Bandar Seri Begawan

With a low crime rate, the capital of Brunei is peaceful and safe. The city comprises largely of charming water villages.

Ruled by an absolute monarch who is one of the world’s richest men, the oil-rich Sultanate of Brunei (officially Brunei Darussalam) is a peaceful, modern nation whose identity revolves around respect for Malay culture, Islam and the monarchy. The sultan is from a long-surviving dynasty and serves as the country’s prime minister, defence minister and finance minister. The month-long celebration of his birthday in July is an interesting time to visit.

Bruneians have among the highest GDP in the world and there is a pervasive sense of well-being and very low crime. However, with only 200,000 people, Bandar Seri Begawan, or BSB as it is commonly known, feels more like a small town than a capital. It takes no more than 15 minutes to walk from one side of the centre to the other. A large part of the city comprises water villages collectively known as Kampong Ayer, historic testament to the beginnings of human settlement here.

Islam is strictly observed. For visitors, this manifests itself in the dominance of mosques, the banning of the sale of alcohol and no nightlife. However, the two main mosques in the capital are stunning and opulent architectural works, well worth visiting. Increasingly, Brunei is capitalising on being in the biodiversity treasure trove that is Borneo. Thanks to remarkable conservation policies, its primary rainforests are rich, pristine and surprisingly accessible.

The variety and quality of Bruneian food is also very good, drawing from local, Southeast Asian as well as Western traditions.


When to go

Bandar Seri Begawan has a moderate equatorial climate with temperatures ranging from 23°C-32°C. September-January and May-July are traditionally the wettest periods, and March-April the warmest.

Visa requirements

Visitors must have passports that are valid for at least six months at the time of entry, plus onward tickets and sufficient funds for their stay in Brunei. Generally, no visas are required for stays of up to 14 days, but requirements differ, so check the Immigration Department website for details.


The Brunei dollar (B$) is pegged to the Singapore dollar at 1:1. Both currencies can be used. Banks and money changers are in Bandar. Credit cards are widely accepted. For ATM withdrawals, banking networks include Maestro, Cirrus and Plus.


The Brunei International Airport is about 12km (8 miles) from Bandar Seri Begawan. Taxis will take you to town or hotels will arrange pick-ups.

The Brunei Bus Service has six routes in Bandar running at intervals of 30-40 minutes between 6.30am and 6pm. The bus terminal is at the Jalan Cator multi-storey car park. Water taxis operate 24 hours a day between the Bandar Seri Begawan waterfront and Kampong Ayer.

Buses also depart from the bus terminal to other towns such as Tutong, Seria and Kuala Belait. The only public transport to Bangar (Temburong district) is by water taxi. To get to attractions, as taxis are few and expensive, it is better to arrange local transport with tour agencies or rent a car; petrol is cheap.

Health and safety tips

Brunei has high health and hygiene standards. Unlike in the rest of Southeast Asia, there is no risk of malaria, dengue, cholera and small pox. Hospitals in the capital are good and there is a nationwide network of smaller hospitals and clinics but visitors should still buy medical insurance before travelling. While water is potable, visitors are advised to drink bottled water. Crime rates are low.

Emergency details

The high commission is located at 8 Simpang 74, Jalan Subok (tel: (673) 226 2741,

Police: 993; Ambulance: 991; Fire brigade: 995

Basic greetings
English Malay
Hello Helo
How are you? Apa khabar?
Fine, thanks Khabar baik
Goodbye Selamat tinggal
Excuse-me! (to get attention) Maafkan Saya!
Thank you Terima kasih
Yes Ya
No Tidak
OK Baik
What's your name? Apakah nama anda?
My name is… Nama saya ialah…
Pleased to meet you Gembira berjumpa anda
Are you on Facebook/Twitter? Awak ada Facebook/Twitter?
Where’s an internet café? Di manakah kafe internet?
Where can I get a taxi? Di manakah saya boleh mendapatkan teksi?
Where is the bus/train station? Di manakah stesen bas/keretapi?
A one-way/return ticket to… Tiket sehala/ulang-alik ke…
Do you have a room for one/two? Ada bilik untuk seorang/dua orang?
When's check out? Bilakah untuk mendaftar keluar?
Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar? Bolehkah anda mencadangkan sebuah restoran/bar?
A table for two, please Sila berikan meja untuk dua orang
A menu, please Sila berikan menu
The bill, please Sila berikan bil
Where's the toilet? Di manakah bilik air?
Help! Tolong!

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Kampong Ayer

Kampong Ayer

With 30,000 inhabitants, Kampong Ayer is the world's largest collection of water villages, built entirely on stilts on the Brunei river. A complex network of pathways links houses, mosques, shops, schools and a hospital. However, boat travel is the fastest way to get around. The villages have all the modern amenities but the community remains traditionally tightly knit.

Proboscis monkeys

Damuan (along Sungai Brunei)

Take a slow boat ride up Sungai Brunei to Damuan to view the mangrove-dwelling proboscis monkeys. Dusk is when they come out to feed. Big-bellied and pendulous-nosed, these unusual primates can be found only on Borneo. Because they and their mangrove habitat are protected in Brunei, they are amazingly accessible here, their habitat being only about 15 minutes from the waterfront.

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

Jalan McArthur

The SOAS Mosque is named after the sultan who commissioned it in the 1950s and is a fine example of contemporary Islamic architecture. Drawn from Mughal and Italian styles, it sits on an artificial lagoon in which it is marvellously reflected. In the middle of the lagoon is a replica of a 16th-century barge where Quran-reciting competitions used to be held.

Brunei Museum

Jalan Kota Batu

The small national Brunei Museum has elaborate displays of Islamic artefacts including antique cannons, intricate daggers and a large private collection of gilded Holy Korans. There is also a gallery on oil and gas, the mainstay of Brunei's economy, and another on the country's natural history, which include dioramas of rich tropical rainforest ecosystems.

Kampong Sungai Matan

Kampong Sungai Matan

Kampong Sungai Matan is a peaceful fishing village which has opened its doors to tourists. Here, visitors can see how fisherfolk live and observe demonstrations of traditional seafood processing. A popular activity with visitors is to try their luck casting large nets. Visitors also get to see how sago is processed and made into kuih (cakes). Book this excursion with a tour company.


Brunei Arts and Handicraft Training Centre

Jalan Kota Batu

High-quality handicrafts are sold at Brunei Arts and Handicraft Training Centre, including traditional textiles (kain tenunan), brassware and silverware, replica canons, the traditional dagger known as the kris, gongs and baskets. There is a sister outlet in the airport. The centre was set up to ensure the continuation of traditional craftsmanship and courses are taught to young people.

Budget $$

Kompleks Bangunan Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah

Jalan McArthur

The largest shopping centre downtown, Kompleks Bangunan Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah has upmarket stores with international brands. Good selections are to be found in its boutiques, high-end textile shops, department store and jewellery chains. The mall is laid out in four buildings separated by wide, airy boulevards, which afford a camera-friendly vista of the SOAS Mosque.

Budget $$$

Sumbangsih Mulia co-operative

Komplek Perindustrian Beribi Gadong, Beribi

Sumbangsih Mulia co-operative has stalls and shops selling locally made handicrafts, from woven products such as mats and food covers to woodcraft. Upstairs are the more expensive shops, with fine Bruneian textiles called kain tenunan (weave using gold and silver threads) including the very fine jong sarat. You can also see handloom weaving in action.

Budget $$

Tamu Kianggeh

Jalan Sungai Kianggeh

Tamu Kianggeh is a wet produce market but also has good quality dried seafood such as shrimp and anchovies for sale. Some stalls sell cheap handicrafts (mainly basketry, ornaments and pots) as well as the occasional bargain antique such as a kris (Malay dagger) and old coins. Friday and Sunday are the busiest and most atmospheric days.

Budget $

The Mall

Abdul Razak Complex, Jalan Gadong

The Mall is a popular shopping centre located about 7km (4 miles) from the town centre and is part of an integrated development that includes a hotel and convention centre. It has a spacious layout and its anchor tenants include a department store, supermarket and cineplex. It is good for clothing and electronics and there are plenty of restaurants suitable for all budgets.

Budget $$$


All Seasons Restaurant

Spg 13–29 Jln Berakas, Kg Jaya Setia, Berakas

Good Cantonese fare is dished up by the restaurant chain All Seasons Restaurant. Its more elaborate offerings include Peking duck, soft-shell crab and the 'four seasons' cold starter, but simpler fare such as fried rice and set meals is also available. Dim sum lovers will enjoy the variety on offer. The restaurant also has a branch in the Times Square shopping centre.

Budget $$

Deals Restaurant

Radisson Hotel, Jalan Tasek

Deals Restaurant is arguably Brunei's most expensive eatery. This small fine-dining restaurant has a classy setting and serves good Western cuisine with some fusion options. Must-tries include the oysters, rack of lamb and salmon. The meals come beautifully presented and the service is meticulous and attentive. This being Brunei, alcohol is not sold, but guests may bring their own bottles.

Budget $$$

Pasar Gadong

Jalan Gadong

The Pasar Gadong sells wet produce in the morning, but its carpark becomes a pasar malam (night market) in the evening. From dusk, locals come in droves for the huge selection of food, which is either ready-made or cooked on the spot. Choose from among the grilled fish and chicken or pulut panggang (rice rolls with filling), rice dishes such as the local nasi katok (rice and curry) and local Malay desserts. There are no seats, so it is strictly take-away.

Budget $

Pureland Vegetarian

15, Block B, Bangunan Haji Awang Ahmad Bin Awang Hassan & Anak-Anak

A large selection of tasty Chinese vegetarian and vegan food is offered buffet-style at Pureland Vegetarian. Non meat-eaters will appreciate the numerous noodle options, leafy greens and beans stir-fried with garlic or 'oyster' sauce, mushroom dishes and 'meat' and 'fish' soya substitutes. Customers may pay as much they want to and some profit goes to charities.

Budget $

Tarindak d'Seni Restoran & Kafe

1st Floor Brunei Arts and Handicraft Training Centre, Jalan Kota Batu

For the typical Brunei delicacy of Ambuyat (sago with a choice of sauces), the restaurant Tarindak d'Seni Restoran & Kafe is among the best places to try it. Ambuyat is just one of the local dishes offered in a sumptuous buffet spread, including desserts. Grab a table by the window for great views of Kampong Ayer and book ahead as the restaurant can be very full, especially at lunchtime on weekdays.

Budget $$


Empire Hotel & Country Club


Families like this super-luxurious beachside Empire Hotel & Country Club, located about 20 minutes from the town centre. Sprawling over 180 hectares (440 acres) of landscaped gardens, this resort has massive suites and villas, and the rooms facing the sea have wonderful views. There are eight dining options, a spa with a large treatment menu and numerous activities for families.

Budget $$$

Jubilee Hotel

Jubilee Plaza, Jalan Kampung Kianggeh

Centrally located and with friendly staff, Jubilee Hotel has comfortable beds and decent standard rooms although upgrades are worth paying for. Usually included in the price of the room are wifi, a basic breakfast, free airport transfer and a free ride to one destination in town per day. Conveniently, there is a mini market on the ground floor to buy water and snacks.

Budget $$

Pusat Belia

Jalan Kianggeh

Clean, safe and quiet, Pusat Belia youth hostel has the cheapest beds in town. There are about 20 rooms with four beds per room, and separate dorms for men and women. Rooms are air-conditioned but there is no hot water. Staff do not always pick up calls nor are they always at the reception, so look for a security guard or leave your bag in someone else's room until they turn up.

Budget $

Radisson Hotel

Jalan Tasek

The only international branded hotel in Brunei, the five-star Radisson Hotel serves a mainly business clientele. Recently renovated, it has well-appointed rooms and suites, and a separate business lounge for those here to work. Guests can relax with a snack and cold drink on the pool terrace or indulge in the well-known fine-dining restaurant. A complimentary shuttle service takes guests to different parts of town.

Budget $$$

The Brunei Hotel

95 Jalan Pemancha

The three-star Brunei Hotel boasts excellent service and comfortable rooms with quality bedding. The decor is contemporary and the rooms and bathrooms are very clean. The coffeehouse provides decent meals, including a buffet breakfast. Besides being right next to the bus station and the lively tamu (morning market), it is also within walking distance of the waterfront and other attractions.

Budget $$

Brunei Nature Festival


A four-day festival for the family, activities include nature talks and presentations, exhibitions by nature-based organisations, photography workshops and field trips.

Hari Raya Aidilfitri


The celebration of the end of the fasting month sees Muslims dressed in their best and thronging mosques. This is the only time anyone may visit the Istana Nurul Iman, the 1,788-room home of the Sultan, meet the royal family and enjoy a buffet meal.

International Borneo Bird Race


Brunei is the starting point of this Borneo-wide event, in which birding clubs from all over the world compete in a 1,000km (622 miles) race. The goal is to identify the most bird species amongst the 400 known species.

National Day

23 February

This is celebrated with a parade, largely of uniformed troops and groups, through the streets into the stadium and ends with mass choreographed displays by school children.

Regatta Brunei Darussalam

3 February

Local and international teams participate in a plethora of races involving traditional boats, speed boats, water taxis and jet skis.

Sultan's Birthday

1-31 July

The country's biggest celebration is month-long and the city is decked out in massive posters with congratulatory messages and images of the Sultan. Celebrations begin with a giant flag hoisting ceremony followed by festive meet-the-people gatherings in the four districts.


Impressive artefacts from the Brunei sultanate are on display at the Royal Regalia Building. Besides chariots and ceremonial armoury, look out for the replica of the ceremonial hall of the Sultan’s palace. South of here is the majestic Sultan Omar Ali­Saifuddien Mosque, which dominates the downtown skyline. Built by the previous sultan, its architecture features numerous arches, towers, columns and minarets. The great golden dome reaches a height of 50 metres (170ft). Walk around the lagoon to take it in properly.


Further south is the waterfront. Take a water taxi from here across Sungai Brunei (Brunei River) to Kampong Ayer, the traditional section of the capital. Dating back to the 16th century, the world’s largest settlement on water comprises over 40,000 structures and is home to one-tenth of the population of BSB. The best way to get around is to hire a water taxi (negotiate the price before getting in). Head first to the Kampong Ayer Tourism Centre and Gallery, then get off at any jetty to walk around. Villagers are hospitable and you might even get invited in for tea.


The best view of Kampong Ayer is from the 17th floor of Bangunan Persatuan Guru-Guru Melayu Brunei. Permission to enter is required from the security guard unless you are with a tour guide.


Drive west to Kiarong to see the mosque built by the present sultan. The Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque is a magnificent domed and minareted edifice, made of the finest materials – virtually all imported – and set in a landscaped garden with fountains.

Places to visit:
Royal Regalia Building, Sultan Omar Ali­Saifuddien Mosque, Kampong Ayer, Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque.


The Ulu Temburong National Park is a marvellous nature destination that is worth spending a whole day in. The park spreads over 50,000 hectares (120,000 acres), almost 10 per cent of Brunei's land. It is steep terrain, home to gushing crystal-clear rivers, lowland rainforest dominated by the species-rich Dipterocarp tree family, and large mammals such as monkeys and sun bears.


Most people do this tour with a tour company specialising in nature guiding. Start early from the Jalan Residency jetty and join locals in a water taxi heading to Temburong. The boat ride goes first through nipa palm-lined banks, where the lucky ones might spot proboscis monkeys in the trees or crossing the river. Soon the urban areas fall away and rainforest takes over. Changing to a traditional temuai (longboat), the ride becomes an exciting one through small rapids.


From the park jetty, steep steps take you to the canopy walkway. This five-tower steel canopy system was built by scientists to study the tops of the rainforest. Because the steps zig-zag up to the various levels, even the climb is not for the faint-hearted. The tallest tower is a sweaty-palm-inducing 45 metres (147ft) above the ground. But once you get there, the view is breathtaking.


Once you descend the walkway, therapy is available in a refreshing soak in the river and a spicy Malay lunch. There are also options for kayaking, rafting, waterfall visits and tougher adventure treks.

Places to visit:
Ulu Temburong National Park , Canopy walkway.