Earlier this year, I took several days off to visit a few Asian countries with my classmates from the Academy for Image Asia in Singapore. One of our stops during the trip was Brunei, home of my friend, Jade Liew.
We flew in to Brunei from Hong Kong via Royal Brunei Airlines. We took flight 626, which left Hong Kong at 2:35 PM and arrived at Bandar Seri Begawan airport at 5:40 PM that same day. Because Jade is from Brunei, getting around the city was not a problem at all for us. Her sister picked us up from the airport when we arrived, and the rest of the time Jade was able to drive us around.
Dinner was the first order of business for us upon arrival. Jade took us to a local restaurant in Seri called the Golden Leaf. They are famous for their Bak Kut Teh, which is a soup made with pork meat cooked in tea and spices. We also ordered a very delicious vegetable stir-fry called Mani Chai, with eggs.
After dinner, we proceeded to the The Empire Hotel & Country Club where I was booked to spend the night. This hotel is practically synonymous to Brunei. It is a true representation of the country’s culture and heritage.
Here’s sone trivia: Would you believe that this lavish hotel actually has a gold plated staircase? The place is truly grand in its beauty.
I wish I had more photos to share, especially from inside the room. Unfortunately, I was so tired that all I could think about was going to bed. I also only stayed at the Empire Hotel for one night, which is another reason why I didn’t have much time to take photos there.
On my succeeding nights in Brunei, I was booked at the Rizqun International Hotel, a 4-star hotel in the bustling suburb of Gadong. The hotel is complete with a nice lobby area, a swimming pool, a fitness gym, a large ballroom, and a restaurant. The buffet breakfast served here is delicious!
This top business hotel has one of the best locations, in my opinion. It is only 10-mintes away from the airport, 4 km away from Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, and 6 km away from Istana Nurul Iman palace. The Gadong Night market is within walking distance, and the hotel is also connected to The Mall!
Other for 4-star hotels you can try in Brunei are:
Here’s a list of good budget hotels:
If you are looking for super affordable lodging, try these Airbnb or Homestay options:
I’ll be sharing stories and photos from my city tour in a separate post. For now, let me leave you with tried and true tips that can help you make the most of your visit to beautiful Brunei.
- Stay for at least 3 days. This is the ideal amount of time for you to be able to see all the popular tourist attractions in Brunei. If you want to take your time or hunt for hidden gems, though, you’re better off staying for a whole week.
- The language spoken by the locals is Bahasa Melayu, the Malay language. English is commonly used among locals, too, so communication should not be a problem for tourists. Many communities are also fluent in Mandarin and Tamil.
- The local currency is the Bruneian Dollar, which comes in 4 denominations: $1, $5, $10, $100. Singapore Dollars are also widely accepted here. Be sure to check for the current exchange rates before your trip. While there are establishments that accept Visa and MasterCard payments, many are still on a cash-only basis, so it’s best to be prepared. ATMs are slightly hard to spot, too, and are usually just situated inside banks and malls.
- From the airport, your best transport option is one of the white taxis that you can easily spot lined up by the side of the road. Here’s a handy tip: Get the number of your cab driver. There is only one proper taxi stand in Brunei, which is located two blocks north of the waterfront at the bus terminal on Jalan Cator (Cator Road). This could make it difficult to get a cab when you need one. Having the number of your driver on hand means that your ride is just a phone call away. If you aren’t able to do this when you leave the airport, you could ask the front desk at your hotel to give you a number to call for a cab.
- Some Brunei taxis go by metered fares, while some drivers go by are negotiated rates. To give you an idea, here are some estimated daytime fares for cab rides in Brunei originating from the city center: Gadong (B$15), Brunei Museum (B$25), the airport (B$25), the Empire Hotel & Country Club (B$35), Jerudong Park Playground (B$35) and Serasa Ferry Terminal in Muara (B$40). Be warned, fares may increase by up to 50% after 10pm.
- A more budget-friendly transport option is the bus. The thing is, the bus system in the city can be a little confusing. The destinations are typically reflected at the front of the bus, but in case you are uncertain, it’s best to ask the driver. If you want to catch a bus, look out for bus shelters or black-and-white-striped poles with a bus sign attached. Bus operations begin at 6:30 AM, end at around 6:00 PM, and cost B$1 per trip.
- If you are after convenience, you could opt to rent a car from rental companies such as Hertz and Avis, both of which are available at the airport. you can also contract the services of a driver from the same company as your rental car, with some additional charges. Of course, you need to make sure that you are eligible to drive in Brunei before you go ahead and rent a vehicle. You can find out here.
- The best time to visit Brunei is during its Hari Raya Aidilfitri period, which is right after the casting month ends. During this time, there are markets set up in every district in conjunction with the Muslim celebration. It is also nice to visit in time to celebrate the Sultan’s birthday on July 15th, especially if you wish to catch a glimpse of His Majesty. Parades and parties continue on well into the week that follows.
- A word of warning: Drinking and smoking in public are prohibited in the Sultanate. It is also recommended that you dress modestly in public areas. If you are here during the fasting month, remember that eating in public before sunset is not allowed. You can, however, buy food to go and eat in your own private space.
- Lastly, there aren’t any convenient stores in Brunei. What they have instead are shops they call Kedai Runcit, which are small, corner grocery stores. These establishments are definitely not hard to muss. They are open from around 7:00 AM until 9:00 PM, with some shops operating even up to midnight.
If you need help booking a tour around Brunei, consider contracting the services of a reliable guide. Two highly recommended local tour agencies are Sunshine Borneo Tours and Anthony Tours. If you prefer to book a travel agency from Manila to take care of your entire trip, you can try my go-to company, Wayfair Tours, Inc.
Brunei is really beautiful, and I hope that you take the time to read all of the posts from my trip here:
Always remember, travel enriches life. It teaches us to enjoy moments, to say goodbye to stress and embrace joy instead. Experience has taught me this, and I’m happy that I get to share my journeys with you now, too. Anytime you need help and tips finding worry-free, budget-friendly places to see, I’m here to help!