Lonely Planet Writer

What you need to know about Brunei's new laws and how they impact travellers

Brunei Darussalam introduced the final phase of its roll-out of sharia law this month, specifying severe penalties for theft, adultery and ‘homosexual acts’, a decision which has been met with widespread global criticism.

Brunei Darussalam flag on the mast. Image by Aleksandar Milosavljevic / EyeEm

Sentences which could be imposed upon those found guilty include the severing of limbs and death by stoning. The laws apply to both Muslims and non-Muslims in the country, as well as travellers who fly with Royal Brunei Airlines.

Brunei, a majority conservative Muslim sultanate, began introducing a strict interpretation of sharia law to run in conjunction with common law in 2014. This final addition to the penal code was delayed for years due to international protest but, in an official statement, the prime minister’s office has stated ‘Brunei Darussalam is a sovereign Islamic and fully independent country and, like all other independent countries, enforces its own rule of laws’.

Humanitarian organisations around the world have since spoken out against these new laws, expressing concern for the LGBT+ community both in Brunei and those travelling in the destination. Celebrities and other public figures have also called for boycotts of sultan-owned properties, such as Dorchester Collection hotels located in the UK, Paris, the US and Italy.

Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has introduced new sharia laws, including death by stoning for gay sex and adultery. Image by -/AFP/Getty Images

Travellers should be aware of these new laws and how they may impact them. Those concerned about their welfare in Brunei – or the welfare of others – may wish to reconsider travelling at all. Any traveller seeking to cancel their trip on Royal Brunei Airlines is advised to contact their travel provider to re-book on an alternative carrier or to seek a refund. If this is not possible, travellers can attempt to claim through their travel insurance. Some travel providers, such as STA Travel, are refunding flights and will no longer book travellers on Royal Brunei Airlines.

If travel to Brunei is unavoidable, travellers should secure comprehensive travel insurance prior to departure, record their trip on an official government website and maintain access to the details of their government consulate. Those visiting Brunei – as is the case with other nations – should ensure they abide by the country’s laws and rules while they are there.