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Despite its modest size the sultanate of Brunei Darussalam is enormously wealthy in both natural resources and worthwhile attractions. Few people consider this tiny nation at the top of Borneo to be a destination in its own right but those that do are rewarded by the safest, most environmentally pristine country in Asia. The majority of visitors, however, experience Brunei either as a passenger en route elsewhere or a business traveller taking advantage of its burgeoning role as regional economic hub.

Brunei's culture is shaped by its Malay majority and deeply entrenched Islamic traditions, bound together by the sultanate's uninterrupted 600-year royal heritage. Citizens enjoy one of the world's highest standards of living with free healthcare, education and housing thanks to the largesse of the Sultan, who is the sole beneficiary of the country's oil reserves. In celebration of his 50th birthday he reportedly spent US$50 million; on another occasion he tipped hotel staff US$170,000.

Located on the north tip of the island of Borneo, the country is divided into two unconnected halves: 97% of the population live in the larger western half where the modern capital Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB) is located, while an estimated 15,000 people live in the predominantly rural and mountainous eastern half. Adventure travellers are draw to the natural splendour and adrenalin charged sporting activities of this region, most of which is virgin rainforest.

Visitors to BSB can enjoy architectural treasures such as the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, the fascinating traditional water villages, and the Sultan's palace, Istana Nurul Iman - with 1,700 rooms, the world's largest palace still in use. BSB also has some worthwhile beaches, most notably Jerudon which has gorgeous white sands and a child-friendly amusement park to one side of it.

Information & Facts


Dress smartly for business meetings; a suit and tie is expected. Office hours are typically Monday to Thurs 8am to 5pm, Saturdays 8am to 12pm. Shortened office hours operate during the fasting month of Ramadan. Greet business associates with a handshake although not with a member of the opposite sex.


Brunei has a distinctly tropical climate with year-round hot weather and high humidity. The best time to visit is June to September. Uniquely for the region, Brunei has two monsoon seasons with heavy rainfall from October to February and from May to June. Rain showers tend to be heavy but short-lived. Over March and April rainfall drops to nil, and drought conditions characterise the coastal areas. Temperatures have been known to get up to 40°C making this an uncomfortable time to visit.


The international country dialling code for Brunei is +673. The outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use e.g. 2 for Bandar Seri Begawan. Mobile phone GSM 900 and 3G 2100 networks operate throughout the country. High speed internet access is widely available in the main towns and large hotels.


It is considered rude to show the soles of your feet when seated opposite a person, so avoid crossing your legs. When pointing or passing something use your right hand. If you need to gesticulate, use the thumb of your right hand with the other fingers remaining closed. Greet business associates with a handshake although not with a member of the opposite sex. When making small talk be cautious about making comments regarding local issues, especially those pertaining to the royal family.

Duty Free

Travelers over the age of 17 may import the following into Brunei without having to pay customs duty: 200 cigarettes or 250g tobacco; 1l bottle of spirits or 1l bottle of wine (by non-Muslims and for personal consumption only); 60ml of perfume and 250ml eau de toilette. It is strictly prohibited to import firearms, drugs and pornography. The penalty for trafficking drugs is death while possession of any quantity of drugs carries a mandatory 20-year jail sentence. All medication must be declared and relevant prescriptions presented. Curiously there is also a strict ban on entering the country in possession of amulets or lucky charmsmade from bullets.


Electrical current is 250 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs are of the 3-pin, rectangular blade type, commonly referred to as the British 3-pin plug.


Health concerns will depend on whether or not you are traveling to the remote areas of the Sultanate. In Bandar Seri Begawan and the large towns the tap water is safe to drink, no vaccinations are required, and world-class medical facilities are available. However if you are exploring the remote wilderness you should take the precaution of hepatitis, typhoid and tetanus vaccinations and drink bottled water only. Dengue fever outbreaks and other mosquito-borne diseases are common. Take precautions against mosquito bites including using insect repellent at all times. Frequently there is a smoke haze across some parts of Brunei, typically from July to October, which may cause respiratory problems. You are strongly advised to take out comprehensive medical insurance that includes the option of emergency repatriation. Certain foreign governments advise you to exercise caution and keep abreast of developments that might affect your safety in Brunei as since 2001 there is a heightened risk of terrorist attack.


The official language of the Sultanate is Malay although English is spoken widely and is the medium of instruction in secondary and tertiary education.


The official currency is the Brunei Dollar (BND), divided into 100 cents. The Brunei Dollar is linked to the Singaporean Dollar which is accepted as legal tender throughout Brunei.

All major credit cards are accepted in larger hotels, restaurants and shops. Cash is best advised for smaller establishments and when transacting in remote areas. ATMs are widespread especially at major banks which are concentrated along Jalan Sultan in the capital.

To cash travellers cheques or change money use the major banks as they offer far better rates than hotels. Money can also be converted at the informal moneychangers that operate from booths at most transport hubs. If you choose to use this channel ensure you shop around for the best rate.

Passport Visa

Travellers must have all documents necessary for their next destination and return air tickets. Passports must be valid at least six months beyond period of stay if a visa is required.


Brunei ranks as one of the safest countries on earth. Crime against people or property is virtually unheard of and penalties for such offences are severe.


Local time is GMT +8.


A 10% service charge is normally included in all hotel, taxi, bar and restaurant bills, and further tipping is not necessary.

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