Earth : Asia : Southeast Asia : Brunei
Brunei Darussalam officialy Brunei, the Abode of Peace is a small but - thanks to natural gas and petroleum resources - very rich country located in Southeast Asia. It's surrounded by Malaysia and has two parts physically separated by Malaysia, almost being an enclave. Strategically located on the South China Sea, close to vital sea lanes linking Indian and Pacific Oceans, it has an exclusive economic fishing zone that extends as far as Louisa Reef in the southern Spratly Islands although it makes no public territorial claim to the offshore reefs.
Brunei is a pint-sized and fabulously wealthy oil-rich sultanate with a population of just under half a million, if illegal immigrants from countries such as Indonesia, India, China and the Philippines are included.
It is a member of the Commonwealth and has good education and hygiene.
The population is devoutly Muslim.
The Sultanate of Brunei's heyday occurred between the 15th and 17th centuries, when its control extended over coastal areas of northwest Borneo and the southern Philippines. Brunei subsequently entered a period of decline brought on by internal strife over royal succession, colonial expansion of European powers, and piracy. In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate. It was offered the opportunity to join Malaysia as a state in 1963, but opted out of the Federation due to a disagreement on the amount of its oil income that would have to be given to the central government in Kuala Lumpur. Independence was achieved in 1984. The same family has ruled Brunei for over six centuries.
The backbone of Brunei's economy is oil and gas and the Sultan of Brunei is, famously, one of the richest people in the world with an estimated personal wealth of around 40 billion dollars. Per capita GDP is far above most other developing countries, and substantial income from overseas investment supplements income from domestic production. The government provides for all medical services, housing, education and subsidizes daily needs like rice.
All sectors of economy are fairly heavily regulated and government policy is an odd mixture of subsidies, protectionism, homophobia and encouragement of entrepreneurship. Brunei's leaders are attempting to balance the country's steadily increasing integration into the world economy with internal social cohesion. It became a more prominent player in the world by serving as chairman for the 2000 APEC (Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation) Summit. Plans for the future include upgrading the workforce, reducing unemployment, strengthening the banking and tourist sectors, and, in general, widening the economic base beyond oil and gas.
Brunei is officially an Islamic state, with hundreds of large beautiful mosques across the country. Sale of alcohol is banned. Bringing in meat, (other than seafood) which has not been certified "halal", (slaughtered according to Islamic law), is also banned. The severing of limbs is also written into law in Brunei, making it the only country in south east Asia to implement fundamentalist Sharia Law.
During the fasting month of Ramadan, many shops and restaurants will be open. However, eating, drinking or smoking in front of people who are fasting is considered rude and asking permission is appropriate. In 2014, new law had been passed by the government where non-fasting people only allowed to take-out foods from all restaurants and eat privately. This due to the respect of the Holy Month in Islam.
The bulk of the population is Malay (67%) and there is also a significant Chinese minority of some 15% as well as a number of indigenous peoples, including the Dusun tribes who inhabit the jungle upriver and the Temburong district, (the smaller eastern part detached from the rest of Brunei). There is a large number of foreign workers who work on the oil and gas production or in positions such as restaurant staff, field workers and domestic staff. The male to female ratio is 3:2. More than a quarter of the people are short term immigrant workers, most of whom are men.
Geography and climate
The climate of Brunei is tropical equatorial. The average annual temperature is 26.1°C (79.0°F), with the April–May average of 24.7°C (76.5°F) and the October–December average of 23.8°C (74.8°F).
Brunei's topology is of a flat coastal plain rises to mountains in the east, the highest point being Bukit Pagan at 1,850m, with some hilly lowlands in the west.
There are no typhoons, earthquakes, severe flooding and other forms of natural disasters to contend with, and the biggest environmental issues is the seasonal haze resulting from forest fires (that is caused by illegal clearing of land) in nearby Indonesia.
Brunei has four districts (Malay: daerah)
City & Towns
Gadong; shopping centres where the biggest mall in Brunei located. Local markets can be found just next to the building. Full of local shophouses from cheap T-shirt to cheap food, even car's workshop!
Serusop; newly shopping complex. New malls and affordable Times Hotel. Serusop located just 5 min from Brunei International Airport. The new trend for youth hang out place.
Tasek Merimbun; famous lake located in Tutong district.
Pantai Tungku, Pantai Muara and Pantai Serasa; the must visit beaches in Borneo, especially Pantai Serasa as you can experience watersports offered by the local dive shop such as Poni Divers.
Kiulap; Shophouses and Shopping Mall.
Kampong Ayer; the very old, traditional kind of the Venice of the East. It is not a shopping complex but only cover with full of traditional and modern floating water villages.
Foreign nationals of the following countries/territories can enter Brunei visa-free as long as they present a passport valid for at least 6 months:
Proof of return or onward travel is required to check in for your flight to Brunei. If you plan to leave by ferry you will need to purchase a cheap flight out of Brunei before you arrive there.
Those who need a visa must apply in advance at a Brunei embassy, where processing can take up to 3 days and costs B$20 for a single entry visa. See Brunei Immigration Department  for the latest details.
Apply for the visa in Kota Kinabalu: It costs 70 RM and takes 3 working days. Time to receive application is 8.30am-11.30am (Monday-Friday). Time of collection is 2.30pm-3.30pm (Monday-Friday). My argentinian friend asked for the visa on Monday and was able to collect it on Wednesday before 11.30am. The Consulate of Brunei is in Grace Square. You need one photo and proof of onward travel.
If you require a visa to enter Brunei, you might be able to apply for one at a British embassy, high commission or consulate in the country where you legally reside if there is no Bruneian foreign mission. For example, the British embassies in Addis Ababa and Belgrade accept Bruneian visa applications (this list is not exhaustive). British diplomatic posts charge £50 to process a Bruneian visa application and an extra £70 if the authorities in Brunei require the visa application to be referred to them. The authorities in Brunei can also decide to charge an additional fee if they correspond with you directly.
After over-expansion and huge losses in the 1990s, Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) has cut down on its services considerably but still offers a reasonably comprehensive network, with daily flights to London, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Kota Kinabalu. There are also frequent flights to Jakarta, Surabaya, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Manila, Melbourne and Shanghai. The best prices are usually found on RBAs website. Stopovers in Brunei are available and are good value, though you'll need to book by phone or through a travel agent. RBA is a dry airline; if you wish to drink you must bring your own.
In addition, Singapore Airlines  flies 5 times a week from Singapore, and Malaysia Airlines  flies from Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. In July 2006, discount, no-frills carrier AirAsia  started flights from Kuala Lumpur, bringing some much-needed competition. AirAsia is the cheapest carrier to serve Brunei from an international Hub, with fares as low as US$35 one-way from Kuala Lumpur. AirAsia flies from 35 destinations in Asia to Kuala Lumpur, where connections to Brunei are available. Cebu Pacfiic fly red-eye flights to Manila.
Departing by plane from Brunei involves paying a departure tax: B$5 for flights to Kuching and Kota Kinabalu and B$12 to other international destinations. This is now included in the price of most airline tickets.
Getting there/away: A taxi to Bandar Seri Begawan takes 20 minutes and costs around B$25. There is a public bus service from the airport to the bus terminal in Bandar Seri Begawan until 6pm daily. The fare is only B$1. The bus stop is at the Arrival Hall Level, and is located at the left side of the Terminal building. Once you walk through the glass door and leave the air-conditioned part of the Arrival Hall, you will see Jollibee restaurant on your left. Walk straight ahead, then turn left. Do not cross the road into the car park. The bus stop is to your left at the far end.
You can drive into Brunei from Sarawak, Malaysia. There are two entry points for the main part of Brunei, one from Miri at Sungai Tujuh and one from Limbang at Kuala Lurah (Tedungan on the Malaysian side). Both these crossings have drive-through immigration checkpoints at the border but queues can be horribly long, especially during weekends.
Note that the border checkpoint opens at 06:00 and closes at 00:00(midnight) daily.
It is also possible to drive from the Sarawak towns of Limbang and Lawas to the Temburong district of Brunei. The drive from Limbang requires a ferry ride across the Pandaruan River (RM8 or B$4) which forms the border between Malaysia and Brunei. You can now conduct immigration formalities at Pandaruan (no longer at Limbang Wharf) with the opening of the Malaysian checkpoint in June 2007. Brunei immigration formalities are conducted at Puni, about 600m away from the ferry landing. From Lawas (which is connected by road to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia), a ferry ride across the Trusan River (RM10) is required before you can proceed to the actual border at Labu. Malaysian immigration formalities are done in Trusan (the immigration office, officially known as the Mengkalap immigration checkpoint, is in a shoplot just east of the ferry crossing) about 8km away, and no longer in Lawas. Those for Brunei can be done at the Labu checkpoint at the border.
From Kuala Belait, there are buses to Seria (B$1) approx. every 20 minutes, where you can change to another bus for Bandar Seri Begawan (B$6). The entire journey takes about 5 hours. Buses depart Seria every hour.
There are also two express buses a day between Bandar Seri Begawan and Miri, run by PHLS (+673 277 1668). One runs early in the morning (dep 8:15am from Miri, 7am from Bandar, as of September 2019), and the second in the afternoon (dep 3:45pm from Miri, 1pm from Bandar, as of September 2019). Fares from Bandar Seri Begawan is B$20 one way. If you buy the ticket from the counter at Pujut Bus Terminal it costs 50MYR (September 2018). You can book the bus tickets online on Easybook 
The main ferry terminal in Brunei is the Serasa Ferry Terminal at Muara, where there are several ferries daily to/from Labuan and one daily ferry each to/from Lawas and Sundar, both in Sarawak. With a change of boats in Labuan, you can even make it to/from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, in a day. See the Kota Kinabalu to Brunei in a day page.
Please note that the ferry terminal is quite a distance from actual Muara town where the container port is located. The terminal is about 25km from Bandar Seri Begawan. Getting there: There are purple buses (No. 38) linking the ferry terminal with BSB. Or you can just take a tour van / taxi.
Please note that you need to pay a tax ("cukai kepala") to get out of Brunei (currently, B$ 2 per ferry ticket). Enquire the counters/travel agent if you didn't get the tax coupon when purchasing the tickets.
Foreign visitors who hold a valid drivers licence and an International Driving Permit are permitted to drive in Brunei for up to three months. While driving, drivers must have their identification cards (drivers licence, IDP and passport), vehicle registration documents, and insurance policy in the car.
There is one "motorway", from Bandar Seri Begawan along the coast. It devolves into dual and then single carriageway but is suitable for all vehicles, right through to Kuala Belait and the toll bridge to Malaysia/Sarawak in the west. There is also a side road off this, which runs into the jungle towards the settlement of Labi and beyond. Excellent scenery, and a 4-wheel drive may be useful, but the road is now sealed up to the longhouses some distance beyond Labi. Stock up on water at the convenience shop at the junction.
Drivers of vehicles not registered in Brunei can only purchase fuel at 10 designated filling stations throughout the country, to a maximum of 250 litres. Filling a foreign car is more expensive as the purchase price does not include the government subsidy for fuel.
Driving standards can be rather lax compared to other developed nations. Traffic will not always stop at red lights or pedestrian crossings. Speeding and non use of seatbelts is also common.
Most road signs in Brunei are in Malay, written using the Roman script. They also use international symbols similar to that of Singapore and the United Kingdom. However, English is also used for important directional signs such as CIQ checkpoints, airports and tourist attractions.
There are only ± 40 taxis in the whole of Brunei (2009) owing to the high rate of car ownership and usage. Since there are around 10 waiting at the airport and 8 in the Belait District, there is a little chance of finding a free taxi along the road, especially during morning and afternoon peak hours when they are hired by business people. Needing a taxi might require a phone call. The main taxi stand is direct north of the bus station in the capital with only a few taxis waiting. Taxis may also be available outside some major hotels.
Taxis are not metered since there is no single taxi company, nor any regulations requiring taxis to have a meter. Drivers have fixed prices for most trips, although the tariffs may vary between different drivers, or they will give a price for an irregular trip. There seems to be an app called Dart which is similar to Grab or Uber.
By tour vans
Another alternative is hiring a tour van to drive you around Brunei, for example, for a whole day, or several hours. Try asking about them from the ferry counters in Muara. Discuss the price first before agreeing to board the van.
Around Bandar Seri Begawan, there is a good-sized network of reliable and punctual purple minibuses. Brunei's high rate of private car ownership means very few Bruneians take these buses, which largely cater to foreign workers. The speed of the buses are limited to 50km/h, but they remain quite efficient. Note that bus routes cease operation before 2000.
In general, the bus system around the capital radiates from the bus terminal in the central district. There are designated bus stops along each route, but passengers are picked up or let off at unofficial locations at the discretion of the driver. The unofficial mode of operation makes easy travel and entices patronage. Unfortunately, it is difficult to obtain some form of details on bus routes and timetables. Recent experience in mid 2011 prompted a small contribution in the form of pictures of the known bus routes at the time.(The pictures of the bus routes will be posted at a later date). There are 13 routes and the fare is flat B$1.00, which is collected by a conductor. The passenger can advise the driver the location to disembark. Sometimes, the conductor asks the passengers their respective locations to disembark and skips part of the route, to the dismay of passenger who wishes to catch the bus. This also implies that there is no strict scheduled time. It is quite normal to wait 30 to 45 minutes for a bus.
There is also an infrequent long-distance bus which runs between BSB and Seria through Tutong.
The official language of Brunei is Malay; the official standard being the same as that of Malaysia and Singapore. While all Bruneians are able to converse in standard Malay, the local dialect of Malay is almost incomprehensible to other Malay speakers. Solely among the Malay-speaking states, Brunei also officially uses the Arabic script for Malay known as Jawi, although most signs are written both in Jawi and Roman letters. Nevertheless, the Roman alphabet is still the more commonly used script when writing Malay in Brunei.
Due to the British colonial past, most people in Brunei are fluent English speakers. English is the medium of instruction for all subjects in the local schools from the fourth year of primary school onwards, with maths and science being taught in English from the start of primary school. English is also the main language of the local courts. A little Malay will come in handy in rural areas, as English proficiency is limited there.
The ethnic Chinese community in Brunei continues to speak a variety of Chinese languages, including Hokkien, Teochew and several others.
All adherents of the Islamic faith, especially the more devout, possess some proficiency in reading and speaking Arabic, which is also taught in the local schools.
Istana Nurul Iman
The Istana Nurul Iman is the world’s largest residential palace in occupation with 1788 rooms. The 300-acre palace sits on a man-made hill with a clear view of Kampong Ayer. Istana Nurul Iman is the residence of the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah since 1984 and it is open to the public three days in a year, on the second to the fourth day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
The Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Mosque is an oasis of tranquillity within the bustle of downtown Bandar. Completed in 1958 and named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei, it was built with the craftsmanship that reflects classical Islamic architecture. The lagoon replicated of 16th century Mahligai or Royal Barge where religious ceremonies such as Holy Qur'an readings were staged during the 1960s and early 1970s. The mosque has been regarded as Brunei's architectural achievement and has over the years established itself to become the country's most recognisable landmark. Opening daily except Thursday, Friday and Islamic holiday from 8:00am-12:00pm and 2:00pm-3:00pm.
The Royal Regalia Building is located in the heart of Bandar Seri Begawan. It was built to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of the Sultan's accession to the throne in 1992. The museum is home to a collection of Royal Regalia, including the royal chariot, gold and silver ceremonial armoury and a replica of the throne, which is used by the Sultan on state occasions. Opening daily except for major public holiday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm.
Memorial Clock Monument built on 11th July 1959, to commemorate the visit of His Majesty Seri Paduka Baginda Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Yang Di-Pertuan Agung of Malaysia. This Monument is located in the heart of Bandar Seri Begawan to function as a 'Zero-Mile-Clock', it is used to indicate the starting point of distance between Bandar Seri Begawan and other places in Brunei.
The $3-million Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery was built to provide visitors with a glimpse of Kampong Ayer's storied past while preserving part of Brunei's heritage. Five mini galleries within the building showcase the water village's history and origin, with handicraft and relics from the bygone era also on display. There is also a souvenir shop selling traditional handicraft and an observation tower which gives visitors a fantastic panoramic view of the water village and the capital's skyline are all to be found at the centre. The Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery can be reached by taking a water taxi from the Royal Wharf. Opening daily except Friday and public holiday from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm.
Looking for an extraordinary adventure and getting close to nature as well as the chance of learning traditional techniques to fill your spare time with something lovable? Here, situated in Southeast Asia, on Borneo Island, the country named Brunei Darussalam is well-known as a religious country. Located here is a community and family run farm and astounding garden called Eco Ponies Garden in Lamunin, Tutong district. Visitors receive a warm welcome every peaceful morning with birds whistling and singing and are also inspired by the healthy nature of the environmental area while having fun as well as enjoying the products at their mini bazaar.
A blend of unique traditional and local sights are available. Bright and cheerful quotes are colourfully displayed and beautifully painted everywhere like on the rusty, huge rocks and the wooden man-made items such as the large traditional boat. Furthermore, a range of exciting activities is provided with the help of the local community. For example, there is a gardening full of various kinds of plants; mostly medicinal and you can touch the smooth, edible plants, magnificent petals of numerous flowers as well. You can smell the aromas and taste different kinds of spices and herbs used for appetizing traditional cooking dishes such as soft, sweet and spicy, beef rendang. This is great for filling up after an exhausting day of building and painting. The delightful homemade traditional side dishes like oily and chewy 'penyaram' are made to energize you for all of the exciting activities. Filled with smooth and sun-warmed wooden benches and covered by enormous trees, this is a great place to relax.
Apart from that, you will also get a chance to buy their herbs and medicinal plants, which are reasonably priced, as well as perfumes made from the unique flowers. In the end, you get to experience the warm, friendly ecosystem and good-natured atmosphere of the garden.
For things to do in and in the near vicinity of Bandar Seri Begawan, see Bandar Seri Begawan.
There are many eco-tours which typically go to the Temburong district by boat then to a native "longhouse". It is then followed by a powered boat (by the natives) up the river to the Belalong National Park, a reserve in the Borneo rainforest. There is a canopy walk and research centre at the park headquarters. Visitors can book to stay overnight at the Ulu Ulu Resort, experience different outdoor adventure with Freme Rainforest Lodge at it's Adventure Park and discover the rainforest with BorneoGuide and stay in the Sumbiling Eco Village.
For nature lovers, a new activity to try in Brunei is the Tutong River cruise tour, about 40 minutes away from [Bandar Seri Begawan]. The cruise provided by Sunshine Borneo Tours & Travel emphasizes on mangrove ecology and conservation education. The beautiful and calm mangrove-fringed Tutong River is home to the endemic Proboscis monkeys, eagles, crocodiles, macaques, kingfishers and other wildlife. Some villages and other eco-activities can also be found on Eko-Brunei
Bukit Shahbandar is a nature reserve offering several hikes according to the number of small peaks you want to ascend. All well marked. The longest takes 1.5 to 2 hours among trees and steep dirt hills. At the bottom, there is a park and jogging trail. It is a 5 min drive or a 15 min walk from The Empire Hotel. Most people go there to exercise while others go there to take pictures, play at the mini playground or to buy the famous fresh coconut juice.
Jerudong Park was once a decent theme park with a multitude of rides. Sadly, a downward cycle of neglect, declining admission and unaffordable maintenance costs led to the closure and sale of most of the big-ticket rides, including the three rollercoasters. This has given the park a sad "circus left town last week" air about it. Though in recent years there have been attempts to revive the park, including some new rides (mainly for children) as well as clown shows. The original bumper cars, go-karts, paddle-boats & merry-go-round are still operational. As is the fountain & light show.
You can also visit the water village called 'Kampong Ayer', where you will ride on boat to reach the old, traditional village. All day and night in the water village, you will hear the sounds of engines roaring and water splashing. The rough texture of the handmade boats and the houses above the calm, brown silty water, is what makes Kampong Ayer a unique cultural and traditional place. When you ride on the boat to the village, you will see other boats that are zooming very fast and all you can hear is the rough waves hitting the boats and the whooshing sound of wind passing by your face.
Tamu Kianggeh is also located in Bandar Seri Begawan, near Kampong Ayer. At the entrance of Tamu Kianggeh, traditional music is played by people using traditional instruments such as Gulingtangan and Gambus. Tamu Kianggeh is a market that sells fresh fruit and vegetables, sweet and fresh drinks and also delicious and fresh cooked dry food such as Kuih Malaya. the sweet smell of banana fritters (cucur pisang) being fried is heavenly. The loud sound of people yelling and shouting about what they are selling is heard from metres away.
Most people who visit only go at night to avoid the heat during the day. Outside the park, but very close, is a small complex of restaurants which is open at night, though only around half of the stalls are still operational.
Brunei offers some great diving. In addition to coral and fish, Brunei is home to several shipwrecks and many species of nudibranch - one of the best places in S.E. Asia for macro photography. Water temperature is generally around 86 degrees (30 Celsius) and visibility is usually in the 10-30m range, although this can be changeable during the monsoon season. As diving here is not overly developed, it means that the sites, and especially the coral reefs, are unspoiled and in pristine condition.
Popular dive sites include the American Wreck, Admirable Class Minesweeper, USS Salute (AM-294) lies broken in half on a sand bottom at 30m after hitting a Japanese mine on the 8th June 1945, during pre-invasion sweeps of the Brunei Bay, with the loss of nine lives. Australian Wreck, In 1949 while on a voyage to Manila it struck a mine off Brunei and sank. The wreck lies in 33m of water and is roughly 85m. Dolphin 88 Wreck Malaysian commercial vessel sunk in bad weather in 2013. Experienced divers will enjoy exploring the interior of the wreck. Oil Rig Wreck, a decommissioned oil rig. There are 9 structures to be explored, each seeming to be home to one dominant group of fish. Baiei Maru Wreck was a Japanese oil tanker that sank in October 1944 in Brunei Bay after hitting a Japanese mine. Discovered by the Brunei Shell Petroleum during a survey, the wreck sits in about 50m of water and has only recently been dove in what is believed to be the first time in June 2008 by local club divers. Other dive sites includes Labuan Wreck, Bolkiah Wreck, UBD Wreck, Amai Wreck, Arun Wreck, Stone Wreck to name a few.
Diving is very reasonable, averaging out to BN$35-45 per dive depending on how many dives you do and whether you bring your own gear. There are a number of organisations you can do trips with such as; Poni Divers,Oceanic Quest, The Brunei Sub Aqua Dive Club in Brunei-Muara & Panaga Divers based in seria
Brunei has one of the most beautiful sunsets in Asia. Tourists tend to watch sunset at The Empire Hotel or nearest beaches.
The local currency is the Brunei dollar (BND, B$); you might hear ringgit used to refer to the dollar but be sure that participants are not talking about the Malaysian ringgit (MYR) which is valued at less than half a Brunei dollar.
As of 26th April 2017 BND1.00 = USD0.72 = GBP0.56 = €0.66 = MYR3.12 = RMB4.94 = JPY79.79
The Brunei dollar is tied to the Singapore dollar at a 1:1 rate. By law both currencies can be used interchangeably, so if you're coming in from Singapore, there's no reason to change money as your cash will be readily accepted. (Likewise, any leftover Brunei dollars can be used at par in Singapore. Although Singaporean coins can be used in Brunei with the exception of the SGD1, Singapore does not accept Bruneian coins. However, many stores refuse Singapore notes with seemingly microscopic tears in them, and notices to this effect are posted at the cash register.
The Brunei dollar is divided into 100 cents. There are banknotes  from BND1 to a whopping BND10,000 (handy if you're shopping for Rolls-Royces) and coins  of 1 to 50 cents. All smaller notes and the 2004 series of larger notes are printed as brightly coloured polymer notes.
By South-East Asian standards Brunei is roughly on par with Singapore, meaning roughly twice as expensive as neighbouring Malaysia. You can reduce costs by eating at local restaurants and avoiding the more expensive restaurants in hotels. Budget accommodation, once very limited, has expanded in recent years and you can now get a decent bed for the night for around B$30.
There is also the local nasi katok, a simple combination of rice and curried beef or chicken, which can be quite spicy. It is relatively inexpensive when compared to other food that you can buy, for example local food such as chicken rice.
Another choice is ambuyat, a culinary experience unique to Borneo. It is a starchy and gooey paste made from sago that can be dipped into a savoury sauce.
Brunei produces excellent quality soy sauce, darker, thicker and stronger in flavour than you'd typically find in Japan or China.
Brunei is a "dry country;" alcohol is not sold anywhere in the country and consumption of alcohol in public is prohibited by law. That said, non-Muslim visitors are allowed to bring in up to two litres of alcohol (wine or spirits), plus up to twelve 330mL cans of beer, lager or cider every 48 hours. According to the laws of Brunei, this alcohol must be “stored and consumed at the place of residence of the importer” and is “not to be given, transferred or sold to another person.”
As alcohol is not sold in Brunei, there is a wide array of duty-free shops just across the border in Malaysia to cater to the high demand for personal importation. However, alcohol permits must be obtained upon arrival in Brunei while going through customs. (At customs you will be required to fill in a yellow form to declare your alcohol.)
The legal age for privately possessing and consuming alcohol in Brunei is 17, however you have to be 21 to purchase alcohol in Malaysia.
One should definitely try out Teh Tarik, a sweet milk tea that is poured from one cup to another to create a layer of bubbles that bring out the aromatic smell of tea, Teh C Special, another form of milk tea that is mixed with the palm sugar that gives a distinct taste to it, as well as the wide array of coffee (kopi) available in restaurants.
Accommodation in Brunei was until recently famously expensive — there is still only one youth hostel in the entire country — but some reasonably cheap guesthouses can now be found here and there. See Bandar Seri Begawan for listings.
There are also some decent accommodation and even business hotels in other parts of Brunei.
Many of the jobs in Brunei are in the gas and oil industry but many positions have opened up for international English Teachers due to the booming economy and business sector. Footprints Recruiting offers placement in teaching jobs in Brunei. This can be a great way to absorb the culture and see many of the wonderful attractions Brunei has to offer, while making money to boot.
Brunei is a safe country, if you are a heterosexual, with theft being uncommon and violent crime almost unheard of. However basic travelling safety precautions should be taken at all times.
It is difficult to obtain tobacco in Brunei; travellers may bring in their own tobacco, but there is no duty-free allowance. Duty charge on cigarettes is BND0.50/stick, i.e. BND10 per pack of 20 sticks and BND100 per carton of 10 packs. Duty charge on other tobacco products may vary.
The carriage of live ammunition, including amulets, lucky charms, decorations, and other byproducts containing prohibited items, is a serious offence punishable by law for 5 to 15 years of imprisonment and 3 to 12 strokes of caning. This applies to all passengers travelling to or transiting through Brunei without exception.
Brunei has a legal system based on Sharia (Islamic) law.
Brunei revised its penal code in 2014, imposing Sharia law in three phases. Sharia law within Brunei has moved on to its second phase. The second phase makes punishments for crimes such as thievery, adultery, homosexuality, and apostasy much more severe and imposed over a much greater span of people. After the implementation of the second phase in early April 2019, Sharia law is applied to both foreigners and non-Muslims alike. For example, non-Muslims can be implicated for adultery (more strictly than before), consuming alcohol in a public place, encouraging Muslim children under the age of 18 to accept the teachings of religions other than Islam, contempt of the Prophet Muhammad, deriding verses of the Quran or Hadith, celebrating Christmas, indecent behaviour, and disrespecting Ramadan (the fasting month). Adulterers risk death by stoning, while thieves face amputation of a right hand on their first offence and a left foot on their second.
The 2019 Sharia penal code also imposes the death penalty for insult or defamation of the Prophet Mohammad, and contains punishments for printing, disseminating, importing, broadcasting, and distributing publications against Islamic beliefs. It criminalises the exposure of Muslim children to the beliefs and practices of any religion other than Islam. It also prohibits dressing in the attire associated with a different sex.
It is illegal for any person to consume food, drink or tobacco in public during the fasting hours of Ramadan - this can attract fines of up to B$4,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 1 year.
Possession of pornographic material, in addition to homosexual and prostitution activities, are illegal. These laws apply to foreigners as well. There are severe penalties in Brunei including, in some cases, the death penalty. Some crimes may attract caning and lengthy prison sentences.
Eating out is generally safe because of good food safety standards, although tap water is not fit for drinking & should be boiled first. Alternatively, bottled water is very cheap.
The Brunei Government is run as a Malay Islamic Monarchy; as such, the Sultan of Brunei - apart from being one of the richest men in the world - is in charge and frequently appears on the front page of the two daily newspapers. At all costs, do not insult or speak badly of the Royal Family - His Majesty The Sultan and other members of the Royal Family are highly revered and public criticism of them will cause great offence.
Furthermore, though Bruneians are generally courteous and tolerant, it is a good idea to be aware of sensitivities surrounding certain topics of conversation, especially politics (domestic, regional & international) and world events, particularly those relating to Islam or Islamic countries.
Bruneian values are strongly influenced by Islam. Places of business and offices, including shops and restaurants, shut between 1200 and 1400 every Friday for Friday prayers.
Some courtesies to observe include the following:
The international code for Brunei is 673. The telephone numbers in Brunei consist of 7 digits with no local codes, although the first digit of the number indicates the area such as 3 for the Belait District and 2 for Bandar Seri Begawan.
B-Mobile is now known as Progresif Cellular Sdn Bhd (PCSB). Once exit from the Arrival Hall at Brunei International Airport, they have a counter selling simcards & plans. There is also a Visitor Sim - for short term stay (BND10 all in SMS, voice & data).