Sandwiched in between the tropical jungle of Malaysian Borneo you will find the amazing and often overlooked tiny country of Brunei. A total difference with Borneo, but on the same Island. If you are travelling through Borneo, you can’t skip a (quick) visit to Brunei. It’s easy to travel to and from, and in 24 hours you can get a great impression of this beautiful small country.
How to travel from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei by ferry
Travelling from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei is easy and the trip itself is great fun! The ferry from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei takes about 3.5 hours in total, and the ferry we took goes via the small Malaysian Island of Labuan, which is located off the coast of Borneo.
Labuan is a small Island, but great to have a look around and get a nice typical Malaysian lunch! Labuan is a very pedestrian friendly island, with nice walking paths and slow going traffic. We spend about 3 hours to wander around before we headed off to Brunei. From Kota Kinabalu to Labuan it took about 2 hours with the ferry and from Labuan to Brunei took around another 1.5 hours.
Traveling in Brunei
When we arrived by ferry in Brunei, it all went really smooth and quick. We had to show our passports at customs, got stamped, and off we went, Easy.
From the ferry terminal we took a bus to the capital of Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan. This bus ride took around 1 hour and only cost 2 Brunei Dollar. Taxi`s cost around 25 Brunei Dollar. On another note, Brunei in general is quite expensive, especially compared with other Asian Countries. This is because of the country’s wealth and the economy based on oil resources. The people here also earn much more than the Malay people.
As soon as you hit the road in Brunei, you experience the difference with Borneo immediately. It looks like you just landed in a scene of Aladdin or the Prince of Persia. Brunei has some amazing buildings and mosques. It’s a great mix between Western and Persian culture.
Another thing which is different compared with Borneo is the fact that it all goes so much smoother. Public transport for example, is much better arranged. Brunei in general is very well organised, neat and we found the locals very friendly and helpful. One day we were waiting at the bus stop, when a lovely Brunei lady stopped and asked where we wanted to go. We told her we wanted to go to see the The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. She said;`No worries, I am heading in that direction, hop in the car` The next minute we were sitting in this lady’s car and she is telling us all about Brunei, it’s history, the locals and some other very interesting facts during our half hour ride to the city centre of Bandar Seri Begawan.
One very interesting fact she told us, was that the Government gives the Brunei locals instructions to be extra friendly to tourist, to promote the tourism industry and Brunei`s tourism. Well, our lady did a really good job with that 🙂
What to do in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Bandar Seri Begawan is a great stop over city or for a 24 hour quick visit to Brunei. It’s quite compact and the main tourist attractions are located close to each other. Start with the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque. This is the most impressive mosque in the city surrounded by water. You can have a look inside as well, but you are not allowed to take pictures and woman have to be completely covered up including head scarf as Brunei is a muslim country.
Take a little cruise along Brunei’s water village
After visiting the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, head to the waterfront to relax or a stroll along the boulevard. There are lots of tiny boats with super friendly people who can take you on a little cruise to Bandar Seri Begawan’s water village where you can see the tiny houses build on the water for an entire community who actually live there.
Visit the Jame Sari Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque by night
Another great mosque we found a bit further from the city ( around 3 km ) but on a walking distance from our hotel was the Jame Sari Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque. It’s Brunei’s biggest mosque, and the colours and building style is amazing. If you have time make sure you visit this mosque during sunset so you will have a good impression of it by daylight and you also get a look of the golden lights when it starts to get dark.
Where to stay in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
We stayed at the Palm Garden hotel in Bandar Seri Begawan for 1 night. This 3 star hotel is located at walking distance of a shopping mall and some restaurants and shops. The rooms are a bit to dark for our taste, but spacious and luxurious. Staff is very friendly and they have got a really nice, modern styled restaurant where you can have a delicious meal. There is also a refreshing pool to jump in and a fitness centre. So basically this hotel has everything you need for a relaxed stay. For more info and pictures click here
If you want to stay in a really cool AirBnb accommodation in Brunei, the F1 Water village lodge is a great option. With a scenic view of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, the Water Village and close to all the main tourist attractions of Bandar Seri Begawan, this accomodation has a great location for a great price! Book via this link to get a $50 dollar off your first booking with AirBnb, so you definitely score a bargain!