Brunei Travel Information
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Brunei Overview  |  History  |  Economy  |  Language  |  Religion  |  Climate  |  Money  |  Others
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Brunei Overview


Located on the northern shore of the Island of Borneo, between longitudes 114'04" and 114'23" East and latitudes 4'00" and 5'05" North. Brunei, although occupying less than 1% of Borneo's land area, is the only sovereign country on the island, which it shares with the Indonesian provinces of West, East, South and Central Kalimantan and the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak.

Bandar Seri Begawan is the centre of Brunei’s commerce, finance and government. In many ways, it is also the heart of Brunei’s cultural landscape, housing some of the nation’s most revered landmarks. The city’s breathtaking Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is a stunning tribute to the nation’s deep-rooted faith, while the truly Bruneian Kampong Ayer water village offers a glimpse of the nation’s quaint Asian charm. Beneath Bandar Seri Begawan’s lavish adornments, gold towers, sparkling fountains and colourful mosaic tiles, lies a city steeped in quiet respect, grounded in Islamic tradition, and exuding a sense of peace that makes it one of Asia’s most distinctive capital cities.


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Ancient history

There is archaeological evidence that early modern humans were present in Borneo 40,000 years ago. These early settlers were later replaced by successive waves of Austronesian migrants, whose descendants form the many ethnic and cultural groups living in Borneo today, alongside more recent immigrants from China, Indonesia, the Philippines and India.

Early Borneo kingdoms were under the cultural, economic and political influence of larger Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms in the Indonesian archipelago. There is evidence of early trade with India and China dating as far back as the 6th century, with a rich trade in camphor, spices, precious woods and exotic jungle products in the area that is now modern-day Brunei.

The rise of the Sultans:The Empire of Brunei

brunei flagTrade with the Arabian Peninsula and with Indian Muslim traders saw the introduction of Islam to Brunei. In 1405, Brunei’s monarch embraced Islam and ruled as Sultan Muhammad, founding a dynasty which continues today. Brunei’s monarchy has the distinction of being the oldest unbroken reigning dynasty in the world.

Brunei’s sovereignty peaked in the 15th and 16th centuries, when it controlled the whole of Borneo and parts of the Philippines. The empire’s vast wealth, derived from international commerce, created a strong impression on early European explorers. They returned to Europe with stories of gold, regalia and majestic ceremonies.

Europeans Arrive

In later centuries, declining trade and colonial intrusions eroded the size and influence of Brunei, especially after the 1839 arrival of James Brooke. A swashbuckling English adventurer, James Brooke was appointed governor, or Rajah, of Sarawak, after helping the Sultan put down a rebellion. However, he soon consolidated power and started expanding the territory under British control, creating his own dynasty of “White Rajahs” that ruled until World War II. During their rule, the “White Rajahs” continued encroaching on Brunei’s territory, which was also under pressure from British trading companies which had already taken control of present-day Sabah state in Malaysia.

These and other internal disputes prompted the Sultan to accept British protection and control over external affairs. In 1906, Brunei submitted to a British Resident system, giving the British control over home affairs, except for customs and religion. Reduced to a fraction of its former size and wealth, Brunei saw a revival of its fortunes when oil was discovered in 1929. The resulting wealth was judiciously managed and sustained, even during the nation’s occupation by the Japanese during WWII. Following the war, it was the late Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien, the true architect of modern Brunei, who set Brunei on its course to modernization.

Modern, Independent Brunei Today’s Sultan, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, the 29th ruler of his line, led Brunei to its independence from the British in 1984. During His Majesty’s reign, a fast-paced modernization program, building upon the nation’s oil wealth, has resulted in a noted improvement in quality of life for all Bruneians. Now leading the nation into the 21st century, His Majesty’s government is responsible for the booming construction and infrastructure expansions which have turned Brunei into one of Southeast Asia’s most developed nations.

Attracting foreign investment, improving the nation’s human resources base, and tourism development are all measures that His Majesty and the government are promoting to prepare the nation for the challenges of the future, when oil and gas reserves will have been depleted and a diversified economy will be needed to maintain the high standards of living currently enjoyed by the Bruneian people.


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Brunei’s economy depends on its oil and natural gas deposits, which are mostly offshore, and its investments. Although these are not extensive by world standards, Brunei’s small population enjoys a very high standard of living.

The economy has grown slowly in recent years due to temporarily lower oil and gas production as production facilities were repaired and upgraded. Risk also stems from volatility in oil prices. Dependence on oil and gas are being reduced to ensure current standards of living can continue. In January 2003, Brunei unveiled plans aimed at attracting US$4. 5 billion in foreign investment by 2008. Efforts are being made to move away from hydrocarbons towards areas such as communications technology, financial services, rubber, rice farming, halal (Muslim dietary law) food, and forestry services, plus energy-intensive industries like petrochemicals, oil refining, and aluminum smelting. .

The education system aims to improve training in line with the country's requirements. Brunei belongs to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and subscribes to its major projects, including the plan to establish a free-trade zone among member states in around 2010/2015.

In 1995, Brunei joined the IMF and World Bank, making available technical and consultative advice from those institutions (it hardly needs their financial support). The Asian financial crisis in 1997 had little effect on Brunei, because of the country’s lack of indebtedness.

However, it has since become apparent that a substantial proportion of the country’s financial resources, which are under the exclusive control of the royal family, have been dissipated through individual profligacy.


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Bahasa Melayu

In Brunei Darussalam, Bahasa Melayu is the official language and Brunei Malay is the everyday language.

Although English is not one of the official languages, the education policy of Brunei aims to provide opportunities for every schoolchild to learn Malay and English.

Preschool and lower-primary classes are taught in Malay, but from Primary Four onwards, science, math, and geography are taught in English.


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Islam is the official religion of Brunei Darussalam as stated in the Brunei Constitution, with His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan as the head of the Islamic faith in the country.

Thus Islam plays a central role in the life of every Muslim in Brunei Darussalam. Other faiths practiced in the State include Christianity and Buddhism.



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Very hot, humid tropical climate most of the year. Heavy rainfall in the monsoon season, November to December. Average temperature is 28°C (82ºF).

Required Clothing: Lightweight cottons and linens. Waterproofing is advisable all year.


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Brunei Dollar (BND; symbol Br$) = 100 cents. Notes are in the denominations Br$10,000, 1,000, 500, 100, 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1. Coins are in the denominations 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 cents. The Brunei Dollar is officially on a par with the Singapore Dollar.

Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs:

American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are generally accepted by hotels, department stores and major establishments.

Traveller's Cheques

To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars or Pounds Sterling. Hotels and many department stores will also cash traveller's cheques.

Banking Hours

Mon-Fri 09:00-15:00; Sat 09:00-11:00.

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  • Time: GMT + 8
  • Electricity: 220/240 volts AC 50Hz. Plugs are either round or square three-pin.
  • Country Code: 673


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Custom Regulation


The following goods may be imported into Brunei by travellers aged over 17 years without incurring customs duty:

  • 200 cigarettes or 250g tobacco products.
  • 2 1L bottles of liquor plus 12 cans of beer (by non-Muslims for personal consumption only, provided declared at customs upon arrival).
  • 60ml of perfume and 250ml of eau de toilette.


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Getting Around Brunei


Getting There by Road:

There are access roads into Brunei from Sarawak at various locations, although some are unpaved. Atlas. Traffic drives on the left. The best-developed road network is in the Brunei-Muara district, including a coastal highway which runs from Muara to Jerudong and then on to Tutong. Taxis are available in Bandar Seri Begawan, in the multi-storey car park at Jalan Cator. There are also airport taxis and taxis in most hotels and shopping centres. Fares are usually metered; if not, they should be agreed before the journey. There is a 50% surcharge after 2300 for airport taxi services. Tipping is not necessary.

  • By bus: Services operate to Seria (91km/57 miles) from Bandar Seri Begawan, Kuala Belait (16km/10 miles) from Seria, Tutong (48km/30 miles) from Bandar Seri Begawan and Muara (27km/17 miles) from Bandar Seri Begawan. There is a bus station located at the multi-storey car park on Jalan Cator in the town centre. The city bus system is well maintained and inexpensive. There are six bus routes in Bandar Seri Begawan, operating from 06:30 until 18:00.
  • Car hire: Self-drive or chauffeur-driven cars are available at the airport and major hotels. It is important to specify whether an air-conditioned car is required.

Getting There by Water:

Main ports: Muara and Kuala Belait are the entry points for sea cargo. There are passenger services between Singapore and Muara port. Ships and water taxis run a service between Bandar Seri Begawan and the Malay city of Luaban (Sabah). There are water taxi services to Kampong Ayer, with stations at Jalan Kianggeh and Jalan McArthur. Water taxis are the most common form of transport in Kampong Ayer, Brunei’s renowned water village. Fares are negotiable. Regular water taxi and boat services also ply between Bandar Seri Begawan and Bangar (in Temburong), and also service Limbang (in Sarawak), Labuan and some towns in the Malaysian state of Sabah.

Getting there by Air: The national airline is Royal Brunei Airlines (BI).
Main Airports: Bandar Seri Begawan (BWN) is 11km (7 miles) south of the city.

  • To/from the airport: Taxi services are available to the city with surcharges after 2200. Lower rates are charged by taxis leaving from the airport car park.
  • Facilities: Bank, bureaux de change, car hire, duty-free shops, post office, restaurants and shops.


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Passport & Visa


British nationals, Singaporeans and Malaysians don't need a visa for visits of up to thirty days; US citizens can stay up to three months without a visa; Canadian, French, Dutch, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Swiss and Belgian citizens can stay for fourteen days without a visa; all other visitors require visas, which can be obtained at local Brunei diplomatic missions or, failing that, at a British consulate. Visas are normally valid for two weeks, but renewable in Brunei. Officials may ask to see either an onward ticket, or proof of sufficient funds to cover your stay, when you arrive.


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Tour Sites


The Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque is also as the Kiarong Mosque The Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque is also as the Kiarong Mosque because of its location. The Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Silver Jubilee Park and Recreation Area Built in 2002 in tribute to His Majesty the Sultan's 56th Birthday, this beautiful six-hectare-large Silver Jubilee Park and Recreation Area in Kampong.

Land marked by lush landscaping and an imposing structure featuring columns and fountains leading out to a tranquil pier, this park is a contribution of the citizens of the Brunei-Muara District, various Government Departments and the private sector in commemoration of the Sultan's 25 years of splendid rule.


Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien MosqueSultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is one of the most magnificent mosques in Southeast Asia. Built in 1958 as a symbol of the Sultanate's faith, the mosque which bears the name of the Sultan who built it, features resplendent marble and granite floors, stained glass and chandeliers from all over the world.

Outside, the mosque is surrounded by a serene manmade lagoon where a 16th century mahligai or royal barge reposes. The view is especially captivating at night when the lights are on. The Mosque is open for visits in the day but visitors are asked to dress conservatively when entering the building.


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Brunei Map




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