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Brunei


Brunei is a small and very rich state in the north of Borneo. It separates the Malaysian states Sarawak and Sabah and borders in the south the Indonesian part of the island: Kalimantan.

I wasn't too impressed on my both visits to Brunei. It's a modern and rich country with Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB) as the capital of Negara Brunei Darussalam, as the official full name of the country is.

Mosque in the centre of Bandar Seri Begawan

Both visits were transit on flights to Sabah and East Indonesia. So I had a day to spare to explore the vicinity of the capital. Unfortunately there wasn't much to explore. In fact, the markets weren't much of interest, there wasn't even a whole lot of traffic!

The country is one of the richest in the region due to petroleum and natural gas reserves. This has result in a modern capital city with broad highways and a magnificent mosque which seem to big for the population as it is (just over 400.000 people).

Mosque in the centre of Bandar Seri Begawan

The mosque of Bandar Seri Begawan in the evening light

But although the capital is full of modern highways and buildings, just across the river, people still live as they have been doing for centuries, since the days of the British, Spanish and in the 20th century the Japanese invasions.

Over the centuries the sultans of Brunei had control over the northern coastline including Sarawak and Sabah but in the late 19th century it became a British protectorate. Only in 1984 the country became an independent kingdom again.

So again, I took a boat to explore the river arm but there wasn't much to explore. The motorboat made too much noise to enjoy the natural beauty which was not far away.

Village opposit of Bandar Seri Begawan

So, is it worth to bring your bicycle and spend some time in the country to explore? You ask me, I would say, only if you explore Sarawak and are on the way to Sabah (both Malaysia). Coming just for Brunei, I would say, forget it.

Visa

There is no need for obtaining a visa for Brunei for travelers from most countries. And in case you are a citizen of a country that needs a visa, you can obtain it on arrival, typical fee would be BR $29 (around US $30), BR $1 = US $0.80.

Brunei dollar

Brunei dollar

Getting there

Flying is the obvious choice to go to Brunei. The airport is ultra modern and during my both visits almost empty which gave it a spooky atmosphere.

Overland crossings to Malaysia

There are 4 main border crossings into sarawak:

  • Sungai Tujoh - main crossing between Kuala Belait and Miri
  • Kuala Lurah (Tedungan) - main crossing between Bandar Seri Begawan and Limbang
  • Puni (Pandaruan) - main crossing between Temburong and Limbang
  • Labu Mengkalap - main crossing between Temburong and Lawas

Brunei is not connected with Sabah, so if your choice is to continue traveling to Sabah, you either have to fly to Kota Kinabalu or cross the border into Sarawak and travel to Merapok, from where you can continue to Sindimun (Sabah site) and further into Sabah.

Bandar Seri Begawan

The same goes for a border with Kalimantan, Indonesia. You first have to visit Sarawak and cross into Kalimantan at Tebedu-Entikong checkpoint which lies along the Kuching-Pontianak road. You will need a visa for Indonesia as far as I know.

Accommodation

I found it possible to get some very cheap but very basic cheap accommodation in the countries capital. You won't need it necessary to book in advance except the holiday period. However, if you want to check what is available, check Tripadvisor or Agoda.com.

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