The Sultanate of Brunei (Full name: Negara Brunei Darussalam) is a small but - thanks to natural gas and petroleum resources - very rich country located in Southeast Asia. It is surrounded by Malaysia and has two parts physically separated by Malaysia, almost being an enclave. Strategically located on the South China Sea, close to vital sea lanes linking Indian and Pacific Oceans, it has an exclusive economic fishing zone that extends as far as Louisa Reef in the southern Spratly Islands although it makes no public territorial claim to the offshore reefs.
Brunei has four districts (Malay: daerah)
- Brunei/Muara - heart of the country where the capital Bandar Seri Begawan is located.
- Tutong-lies under the coverage of the virgin forest,scattered small scale plantations.
- Belait - Western-most district, also the centre of the country's petroleum industry.
- Temburong - isolated eastern district, separated from the rest of country by the Sarawak district of Limbang.
- Bandar Seri Begawan - the capital, sometimes known as "Bandar" or "BSB" for short.
- Bangar - the tiny district capital of Temburong district.
- Kuala Belait - town to catch transport to or from Miri, Sarawak.
- Muara - main port of Brunei with passenger ferries to Labuan and Sarawak.
- Seria - oil capital of Brunei, also known as "Shelltown".
Brunei is a pint-sized and fabulously wealthy oil-rich sultanate with a population of 398,000 as of 2008.
- Government Of Brunei Darussalam Official Website 
The Sultanate of Brunei's heyday occurred between the 15th and 17th centuries, when its control extended over coastal areas of northwest Borneo and the southern Philippines. Brunei subsequently entered a period of decline brought on by internal strife over royal succession, colonial expansion of European powers, and piracy. In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate; independence was achieved in 1984. The same family has ruled Brunei for over six centuries.
- 1 January 1984 (from UK)
- National holiday
- National Day, 23 February (1984); note - 1 January 1984 was the date of independence from the UK, 23 February 1984 was the date of independence from British protection
- 29 September 1959 (some provisions suspended under a State of Emergency since December 1962, others since independence on 1 January 1984)
The Istana Nurul Iman is the world’s largest residential palace in occupation. The 300-acre palace sits on a man made hill with a clear view of Kampong Ayer. Istana Nurul Iman is the residence of the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, and the cost of the palace is quoted to have an estimated at $600 million dollars.
The backbone of Brunei's economy is oil and gas and the Sultan of Brunei is, famously, one of the richest people in the world with an estimated personal wealth of around 40 billion dollars. Per capita GDP is far above most other developing countries, and substantial income from overseas investment supplements income from domestic production. The government provides for all medical services and subsidizes rice and housing.
All sectors of economy are fairly heavily regulated and government policy is an odd mixture of subsidies, protectionism and encouragement of entrepreneurship. Brunei's leaders are attempting to balance the country's steadily increasing integration into the world economy with internal social cohesion. It became a more prominent player in the world by serving as chairman for the 2005 APEC (Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation) forum. Plans for the future include upgrading the workforce, reducing unemployment, strengthening the banking and tourist sectors, and, in general, widening the economic base beyond oil and gas.
Brunei is officially an Islamic state, with many large beautiful mosques across the country. Sale of alcohol is banned. Bringing in meat, (other than seafood) which has not been certified "halal", (slaughtered according to Islamic law), is also banned. During the fasting month of Ramadan, many shops and restaurants will be open. However, eating, drinking or smoking in front of people who are fasting is considered rude and asking permission is appropriate.
The bulk of the population is Malay (67%) and there is also a significant Chinese minority of some 15% as well as a number of indigenous peoples, including the Iban and Dusun tribes who inhabit the jungle upriver and the Temburong district, (the smaller eastern part detached from the rest of Brunei). There is a large number of foreign workers who work on the oil and gas production or in lower positions such as restaurant staff, field workers and domestic staff. The male to female ratio is 3:2. More than a quarter of the people are short term immigrant workers, most of whom are men.
Geography and climate
Brunei's climate is semi-tropical, and Bandar Seri Begawan's is sub-tropical. The temperature can reach 13°C in January. The temperature is range from 14-32°C. Rainy season is always mild and humid, followed by a hot and humid dry season.
Brunei's topology is of a flat coastal plain rises to mountains in the east, the highest point being Bukit Pagon at 1,850 meters, with some hilly lowlands in the west.
There are typhoons, earthquakes, severe flooding and other forms of natural disasters to contend with, and the biggest environmental issues is the seasonal haze resulting from forest fires (that is caused by illegal clearing of land) in nearby Indonesia.
Nationals of Israel are not allowed to enter Brunei, while nationals of ASEAN and many industrialised countries (though not all) do not require an entry visa.Among those who do not need a visa are citizens of the US (90 days), UK, German, Japanese, Canadian and New Zealand citizens (30 days). Those who need a visa must apply in advance at a Brunei embassy, where processing can take up to 3 days and costs B$15 for a single entry visa. See Brunei Immigration Department  for the latest details.
After over-expansion and huge losses in the 1990s, Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) has cut down on its services considerably but still offers a reasonably comprehensive network, with daily flights to London, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Kota Kinabalu. Fares that transit via Brunei are attractively priced and you are guaranteed service with a smile. In addition, Singapore Airlines  flies 5 times a week from Singapore, and Malaysia Airlines  flies from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu (twice a week from both cities). In July 2006, discount, no-frills carrier AirAsia  started flights from Kuala Lumpur, bringing some much-needed competition. AirAsia is the cheapest carrier to serve Brunei from an international Hub, with fares as low as US$35 one-way from Kuala Lumpur. AirAsia flies from 35 destinations in Asia to Kuala Lumpur, where connections to Brunei are available.
Getting there/away: A taxi to Bandar Seri Begawan takes 20 minutes and costs around B$25. A covered walk down to the end of the car park further away from the Terminal (turn right from Arrivals) leads to a bus stop for Purple buses to the city centre (B$1).
You can drive into Brunei from Sarawak, Malaysia. There are two entry points for the main part of Brunei, one from Miri at Sungai Tujuh and one from Limbang at Kuala Lurah (Tedungan on the Malaysian side). Both these crossings have drive-through immigration checkpoints at the border but queues can be horribly long, especially during weekends.
It is also possible to drive from the Sarawak towns of Limbang and Lawas to the Temburong district of Brunei. The drive from Limbang requires a ferry ride across the Pandaruan River (RM8 or B$4) which forms the border between Malaysia and Brunei. You can now conduct immigration formalities at Pandaruan (no longer at Limbang Wharf) with the opening of the Malaysian checkpoint in June 2007. Brunei immigration formalities are conducted at Puni, about 600m away from the ferry landing. From Lawas (which is connected by road to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia), a ferry ride across the Trusan River (RM10) is required before you can proceed to the actual border at Labu. Malaysian immigration formalities are done in Trusan (the immigration office, officially known as the Mengkalap immigration checkpoint, is in a shoplot just east of the ferry crossing) about 8km away, and no longer in Lawas. Those for Brunei can be done at the Labu checkpoint at border.
- To/from Miri: The Miri Belait Transportation Company runs buses between Kuala Belait in Brunei and Miri in Sarawak, Malaysia. The journey requires a bus change at the Sungei Tujoh border checkpoint. Through tickets are however available at RM12.20 from Miri. Note that there have been reports that buses from Miri occasionally refuse to go all the way to the border and stop just before the Asean Bridge at Kuala Baram because of the high toll charge of the bridge. You may have to use taxis to complete the final 5km between the border and the bridge. From Kuala Belait, there are buses to Seria (B$1) where you can change to another bus for Bandar Seri Begawan (B$6). The entire journey takes about 5 hours and there are only a few buses each day operating on each part of the journey, so start early if you are travelling from Miri to Bandar Seri Begawan or vice-versa.
- To/from Limbang: There are no direct buses between Bandar Seri Begawan and Limbang in Sarawak. However, you can catch a local bus from Bandar's bus station to Kuala Lurah on the border, walk across the checkpoint into Tedungan in Sarawak and catch a Syarikat Bas Limbang bus to Limbang. Do the reverse if coming from Limbang to Bandar. Buses depart from Limbang bus terminal several times a day and bear the destination "Batu Danau". Taxis are also available on both sides of the border but bargain hard for the fare. You can also get to Temburong district by bus from Limbang, although again, there are no direct buses into Bangar; all buses (destination "Pandaruan") stop at the ferry landing at Pandaruan, where there is now a Malaysian immigration checkpoint. Cross the river by ferry and catch a taxi for the 5km to Bangar.
The main ferry terminal in Brunei is the Serasa Ferry Terminal at Muara, where there are several ferries daily to/from Labuan and one daily ferry each to/from Lawas and Sundar, both in Sarawak. With a change of boats in Labuan, you can even make it to/from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, in a day. See the Kota Kinabalu to Brunei in a day page.
Please note that the ferry terminal is quite a distance from actual Muara town where the container port is located. The terminal is about 25km from Bandar Seri Begawan. Getting there: There are purple buses linking the ferry terminal with Bandar.
- total: 1,712 km
paved: 1,284 km
unpaved: 428 km (1996)
There is one "motorway", from Bandar Seri Begawan (the capital) along the coast. It devolves into dual and then single carriageway but is suitable for all vehicles, right through to Kuala Belait and the toll bridge to Malaysia/Sarawak in the west)
There is also a side road off this, which runs into the jungle towards the settlement of Labi and beyond. Excellent scenery, and a 4-wheel drive may be useful, but the road is now sealed up to the longhouses some distance beyond Labi. Stock up on water at the convenient shop at the junction.
- 209 km; navigable by craft drawing less than 1.2 m
Around the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, there is a good-sized network of purple minibuses. Brunei's high rate of private car ownership means very few Bruneians take these buses, which largely cater to foreign workers. The speed of the buses are limited to 50km/h but are actually quite efficient and reliable.
There is also an infrequent long-distance bus which runs between BSB and Seria through Tutong.
- Malay (official), English, Mandarin and Chinese dialects such as Teochew
The official language of Brunei is Bruneian Malay but English is widely spoken and understood. Solely among the Malay-speaking states, Brunei also uses the Arabic script for Malay known as Jawi, although most signs are written both in Jawi and Roman letters.
For things to do in and in the near vicinity around Bandar Seri Begawan, see Bandar Seri Begawan.
There are many eco-tours which typically go to the Temburong district by boat then to a native "longhouse". It is then followed by a powered boat (by the natives) up the river to the Belalong National Park, a reserve in the Borneo rainforest. There is a canopy walk and research centre at the park headquarters.
Jerudong Park was once a decent theme park with a multitude of rides. Sadly, a downward cycle of neglect, declining admission and unaffordable maintenance costs led to the closure and sale of most of the big-ticket rides, including the three rollercoasters. This has given the park a sad "circus left town last week" air about it. Most people who visit only go at night to avoid the heat during the day. Outside the park, but very close, is a small complex of restaurants which is open at night, though only a few of the stalls are still operational. The local papers have reported plans to renovate the park with a new selection of attractions, but as of March 07 it remains to be seen what these attractions will be and when they will be operational.
The local currency is the Brunei Dollar (B$) you might hear Ringit used to refer to the Dollar but be sure that participants are not talking about the Malaysian Ringtit (MYR) which is valued at less than half a B$ .
As of 27 March 2009 $1 BND == 2.40357 MYR == 0.488 EUR == 0.663 USD
The Brunei Dollar is tied to the Singapore Dollar at a 1:1 rate. By law both currencies can be used interchangeably, so if you're coming in from Singapore, there's no reason to change money as your cash will be readily accepted. (Likewise, any leftover Brunei Dollars can be used at par in Singapore.) However, many stores refuse Singapore notes with seemingly microscopic tears in them, and notices to this effect are posted at the cash register. Malaysian Ringgit (RM) will also be accepted in a pinch, but the exchange rate may not be in your favour. The Ringgit is not available at Brunei banks but can be obtained from moneychangers.
The Brunei Dollar is divided into 100 cents. There are banknotes  from B$1 to a whopping B$10,000 (handy if you're shopping for Rolls-Royces) and coins  of 1 to 50 cents. All smaller notes and the 2004 series of larger notes are printed as brightly coloured polymer notes.
By South-East Asian standards Brunei is on par with(maybe slightly cheaper due to the absence of sales tax) Singapore, meaning roughly twice as expensive as neighboring Malaysia. You can reduce costs by eating at local restaurants and avoiding the more expensive restaurants in hotels. Budget accommodation, once very limited, has expanded in recent years and you can now get a decent bed for the night for around B$30.
Bruneians love to eat out and there are many excellent restaurants in Brunei serving a wide variety of cuisines, thanks to the large number of foreign workers in the country.
There is also the local nasi katok, a simple combination of rice and curried beef or chicken, which can be quite spicy. It is relatively inexpensive when compared to other food that you can buy, for example local food such as chicken rice. However, it is not a healthy option, with few vegetables and too much fat.
Another choice is ambuyat, a culinary experience unique to Borneo. It is a starchy and gooey paste made from sago that can be dipped into a savoury sauce.
Brunei is a dry country: alcohol is not sold anywhere in the country and consumption of alcohol in public is prohibited by law. That said, non-Muslim visitors are allowed to bring in up to two litres of alcohol (wine or spirits) plus up to twelve cans of beer every 48 hours, and there is a wide array of duty-free shops just across the border in Malaysia to cater to this demand. However, alcohol permits must be obtained upon arrival in Brunei while going through customs.
Many higher-end restaurants allow guests to bring in their own alcohol and corkage is not charged, though this is technically illegal and it's best to keep a low profile if you choose to consume in a public establishment. At the lower end (particularly Chinese restaurants), many restaurants supply illicit booze under euphemisms like "special tea".
One should definitely try out teh tarik, a sweet milk tea, as well as the wide array of coffee (kopi) available in restaurants.
Accommodation in Brunei was until recently famously expensive — there is still only one youth hostel in the entire country — but some reasonably cheap guesthouses can now be found here and there. See Bandar Seri Begawan for listings.
While some countries have a more liberal attitude to this, drug trafficking and illegally importing controlled substances into Brunei are serious offenses and carry a mandatory death sentence.
Drink bottled water.
The Brunei Government is run as a Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB), which means that the Sultan of Brunei, apart from being one of the richest men in the world, runs the show around here, appearing on the front page of the two local daily newspapers almost every day. At all costs, do not insult or speak badly of the Royal family.
Furthermore, though Bruneians are generally courteous and tolerant, it is a good idea to be aware of sensitivities surrounding certain topics of conversation, especially politics (domestic, regional, or international), and world events, particularly those relating to Islam or Islamic countries.
The international code for Brunei is 673. The telephone numbers in Brunei consist of 7 digits with no local codes, although the first digit of the number indicates the area, eg: 3 for the Belait District and 2 for Bandar Seri Begawan.
The prepaid Hallo Kad, available from TelBru telephone offices (including one at the airport) and other outlets in denominations from B$5 to B$50 can be used at any phone in the country to make local and international calls. Other phone cards are also available for use in public phones.
GSM mobile phone services are available from network operator DST . They have a good range of roaming connections. 3G mobile phone services are available from B-Mobile .
- Diplomatic Representation in the US
- Chief of mission: Ambassador His Excellency Pengiran Indera Negara P.A. Puteh
Telephone:  (202) 237-1838
Fax:  (202) 885-0560
Chancery: 3520 International Court NW, Washington, DC 20008
- Diplomatic Representation from the US
- Chief of mission: Ambassador Gene B. Christy
Embassy: Third Floor, Teck Guan Plaza, Jalan Sultan, Bandar Seri Begawan
Mailing address: PSC 470 (BSB), FPO AP 96507
Telephone:  2229670
Fax:  2225293
- British High Commission in Bandar Seri Begawan
- 2.01, 2nd Floor, Block D
in the Yayasan Shopping Centre, BSB
Telephone:  2222231/2223121
- Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Bandar Seri Begawan
- No.1, Simpang 462,
Kampong Sungai Hanching, Jalan Muara BC2115, BSB
Telephone:  2332755/2334163
- High Commission of Malaysia in Bandar Seri Begawan
- No. 61, Simpang 336,
Jalan Kebangsaan BA1211,
P.O.Box 2826, Bandar Seri Begawan BS8675,
Telephone:  2381095/2381096/2381097/2381101
This page was last edited at 11:36, on 26 March 2009 by Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel. Based on work by Tony Chang and cz, Wikitravel user(s) Episteme, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.