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Guide: What Are Some Fun Things to Do in Brunei in 2024?

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The Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in Brunei

If we say “Borneo,” what comes to mind? Depending on your age and demographics, you might keenly remember the first season of Survivor, the still-going show of roleplaying castaways competing in physical and survival challenges in an untamed wilderness on the island of Borneo. For many, that impression – of a wild, untamed, dangerous jungle – is all they know about the island of Borneo, but the truth is very different.

Borneo is the third-largest island in the world, and its territory is divided between Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. As a whole, the island has a population of over 23 million, so it’s actually far from an untamed jungle wilderness. There’s still a lot of unique landscapes, wildlife, and jungle, but there are also large cities and hubs of culture unlike anything in the world.

Brunei represents only a small part of Borneo, but what it represents is an urban oasis and fusion between traditional culture and modern advancements, like something out of a dream. It’s a fantastic and often overlooked destination in a region of the world known for incredibly beautiful tourist destinations like Bali, Vietnam, and more.

The country of Brunei may be small, but it’s quite frankly an oasis. Citizens there have some of the highest income per capita in the world, healthcare and education are free, and there aren’t even personal taxes; meanwhile, it’s a peaceful, opulent, and lush region with plenty to see and do.

What can you do in Brunei to make it worth your visit? Here are some of the most attractive options.

What Are the Best Things to Do in Brunei?

Brunei is small and mostly urban, which means most of your adventures are going to be hanging out on the beach, surfing, enjoying the water, or hiking through relatively developed parks and recreational areas. You aren’t going to be roughing it, essentially.

See the Mosque

Brunei is a Muslim country, and as such, there are mosques everywhere. So why did we write the mosque? Omar Ali Saifuddien mosque is perhaps the most iconic image and piece of architecture in all of Brunei.

Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

It’s tall, it’s beautiful, and it’s packed with history. It’s also a limiting factor for the country; a mandate prohibits any other buildings from being taller than this mosque, so while the country is highly urbanized, it’s not a towering maze of skyscrapers but rather a meticulous and planned sprawl.

Check out the Regalia Museum

The Royal Regalia Museum is a free-to-enter museum that is packed with artifacts and trinkets that have been given to the Sultan over the years by various heads of state and other influential personages. It’s a very interesting, lavish, and unique experience, quite unlike a traditional museum. In a sense, it’s a lot more like a personal collection.

There are a handful of other interesting museums around as well. The Malay Technology Museum, the Brunei Museum, and the Brunei Forestry Museum can all be fun locations to visit and are all easy to access via public transportation.

Take a Boat to Kampong Ayer

Kampong Ayer is a village entirely on stilts over water. Or, rather, it’s a cluster of dozens of small villages along 23 miles of river with a unique and interesting culture. Many residents, particularly those who work along the river, are very familiar with it and can give you a history lesson while taking you along for a trip. You can disembark and explore as well, but it’s not as much of a tourist destination when you’re walking among the houses, so it’s often fine to just view it from a boat.

The Village of Kampong Ayer

Depending on when you go out, you may also be able to see the proboscis monkeys. These primates are unique to Borneo and can be seen along the same river as the water village, and while you aren’t getting up close and personal with them, they’re still a unique sight to behold.

Take in the Sun on the Beaches

Brunei has nearly 100 miles of beaches to enjoy, and while not all of them are public, there are plenty of great places to spend some time on the sand, surf, and sun. Muara beach is a pristine stretch of white sand and is great for families to enjoy. Serasa beach is home to a complex of water sports, where you can take out a jet ski or go kitesurfing. There are many more to explore as well, if tropical beaches are your idea of a great vacation.

Tip: As we’ll mention below, Brunei is a conservative country, so dress modestly even on the beach.

If you’re big into enjoying the water, Brunei also has a handful of great locations for snorkeling and scuba diving. You aren’t going to see anything as impressive as the wall of sharks, but hey, tropical diving is still tropical diving with all that it entails.

Walk the Canopy Walkway

Borneo jungles are some of the most interesting in the world, and while Brunei brushes up against them, the attractions you can visit in the country are not the untamed jungles of your imagination. Ulu Temburong National Park is a pristine and diverse rainforest, but it’s also well-kept; with a tree-level canopy walkway, you can climb up and wander for a unique view of a unique area. It does involve ladders, so keep that in mind.

View the Country from the Summit

One of the tallest points in Brunei is the summit of Bukit Patoi, which isn’t all that tall on the scale of mountains but still rises above the rest of the surrounding area.

It’s surrounded by the Bukit Patoi Forest Recreation Park, which offers trails to hike, and takes around 2-3 hours of hiking to reach the summit and see the sights before heading back down.

Take Bikes through Beautiful Trails

While walking isn’t a common activity in Brunei, cycling for leisure is, and there are numerous cycling trails and locations for a scenic trip.

A Person Biking in the Forest

Jerudong Park has a cycling train, the Muara-Tutong highway is a great long-distance road trip, and the Berakas Forest Reserve has an incredible mountain biking trail.

Enjoy the Local Fare

What point even is there to travel the world if you aren’t enjoying the food you can only get in the fantastic destinations you visit?

Brunei is an interesting intersection between Indonesian, Malaysian, and its own unique food heritage, with plenty of Chinese and other mainland SEA influences as well. Local cuisine runs the gamut and can be incredibly delicious, and you can try the unique local Ambuyat, which is certainly an experience.

When is the Best Time to Visit Brunei?

Brunei is a tropical country on a tropical island near the equator, but despite that, it’s still relatively temperate, with average peak summer temperatures only reaching around 80 F. January through May are spring and early summer in the dry season, June through August are the hot and dry peak, and October through December are the hot and wet season. There’s not really a winter to speak of; it’s just wetter months where rain is more of a daily fixture.

Brunei During the Dry Season

While the peak season is the dry season, you can really visit Brunei whenever you like. Most of what you might want to do is going to be available no matter what, and it’s only a handful of adventures you might want that could get rained out in the wet season.

That said, if you’re interested in the unique cultural heritage of Brunei, the peak summertime is also the best because it’s when most of the largest festivals and other events are celebrated. It is, however, also worth mentioning that peak tourist season is June through August, so if you want to avoid the worst of the crowds, you can avoid that stretch of time as well.

What Do You Need to Know About Visiting Brunei?

One of the biggest things to know about Brunei is something we mentioned near the start: it’s a Muslim country. In fact, it’s a very conservative country, with virtually no LGBT rights, a modest dress culture, no alcohol, and a very prominent religion. Brunei’s penal code is literally Sharia law, though incompletely enforced, so it’s very important to stay on the right side of the law.

Culturally, you also have to be aware of how religion impacts the country. Ramadan is very disruptive if you’re not prepared for it, for example, and prayer hours on Fridays also close down the country, tourists or not.

A Group of Muslim Women

While our followers are definitely law-abiding citizens and are never going to cross any lines in the places they visit (right? Hint hint.) Brunei is not what you might call soft on crime. Moreover, criticizing or saying anything negative about the Sultan can be considered a crime. Fortunately, you don’t have a lot to worry about as long as you’re smart, respectful, and conservative in your approach to enjoying the country. The State Department doesn’t even have a travel advisory for the country.

The official language of Brunei is Malay. You don’t need to be fluent to get around – English is also very common – but learning some simple and common phrases can help smooth things over a lot. Credit cards are widely accepted, but cash helps a lot. The official currency is the Brunei Dollar, which is pegged 1:1 to the Singapore dollar and is worth around $0.75 USD, depending on conversion rates at the time. Meanwhile, almost everything in Brunei is relatively inexpensive. While it’s not the cheapest location you can visit, it’s not going to be extremely costly.

Don’t forget that as a tropical country, one of the biggest threats to your enjoyment is the insect population. Bug spray is a must. You don’t need to pack it in with you – just about everything in the country is inexpensive – but you definitely want to have some on hand.

Brunei is also an extremely car-centric country. So much so that trying to get anywhere on foot means you’re more likely to be stopped and bundled into a car by a well-meaning citizen than you are to actually reach your destination on foot. Public transportation is also cheap and widely available, but driving is so often the way to go that renting a car is easy.

Another thing to know about Brunei is that, again, it’s actually quite small. It’s not actually a popular tourist destination, and while it’s good to visit, it’s not so packed with things to do that you’ll be planning a return trip before you even leave. You can see most of what there is to see – at least as a tourist – in just a few days, so unless you really enjoy sunbathing, want to participate in the festivals and celebrations, or really vibe with the atmosphere, you’ll have seen and done most of what you can in just a few days. It feels wrong to say that about any country, no matter how small, but it’s kind of true. So much of the city is just residential basic commercial sprawl without anything truly unique going on that it’s hardly even fun to explore.

Is Brunei Worth Visiting?

Of course! There are very few places in the world that aren’t worth at least a quick visit. Brunei is an incredibly unique place with a unique culture, heritage, and atmosphere that make it unlike anywhere else in the world.

That said, it’s mostly worth visiting as a weekend excursion; after a week, unless you’re really, really fond of beaches, you’re probably going to be itching for something new. Fortunately, Borneo is larger than just Brunei, and there are plenty of other things to do – including more interesting and less tamed wilderness adventures – you can experience throughout the island. Moreover, you’re in South East Asia! There are a ton of incredible destinations all around you. Spend a few days in Brunei, then carry on to other locations, and you’re sure to have a great time.

The Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

Have you ever been to Brunei? Are you interested in making the trip? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments. Whether you didn’t really care for it or you’re itching to go back, talk about it!

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