One of the very first thing I noticed upon arriving in Brunei is how content people are. Thanks to oil money, the country is very rich and they don’t need to worry about poverty. Because of their wealth, Brunei has never aggressively pursued marketing their country as a tourist destination.
Does this mean you shouldn’t visit Brunei? Of course not! I enjoyed my time in the country. However, because the country never needed money from the tourism industry, they didn’t take too much time developing potential tourist infrastructure. You might feel that the number of accommodations and activities available to you is quite limited.
To best enjoy your time in Brunei, I recommend spending 24-48 hours in the country before crossing over to Malaysia. That is plenty of time to explore the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan and see a lot of neat things the country has to offer.
Here are some things you can do and see:
Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque
The sultan’s mosque is definitely a great place to visit. Just be sure you don’t go during prayer times which typically falls on Friday and Saturdays (don’t quote me on this as I am not 100% sure) because they won’t let you in the mosque.
The mosque is quite iconic and is a definite must see if you are visiting Bandar Seri Begawan. You can reach the mosque by taking a water taxi or hiring a taxi to take you there.
I unfortunately missed going to the Brunei museum because it was closed by the time Karen and myself got there. Be sure to ask your hotel what time the museum opens so you don’t miss it. Apparently, it’s very interesting and full of information about the sultan.
Eat Local Cuisine
Right along the river and several places within the city lies restaurants that sell local cuisines. The food tends to be spicy so be ready to fan your tongue! Thankfully, you can also purchase sweet juices with your meal that you can drink to keep the heat down.
Hire a water taxi to take you on a tour
Hiring a water taxi is a great way to tour the water villages along the river. The cost of renting one is roughly $6 Brunei Dollars for one way. Price may have changed since I went but don’t be shy to bargain down the price. Just make sure you have proper clothing because it tends to rain randomly in Bandar Seri Begawan.
Other info about Brunei
- The Brunei dollar is always on par with Singapore dollars. As a matter of fact, I think they accept Singapore dollars in the city!
- Bargaining for water taxi and taxis is common.
- The country is not a cheap tourist destination because of its wealth. Be prepared to pay prices similar to Singapore.
- The transit system is very confusing. Either get help from locals or just hire a taxi.
- Despite being a rich country, the internet speed is very slow. Yes, that includes mobile data.
- The country is very safe and has low crime.
- Broken English is widely spoken in the country so you should have no problem getting around.
When booking your hotel, make sure to book it near the city centre. This will actually save you money on taxis. Karen and myself made the mistake of booking a cheaper hotel but further from the city centre. In the end, we didn’t save any money because whatever savings we had went towards paying for taxi rides.
If you plan on going to Brunei, I recommend flying from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur through Air Asia. The prices are quite cheap and you can cross over to Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia later and book your flight out of Borneo from there.