Brunei is a small country on the northern Borneo coast, surrounded by the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah. The national airline, Royal Air Brunei, makes Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB, Brunei’s capital) a good entry point to Borneo from which to make your way overland (or sea) to Sarawak or Sabah; also if travelling overland between Sarawak and Sabah, you’ll pass through Brunei.
How to tavel to / from / through Brunei overland
BSB is on the Pan Borneo Highway which runs the length of the north Borneo coastline, connecting Sarawak, Brunei, and Sabah. Travelling to/from Sarawak, you’ll be on this highway. Travelling the other way to Sabah, however, the highway takes a convoluted route around Brunei Bay, passing in and out of Sarawak, in and out of Brunei again, and then finally on to Sabah; this takes a long time and you’re better off going by boat. This involves one ferry to the small Malaysian island of Labuan (where you pass through immigration), and another from there to Kota Kinabalu (state capital of Sabah).
In my case, my friend and I landed in BSB (from Bangkok), stayed overnight, and took the ferry to Malaysia the next day. A week later after travelling in Sabah, we did the same thing in reverse, staying overnight again before flying on to Australia.
Things to do in Brunei
To be honest, we didn’t find an awful lot to get excited about! The country has some impressive mosques, and it’s pretty cool taking the boat taxis around and travelling past all the stilt houses built over the water. No drinking though; the sale of alcohol is completely prohibited (though you are allowed to carry in a duty free allowance). But still, although I wouldn’t travel all the way to Borneo just to visit Brunei, it was an interesting little add-on to climbing Mt Kinabalu and visiting the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah.
Resources and Useful Links for Visiting Brunei
Search for hotel deals in Brunei
World Nomads offer flexible travel insurance that you can buy even if you’re already overseas (this is a key point, as I once learned the hard way when I got pickpocketed in Bangkok).
Lonely Planet: Malaysia Singapore & Brunei
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