Here are a number of tips and things to keep in mind when preparing for a trip to Brunei, to help you make the best of your stay here.
Brunei allows certain countries to visit without obtaining a visa for a maximum stay of 90, 30 or 14 days. Travellers can check if they require a visa prior to entering Brunei here, which also lists the visa fee and processing period according to a specific country. In the case that one may need a visa, travellers can apply for it in person through Brunei’s Missions Abroad offices, which are based in a number of countries, listed in this handy directory. However, if there is no Missions Abroad office in your country, no need to fret! Complete applications can also be sent via secure courier to the nearest Missions Abroad office.
In the event that one needs to withdraw cash, ATMs can be found at any shopping centre and will accept cards with worldwide ATM functionality, e.g. Visa Plus and Mastercard Cirrus. Two of the most prominent banks in the country are Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) and Baiduri Bank, which support both Visa and Mastercard cards, as well as Unionpay (for Baiduri only). Other international banks that can be found are Maybank, Standard Chartered Bank, United Overseas Bank Limited (UOB), RHB Bank, and Bank of China.
Brunei’s currency is equivalent to that of Singapore, and Singaporean dollar notes can be used in Brunei as well. BND1 is also equivalent to (depending on current rates) :-
Brunei has two main telecommunication companies: DST Communications Sdn Bhd., and Progresif Cellular Sdn Bhd. Travellers can buy a data package suited to their needs at the airport, where both companies have booths at the arrival hall.
Sunny with a chance of showers would be the best way to describe the weather in Brunei. Clear, blue skies are pretty much a daily phenomenon, but do take note that the wettest months are from October to January and from May to July. An up-to-date, daily forecast of the weather can be found here.
Shops and eating establishments generally open around 9.30 am, with selected cafes and convenience stores opening earlier at 7 to 8 am. The city winds down around 10 pm in the evening, with again, a select few eateries that open till late. However, everything is closed every Friday noon from 12 pm until 2 pm in consideration of Solat Jumaat (Friday Prayers). In addition, during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan (varies every year according to the Islamic calendar), restaurants only allow food takeaway or delivery at all times during the period of fasting, which typically starts at about 4 – 5 am and ends at around 6 – 7 pm daily, until Ramadan ends.
WEAR PROPER ATTIRE
If you decide to visit mosques. Women are required to cover their head, shoulders, and knees. Some mosques will provide simple robes and shawls to meet this standard. Observe silence.
OBSERVE PRAYER TIMINGS
Note that all banks, businesses, offices, places of interest retail, food and beverage outlets are closed between 12 noon and 2pm on Fridays.
BRUNEIANS SPEAK ENGLISH
Do approach them as they are open to providing assistance if required.
MINDFUL CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES
Alcohol consumption is only allowed in private areas, such as in hotel rooms, or place of residence of the importer.
ALCOHOL IMPORTATION LIMITS
Non-muslim passengers over 18 years of age are not allowed to bring in more than 2 bottles of liquor and 12 cans of beer @ 330ml per can. The Liquor Declaration Form must be kept with the unfinished alcohol at all times.
DON’T MAKE LOUD NOISES
when you hear the azan or the Muslim call to prayer.
DON’T WEAR FOOTWEAR
in a mosque.
DON’T SHAKE HANDS
with members of the opposite sex, unless offered first by the other person.
Frequency of crime in Brunei is low, and safety isn’t a particularly huge issue. Even so, travelers are advised to take necessary precautions: always keep an eye on one’s belongings, ensure that the car doors are locked if you’re renting one, and be aware of one’s surroundings, especially when walking along the streets at night.
Here are the emergency numbers in Brunei:
Police – 993
Fire Brigade – 995
Search and Rescue — 998
Brunei-Muara District, where the capital Bandar Seri Begawan is located, has one major government hospital, which is the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha Hospital (+673 222 2366) and two private hospitals: Gleneagles Hospital (+673 261 1883), and Jerudong Park Medical Centre (+673 261 1433), a specialist hospital. There is a government health centre in most towns as well, and private clinics in any major shopping area.
Brunei hosts 35 embassies and consulates. Contact details for them can be found here.
TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRE
Brunei has three tourist information centres to help you plan out your itinerary, catered to your needs. You can find one right in the Brunei International Airport’s arrival hall, near the main entrance! It’s open from Monday to Thursday and Saturday, from 9.00am to 6.00pm. The second tourist information can be found at Dermaga Diraja (The Royal Wharf) in the capital. It’s open from Monday to Thursday and Saturday, from 9am to 4.30pm. The other tourist information centre is located at the Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery, and is open from Monday to Thursday and Saturday, from 9am to 4.30pm. Please take note that all centres are closed on Friday, Sunday and public holidays.