Brunei Travel Guide
Visitors to Brunei are treated to a mix of ancient tradition and modern culture, a fusion of Eastern and Western cultures. Among the main attractions are several national parks, magnificent mosques and palaces, and a thriving water village.
One of the smallest countries in the world, Brunei can be found on the northern coast of Borneo, bordering with Malaysian Sarawak. This heavily-forested kingdom state in Southeast Asia has one of the highest standards of living in the world thanks to its rich natural gas and petroleum resources.
Once a British colony, Brunei is today a unique tourist destination where visitors can rub shoulders with both expat oil workers and orangutans. This fascinating city-sized nation boasts a long-recorded history and unique culture, and is a popular place for adventure tourism such as hiking and trekking.
While not the most popular destination in Southeast Asia, Brunei appeals to visitors who have a strong sense of adventure and want to experience something different. Travel here is safe and the cities offer a large selection of luxurious hotels as well as excellent restaurants and shopping opportunities.
Brunei is also home to indigenous tribes, and visitors can experience the traditional lifestyles and culture of the Iban and Duson tribes, who can be found deep in the jungle of the Temburong district. Brunei’s tourism industry is well established and tours can easily be arranged in the country’s main tourist hotspots.
A number of parks, lakes and countless architectural wonders including the gleaming gold dome of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque all add an interesting tourist spin to Brunei. The capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, has more than just beautiful mosques, however. It features a lively amusement park on its western outskirts and acts as a gateway to the port town of Muara and the oil towns of Seria and Kuala Belait.
It is not the cities and towns that visitors come here for but for the Temburong eco-tours and longhouse stays. Rainforest covers Belalong National Park, where visitors can walk among the trees on a canopy walk before learning more about the huge insects and other wildlife that call the forest home at the research center.
Why Go to Brunei
While there are few famous landmarks in Brunei, the nation features a wide range of stunningly beautiful natural features such as rainforests filled with wildlife, sun kissed beaches and national parks. Brunei’s mosques are dramatic and its cities have some great amusement parks and museums.
- Opulent Mosques: Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is the crowning glory of Brunei. It presides over a manmade lagoon and boasts an enormous, golden dome.
- Extravagant Hotels: Brunei’s accommodation scene rivals Dubai’s, albeit on a smaller scale. The hotels here are luxurious and spare no expense, with spacious suites and every amenity imaginable. Those seeking more modest accommodations will find plenty of mid-range options.
- Venice of the East: is the hub of Brunei’s water village territory. A total of 28 villages are home to more than 30,000 people in what is arguably Brunei’s most fascinating asset.
- First-Rate Museums: All of the oil revenue pouring into Brunei has paved the way for cultural programs and impressive museums. Foremost among these is the Brunei Museum with its unrivaled Islamic Gallery, a collection of jewelry, ceramics and precious metalwork.
- Upscale Shopping: Brunei’s elite residents are discerning shoppers though tourists are a major supplement for the commercial scene. Shopping enthusiasts can head straight to the YSHHB Complex, a collection of boutiques selling accessories, home furnishings fit for a sultan, jewelry and electronics. Less lofty shopping outlets are found in the malls of Gadong, less than three miles outside of the capital.
Where to Go in Brunei
Bandar Seri Begawan: Located in the vibrant brunei-muara district, this bustling capital city is home to the world-famous omar ali saifuddien mosque, one of the most magnificent mosques in asia, the royal regalia building and the brunei museum.
Kampong Ayer: Just outside of the capital, this renowned water village, described as the venice of the east, is a must-visit place, accessible by boat. walk around this uber-equipped village featuring historic houses, clinics, schools and mosques.
Tutong: A peaceful town that has several natural spots such as beautiful parks, the country’s largest lake, tasek merimbun, a small island and a beach. the big tamu (an open market) offers a variety of local foods and handicrafts.
Ulu Temburong National Park: One of the most important attractions in temburong district, this large, unspoiled park offers canopy trails on wooden walkways and rich, fascinating wildlife.
Beaches: Muara, serasa, kuala belait and lumut beach near tutongboast golden sand and crystal clear waters with plenty of water sports, perfect for a family day out.
When to Go to Brunei
Brunei is very hot and humid most of the year, although heavy monsoon rains occur between November and December. The average temperature is about 28°C.
Wear light cotton clothing and cool, breathable fabrics, and have waterproof clothing handy at all times. Since weather is fairly consistent, there’s no recommended time to visit, although it’s best to avoid the monsoon season.
Peak season: the main peak months are March and April, and it is a good idea to book flights in advance if travelling during this time as there is high demand. Flight prices are also significantly higher during these two months. It is worth shopping around for special deals and discounts as the price can vary significantly between Royal Brunei Airlines and other airlines which serve the airport such as Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Thai Airways International.
Off season: flights are rarely fully booked during the off season. The cheapest months to fly are usually November and December, when few people visit due to heavy monsoon rains.
Accommodations: Mid-range to budget hotels can be found in major cities, but the high-end ones, including some 7-star luxury hotels, are mostly in the capital. Budget hotels are scarce. There are also serviced apartments, whose quality and service are comparable to some of the better hotels.
Food: There are many excellent restaurants in the country, as locals love to eat out. The nasi katok, a mix of rice and curried meat, is a must-try for visitors. Note that Brunei is a “dry country” – alcohol selling and consumption is illegal, although Muslims can bring in limited amounts and wines and spirits can be bought at duty-free shops at the Malaysian border.
Suggested Daily Budget:
Brunei Health and Safety
Brunei is a fairly safe country; stringent laws and severe implementation ensure a very low crime rate. There are still occasional muggings and theft, though, so take care of your valuables just the same.
Serious health threats include dengue fever, typhoid, and polio. There was also a recent outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD). All water may be contaminated, so drink bottled water. Medical service is excellent, although supplies occasionally run low and complex cases are often evacuated to Singapore.
Brunei Travel Tips
Brunei can be a real eye-opener to travel around but there are one or two pointers to be aware of. Follow these tips to help you get the most out of your trip.
Cost of travel
- Brunei is one of the most expensive countries in the region to visit and is on par with Western countries in its hotel and restaurant prices. Eat at local restaurants and avoid Bandar’s five-star hotels.
- Although budget digs are somewhat limited, you can find a place for around B$30 (US$20) a night. Eating out
- Eat at hawker stalls, where you can pick up the local nasi katok (rice and curried beef/chicken) for a few bucks. McDonalds is expensive in Brunei.
- Vegetarian food is available in the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, at limited restaurants.
- No need to tip in Brunei.
Getting there and around
- You can fly directly to Brunei International Airport from Australia, the UK and across Asia.
- Take a purple minibus to town, which are about B$1, as opposed to a B$25 taxi.
- The cheapest way to get around Brunei is by minibus.
How to act
- Avoid talking about politics, and particularly the sultan, or Islamic laws while here.
- Dress conservatively and remove shoes before entering temples.
- Keep a check on your temper in trying situations to save face.
Keeping in touch
- Internet cafés can be found in the main centers and will help you save money on phone bills.
- Pick up a prepaid Hallo Kad phone card at telephone offices to be used at phone booths.
- The Brunei dollar, tied to the Singapore dollar, is the local currency and is worth around 75 US cents.
- Credit cards are not as widely accepted as in the West. You will find ATMs in the capital.
- Brunei is a safe country for tourists but you should remain vigilant in the capital and try not to wander around at night.
- Brunei has a dengue fever, typhoid, and polio problem so be sure to have vaccinations before arriving or take precautions.
- If you hire a car, pull over to the side of the road when the sultan’s cavalcade goes past.
- You’d be better off saving your dollars for elsewhere in Southeast Asia as the shopping here isn’t the best in the region.
- Always barter with a smile on your face at the markets.
- Don’t drink the tap water. The ice is generally okay in your drink at restaurants.
- Brunei gets very humid toward the end of the year so be sure to drink plenty of fluids.
- Ensure food is cooked through and piping hot at the markets and local restaurants.
What to bring
- Ladies should bring tampons from home as Brunei women tend to use sanitary pads, as with most Asian women.
- Never be tempted to bring any amount of drugs into Brunei as offenders are dealt with severely.
Where to stay
- When checking into your hotel, have your passport ready to hand in for registration.
- Never leave valuables in your hotel room.
- Most Westerners will be granted 30 days on entering Brunei. US citizens are granted 90 days.
- If you need more time, head to the island of Labuan and return with a new visa stamp.
- Israelis cannot enter Brunei.