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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Brunei Basics: An Introduction



I went to Brunei last week for a short vacation with a few relatives. Brunei is my first international trip (teehee!) so it was quite special to me (I finally got to use my passport. hehe). 

When I told friends that I've booked a trip to Brunei, they would ask me, "why Brunei?", as we all know, this country isn't a popular tourist destination compared to its neighboring countries. But I tell you, visiting this country made me appreciate the culture this beautiful kingdom has to offer. Also, one of my aunts has been staying in Brunei for the last 20 years, hence, we had somebody to tour us around. :)


Brunei Darussalam is a small country with a population of less than half million. It is ruled by the "King", Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. This country's main religion is Islam, but there are few non-Islam churches in the country, like the Roman Catholic and Anglican. 

Here are some of the things I knew about Brunei, that I think would be useful should you visit the country.

Flights from Manila


We booked Cebu Pacific (Manila - Bandar Seri Begawan). Our flight was around 11:40pm, so we arrived in Brunei the next day at 1:40am. Our flight back to Manila was 2.25am to 4:25am. All CebuPac flights are of same time as our flight. If you have some money to spare, you may try Royal Brunei Air (or RBA). 

Visa Requirements

No visa required if you'll be staying for less than 14 days. Let me emphasize that the Brunei immigration is really strict, as there are a lot of cases of overstaying visitors (or TNT). Always keep the copy of ticket and the address of your accommodation ready. 

Accommodations

We stayed in my tita's flat in the Bengkurong area. However, I've seen lots of hotels around Brunei.  This includes the budget-friendly Pusat Belia, Jubilee Hotel, Radisson, Rizqun and the grandest, Empire Hotel. 



Transportation

Public transportation is quite limited in Brunei. Taxis are rare and the public buses take 30 minutes or more waiting time. It would be better to book a car rental to tour you around. Our platoon of 8 adults + 2 kids took 2 cars (including my aunt's car + whoever she asks to drive us) to tour us around. Private vehicles are usually cars, and vans are rare. 

Currency

Brunei Dollar is the official currency but Singaporean Dollar is also accepted. I used Singaporean Dollar for most of my purchases on this trip. 

Climate

Brunei was supposed to be hotter than Manila, but I didn't feel the difference, maybe it was the clean air? I didn't have a hard time sleeping sans the air-conditioning. Rainy days in Brunei are the worst (as I've seen it too), you wouldn't even dare to go out.

Security

Brunei is very, very safe. I even had the shock of my life when I entered the mall without having a guard to check my bag. As I've observed later, the guards roam the mall instead.  

How safe is safe?

See this.

uh-oh. Somebody left his/her car door open.

Somebody left his/her car open in a public parking lot across Jerudong Park Playground. Yes, it was still there when we came back (and the owner was already back during the time). 

If somebody left his/her car in some other country *ehem ehem*, wala na yun pagbalik nya. hehe.

Popular Establishments

I've seen 3 branches of Jollibee while other popular restos are also abundant (McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen, Secret Recipe, etc). For coffee addicts, there is Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (and no Starbucks).

One Bruneian brand caught my fancy: FUN Donuts. :)



Looks familiar, eh? :P 

Utilities

The prices of their utilities got me envious. Really envious. My tita's flat is provided by the government since she works at a government school. 

Oil prices are ridiculously low because of government subsidy. During my visit, gasoline price is 53 cents (Php 18.55) while diesel is around 35 cents (Php 12.25). 

Evidence here:



Average daily consumption for a fully-furnished apartment is around 1.30B$ a day (Php 45.50) while water is 11 cents (Php 3.85) per cubic meter. More reasons to love the Sultan. :)

Other things you need to know about Brunei:

- It was an additional challenge for us that Ramadan has just started during our trip. Eating is not allowed in public, except for kids, the sick, pregnant women and the elderly. You may opt for takeouts or you may eat inside restaurants though. 
- The Muslims break their fast at around 6.30pm, so expect restaurants to be full around that time. Better buy your food early!
- Brunei is a conservative country, so appropriate clothing is encouraged. 
- There are lots of Filipinos working in Brunei, so don't get surprised if you enter an establishment and somebody speaks to you in Filipino. 
- Medical treatment is free for children 12 years old below. 
- Local food is really affordable. More about this on my future posts. :) But I dare say that you shouldn't miss it. 
- When leaving Brunei, pay only an airport tax of 12 B$ (Php 420). Super low compared to our travel tax and  terminal fee of Php 1660 + Php 550. Again, WHY PHILIPPINES?!?! :(
- Brunei may not be that tourist-y, but it was so peaceful and simple that I could understand why my tita chose to stay there. 

More of Brunei soon! :)

1 B$ = Php 35

29 comments:

  1. I've never been to Brunei before but I'd love to go!! I'm curious, how's there food?? Hehe

    http://itsjessicachoy.blogspot.com/

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    1. Food was awesome! More about the food in my future posts! :)

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  2. Hi po!!! Hmmm Brunei seems interesting po!!! Would like to visit this place. Looks like it is pretty safe like Singapore :D :D :D PLus the travel time is only around 2 hours! Would love to hear more about your adventures here po!!Would 3 days be okay po when touring around po? I totally agree with you po regarding the travel tax and the Airport fees! OMG!LOL :D :D :D

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jeng! :) 3 days is enough, actually. But you may want to combine Brunei with Kota Kinabalu. :)

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  3. Okay I'm envious, til now my passport is clean.

    I was curious too why did you choose Brunei, but then again, why not?! I think it's more fun to visit places that are not a popular choice to the tourists. Makes you more cool in my opinion.

    Fun Donuts looks soooo familiar. I wonder why that is, nyahahaha....

    I've always known that life is easy in Brunei but I still got shocked upon seeing the prices. I mean really? It's that low?! Makalipat na nga dyan! Haha...

    I had fun reading this post and I think I just got convinced to include this in my must-visit countries.

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    1. TGo book an international trip na, Marge! :)

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  4. Galing naman. Hopefully soon, somebody abroad can invite me to visit their place. Pero the first thing I need to do is get me a passport. haha. How do we do that? hehe.

    Ang honest ng mga tao kung ganon. Wow. Walang ganyan sa Pilipinas. (re: the car parked left opened)

    And the prices of commodities, naman, ang baba. ^_^

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    1. Nakakainggit di ba? Sana sa Pinas kasing bait ng Sultan ng Brunei ang politicians natin.hehehe

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  5. Maybe then, there could be more tourist destinations there in Brunei, probably hidden. Guess one should stay longer in order to discover what the kingdom has to offer.

    Talagang napag-iiwanan na ang Pilipinas pagdating sa pangkalahatang estado.

    Ah well, my dream first international destination is Thailand. :)

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  6. grabe! ang bongga ng gasolina at security dun! can't wait for the other stories :)

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  7. Brunei isnt exactly on my bucket list, but now that you've mentioned all these nice stuffs, i might re-think my list again. Thanks Michy! Super nice insights on brunei

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    1. You should give Brunei a visit, Carmi! :)

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  8. Nice insights about Brunei but in terms of tourism naman medyo Brunei is napag-iwanan. Nagbabasa na din ako about this country before pero konti lang talaga ang mapupuntahan compare to ours. Siguro sa pagiging state ok sila but in terms of tourism plus naman tayo. Kanya-kanyang advantage and disadvantage. This is a good share about this country in SEA region.

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    Replies
    1. I think Brunei is just starting to build modern infrastructure and boost their tourism. :)

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  9. Uy Brunei! nag work ako dyan before! Simple nga lang buhay dyan. Para ka lang nasa province.

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  10. Wow!brunei looks so inviting. I need to use my passport too

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  11. how i wish ganyan ang presyo ng gasolina dito sa pinas. nice post!

    http://halfwhiteboy.blogspot.com/

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    1. I hope so too! :) Thanks halfwhiteboy!

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  12. Wow.. Brunei is indeed a beautiful country. Looking forward sa food adventure nyo on your next trip!

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  13. Boo to our terminal fee!

    Wow sa safety at bait ng mga tao. Indeed kung sa atin naiwan ang bukas na kotse - bye bye kotse na :)

    Fun doughnuts haha! J.Co much?! :)

    Thanks for this Michy! I knew almost nothing about Brunei before, not anymore! :)

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    1. I don't understand why our terminal fee has to be that expensive. :\

      Sana magawa din natin dito yung safety thing. hehe. :)

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  14. Brunei is pretty interesting, been planning to visit it but after I left Thailand, all plans turned into a blur. Maybe in the next future.

    I am amazed by countries that do not depend much on securities in public areas.

    Will have to read the rest of your entries later. and happy blogsary again.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks totomai! :) Hope you'll visit Brunei soon, the mosques are pretty interesting. :)

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  15. Grabe! Gas is so cheap a! I wonder when we'll ever experience that. =(

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