“Where is Brunei?” asked my friend Vijay. Brunei is a small nation on the island of Borneo. It is home to the Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah mosque. I wanted to go to Borneo for my birthday this year. The only difference was I wanted to go to the Malaysian side of Borneo. But I ended up (mistakenly) booking for Brunei. Even though it was a mistake, I enjoyed visited Brunei and I would recommend everyone visit this tiny island in South East Asia.
PIN for later reference
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How to get to Brunei?
There are frequent flights between Kuala Lumpur and Brunei. Airasia runs cheap and budgeted flights. I got return flight tickets for AUD 84.45. Note: The cost excludes the flight tickets between Kuala Lumpur and Sydney.
The best time to visit Brunei is between the months of January and May. However, the peak season is between June and September.
It is important to have a good public transport system in a country for a seamless journey. Being the backpacker I am, I always look out for the cheap and frequent public transport in a country. But while traveling in Brunei, I realised that the public transport in Brunei is not great.
They have only buses and the buses start only at 11 AM. It is know for its cars as the cars are cheaper here. Almost everyone in Brunei has a car.
Even though not as frequent as the travelers are used to, I did find a route map of Brunei public transport (bus route) on the internet. Unfortunately, I could not use the buses as they were not convenient to the places where I was visiting. But I do intend to use it the next time I am in Brunei.
The above route map is of no use if you have to reach the airport before 11 AM. But note the bus fares are very cheap, it’s just Brunei $1 per person.
The next option is a taxi. Taxi from city to airport costs around Brunei $15-20. But the only problem with taxis is that there are only 50 taxis in Brunei and getting them is very difficult.
The government has introduced an application (mobile) called DART. The catch here is that you need to have a phone number to receive a PIN to activate the app. My Australian number struggled to work here, so I asked a local Brunei to help me activate and generally they are very friendly so they do help. Note: The taxi drivers only accept cash.
And the last option if nothing above works is to book a taxi online. For this option, the taxi has to be booked at least 24 hours before the actual time required.
Though the local transportation is a concern, one can always walk around the city as it is a small place and the shops and sightseeing places are close by.
Activities to do in Brunei
Before I proceed further, let me admit that Brunei is a tiny country and it does not have too many things to do. However, there are a few things that can be done when visiting this country and they can be broadly categorized into two parts – Scuba Diving and Sightseeing.
- Scuba diving – There are some beautiful wrecks in Brunei and definitely has some great spots for wreck dive. For more information, read my detailed post about scuba diving in Brunei.
There are wrecks that require Advanced level PADI scuba diver certification. Since I had a Open water scuba diver certification, I opted for the Dolphin wreck.
- Sight seeing of popular spots, including:
- Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
- Istana Nurul Iman
- Ulu Temburong National Park
- Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque
- Brunei Histort Centre
- Billionth Barrel Monument
- Tasek Merimbun
- Brunei Darussalam Maritime Museum
- Pantai Seri Kenangan
- Mercu Dirgahayu 60
I was in Brunei only for two days and I felt it was sufficient to explore this little nation. Below is the itinerary that I followed:
Brunei is a Muslim country. So, cover yourself and dress appropriately. It is advisable to respect their culture and not wear short clothes or clothes revealing the shoulders. Even though I saw few wear shorts and short dresses, I wore jeans and t-shirts and I was told that it’s strict only when entering the mosques.
Where to stay?
Being the budgeted traveler I am, I stayed at a hostel. The cheapest hostel was EZ Lodgings. The cost for 2 nights for 2 people was AUD 89.20. I found this on AirBnB.
I liked the accommodation as I have seen much worse hostels while traveling. It was very close to a shopping centre and there were many restaurants around. And the room was relatively neat even though the toilets and the kitchen were not so great as they were shared among the guests.
How many times have you craved for Indian food while traveling? I generally miss Indian food when I am traveling for a long time. I believe that food is an integral part of travel and when you have good food during travel, then you can enjoy the travel well. And noting down the Indian restaurants in any country I travel has become a part of a ritual.
Brunei is not so popular among tourists. I was skeptical about food. I was not sure what kind of food it offered. But.. I was very surprised to find so many Indian restaurants and I was even more surprised to find out that locals love Indian food, especially Dosa. This was a blessing for people like me who have been away from India for a long time and who travel a lot where finding Indian food can become a little difficult.
I tried two Indian restaurants and both times the food was delicious. It had many vegetarian options as well.
Tandoor Indian restaurant
The first one was a restaurant called Tandoor. It is at a walkable distance from the Mall Gadong. The food is a little pricey but it is tasty. And the staff were very friendly. The cost was around Brunei $50 for two people.
- Address: Unit Number 3 & 4 First Floor (I-Mart Upstairs) Bangunan Majid Mohamad Spg. 235-7, Jln. Pasar Baharu Kg. Kiarong BE1318 Negara Brunei Darussalam, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.
Maharani Indian restaurant
The second one is a restaurant called Maharani. It is a little far from the city but the prices are very reasonable. It has a dhaba kind of ambiance and the food is fresh. The cook is from Calcutta. One dish to try is their Malai Kebab if you love chicken. The cost was around Brunei $24 for two people.
- Address: Simpang 812, Kampong Tanah Jambu, Jalan Muara, Muara BU1129, Brunei.
And I was told by the locals that there are many more Indian restaurants around the city and most of them are very good. Unfortunately, I could not explore all the other Indian restaurants in the country as I was there in Brunei only for two days.
How much did it cost?
I traveled only for two days and the expenses for traveling in Brunei were:
- Flights – AUD 84.45 (Brunei $79)
- Accommodation – AUD 89.20 (Brunei $83.46)
- Food – Brunei $ 75
- Scuba diving – Brunei $ 190
- Taxi – Brunei $ 50
- VISA – Brunei $ 20
- Miscellaneous – Brunei $100
Total expenses = Brunei $597.46.
Scuba diving provider details
- Provider name: Oceanic Quest
- Cost: Brunei $ 100 + $40 + $50
- Contact details:
Oceanic Quest Sdn Bhd
- PADI 5 Star Center (S 22803)
- Oceanic Quest Travel and Tour Company
- No. 6 & 6A, Simpang 46, Jalan Perusahaan,
- Serasa, Muara BT1928
- Negara Brunei Darussalam
- Tel: +6732771190
- Mobile: +6738933110
- Website: www.oceanicquest.com
As I mentioned earlier, I really liked Brunei. Even though I would not explicitly plan and travel only for this country, it is a great country to have a pit stop while traveling in South East Asia. And it is a nice country to visit to get some insight into the Islamic culture. I would recommend visiting Brunei for sure.