Brunei is a small but culturally rich and beautiful Southeast Asian nation located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, which they share with both Indonesia and Malaysia, the latter of which surrounds the country on all three sides. Brunei is a peaceful country with not many crowds, diverse cultural heritage and religion, and well-preserved rainforests. It’s one of the least visited countries in Asia, which is why I was pleasantly surprised that it has a lot more to offer than I initially thought.
It’s the perfect place for travelers who want to explore the least traveled roads away from large crowds. Brunei is one of the calmest countries I’ve visited, especially compared to the Philippines, with its congested capital. Here is a travel guide for those interested in visiting Brunei with all the things they need to know.
- 1 HOW TO GET THERE:
- 2 HOW TO GET AROUND BRUNEI:
- 3 Brunei Travel Tips for First Timers
- 4 THINGS TO DO IN BRUNEI
- 5 DAY TRIPS from Brunei Seri Begawan
HOW TO GET THERE:
Catch an international flight heading to Brunei International Airport. You’ll land right at Brunei’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB). Royal Brunei Airlines take passengers to Brunei from most neighboring Asian countries as well as Australia, Saudi Arabia, and Britain.
You can reach Brunei by land if you’re coming from the surrounding Sarawak State of Malaysia. From the city of Miri in Malaysia, you can catch a three-hour bus ride heading to Bandar Seri Begawan and vice versa. You can also ride a bus in Kota Kinabalu, heading to BSB for a more extended trip of seven hours.
HOW TO GET AROUND BRUNEI:
From the airport, you can catch a shuttle that regularly transports passengers to and from the center of BSB. Although public buses are the cheapest way to get around, the more convenient way to book a vehicle is through Dart, Brunei’s version of Uber, and Grab. It’s also the best way to get around the city as the majority of the locals have private cars, so public buses only operate until 6:30 PM.
Brunei Travel Tips for First Timers
1. Currency Exchange
The currency used in Brunei is the Brunei Dollar (BND), which is approximately 37.3 PHP to 1 BND upon writing this article. The Singapore Dollar is also accepted as a currency. You may have to exchange your money at the airport as there are only a few currency exchange centers in the city center and there’s one inside Yayasann Mall and one in front of The Mall.
Major credit cards are accepted in most establishments, and ATM by local and international are available throughout the capital.
2. Local Brunei Sim Card
You can easily buy a local sim card at the airport and in most of Brunei’s malls for communication and access to the internet. It costs 25 BND for an unlimited plan for seven days by Progresif, but feel free to search for other data plans that fit for you.
The country’s official language is Bahasa Melayu (Malay), but English is widely spoken throughout the country, so there won’t be any trouble with communication.
4. Brunei is a Muslim Country
It’s important to note that Brunei is a Muslim country operating under the Sharia Law, so this means that alcohol and tobacco are prohibited. However, non-Muslims over the age of 17 can import a limited amount of it to the country as long as it’s not consumed in public. This also means that most of the state laws are highly conservative, and women are required to keep their knees, shoulders, and hair covered. Establishments will also be closed from 12 NN to 2 PM every Friday for prayers.
More than 50 nationalities can enter Brunei visa-free for several days, depending on citizenship. Countries like the Philippines, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Myanmar, and others can stay in the country for 14 days, while countries like the USA, Norway, and the EU countries can stay for 90 days. Check Brunei’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website for more information about their visa policy.
6. Plug Outlet
Brunei uses the 3-pin British type plug outlets, so it’s best to bring a converter.
7. Plastic Ban
Brunei is one of the few countries in the world that implements a plastic ban, so when going out shopping or buying groceries, bring your own eco-bag or buy one at the store for multiple uses.
THINGS TO DO IN BRUNEI
Bandar Seri Begawan or BSB is such a peaceful capital with plenty of things to do and visit. It’s best to start at its famous mosques like Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. It’s this grand mosque in the middle of a serene lagoon and highlighted with gold. It’s probably the most beautiful mosque in Asia. You can see its golden dome from every part of the city. Visiting hours from Saturday to Thursday, starting from 8:30 AM to noon and resumes from 1:30 to 3 PM and 4:30 to 5:30 PM. It’s open from 4:30 to 5:30 PM on Fridays.
Another amazing mosque to visit is Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque. The intricate blue details with its golden domes are stunning. It’s the biggest mosque in Brunei, and you can explore its matching lavishly decorated interior from 8 AM to noon and resume at 2 to 3 PM from Mondays to Wednesdays, 10:30 AM to noon on Saturdays, and 2 to 3 PM on Sundays.
Kampong Ayer Tour
Join a tour to BSB’s fascinating water village, Kampong Ayer. The trip will be from a speedboat taking you around the river with clusters of communities built on the water. It’s a historic place in Brunei, for it’s said that it’s where civilization began in the country and the area is known to be the former center of boatmaking, and gold and silversmithing. You’ll also get to visit a traditional house in the village and taste local Bruneian cuisine.
DAY TRIPS from Brunei Seri Begawan
Although small, Brunei is made up of four districts, and travelers can easily plan a day trip to visit one or two of these districts to experience the diverse landscape and culture of Brunei.
Ulu Temburong is known for its unspoiled lush rainforests. Join a tour and ride a speedboat to explore what it had to offer. Stay a night at Sumbiling Eco Village and participate in its many outdoor activities. Go to the rainforest canopy walk or go river tubing with friends.
Read more about our Ulu Temburong Day Trip Here
Take a day trip to the Tutong District about 45 minutes away from the capitol. Check out the local farms like Eco Phonies Garden and Tasbee Farm to experience the Bruneian fresh produce and other outdoor activities in Tutong.
There you have it; there are plenty more things to discover in Brunei. I hope this guide helps inform readers out there interested in visiting this beautiful small nation.