Asia,  Brunei,  Destinations

Brunei Backpacker’s Travel Guide 2024

If you’re visiting Borneo and have a few extra days (and some extra cash), then you might want to visit Brunei!

I spent (roughly) two days in Brunei in August 2023 with my friend Helene as part of our trip to Malaysian Borneo. Brunei is a teeny tiny country located on the island of Borneo, and most of the sightseeing stuff is all in one specific city, its capital: Bandar Seri Begawan. I’d say a perfect amount of time to visit Brunei would be 2 nights, 1 day if you only plan on visiting the capital and NOT doing any eco-tourism stuff nearby.

This budget travel guide is a compilation of my experience traveling in Brunei, with some recommendations from me and my fellow backpackers.

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Brunei Quick Info

  • Population of 465,910 from the 2023 census
  • Official language: Malay — many people speak English
  • Currency: Brunei Dollar (BND)
  • Religion: 82.1% Muslim, 8.7% Christian, 7.2% Buddhist, 1.2% Hindu
  • Government: Unitary Islamic absolute monarchy, current sultan and prime minister is Hassanal Bolkiah.
  • They drive on the Left side
  • More info on Wikipedia
  • Official Brunei Tourism Website

Brunei Travel Budget

My budget tracking wasn’t so hot for this portion of my trip, but I have a rough estimate of what I spent. For the two nights I stayed in Brunei, plus transit to/from BSB, I spent roughly $135 USD. That breaks down to:

Accommodation: $44 (private room in a homestay)

Food: $25 (we got groceries and then split one big dinner)

Transit: $66 (taxi/bus tickets in and out of the country were the most expensive)

Getting to Brunei

Getting to Brunei by Land

From Kota Kinabalu: Take a 9 hour (minimum) bus down to Sipitang Express Bus Station. Often takes closer to 12 hours, depending on the border crossing situations. Costs about $30 USD per person.

Be warned: you have to cross the border 3 times, for a total of 8 stamps! This WILL use up at least two pages in your passport, and if you go the same way back to KK that’s another 2 pages gone. On the plus side, it DOES give you some cool passport pages to look at later.

From Miri: Take a package delivery taxi! Should cost about BND 40 and take roughly 2.5 hours, including a few sightseeing stops if you want.

There is NO BUS FROM MIRI. There used to be, but it stopped running after COVID. There is also NO FERRY from KK, while we’re at it.

Alternatively, the very cheapest route is from Miri: Take a Grab up to the border, cross on foot, and then hitchhike up to BSB. I do know at least one person who successfully did this, but it took a few hours longer than if she’d chartered her own ride.

Getting to Brunei by Air

Brunei has an international airport with regular arrivals from Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and other nearby international cities. Flights can be surprisingly expensive!

Where to Stay in Brunei

Our hotel in BSB was Miniinn, a homestay with private rooms and shared bathroom/kitchen/lounge. It was fairly comfortable but we had very loud neighbors who loved to talk on speakerphone at midnight. ha!

Miniinn is in the Gadong neighborhood which is a little far from most of the tourist areas. However, it has a lot of great food choices, a huge mall, and connection to the two major bus lines that run through the city. It’s also within walking distance to the bus station that goes back to Kota Kinabalu.

Within the central part of BSB, most of my backpacker friends stayed at CoLiving Hostel Bandar. This is better located for walking around town on foot, but if you need to get back to the bus station then it’s a little far.

You can also book a homestay at the water village, at Kunyit 7 Lodge! I’m definitely doing this if and when I ever go back to Brunei. You literally stay ON the water, in a local home! So cool!

I always check Hostelworld for cheap places to stay in Asia. Plus, if you book through then you’ll get access to a city group chat– a great way to meet up with other travelers!

Getting around Brunei

A local bus in Brunei

Most people drive in Brunei, and unfortunately there isn’t a huge rideshare culture like in most of Southeast Asia. You can rent a car, hire a driver, take taxis or try to hitchhike. We actually had good luck hitchhiking– locals know that tourists have a hard time getting around and they’re willing to drive you to somewhere for a few dollars (or for free!).

Public Transit in Brunei

Brunei DOES have some public transit, but it’s not great. There are a few public bus lines running through BSB, which cost BND 1 per ride and have fairly good coverage across the city. They come roughly every 20-40 minutes and stop running at 5:30 or 6:00pm, which makes things a bit difficult if you’re trying to cram a lot of sightseeing into one day.

Brunei bus stop
Brunei bus stop

On the waterways, you can take boats! This is the only way to get to some of the more interesting local villages. It costs BND 1 per person to ride from one place to another, but you can also hire the boat drivers to do tours for an hour or two.

SIM Cards, money, etc.

You’ll need cash for the bus, boat taxis and the food markets, but everywhere else can take credit cards. There are ATMs in the malls that work with foreign cards.

We didn’t bother getting a SIM card since we only went for two days, and most places have free wifi you can use. Malaysian SIM cards do NOT work in Brunei!

However, it IS handy to have a connection for maps and whatnot, so a short-term eSIM would work fine. Airalo has a 7 day Brunei eSIM, for instance, or a regional eSIM that’ll work in Brunei and Malaysia.

What to Do in Brunei (Sightseeing)

Brunei Day Tours

Don’t want to bother staying overnight in Brunei itself? Grab this 1 day tour starting from Miri and see all the main sights in Brunei before the day’s done.

If you’re interested in nature and eco-tourism, this day trip to Ulu Temburong National Park might be worth checking out! It includes a canopy walk, water tubing, swimming, lunch of local food and transit to/from your hotel.

Check out more Brunei tours and experiences here at Viator.

Self-guided Tours

Here’s some of what you can do in the capital of Brunei, and for relatively cheap!

Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

View of Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque from across a lake

Cost: Free!

Location: Jalan McArthur, Bandar Seri Begawan BS8711, Brunei / Plus code: VWQQ+RP Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

This was built in the 1950s and named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei. It’s very pretty, with imported marble and a big golden dome. Non-Muslim visitors have to wear a robe and can only go into a small part of the interior, as is standard for mosques in this part of the world.

Outside the mosque, at a nearby park called Taman Mahkota Jubli Emas, there’s a fun frame set up for photos.

Me standing in front of a large frame-shaped sculpture with the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in the background

Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

Me walking in front of Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

Cost: Free!

Location: Simpang 127, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei / Plus code: VWXC+4Q Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

A newer mosque and very nice, but slightly hard to get to as it’s a big far from the bus routes. We hitched a ride with a local to get there and then walked about 15 minutes to get to a bus stop when we were done. Very nice mosque and there weren’t any other tourists there when we went!

Brunei Waterfront

You can walk along the pier and look at stuff (including a market), or you can grab a water taxi (1 BND) and go to…

Kampong Ayer (Water Village Settlement)

A house in the water village in Brunei

Cost: Free!

Maybe the most exciting thing to do in Brunei! It’s a village built on the water, the world’s largest settlement on stilts! It’s been on the river for a thousand years and was once the capital of the Bruneian Empire.

Stop by the Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery (open Monday – Sunday: 9:00AM to 4:30PM) and get some info about the people who live in the village in the past and in modern times. Very friendly staff and free maps! Go up the observation tower for a good view of the village.

You can walk around to many places on the water village, or else take a boat tour with one of the water taxi drivers (maybe 15-30 BND?). If you want to learn more about the history of village life, go to the Malay Technology Museum ($3 USD) to see exhibits and recreations of village living.

Dinner at Soto Pabo

Ambuyat set for two. Ambuyat is Brunei’s national dish and a must-try when visiting the country!

From the Water Village, take a water taxi (1 BND) to Soto Pabo, a well-review restaurant on the river serving local food. Get the ambuyat set, which for two people is only 16 BND / $12 USD. Ambuyat is the national dish, made from the interior trunk of the sago palm. Very interesting texture and fun to eat! The set at Soto Pabo has HUGE portions and is absolutely delicious.

Interested in cooking local food yourself? Check out this cooking class hosted by a local with a market tour.

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Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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