If you’re thinking of travelling to Brunei in a wheelchair, you should reconsider your plans unless you have no other option. You can get a wheelchair-accessible transfer to your hotel, but thereafter you will be limited to your hotel and shopping malls. Pavements (sidewalks) are often inaccessible, most shops and buildings – including official buildings such as police stations, consulates and the national airline office for example – have steps to enter. Even the main mosque can only be entered via a flight of stairs. Blind and vision impaired visitors – and those using a cane or mobility aid – will struggle with extremely high kerbs, lack of tactile paving and completely unplanned wayfinding.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Gentle haggling is common in markets; in all other instances you’re expected to pay the stated price.
Dangers & Annoyances
- Brunei is very safe for travellers of both sexes.
- Saltwater crocodiles are a very real danger in waterways, especially in muddy estuaries. Exercise caution when swimming in rivers, and never swim near river mouths.
Embassies & Consulates
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Brunei Darussalam's Country Code||673|
|Search & Rescue||998|
Entry & Exit Formalities
For most travellers, entering Brunei is straightforward.
Tobacco may not be imported into Brunei. Non-Muslims can import two bottles of wine or spirits and 12 cans of beer, which must be declared at customs, to consume in private. Keep the customs slip in case of inspection.
Israeli passport holders are not permitted to enter Brunei.
Travellers from the US, European Union, Switzerland and Norway are granted a 90-day visa-free stay. Travellers from New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia, among others, receive 30 days. Japanese and Canadians get 14 free days. Chinese can apply for a 14-day single-entry visa (B$20). Australians can apply for the following visas upon arrival: 72-hour transit (B$5), 30-day single entry (B$20) or multiple entry (B$30).
- Greetings Shaking hands is uncommon and if it occurs is very brief and not firm. Women and children usually won't offer a hand.
- Physical affection Hand-holding between people of two genders is fine; extreme public displays of affection, such as kissing, are not.
- Clothing Despite the heat and humidity, adult men in Brunei don't tend to wear shorts in cities or towns, particularly not in restaurants. Likewise women should remember that Brunei is largely Muslim, and relatively discreet clothing that covers your shoulders and knees must be worn.
- Eye contact Staring is considered extremely rude (unlike in neighbouring Malaysia).
Though homosexual acts are illegal in Brunei and penalties technically include prison sentences, there's an underground gay scene in BSB, with gay young people connecting on social media. If you're out and about in Kiulap in the evenings, you may well spot local young men dressed as women also. That said, visitors to Brunei best err on the side of caution and not openly advertise their sexual orientation.
Wi-fi is available at all top-end and midrange hotels and most budget guesthouses. More and more restaurants and cafes in BSB also offer free wi-fi.
In May 2014 Brunei began phasing in a new criminal code based on sharia law. Offences in this first phase became punishable with a fine, imprisonment or both. Prayer for Muslims on Fridays became compulsory and, consequently, all businesses and restaurants tend to be shut between noon and 2pm. However, plans to introduce more severe penalties, including the severing of limbs for theft and stoning to death for adultery, have come to naught; it seems they are not popular with Bruneians. Still, make sure you're up to date on Brunei's laws in order to ensure you're on the right side of them.
Drugs & Alcohol
The sale and public consumption of alcohol is forbidden in Brunei, though non-Muslims are allowed to import limited amounts. Drug trafficking is punishable by the death penalty.
ATMs widely available in BSB and larger towns. Credit cards usually accepted at top-end establishments. The Brunei dollar is tied to the Singapore dollar, which is used interchangeably here.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Tipping is not practised much in Brunei, though rounding off the bill is always appreciated.
On Fridays all businesses and offices, including restaurants, cafes, museums, shops and even parks, are closed by law between noon and 2pm for Friday prayers. During Ramadan, business and office hours are often shortened and restaurants are closed during daylight hours.
Banks 9am–4pm Monday to Thursday, 9am-noon and 2pm–4pm Friday, 9am to 11am Saturday
Restaurants Variable hours, generally 11am–11pm Saturday to Thursday, 11am-noon and 2pm–11pm Friday
Cafes Variable hours, generally 8am–6pm Saturday to Thursday, 8am-noon and 2pm–6pm Friday
Shops 10am–9.30pm Saturday to Thursday, 10am-noon and 2pm–9.30pm Friday
Government offices 7.45am–12.15pm and 1.30pm–4.30pm Monday to Thursday and Saturday
The Brunei postal service (www.post.gov.bn) is generally reliable and reasonably efficient. BSB no longer has a central post office, though there's a post office in several outlying neighbourhoods.
Brunei postal tariffs for a postcard/letter weighing 20g:
- Brunei Darussalam – B$0.20
- Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand – B$0.30
- Rest of the world – B$0.50
The dates of Muslim holidays follow lunar calendars and so vary relative to the Gregorian (Western) calendar. Muslim holidays fall 11 or 12 days earlier each year; their final dates are determined by the sighting of the moon and therefore may vary slightly relative to the dates below. The dates we give for some other religious holidays are also approximate. Many religious celebrations begin the night before the dates given.
For details on public and religious holidays (as well as cultural events), see the events calendars posted by Brunei Tourism (www.tourismbrunei.com).
New Year's Day 1 January
Chinese New Year 5 February 2019, 25 January 2020, 12 February 2021
Brunei National Day 23 February
Israk Mikraj (Prophet's Ascension) 3 April 2019, 22 March 2020, 11 March 2021
First Day of Ramadan 6 May 2019, 23 April 2020, 12 April 2021
Royal Brunei Armed Forces Day 31 May
Gawai Dayak (Iban only) Evening of 31 May to 2 June
Nuzul Quraan (Koran Revelation Day) 22 May 2019, 10 May 2020, 29 April 2021
Hari Raya Aidil Fitri End of Ramadan; three-day holiday begins 4 June 2019, 24 May 2020, 14 May 2021
Sultan of Brunei's Birthday 15 July
Hari Raya Aidiladha 11 August 2019, July 30 2020, July 19 2021
Awal Muharram (Islamic New Year) 31 August 2019, 19 August 2020, 9 August 2021
Maulidur Rasul (Prophet's Birthday) 9 November 2019, 28 October 2020, 18 October 2021
Christmas Day 25 December
- Smoking Brunei has been completely smoke-free since the sultan made a birthday wish for his subjects to be healthy on his birthday in 2017 (the sultan's wishes always come true). Tough anti-smoking laws ban puffing in all public spaces, and you're not allowed to import any tobacco into the country either.
Taxes & Refunds
There is no sales tax or value-added tax (VAT or equivalent consumption-based tax) in Brunei Darussalam.
Inexpensive prepaid SIM cards are readily available. If you bring your own phone, make sure it can handle 900/1800MHz and is not locked. There are no area codes within Brunei.
There are two main mobile-phone networks: DST (www.dst.com.bn) and Progresif (www.progresif.com). Both sell SIM-card starter packs that include local minutes and 3GB of data for B$35 at the airport and in outlets around the city. Progresif has better deals in general, but DST allegedly has better network coverage.
Local calls cost from B$0.20 a minute, depending on the time of day. For international calls, using the access code 095 ('IDD 095') is cheaper than 00. Calls to Australia, the UK and the USA cost B$0.30 to B$0.70 a minute.
Brunei is eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT/UTC+8). Brunei does not observe daylight-saving time.
- You'll find a lot of squat-style toilets in Brunei, particularly in public bathrooms.
- Western-style seated toilets are the norm in midrange hotels and guesthouses.
- You may be expected to flush using water from a plastic bucket.
- Toilet paper is often unavailable in public toilets, so keep a stash handy. In urban areas you can usually discard used toilet paper into the bowl without causing a blockage, but if there is a waste-paper basket – as there often is in rural toilets – it's meant to be used.
Brunei Tourism A useful website, containing information on transport, business hours, accommodation, tour agencies and more.
Tourist information There is a counter at Brunei International Airport.
Tourist Information Centre In the Old Customs House on BSB's waterfront.
Borneo Guide Private tour company in BSB can supply up-to-date information, including land transport to Miri (Sarawak) and Sabah.
Travel with Children
- Brunei is easy for family travel, though outside of central BSB stroller-friendly footpaths are non-existent.
- Cots are not widely available in cheaper accommodation. Some top-end places allow two children under 12 to stay with their parents at no extra charge.
- Baby food, formula and nappies (diapers) are widely available, but stock up on such items before heading to remote destinations such as Ulu Temburong.
- Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children is packed with useful information.
- Kids aged four to eight may enjoy BSB's Jerudong Park Playground, a tame amusement park. Visits to Ulu Temburong National Park are an enjoyable jungle adventure for kids aged seven and up.
- While most restaurants may not have separate kids' menus, children are usually made to feel welcome.
Volunteering tourism is not well developed in Brunei Darussalam. It's important to do your research on organisations offering volunteer work, particularly those offering work with children. Lonely Planet does not endorse any organisations that we do not work with directly.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures The metric system is used.
Discreet clothing is appropriate here – you certainly don't have to cover your hair (unless visiting a mosque), but loose-fitting clothes that cover the shoulders and knees are best, especially when visiting any kind of official or religious building.
Foreign workers account for over one third of Brunei's workforce. The attractions of working here include the preference for using English as a major business language and the absence of personal tax (this applies to citizens and expats alike). There are, however, other contributions to provident and pension funds that are deducted from your salary (totalling about 8.5%).
All foreign workers must pass mandatory health checks and have a valid work permit organised by their employer before their arrival. Permits are valid for two years.