Brunei Darussalam – The unknown country in Borneo

Have you ever heard of Brunei Darussalam before? Many of our friends seemed surprised when we told them about our latest destination, and even more when we told them that Brunei actually a country. And it is one of the richest countries in the world. We definitely couldn’t miss this when traveling through the Borneo island. Because that is where Brunei is located. And now let’s explore this unknown place together.

Brunei Facts 

  • From the 16. – 19. century, Brunei Darussalam used to be the biggest Sultanate, including the whole north coast of Borneo 
  • Since 01.01.1984 independent from Malaysia and Great Britain 
  • Ruled by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah since 1984
  • 90% of the population of Brunei is living the the Western part of the country, mostly in the capital Bandar Seri Begawan
  • Citizens of Brunei don’t have to pay taxes 
  • Schools (even abroad) and insurances are free of charge for the Brunei Citizens 
  • A liter of petrol cost around 0,35 Cent while we were inside of the country
  • Revenue made through oil production accounts for around 60% of the GDP of Brunei

Brunei Visa 

As a European or US Citizen you can enter Brunei without a visa for 90 days. 

Currency in Brunei

In Brunei, the main currency is the Brunei Dollar. 1 Euro equals 1,58 Brunei Dollars and 1 USD equals 1,35 Brunei Dollars. 
By the way, the course of the Brunei Dollar usually equals the one of the Singapore Dollar. 

How to get to Brunei Darussalam and where is Brunei located?

Brunei is located in the Northern part of Borneo Island in Southeast Asia. The Northern part of Borneo belongs to Malaysia (only exception: Brunei) and the Southern Part belongs to Indonesia. 

Getting to Brunei by Airplane 

The Brunei International Airport is located inside of the country. There are regular flights from most main airports around, such as Kuala Lumpur. 

Getting to Brunei by bus

From Kota Kinabalu

Price: 45 Brunei Dollar (ca. 28,30€/ ca. $33,30)

The journey from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei can take super long and you should only go if you have enough free pages inside of your passport. Due to the shape of Brunei, you have to pass borders at least five times during this journey, what will lead to five stamps in your passport and much time spend standing in line.  

From Miri 

Price: 18 Brunei Dollar or 45 Malaysian Ringgit (ca. 11,32 €/ ca. $13,31)

The journey from Miri is way easier than from Kota Kinabalu. Even though it’s said to be 2 1/2 hours, for us, it took more like 4 1/2 hours. At least you have to pass the border just one time and the arrival is easy. During your ride, you can have a look at the non-touristic part of Brunei, which is basically just impressive for its mosques and rotaries statues.
 

Getting to Brunei by boat

From Kota Kinabalu

Price: 56 Malaysian Ringgits (ca. 11.66€/ ca. $13,71)

If you would like to spare some of your passport pages, time and money, there is also the option to get from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei by boat. We did this trip the other way around: from Brunei to Kota Kinabalu.
 
The first stop on this journey is the Duty-free island Labuan, which still belongs to Malaysia. The way there takes around 3 hours, which you can spend watching movies.
During your waiting time, you can satisfy your sweet tooth with tax-free chocolate or alcohol. But keep in mind that alcohol is mostly forbidden in Brunei.
 
From Labuan, you can take a direct ferry to Brunei, which takes another 1 1/2 hours.
From the ferry port of Brunei, you can take a bus to downtown which will cost you 1 Brunei Dollar (ca. 0,63 Euro/ ca. 0,74$) and takes about one hour.
 
By the way, for everyone that tends to get seasick, don’t worry too much as the boats are quite big. Even though we were driving in heavy rain, the ride was pretty okay. 
 

How much time to spend in Brunei

Since we wanted to learn as much as possible about this for us so unknown country, we decided to use Couchsurfing to stay with and get to know locals. And we were super lucky, as we got accepted by a super nice girl, her baby snake and her funny flatmate that could tell us a lot about their lives in Brunei. 
 
brunei snake python fun southeastasia vickiviaja
 
In the end, we stayed two nights, which was enough time to explore the city. But if you wanna go diving or trekking in the rainforrest of Ulu I recommend you to stay longer. 

What to see in Brunei?

Jame'-'Asr-Hassanil-Bolkiah-Mosque Brunei Darussalam I Brunei I Mosque I gold I Vickiviaja

All the sights described in the following, are located in the capital of Brunei Darussalam: Bandar Seri Begawan.

Sultan-Omar-Ali-Saiffuddin Mosque

Sultan-Omar-Ali-Saiffudin Mosque I Brunei Darussalam I Mosque I Believe I southeast asia I Borneo I vickiviaja 
Opening Times: Outside of the praying time
 
Entrance fee: free of charge
 
Estimated Visiting time: less than an hour
 
 
The Sultan-Omar-Ali-Saiffuddin Mosque is named after the 28. Sultan of Brunei and has been finished in 1958. It is known to be the strongest symbol of Islamic belief in Brunei and is said to be the unofficial landmark of Brunei. 
 
This mosque has been designed by an Italian architect and therefore, shows Italian influences. It is built out of real marble and gold leaf. 
 
Sultan-Omar-Ali-Saiffudin Mosque I Brunei Darussalam I Mosque I Believe I southeast asia I Borneo I vickiviaja
 
If you want to see the inner part of the Mosque, you can rent hijabs and long clothes free of charge at the entrance. Unfortunately, only the entrance part is allowed to be visited by tourists, but only outside of the praying times. 
 
Sultan-Omar-Ali-Saiffudin Mosque I Brunei Darussalam I Mosque I Believe I southeast asia I Borneo I vickiviaja
Only thing missing is the Gryffindor Scarf 😉
 
The Sultan-Omar-Ali-Saiffuddin is beautiful and a visit here is easily combined with a visit at the nice park next door. 

Jame’ ‘Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

Jame'-'Asr-Hassanil-Bokiah-Mosque Brunei Darussalam I Impressive Mosque I Golden Mosque I Borneo I Southeast Asia I vickiviaja

Opening Times: outside of praying times – 3 pm
 
Entrance fee: free of charge
 
How to get there?
 
You can take the bus No.1  for 1 Singapore Dollar. (The working hours are just until 6 pm). Another way is to walk. It is not that far actually. (About 20 minutes walk from downtown)
 
Jame'-'Asr-Hassanil-Bokiah-Mosque Brunei Darussalam I Impressive Mosque I Golden Mosque I Borneo I Southeast Asia I vickiviaja
Also by night worth a visit
 
The Jame’ ‘Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque is probably the most precious mosque I have ever seen. We have been totally impressed by its size and looks and can absolutely recommend a visit.
 
Jame'-'Asr-Hassanil-Bokiah-Mosque Brunei Darussalam I Impressive Mosque I Golden Mosque I Borneo I Southeast Asia I vickiviaja
 
Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take pictures from the inside.
 Jame'-'Asr-Hassanil-Bokiah-Mosque Brunei Darussalam I Impressive Mosque I Golden Mosque I Borneo I Southeast Asia I vickiviaja

Kampong Ayer – The Floating Village

Kampong Ayer I Venice of the East I Brunei Darussalam I Floating Village I Boat Tour I Brunei River I Vickiviaja 
Price: Depending on your tour and your talent for bargaining 
 
Estimated Visiting time: 1-3 hours
 
Kampong Ayer is known to be the oldest floating village in the world and the biggest one in Southeast Asian. It can be worth it to take a boat in order to explore the floating houses of this unique village. 
 
Kampong Ayer is home to approximately 39.000 people, which is around 10% of the whole population of Brunei Darussalam.
We’ve been surprised at how modern the houses in the Brunei River seemed to be.
 
If you decide to get the tour, most probably you will also make a stop in the Kampong Ayer Cultural & Tourism Gallery. But you can as well ask a boat driver to just bring you there and walk around by yourself.
Here, you can learn about the history of this floating village, which reaches back about 1300 years ago. You can also choose to watch one of the short documentaries shown in the main hall of the gallery.
 
Kampong Ayer I Venice of the East I Brunei Darussalam I Floating Village I Boat Tour I Brunei River I Vickiviaja
Moreover, you will have access to the observation tower, from which you have a great panoramic view over the floating village.
 
If you choose to get a tour around, it might be worth it paying some Dollar more and seeing the Proboscis Monkey as well. This bizarre kind of monkey only lives in Borneo. Even though the chances are high that you might not be able to see them from near, but the view of the nature you get from the boat is amazing.
 
Brunei Darussalam Boat tour I nature I forrest I proboscis monkey I nosey monkey I vickiviaja
 
For the whole tour, we paid 10 Singapore Dollar (ca. 6,30€/ ca. 7,39$)

Brunei Museum

Opening Times: 09 am – 05 pm (Fridays: 09 am – 11.30 am & 02.30 pm – 5 pm)

Entrance fee: free of charge

Estimated Visiting Time: around 1 hour

In the Brunei Museum, you can learn more about the history of Brunei Darussalam.

There are two floors, with 3 exhibition halls. In the first exhibition, you will mostly find antique documents regarding the history of Brunei. Unfortunately, it was hard for us to understand the background of these documents and there was no English information given which could help us to understand the displayed documents.

In the second exhibition, it got much more interesting. There were texts in Malay and English explaining the history of Brunei. We could learn a lot of new things that we didn’t know about this country, even though Spain actually took a big part in it.

Please note that you have to take your shoes off before entering the museum. You can walk around with slippers that are provided at the entrance. 

Royal Regalia Building

Royal Regalia Building Brunei Darussalam I entrance hall I vickiviaja

Opening Times: 09 am – 05 pm (Fridays: 09 am – 11.30 am & 02.30 pm – 5 pm)
Entrance Fee: free of charge
Estimated visiting time: Depending on your interest, 15 minutes to 1 hour
The Royal Regalia Building is full of presents that the Sultan of Brunei received and similar things representing the life of the Sultan of Brunei and his family.  
Shoes have to be taken off before entering and you can use the provided slippers to walk around. 
It’s forbidden to take photographs except in the main hall. But to be honest, there basically is not much worth taking pictures off.
The exhibits seem to be randomly placed without any logical order. The photos on display all seem kind of blurry and there is no real information helping you to actually make sense out of what you are seeing. A visit to the Royal Regalia Building is therefore not necessarily recommended by us.
 

The night market

Fried coconut I Night market Brunei Darussalam

 
Here you can find yummy local food and drinks. It’s nice to walk around and discover the specialties of Brunei Darussalam. You can try the hot coconuts. It feels like kind of a coconut tea. Obviously, you want find any alcohol here. 
 
Have you ever been to Brunei? What did you like most? And if not, what would you like to see? Let me know in the comments below.
 

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Brunei Darussalam I What to see and what to do I Country Information I General Information I Everything you need to know about Brunei I Borneo I Southeast Asia I @vickiviaja

Brunei Darussalam I What to see and what to do I Country Information I General Information I Everything you need to know about Brunei I Borneo I Southeast Asia I @vickiviaja

 

Brunei Darussalam I What to see and what to do I Country Information I General Information I Everything you need to know about Brunei I Borneo I Southeast Asia I @vickiviaja

Brunei Darussalam - Country in Borneo

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About me

Vicki

Hi, my name is Vicki. Here you can accompany my boyfriend Eduardo and me on our way through different countries of this world. Let's travel together!

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7 thoughts on Brunei Darussalam – The unknown country in Borneo

  1. I will be in the same group as your friends: I have never heard of Brunei before. It seems like an amazing place, and that they have free education outside the country for free? That is amazing. I also liked you approach about using couchsurfing to get a closer idea to what reality is there! And that Mosque is fantastic! Thanks for sharing!

    • Yes, the free education is one of the perks of living in such a rich country. The drawback is that they have to get a visa for almost every country they want to go to…

  2. I love seeing an increase in tourism here, a little part of me hopes that with more money coming in from impactful travel they will rely less on the oil and preserve their forests a bit more. It looks like a lovely play, the religious structures are fantastic!

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