About Brunei Darussalam (BN)
The miniscule but incredibly wealthy Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam (BN) is located near the eastern tip of the eastern half of Malaysia, and divided into a pair of non-contiguous sections. Its money comes from oil and gas, and its culture is dominated by Islamic sharia law.
Despite an equatorial climate and orderly environment, the sultanate does not have a reputation for tourism or encouraging great rapport with Western visitors.
Although Brunei is generally spared from natural disasters that plague the region (earthquakes, typhoons, flooding), it’s frequently choked by smog from seasonal haze created by forest fires blowing over from Indonesia.
Ironically, many visitors arrive in the capital of Bandar Seri Begawan and head for ecotours in the central regions of the sultanate, notably Andulau Forest Reserve and Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park. From the coast plains in the north, the terrain rises to mountain highlands of Bukit Pagan in the south. Despite Brunei’s intolerance of Western values, most foreign visitors will have no trouble as long as they follow the rules.
Getting around is most convenient and efficient for visitors who rent a car in Brunei.
The sultanate’s network of roads is concentrated around the capital, and the rest of the region is served by a couple of two and four-lane highways in good condition.
At least half of the country is jungle and off-limits to unauthorized vehicles. All road signs are in Malay with Roman characters, and international pictograms are used for traffic control. English signs are used for important destinations and checkpoints. Fuel is relatively inexpensive but service stations are few and far between, especially outside of the capital.
Local drivers are surprisingly reckless, given the strict discipline enforced by an authoritarian regime. Driving at night is particularly inadvisable, as police frequently stop vehicles to check for contraband. Make sure all your travel documents are in the car hire at all times.
Choosing your car
The best deals on cheap car rentals in Brunei Darussalam are found with Sixt, Europcar, Alamo, Budget, Dollar, Thrifty, and Hertz. Choose from economy hatchbacks, minicars, compact, intermediate, and fullsize sedans, SUVs, estate wagons, and 7-12 seater minivans.
Tips and advice
Brunei is a very “safe” destination for travelers in terms of crime. On the other hand, foreigners are expected to follow a litany of restrictions and prohibitions based on Islamic law. Tourists are not given a free pass in any way, shape, or form.
The majority of establishments in Brunei close around 9:00 PM every night, and all businesses and shops are closed from 12:00-2:00 PM on Fridays in observance of prayers.
Inform your Brunei car hire provider if you plan to take the car into Malaysia. Although it’s generally permissible, some restrictions and exclusions may apply.
Traveling to Brunei during the month-long Islamic holiday of Ramadan is not particularly recommended, as foreign visitors are required to follow the rules about fasting. Meanwhile, consumption and/or possession of alcohol are completely prohibited.
Book well in advance to make sure you get your preferred vehicle.
Travelers to Brunei are basically advised to keep their eyes open and mouths sealed tight. Do not speak of politics or religion, and especially don’t say anything about the royal family.