We didn’t really know what to expect for Brunei because of the blogs we had read before going there, however we were pleasantly surprised. All of the museums and mosques are free to visit as they’re funded by the government
Our Top 3 things to do
- Top things to do
- Where to stay
- Brunei culture
Our top picks for Brunei
Tempurong National Park
The Tempurong national park is spectacular. The day trip takes you through the rainforest via the speedboat, long-boat and up the canopy to the a 360° view of this amazing rainforest. Read about our experience here
Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque
This Mosque is often considered one of the most beautiful Mosques in the Asia Pacific region. It sits over a beautiful lagoon which makes for a very picturesque setting. The mosque finished construction in 1958. You can read more about the most here on wikipedia
This sign shows the times you can visit the Mosque, you can just turn up. In terms of clothing/covering up, they have big black gowns (aba) and hijabs you can wear if you are going to enter the Mosque and they provide them for free.
The Mosque dome itself is made from 24 karat pure gold
One of our favourite places to eat in Brunei was the night market. There was so much food to choose from and you could select one thing from one stall for $1 brunei dollar and then go to another stall and select something else. Almost like having tapas around each market stall.. it’s brilliant. The bubble waffle with nutella was a hit.
The Royal Regalia Building
This is also worth a look. Again its free and there are a ton of old cool weapons, shields, royal transport and relics.
Wait around the Kings palace to get a view of him coming home
One thing which I acknowledge is a bit weird/stalkerish but actually was kinda cool. We happened to be at the Kings residence when he was coming home from badminton apparently so we got to see him driving his car to his home.
Talking to the locals, it seems that the King is very open to selfies and engaging with common people. So if you want to see him, apparently he visits the Mosque on Fridays and talks to people there and comes home from sports in the late afternoon. Pretty nice behaviour for the leader of the country!
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Badi’ah Hotel in Bandar Seri Begawan. This hotel was great as it was right in the city and you could walk everywhere from there.
Brunei is typically very expensive and this hotel has great facilities and reasonably priced. The rooms are lovely with everything you need, like a/c, and great showers. Best of all it has a buffet breakfast which is really good! When we wanted to go to the night market, the staff were so accommodating, they actually dropped us there for free and picked us up when we said how long we wanted to be there for.
They also picked us up from the airport and dropped us 15 minutes out of town when our bus departure location was changed due to the Kings birthday. This was exceptional service
The Brunei culture is a very interesting and different culture and we found it so interesting talking to locals and asking about life in Brunei. We think of it as a first world country in Asia. Due to the vast wealth of the Sultan of Brunei, the money gets distributed among the people and they get some amazing benefits.
For example, you want a house and land.. the land will be provided from the government for free whilst paying for the house will be subsidised by 60%. You don’t need to pay taxes, free electricity, water is almost free (it was until people started abusing it so they decided having to pay a small amount was better), cars are very cheap. So for the most part, even though the wages are not high, the Bruneians wage is mostly expendable income.
It’s an Asian city and there are no motorbikes.. what?! You also cannot buy any cigarettes or alcohol. If you see someone smoking they are usually doing it sneakily behind a building or out of sight
Other Fun facts about Brunei
- The King is loved by the people and he is worth approximately $20 billion
- Most food is subsidised by the state by 60%
- Cars should only be driven for 3 years before replaced
- The population is only 450,000 people
- If you see the king around town you can approach him and maybe even get a selfie with him
- Death penalty for taking drugs (they will ship you off to Singapore and hang you)
Best time to visit Brunei
One of the best times to go to Brunei is just after Ramadan. The Royal family opens up the palace for everyone to visit. Food is provided free of charge all day long. You can stay from early morning to late night and eat everything you can, no one will tell you to leave. For men they can shake hands with the King and Ladies with the princess. The queue per day is approximately 35,000 for meeting the Royal family.. so it might take some time.
Before leaving they will give you a memory from the palace. The all happens every year for the three days just after Ramadan as a celebration.
Getting to Kota Kinabalu from Brunei
There are options for bus, plane and boat to get to Kota Kinabalu from Brunei. We have written a dedicated post to give more thorough information you can read here