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.
Time: GMT +8.
Electricity: 220/240V, 50Hz; square and round three-pin plugs.
Language: the official language is Malay; however, a significant minority speak a variety of Chinese languages including Min Nan, Mandarin, Min Dong and Yue. English is also widely spoken and there is a large number of expats residing in Brunei.
Currency: Brunei uses the Brunei dollar, which is divided into 100 cents. Most commonly used banknotes are: B$100, 50, 10, 5 and 1, with B$10,000, 1,000, 500, 15 and 20 notes rarely used. Coins come in denominations of 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 cent.
Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan.
Communications: +673 is the international dialing code for Brunei. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code. There are fixed landlines as well as satellite stations providing worldwide IDD, fax and telex links. Brunei has roaming agreements with several international network providers, so some visitors may be able to use their own mobile phones. Public telephones are available at post offices and shopping centers.
Customs: dress conservatively when traveling in Brunei. Showing the soles of your feet is considered rude and items should be passed with your right hand. If you need to point, do so using your thumb, keeping your fingers closed. Shoes should be removed before entering the mosque and women should cover their head.
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 tutong boast golden sand and crystal clear waters with plenty of water sports, perfect for a family day out.
Bandar Seri Begawan: The city of Bandar Seri Begawan is a great place to use as a base while exploring Brunei. This vibrant city is famed for magnificent mosques such as and , while the interesting and informative is the perfect place to learn all about this rich and diverse nation. Bandar Seri Begawan also offers some of the best shopping malls and markets in Brunei.
Belait District: the country’s westernmost and largest region, Belait takes its name from the Belait people. The town of Kuala Belait makes a good base for visitors and offers plenty of excellent hotels located along Belait River as well as a pristine sandy beach.
Brunei Muara District: home to the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan, this is the smallest of Brunei’s districts. Visitors to the capital will find plenty of attractions to explore, such as and , while this is also one of the best places in Brunei for shopping and dining.
Temburong District: Brunei’s eastern district is largely covered with pristine rainforest. Places such as and Ulu Temburong National Park are excellent for jungle trekking and are teeming with a diverse range of flora and fauna.
Tutong District: bordered by the South China Sea to the north, this district features virgin forest and small plantations. The large lake of Tasek Merimbun is a popular spot for visitors to swim in and hike around.
Bandar Seri Begawan: an interesting collection of Islamic religious and commercial architecture gives Brunei’s capital city a look that is unique in Southeast Asia
Bangar: a quiet and relatively undeveloped town that provides access to the natural attractions of Temburong
Kuala Belait: Brunei’s second-biggest city and a river port amid a major oil production area
: home to Brunei’s sole deepwater port
Seria: nicknamed Shelltown, Seria is Brunei’s oil capital and the scene of the area’s first oil discoveries
: known locally as Pekan Tutong, this is the capital of Tutong district
Islands & Beaches
: a small rocky outcrop that sits in the Brunei River and forms the basis of a local legend
: only a few miles from Seria, this is a favorite beach for people in the Western district of Belait
: also known as Crocodile Beach, this is one of the most popular beaches in Brunei
: roughly one mile of pristine white sand stretching along the South China Sea at Pekan Muara
: a hugely popular stretch of sand that often features festivals and is home to sailing clubs
: close to Tutong Town, this beach sits in a particularly pretty setting
: only 10 minutes from Muara, this beach offers a good selection of water sports
: this spit-turned-island is covered with attractive pine forests and has a pretty beach on its northern coast
: a popular 70-acre recreation area with plenty of room for walking, jogging and cycling
: actually located in Malaysia, this huge and important UNESCO World Heritage site contains stunning karts and caves, borders southern Brunei
: an important conservation area featuring trails that lead past many beautiful waterfalls
: located in Malaysian Sarawak, these incredible caves can easily be reached from Brunei
: one of Brunei’s hidden gems, the park was originally an arboretum and rewards gentle strollers with the opportunity to learn about the many plant species
: Brunei’s oldest nature reserve features a lake and spectacular waterfalls
Ulu Temburong National Park: covers 10 percent of Brunei and features a suspended walkway that stretches through the rainforest canopy
: almost 20 miles across, the bay is a broad expanse of unspoiled wilderness featuring rocky coasts, beaches, islands and reefs
: once the biggest, most expensive theme park in Southeast Asia, the park has recently recovered from years of decline
: called Venice of the East, this historic water village is considered a must-see attraction
: Brunei lays economic claim to a small southern region of this collection of hundreds of islands, islets, reefs, atolls and cays located in the South China Sea
: a popular park north of Bandar, many visitors relax on the grounds, enjoy a variety of outdoor exercises or visit the beautiful waterfalls
: the most celebrated shopping development in Brunei
When to Go
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.
Depending on the traveler’s country of origin, they may be able to enter without a visa. Nationals from the United Kingdom are permitted to stay for 30 days, nationals from Canada up to 14 days, nationals from the USA up to 90 days and nationals from Australia up to 30 days visa-free. Nationals of other countries and those wishing to stay longer are advised to visit their local Brunei embassy or consulate.
US/Can: on arrival (90/14 days)
EU/UK: on arrival (14/30 days)
Aus/NZ: on arrival (14/30 days)
Health and safety
Brunei is one of the healthiest countries in Asia, having clean cities, world class hospitals, and competent medical staff. The water is even said to be safe to drink in the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. However, caution is advised when eating out at markets and the risk of infection from mosquito bites is quite high.
Serious health threats include dengue fever, typhoid, and polio. 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.
As far as Southeast Asia goes, Brunei ranks alongside Singapore for safety though not being as developed it is advisable for visitors not to stray too far off the beaten track without a guide. Crime is little heard of, as are scams, and visitors are free to roam every corner of the country.
Crime: Brunei’s crime rate is extremely low, meaning that tourists should be able to travel through the country without experiencing crime. However, it is advisable to take the usual precautions such as avoiding carrying large amounts of cash and photocopying documents such as travel papers and ID.
Scams: fraud and other types of scams are heavily punished in Brunei and travelers are rarely targeted. However, it is a good idea to take care when changing money.
Political hotspots: there are no political hotspots in Brunei due to the stability of and general support for the country’s government.
No-go areas: visitors to Brunei are free to explore wherever they wish as there are no areas of the country that are off limits.