Brunei Travel Information
Brunei is a small coastal state just 443km (277 miles) north of the equator in the northwest corner of Borneo, bounded on all landward sides by Sarawak (Malaysia), which splits Brunei into two parts. The landscape is mainly equatorial jungle cut by rivers. It is a heavily forested state, and most human activity is restricted mainly either to coastal areas or estuaries.
There are beaches with facilities at Kuala Belait, Lumut Beach near Tutong and at Muara.
Tourist sights in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital, include the minaret crowning the golden-domed Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque and the Churchill Memorial, incorporating the Churchill Museum and Aquarium.
Outside the capital, it is possible to travel up river to visit village settlements, such as the Kampong Parit Resort. Kampong Ayer, a water village, is reputed to be the largest collection of stilt habitations in the world.
Local food is similar to Malay cuisine with fresh fish and rice and often quite spicy. Alcohol is prohibited.
Brunei – which takes its name from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘seaform’ (it is mentioned in ancient Chinese literature) – was, in ancient times, a powerful trading nation controlling most of Borneo and part of the Philippines archipelago, with extensive connections throughout South-East Asia.
The country was occupied briefly during the late 16th century by the Spanish, part of whose colonial mission was always the vigorous dissemination of Catholicism: in the previous century Islam had been adopted in Brunei as the principal religion. In the mid-19th century, Brunei came under British influence when the seafarer James Brooke was granted control of the Sarawak region (now part of Malaysia) in return for protection against sea-dyak pirates. The following year, a treaty was signed formalising British assistance and in 1888, when Britain declared ‘North Borneo’ to be a British Protectorate.
Under the terms of the arrangement, Britain ‘gave advice’ on all matters except those concerning local customs and religion. Brunei’s transition to independence began in 1959 when a new Anglo-Brunei agreement was signed under which Britain assumed responsibility for defence and foreign affairs but passed control of all other matters were the responsibility of the Sultan. Three years later, the North Borneo Liberation Army instigated rebellions, during which a state of emergency was declared. As a result the Sultan assumed the power to rule by decree. Since then, with the benefit of its vast oil wealth, Brunei has undergone steady, if somewhat unequal, development.
The country is in many respects comparable to the Gulf sheikhdoms – small, exceedingly wealthy and more or less surrounded by larger, poorer nations. The Government of the country rests in the exclusive hands of His Majesty Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, 29th in the dynasty, 31 years on the throne, and certainly one of the world’s richest individuals. Political activity in his realm is kept on a very short leash. After toying with orthodox politics, the Government invoked the concept of Melayu Islam Beraja (Malay Islamic Monarchy) as a state ideology at the end of the 1980s, and Islam is becoming a steadily stronger influence in the life of the country.
Electoral politics have been an anathema to the Sultan although there have been occasional slight indications that he may eventually concede the creation of an elected legislature with limited powers . There has been greater movement during the 1990s on the foreign policy front which has brought a flurry of activity: Brunei has joined the Non-Aligned Movement and established diplomatic relations with China, Vietnam, Iran and Myanmar. A military co-operation agreement was signed with the USA, supplementing that with the UK. Among Brunei’s objectives is to assist a solution of the awkward and potentially dangerous dispute over the Spratly Islands, the South China Sea archipelago claimed by six countries, including China.
An improvement in relations with Malaysia has followed from the settlement of a number of long-running border disputes. The image of the country has suffered during 1999 from revelations about the profligate and debauched lifestyle of the Sultan’s brother, Prince Jefri, who is now embroiled in several court actions of serious potential severe embarrassment to the government.
In Brunei festivals are always celebrated with colour, enthusiasm and happiness. Young and old from different races come together in a spirit of unity that we are justifiably proud of. We invite you to join us, and enjoy the unique traditions that have been passed down to us by preceeding generations.
National Day Celebrations
National Day is celebrated on the 23rd of February, and the nation begins to gear up for this momentous occasion about two months beforehand. Schoolchildren, civil servants and private sector representatives rehearse for their part in colourful crowd formations and flash card displays. Invariably a sell-out, the event takes place in the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium before about 35,000 spectators. Thousands of others watch the live nationwide telecast. His Majesty the Sultan and other members of the Royal Family will be present. In recent years the Ramadan fasting period has coincided with the National Day celebration resulting in a more low key affair.
The month of Ramadhan is a holy month for Muslims. It is a period of fasting, and Muslims abstain from eating and drinking between dawn and dusk for the whole month. Foodstalls, which sell a wide variety of local delicacies such as cakes, pastry and fruit, spring up in many areas – notably around the National Stadium This is a good time to try some special local dishes and cakes-at low cost. During fasting hours it is considered ill-mannered, (even offensive) to publicly eat, drink, smoke etc. Do not offer even coffee to a muslim person during these times to avoid embarrassment .
Hari Raya Aidilfitri
Hari Raya is a time for celebration after the fasting month of Ramadhan. Prayers are held in the early morning of the first day at every mosque in the country. This day is usually an occasion for. The second day normally means open house; an invitation for all to visit. Special festive dishes are made, including ketupat (rice cakes), satay (beef and chicken kebabs), rendang (spicy marinated beef) and many others.
His Majesty the Sultan also throws his doors open to the people at the Istana Nurul Iman. This gives the people and visitors a chance to meet His Majesty and other members of the Royal Family, in order to wish them Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri. This is defintely an offer which should not be missed. When visiting you should dress conservatively.
Royal Brunei Armed Forces Day
The formation of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces is commemorated every year on the 31st of May, and the event usually takes place at the Taman Haji Sir Omar Ali Saifuddien in the heart of the city. It consists of a military parade and displays, such as a parachuting show or battle demonstration. In other districts, units of the armed forces organise local parades and displays for the public.
Hari Raya Aidiladha
This is also known as Hari Raya Koran. It marks the time when Muslims embark on the Haj, or holy pilgrimage to Mecca. The usual practice – for those who can afford it – is to sacrifice goats and cows. The meat is then distributed to relatives, friends and those who are less fortunate.
His Majesty the Sultan’s Birthday 15th of July
This joyous occasion is one of the most important events in the national calendar, with events and festivities taking place across the whole country. It usually starts when the people gather at the Taman Haj i Sir Muda OmarAli Saifuddien, in the centre of Bandar Seri Begawan. His Majesty meets his subjects there and delivers a titah, or speech, to mark the occasion. Afterwards there is an investiture at the Istana Nurul Iman and, for the next two weeks or so, a series of processions, parades and celebrations. Fireworks displays take place and night markets – pasar malam – open up to sell food and drinks to the crowds.
Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad
This occasion is better known in Brunei as Mauludun Nabi SAW. Muslims gather at the Taman Haji Sir Oman Ali Saifuddien to honour the occasion. There are readings from the Holy Koran and an address on Islam from the Ministry of reliroys Affairs to open the function. His Majesty the Sultan also gives a speech and then, along with other members of the Royal Family, leads a procession on foot through the main streets of Bandar Seri Begawan. The Prophet’s birthday is also celebrated at the same time in other parts of the country, with lectures, religous functions and other activities.
Chinese New Year
This festival is celebrated by the Chinese community and lasts two full weeks. It begins with a reunion dinner on the eve of the celebration which, traditionally, all members of the family attend. Open house is declared and everyone is invited to feast on sumptuous spreads of food and drink. Unmarried youngsters are given ‘ang pow’ – gifts of money in little red packets.
Although not celebrated on a wide scale, Christmas Day is nevertheless a joyous and colourful occasion, well received by the nation. It is centred on Bandar Seri Begawan and the Belait District, where the greatest concentrations of Christian expatriates live. They also hold “open house” to entertain their friends and colleagues.
|Sports and Recreation|
Brunei has good facilities wide range of sports and recreational activities These include golf, bowling, squash, tennis, swimming, badminton, snooker, windsurfing, soccer, aerobics and traditional sports such as gasing, sepak takraw and kite-flying
Golf is very popular here, and the Brunei Muara District has an international-standard, 18-hole par 72, course in beautiful surroundings at the Mentiri Golf Club. This is situated atJalan Pengkalan Sibabua. . Other courses include the Royal Brunei Golf and Country Club at Jerudong Park, and the Panaga Golf Club in Seria. There is also a driving range at the Royal Brunei Sports Complex near the Airport.
The Utama Bowling Alley is on Jalan Tutong in Bandar Seri Begawan.
For tennis fans, there are courts at the Youth and Welfare Sports Complex on Jalan Berakas – with 3 types of surface: clay, synthetic grass and cement.
Public swimming pools are at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Bandar Seri Begawan, and at the Mumong Sports in Kuala Belait. A nominal entry fee is charged.
There are public courts at National Stadium. They are open daily except Friday and Sunday, and bookings can be made at the stadium. Fees are very moderate.
Windsurfing and Kayaking
Boards can be hired for a small hourly fee from the Royal Brunei National Wind surfing Association at Serasa Beach, along with kayaks for those who prefer a gentler form of watersport.
There are a number of snooker clubs in various locations around the centre of Bandar Seri Begawan.
Bandar Seri Begawan has a thriving dive club which meets at the Anggerek Desa swimming pool on Monday nights around 8.00 pm. There are also private operators who run boat trips for diving in Brunei Bay at the weekend. They offer kit hire, guided dives, and courses of instruction. To contact the club by telephone, ring the Diving Officer on 02-332077.
Metered taxis are now available at most hotels and shopping centres as well as the airport. In the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, taxis are located at the multi storey carpark at Jalan Cator.
Self drive or chauffeur-driven cars are available for hire from major hotels and the airport.
There are three bus lines in Bandar Seri Begawan, the Central Line, Circle Line and Northern Line. This public transport operates from 6:30 am to 6pm, with Central Line buses running every 15 minutes and the Circle Line once every 20 minutes. The Central Line stops at the following bus stations: international airport, post of office, government of offices, government schools, the Terrace Hotel, the Sheraton Utama Hotel, the Youth Centre, main bus terminal in Bandar, the Arts and Handicraft Centre, the Brunei Museum and the Malay Technology Museum. The Circle Line stops at the main bus terminal in Bandar, the Ripas hospital, the Jame Asr’ Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, the Kiarong fish and vegetable market, the Centrepoint in Gadong, government offices, Immigration/Labour Department, the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium, the Pusat Dakwah Islamiah, the SMART Department Store, Terrace Hotel, Sheraton Utama Hotel and the Youth Centre. The Northern Line caters to three routes, Northern Line 1, Northern Line 2 and Northern Line 3. Northern Line 1 and 2 runs between Berakas Camp, International Airport and the Bus terminal in Bandar, whilst Northern Line 3 runs between Berakas Camp, the Bus Terminal and The Malay Technology Museum in Kota Batu.
To get to major towns outside of Bandar, you can catch buses going to Seria and Kuala Belait at the Bandar bus terminal located at the multi storey carpark. Bus fares start from as low at $1.
Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA), flies to over 30 cities. Major airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Thai International, Garuda Indonesia, Philippines Airlines and Malaysia Airlines also service Brunei Darussalam.
Water taxis are the most common form of transport in Kampong Ayer. Fares are negotiable. Regular water taxi and boat services to Temburong and to the Malaysian towns of Limbang, Lawas, Sundar and Labuan are also available. Boat services to Temburong start at 7:45 am and end at 4:00 pm.
|Where to Eat|
Options for eating out in Brunei range from informal and casual eateries to more established restaurants and haste cuisine.
Hawker centres offer fine local delicacies at very reasonable prices. Favourite dishes include satay, noodles, rice, whole roasted chickens, grilled fish and steamboats. Hawker food can be found along the Brunei River in downtown Bandar Seri Begawan, and in a purpose-built complex next to Jerudong Park. The Persiaran Damuan park on Jalan Tutong is well known for its popular steamboat dinnersand satay. In Gadong, there is an indoor hawker centre on the ground floor of Yaohan Megamart – which offers a variety of food ranging from quiche to sushi!
Restaurant Dining – Asian
Gadong has a good mix of restaurants offering Asian cuisine. This includes Chinese, Lebanese, Indonesian, Indian, Thai and Japanese food, as well as speciality outlets for seafood and Nonya. Many are family-run enterprises with a comfortable, friendly atmosphere.
Downtown Bandar also has many kedai makan (local eateries), and good seafood restaurants can be found along Jalan Muara and in Muara town. Tutong, Seria and Kuala Belait have a good and varied selection of restaurants.
Chinese cuisine is especially popular in Brunei, and there are many fine authentic restaurants. In Gadong the Emperor’s Court and the Szechuan Dynasty are renown, as are the Jade Garden in the Riverview Hotel and the Phong Mun in downtown Bandar.
Restaurant Dining – Western
The major hotels all have cafes which serve a mixture of Asian and western meals, and sumptuous value-for=money buffets. Deals Restaurant in the Sheraton Utama specialises in very high quality nouvelle cuisine. The Buccaneers in Kuala Belait serves excellent British fare in a tudor-style setting.
Fast food has really caught on in Brunei. Pizza Hut, KFC and MacDonalds all have outlets in the city and atJerudong Park. Jollibee, Sugar Bun and Express Burger are local equivalents.
Please note that the public sale and consumption of alcohol is prohibited by law in Brunei, therefore restaurants do not sell alcoholic drinks. Most restaurants open until about 9.00 or 10.00 pm, and reservations may be required at weekends, especially in hotels and the larger Chinese restaurants.
There are 35 licensed travel agents in the country. Three of these specialise in inbound tours, namely Freme Travel, Sunshine Borneo Tours and Travel Trade Agencies. Packaged tours range from brief three hour City tours, which will take you on a drive-by tour past landmarks in the city such as the Lapau and the two major Mosques, to four day tours which include everything from rainforests to Jerudong Park. Other specialist tours include twilight dinner cruises, golf excursions, Temburong, Longhouse visits and water village tour. For short term visitors a package tour will be most entertaining and informative since you will be in the hands of experienced operators familier with the area. For new residents or long term visitors the tours will prove an vital orientation exercise. Travel agencies will also be able to provide travel arrangements to the rest of Borneo’s diverse range of attractions. For further information and enquiries regarding both private and packaged tours in Brunei Darussalam, please contact the licensed travel agents listed here :
For many travellers, one of the pleasures of visiting another country is finding something of interest and value for oneself, family or friends. From market stalls and “syarikats” ” to departmental stores For Souvenirs specific to Brunei, there are a number of stores as listed in this chapter.
The largest shopping mall in Brunei is the recently completed onJalan Mc Arthur. This is a breathtaking piece of architecture with ample parking for visitors. Departmental stores in Brunei include Yaohan, with two locations; Yaohan in Abdul Razak Plaza and in Gadong Centrepoint. Located just out of town on Jalan Muara is another large departmental Store, Tiong Hin. A very popular shopping mall for locals with a good selection of grocery supplies, while upstairs you will find most items from toys to fishing supplies. Downtown Bandar Seri Begawan, Kuala Belait and Seria sport a variety of modern air conditioned outlets and older shop houses. There are also a number of shop at the Shorts International Airport,where you can purchase Duty Free items CDs, sports equipment, chocolate and also a good selection of books on the region.
Local currency is Brunei dollars and cents . Dollar notes are available in denominations of $5, $10, X50, $100, $500, 51000 and $10,000. Coins are in 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 cents denominations. Brunei currency is on par with the Singapore dollar.
9.00 am to 3.00 pm on Weekdays and 9.00 am to 11.00 am on Saturdays. Most banks handle travellers cheques and currency exchange, and are government approved for these transactions.
The telecommunication system in Brunei Darussalam is on par with the best in Southeast Asia, serving the country with fixed phones and also two earth satellite stations for worldwide IDD, Telex and facsimile links. All hotels in Brunei are fully equiped with these services in their business centres.
Hallokad, a prepaid card for International and local calls, is available. This card allows calls to be made with any phone to over 130 countries from Brunei and from 68 countries to Brunei. You can purchase a HalloKad at the international airport and other local vendors . Payphones are widely available, coin phones are operable with local coins of 10 to 20 cent denominations. Phone cards for card-operated Phones are available from JTB and many retail stores.
Brunei’s Internet server (BruNet) is available in Brunei via fibre optic cable links with Singapore allowing international network access through computers. DSTCom, the mobile system server of Brunei Darussalam, offers two mobile systems, AMPS and GSM. If you have a GSM phone you may use it in Brunei, depending on mutual agreements between your home country and Brunei. In the event that there is as yet no agreement made, you will have to register and purchase a Sim Card from DSTCom. AMPS Mobile phone rental service is available from DSTCom, Mobile phone rental charges vary from $10 per day. A deposit and your credit card imprint is needed to register and your phone bill will be payable upon return of the rental phone. If you need further information on the usage of GSM and AMPS please call DSTCare Hotline 151. There are five DSTCom offices, see advertisement on page 13 for more information.
Brunei is eight hours ahead of GMT and 16 hours ahead of U.S. Pacific Standard Time.
Most hotels provide postal services at the front desk. Post offices are open from 7:45 am to 4:30 pm daily, except on Friday and Sunday. On Friday, the opening is from 8:00 am -11:00 am and from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
Airmail Postcard Rates:
Malaysia & Singapore 20 cents
Other countries 35-60 cents
The only local daily paper in Brunei is the Borneo Bulletin, which covers both local and international events. Media Pertama is the weekly Malay language newspaper. The government also publishes a weekly paper, Pelita Brunei, which spotlights government policies and personalities. Foreign newspapers and magazines are also available in many shops, bookstores and hotels.
Magazines and Periodicals
Regal magazine is the lifestyle magazine for Brunei. It is mostly distributed to Visa and Mastercard holders but also available on subscription and in most hotels. For a copy call 2-332384. Other periodicals include Seni Bina (an architecture magazine) Intan (a Malay ladies’ magazine) The Brunei Year book (a business reference phonebook) Muhibah (the inflight magazine for RBA).
The national television network, Radio & Television Brunei (RTB), transmitsprogrammes produced locally and overseas for about 8 hours on weekdays, 12 hours on Fridays and 15 hours on Sundays. News bulletins are broadcast in Malay and English and carry several international news services. Malaysian television can also be received.
You can access CNN, BBC, Star T.V. with a decoder. This service is widely subscribed to by the hotels and is free of charge.
Radio Brunei began broadcasting in 1957, consisting of two networks, one in Malay and the other in English, Chinese and Gurkhali, which are now called National Network and Pilihan Network respectively. Both networks operate on medium wave and FM stereo bands. The National Network starts at 4.30 a.m. until 12 midnight, while the Pilihan Network starts at 6.00 a.m. until 12 midnight. The latest network supplied by Radio Brunei is called Pelangi Network and it began its operation on 1st January 1996. This bilingual network (Malay and English) starts at 6.00 a.m. until 12 midnight, and operates on FM stereo band only. The UK (London) radio station Capital FM and Capital Gold can also be received.
Malaysians, Singaporeans, and British nationals (with the right of abode in UK) are exempted from visas for visits of up to 30 days. For nationals of Indonesia, The Philippines, Thailand, Belgium, Canada, Germany, France,Japan, South Korea, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, The Republic of Maldives, New Zealand and Norway, visas are waived for visits of up to 14 days. Exemptions are also provided for residents of the United States of America within a period of 90 days. Nationals of all other countries require a visa, which must be obtained through Brunei embassies or consulates before entering Brunei.
Subject to Section 9, Part B of the Customs Import Duties Order 1973, arriving passengers over 17 years ofage are eligible for the following concessions:
Used personal effects
A non-muslim over 17 years of age may be allowed to bring in not more than two bottles of liquor (about 2 quarts) and twelve cans of beer for personal consumption, which must be declared to customs upon arrival by the passenger himself / herself.
Failure to declare to customs is an offence punishable under the Customs Act.
Yellow fever innoculations are required for visitors over one year of age coming from infected areas. Malaria, cholera and small pox have been eliminated from Brunei Darussalam and innoculations are not needed.
Malaysia and Singapore B$5.00
Other Destinations B$12.00
Airport Check-In Times
Please arrive in good time at the airport terminal as this will help ensure that your flight operates on schedule. Check local road conditions to avoid possible delay. To enable pre-flight formalities to be concluded, have your baggage screened and checked-in at Brunei International Airport at least 1 1/2 hours before scheduled departure.
Reconfirmation of Bookings
You are required to contact your respective airline reservation office or its appointed agent for reconfirmation of your onward or return flight at least 72 hours before its scheduled departure time. Failure to do so may result in your reservation being cancelled.
Special fares are available to passengers travelling as a group on certain routes. For details on group rates, please consult your travel agent or any RBA office.
Carriage of Live Animals
Pets and any other animals are not permitted as checked baggage on all Royal Brunei flights but can be checked in as manifested cargo. Full details are available from Royal Brunei’s cargo general enquiry line (Tel: 02-333278) .
The trafficking and illegal importation of controlled drugs are very serious offences in Brunei Darussalam. The penalty for such offences is death… These guys are serious, too.
Health services are free for Brunei citizens, with a very nominal charge for permanent residents and expatriate government officials and their dependants. RIPAS Hospital is equipped with modern medical facilities at Jalan Tutong, and a number of private clinics operate within the town areas.
Private Medical Practitioners
Borneo Clinic Simpang 27, 1 Bang PIF, Jln Gadong, B. S. B. Tel: 02-224301 Dr. Hj. Basheer Ahmad Bangunan Hj. Ahmad Laksamana, B. S. B. Tel: 02-220545 Clinic Chung Bangunan Hj. Ahmad Laksamana, B. S. B. Tel: 02-240546 Hart Medical Clinic 1st Floor, 47 Jalan Sultau, B. S. B. Tel: 02-225531 Chung Medical Centre Unit G3/5, Bang Hj Ahd Laksamana, B. S. B. Tel: 02-240546 Lai Clinic 47, 1st Floor, Jalan Bunga Melor, Seria, Brunei Darussalam Tel: 03-222244 Dr. Rao K U Hari Jalan Kerma Negara, Kuala Belait, Brunei Darussalam Tel: 03-333244 Specialist Bersehatan Sdn Bhd Unit A & B, 5 & 6 2nd Floor, Mabohai Shopping Complex Lot 16397, Jln Kebangsaan, BSB Tel: 02-228417/228421 Jerudong Park Medical Centre Royal Brunei Polo Club Jerudong Park 2021, Brunei Darussalam Tel: 671433/671412 Riverview Medical Clinic Riverview Hotel, Km l, Jln Gadong, B. S. B. Tel: 238018 Ext. 8816
|Water and Electricity|
The life of the average Bruneian revolves around his religion, Islam, with certain things being forbidden (haram), certain things tolerated but not encouraged (makruh) and certain things which fall under the embrace of Islam (halal). Pork, the consumption of alcohol, eating meat not slaughtered under Islamic guidance, casual touching, adultery, and coming into contact with the wet nose or hair of a dog are baram. Smoking and eating shellfish are considered makruh. Bruneians shake hands by only lightly touching hands and then bringing the hand back to the chest; it is not customary to shake hands with members of the opposite sex. You should not point your finger, instead use the thumb of your right hand with the four fingers folded beneath it. To call a taxi or attract someone’s attention, wave the whole hand with the palm facing down wards. Do not smack the fist of your right hand into your left palm, because it has a different meaning in Brunei to that of Western countries. When visiting a mosque, you should always remove your shoes first and you should not pass in front of a person at prayer or touch the Koran. Women should cover their heads and not have their knees or arms exposed. Gifts and particularly food should only be passed with the right hand, although it is acceptable to use the left hand under the right wrist for support.
Government offices are open from 7.45 am to 12.15 pm and from 1.30 pm to 4.30 pm in the afternoon and are closed on Fridays and Sundays. Private of offices generally work from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm on weekdays and from 8.00 am to 12.00 noon on Saturdays. Most shopping centres are open daily from 10.00 am to 10.00 pm. Shortened office hours operate during the fasting month.