurants, cafes, hostels etc will provide free WiFi in Kuching, but it might not always be the best or fastest. If you are worried about having good enough access or know you will need to get work done then you should bring a portable WiFi device with you or buy a local SIM card when you arrive.
Online privacy: The Malaysian government heavily regulates the Internet and blocks a number of LGBTQ websites and apps. We therefore strongly advise getting a reliable VPN before you go so you have full access to everything online. It will also ensure your online activities are kept private because you can choose to hide your location when using a VPN connection.
Accommodation: For accommodation choices in Kuching we love using Booking.com because they have the widest choice at the lowest prices. We also love that so many of their listings come with free cancellation, which is a godsend if you like to change your mind and stay somewhere longer than initially planned. Their online customer support is available 24/7 and are really helpful if you need something as well.
Sightseeing and adventure: For fun tours and activities in Kuching we always head to GetYourGuide as they have lots of options for many different interests. Their online customer support is also excellent and available 24/7, plus it's really easy to book your activities online.
When to visit: Since Kuching experiences a tropical rainforest climate it's one of the wettest places in Malaysia! In this case we actually recommend visiting during the peak season, which are the driest months between April and September, unless you're cool with lots of rain.
Gay map of Kuching
We've put all the places from this post into our gay map to make it easier to plan your own fabulous trip to Kuching. We hope you have a wonderful time!
For more inspiration:
- Be surprised by some of these interesting facts about Malaysia
- Make sure to check in with our detailed gay travel guide to Langkawi
- Along with our gay travel guide to Kota Kinabalu
- For a gay friendly resort in the middle of the Borneo jungle, read our review of the Mulu Marriott
- As well as our review of The Last Frontier, a gay friendly hotel on the Kinabatangan River