Five Things First Time Travellers To Brunei Should Know
- Buying cigarettes or tobacco is difficult. If you are a smoker, you're only allowed to bring in three packs of cigarettes. It's also important to observe the no-smoking signs as you will receive a hefty fine.
- Swim at your own risk. The South China Sea is home to poisonous jellyfish. If you go in for a dip, there's a good possibility you might get stung.
- Brunei doesn't recognise dual nationality. If you arrive with two passports, you'll be refused entry. It's advised to enter the country on the passport you exited your last country from to avoid any problems.
- There is a no tipping culture in Brunei. Many hotels and restaurants will already add a 10% service charge to your bill. Taxi drivers and other service industry staff also don't expect tips.
- Brunei is an Islamic country. This means that you'll have to respect the culture by dressing more conservatively. Men and women are expected to cover their shoulders and knees. You should also avoid wearing the colour yellow as it is reserved for Brunei's royalty.
Best Time To Visit Brunei
The best time to visit Brunei is during the springtime. From January to May, the weather is pleasant; there's little chance of rain and crowds are minimal. It's also a shoulder season for Brunei, and hotel rates will also be more affordable.
From June to August, the weather is hot, and the humidity is high. It's the busiest time of year as travellers arrive to explore the country during their summer holidays. To escape the heat, many people head to Peradayan Forest Reserve.
It's also the Sultan's birthday in July and a fantastic cultural event to experience. The only downside to these summer months is the price tag. Make sure you budget for the higher room rates and flight prices during this period.
The least popular time to visit Brunei is during its monsoon season. From September to December, the country sees heavy rainfall that makes it impossible to travel to the more remote destinations. However, the lack of tourists means you'll have Brunei to yourself and the best deals on flights and accommodation.
Bandar Seri Begawan
The capital city of Brunei is Bandar Seri Begawan. It's one of the world's most ornate cities, dripping with gilded buildings that pay homage to the country's wealth.
One of its most impressive sights is the massive Istana Nurul Iman. It's home to the country's sultan and holds the record for the largest government buildings in the world.
Don't miss the opulent Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque and the fascinating Brunei Museum.
Kampong Ayer is one of Brunei's most visited destinations. It's home to the country's famous stilt villages built along the banks of the Brunei River.
Fondly called the Venice of the East, the town is connected by networks of walkways and water taxis. If you can, spend the night at one of the homestays, or visit as a day trip from the capital.
Bangar is one of the best places to base yourself if you want to discover Brunei's natural heritage. The legendary Labu Forest and Ulu Temburong National Park are on the edge of the town, beckoning to be explored by intrepid travellers.
The town is also a welcome escape from the capital. The pace of life here is slow, and it's a wonderful chance to see a more authentic side of life in Brunei.
Top Attractions in Brunei
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
The Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is one of Brunei's most opulent religious structures. Built in 1958 in honour of the country's 28th Sultan, it's a visual feast of the country's wealth.
Inside you'll find walls made from the finest Italian marble. Its carpets were flown in from Saudi Arabia, and it boasts a 3.5-million-piece mosaic that is inlaid with gold leaf.
Outside on its artificial lagoon is a replica of a 16th-century royal barge. Its minaret is also the tallest building in the city and visitors can climb the spiral stairs for a beautiful panoramic views of Bandar Seri Begawan below.
Ulu Temburong National Park
Known as "Green Jewel of Brunei", Ulu Temburong National Park is Brunei's first national park. Established in 1988, it covers more than 40% of the Temburong province.
It's considered one of the best-preserved rainforests in Borneo and is home large numbers of Borneo gibbon. The park boasts a stunning canopy walk that rises 200 feet from the ground. It's one of the best ways to spot the park's exotic birds and treetop wildlife.
There are also a number of trails and boardwalks that wind their way through the thick forest. Keep a lookout for the rare tiger orchids and 400 kinds of butterfly.
Located on the banks of the Brunei River, the national museum is a must-visit for anyone who wants to learn more about Brunei's character.
It houses the Islamic Art Gallery, which displays ancient glass, pottery and illuminated manuscripts from the Koran. The Traditional Culture Gallery explores the country's history. It's an in-depth look at the region's traditional rituals and objects. Don't miss the ceremonial cannons with barrels shaped like dragon heads.
The rest of the museum focuses on Brunei's impressive biodiversity, and the country's main source of wealth - oil.
Istana Nurul Iman
Istana Nurul Iman is one of the largest palaces in the world. It boasts 1,788 rooms and spans across an impressive two million square feet. It's four times the size of the Palace of Versailles and cost over USD 400 million to build.
The Palace of the Light of Faith is the official residence of the country's sultan. It's only open to the public for three days during the Hari Raya Aidil Fitri festivities.
The rest of the year, it can be admired from a river cruise during the day or when it's illuminated in the evenings.
Jerudong Park is a recreational complex in the heart of the country's capital city. It's where many of Brunei's elite meet to socialise and play a game of polo.
For a small fee, visitors can enter and enjoy the club's facilities. Go on a horseback ride along the beach, relax in the pools or visit the nearby Jerudong Park Playground theme park.
Once you've worked up an appetite, you can visit the club's restaurant. It's known for its excellent food and sightings of Brunei's royal family.
Major International Airports in Brunei
- Brunei International Airport