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Things to Do in Brunei on a Budget

Brunei is a really unique place to visit and makes for a great detour on any Southeast Asian trip. There are plenty of things to do in Brunei (Bandar Seri Begawan mostly), but the most interesting aspect of the country for me is the atmosphere. It’s incredibly quiet and peaceful, the people are extremely friendly and the balance between tradition and modernization seems almost perfect. There is a storm on the horizon however, with the Sultan outlining his plans to bring Sharia Law to Brunei. It puzzles me why he’d want to change the dynamic of a country that seems to have a lot going for it; it’ll be very interesting to see what happens in the next couple of years.

Here are some things you can do if you take my advice and wedge Brunei into your itinerary.

Be amazed by the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque

This is definitely the most impressive mosque I’ve seen.  It would probably be in my “Top 5 buildings in Asia list”, if I ever decide to compile one.  It’s a decadent building – the dome at the top is made of pure gold – but the Sultan (whose family has ruled Brunei for over 600 years) hasn’t just decided to blow his oil wealth on grand projects like this, he’s also looked after his people pretty well by the looks of it.

Things to do in Brunei: Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Take a local bus

I wanted to go to Tasek Lama park, so I did some research and jumped on board bus 38. About 45 minutes later I arrived at the park. That 45 minute bus ride was great, but when trying to get back into town I noticed a building up ahead that looked very familiar. On closer inspection it was the hostel I was staying at. It turns out I did almost an entire loop of town on the bus and ended up about 10 minutes walk from the hostel. Normally this would have frustrated me, but it was a really interesting bus ride. I was surprised how quickly the city turns into the country. There were some really idyllic neighbourhoods, full of traditional Malay houses and big gardens.

Go to Tasek Lama park

Tasek Lama is a little slice of jungle within Bandar Seri Begawan. You can walk there from the city centre in about 10 minutes (or take a 45 minute bus ride), and once you get there you’ll have most of it to yourself. It’s a popular place for locals to walk and jog, but venture onto one of the jungle paths and you’ll be all alone. I was having a great time until it started raining heavily. Some advice – always carry an umbrella in Brunei. There is a waterfall at the park which is pretty impressive for an inner city park – you usually have to go into some proper jungle to see falls of that quality.

Things to do in Brunei: Tasek Lama waterfall

Visit the biggest water village in the world

I wrote a full post about Kampong Ayer, you can read it here. It’s an amazing network of boardwalks and bridges that connect the houses of over 39,000 residents. It’s been inhabited for over 1300 years, and seeing the traditional way of living is a great experience. Exploring Kampong Ayer is definitely one of the best things to do in Brunei, don’t miss it!

Things to do in Brunei: Kampong Ayer

Go to Ulu Temburong National Park

Well, assuming you’re not as cheap as me. I asked about the tours to Ulu Temburong National Park, and I got quoted $180 for a day trip (it would have been $125 per person if I was with someone). That’s just about the most expensive day trip I’ve heard of in Southeast Asia. I thought about trying to reach the park myself but from everything I’ve heard it’s next to impossible, especially if you want to get there and back in one day.

Walk around town

Downtown Bandar Seri Begawan is really easy to get around and there are some interesting things to see. The market by the river is worth checking out, as is the riverfront walkway. It’s extremely quiet, even at what I thought would be peak time (around 6pm) there weren’t many people around – the riverfront cafes and restaurants were all empty. Maybe the fact that no alcohol is sold means that people are a little less social and a bit more family orientated in Brunei – alcohol does seem to help bring people together in the west, for better or worse.

Things to do in Brunei: River walkThings to do in Brunei: Chinese templeThings to do in Brunei: Walk around the city

There’s plenty of things to do in Brunei on a budget

I always thought Brunei was an expensive place to visit, but it’s easy to do it on a budget. My Air Asia flight cost $80 return from Kuala Lumpur. I stayed at the youth hostel, which cost $10 a night (the Brunei dollar is exactly the same as the Singapore dollar) and food was similar to Singapore prices. I didn’t need a visa and I think a lot of countries are the same. All up I spent about $140 Singapore dollars (including flights) for 2 nights and 2 full days. It was such a small price to pay to see this unique country, and I recommend everyone travelling in Southeast Asia to consider making a slight detour to check out Brunei.

Further reading: Looking for more things to do in Brunei? Check out the Wikitravel page!

Things to do in Brunei: Walk around the green outskirts

Have you been to Brunei, or are you planning to go? Let me know!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
The view of Kampong Ayer, the largest water village in the world
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  1. May 21, 2014 at 6:10 am — Reply

    Yes, Brunei is surely worth a visit. Sounds like you made the most of a few days.

    Another option is visiting Brunei via ferry ($20 o.w.) from Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo. You can get there in a day, but I opted to overnight at a most lovely guesthouse ($15 sgl. private room w/ shared bath) on Labuan island and continue on to Brunei the next day.

    • May 21, 2014 at 12:36 pm — Reply

      I was very close to doing that a couple of years ago, sounds like a good option!

  2. May 21, 2014 at 10:11 am — Reply

    This is a part of the world I’m not too familiar with, so thanks for the introduction. Looks like a nice mix of culture and nature. Your photos of that mosque are beautiful!

    • May 21, 2014 at 12:39 pm — Reply

      Thanks Rhonda, it’s a great place to visit!

  3. jessi
    May 21, 2014 at 4:43 pm — Reply

    I’d actually been considering adding this to my itinerary recently, so, thanks for the post! I was worried about being able to do it on a budget because it used to be a very exclusive and expensive place to stay (because it was up until recently only filled with luxury hotels), so, good to see that’s changed a little!

    • May 21, 2014 at 9:46 pm — Reply

      Do it! The youth hostel is pretty good and it’s right in town.

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