Located in the Borneo archipelago, Brunei is a tiny country with lots to offer. With lush beaches, rainforests and amazing jungle wildlife, it may be the tropical experience you’ve been waiting for. And when we’re saying it’s tiny, it’s really tiny; 5,765 km2 to be exact.
Although the country's religion is Islam, it's the true symbolism of peace. No documented terrorist attacks were registered, and all the monuments and mosques are spectacular. As almost all Islamic countries, Brunei is controlled by oil. You can tell that by just looking at all the gold or golden objects that surround you.
Less than 450.000 people call Brunei their home. More than a century ago, Brunei was just a seaside trading zone and now it has developed into a world wonder. The capital of Brunei is Bandar Seri Begawan, home to Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and Istana Nurul Iman which is the largest government building in the world.
Getting away from the capital bustle and buzzing it’s only a step away. The Ulu Temburong National Park offers you the rainforest experience you’ve been dreaming of. With a total surface of 550 square kilometers, it homes various species of birds and mammals including gibbons.
Brunei River flows right through the middle of the country, revealing wonderful man-made structures. We’re referring here to Kampong Ayer, a town with homes on stilts just a couple of meters above water level. Reaching there by cab is the only way. And also, locals are warm and welcoming, and they will show you around with great pleasure.
For shopping, the region of Gadong is where you want to be. Marketplaces and bazaars are at every step. Although it is a region of the capital, most call it the town of Gadong.
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Brunei
Overall Risks in Brunei: LOW
According to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the survey of 2018, Brunei has almost no safety risks. Strict regulations and traffic checkups are often. Crimes rates in the country are low due to the severe penalties that can deter robbers and thieves to operate. Firearms, alcohol, prostitution, drugs, and gambling are illegal, as well as importing firearms of parts.
Although Brunei has a death penalty, an execution hasn’t been carried for decades and drug trafficking and violent crimes are pure sentences to death.
Being a safe country and that the crime rates are low, that does not mean they don't occur. They rarely occur, but they are not violent in nature, most of them being bag snatches, residential or vehicle burglary.
Transportation services are also very safe, but scarce throughout the region. The traffic in the capital is pretty low, however, the number of vehicles is quite big and almost all residents own a car. This is why local transportation is rare. Busses link the capital to the other towns and even the capital has its own bus system, but they’re not frequent, so may cause a bit of frustration.
If you choose to go by taxi, prepare your wallet because a ride will cost you a little more than in the US. A taxi ride from the Bandar Seri Begawan airport could go up as much as 30$. Most tourists tried to negotiate the ride before they took off and they have succeeded.
Also, you can rent cars and drivers from the hotel you booked in for a safe trip and maybe a lower price. Cab scams don’t occur as all of them are controlled by the government.
If you are wondering if the language barrier can be broken, the answer is yes. Almost all Bruneians speak English fluently, so it won’t be a problem trying to get directions or answers.
As stated above, the country is Islamic, so alcohol is strictly forbidden. You can buy alcohol from nowhere in Brunei. Although, the duty-free shops at the Malaysian border are opened and the customs allows you to carry a limited amount of alcohol. Alcohol consumption is reduced to hotel rooms and private homes. As being said, you won't encounter drunks along the way or hear of drunk driving.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in Brunei: LOW
Being a country with strict laws and severe punishments, theft and pickpocketing risks are very low. But however, they do occur from time to time and they end well.
In 2016, a 23-year-old stole 100$ from a house and ended up with a sentence of seven years, so you can tell why nobody would bother for stealing or robbing someone.
Demonstrations and protests don't occur too often, but best is to stay away from them as they are a haven for pickpockets. Also, walking around at night is not recommended, not even in large groups. Best is to follow the main roads that are lighted. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and try not to stand up in the crowd by any means.
Police response is remarkably quick compared to other countries. Almost all officers can speak English, and they are law professionals. Although response times may vary up to 30 minutes, they never exceed the limit.
- How to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Brunei?
Keeping yourself safe from pickpocketing and theft is easy, no matter the foreign country you are visiting. As a rule of thumb, you should avoid displaying any valuable items, such as gadgets, jewelry, or large sums of money. For example, if you have a camera with you, it is better to take it out of your backpack only when you plan to use it, rather than keeping it strapped around your next.
Speaking of backpack, it is recommended that you keep it either in front or sideways of you and never on your back. This is because thieves have it much easier stealing from you if it is on your back.
Other than that, keep your eyes peeled, as they say, and always be aware of your surroundings.
Scam Risk in Brunei: LOW
If you’re carrying a mobile phone and own a Bruneian cell phone number, be advised that phone scams are common.
In May 2018, a woman received a call from a so-called bank officer that advised her that somebody was using her bank account. The undercover officer asked her to deposit a large amount of money in a fake bank account to prevent legal prosecutions. So please beware of strange phone calls and report them to the police.
- How to avoid getting scammed in Brunei?
In order to avoid getting scammed, all you have to do is avoid strangers/ locals that try to approach you. Or, in case someone tries too hard to sell you a souvenir or such, it is better to just politely refuse them.
When it comes to strange phone calls, it is recommended to answer the phone only if you know for sure you are being called by relatives or friends. Any unknown or secret number should just be ignored.
In short, you have to take only some basic safety measure in order to avoid scams or such. Just pay attention to your surroundings and be extremely cautious when it comes to trusting a stranger.
Kidnapping Risk in Brunei: LOW
There are no kidnapping cases recorded in Brunei this year and the statistics show that there were 0.3 kidnappings for 200.000 from 2003 to 2004. The rates had declined to no kidnapping cases recorded.
- How to avoid getting Kidnapped in Brunei?
Even though there are no kidnapping reports and the rate of such incidents is small, you should still know what to do to avoid them. This being said, you should avoid traveling through remote or isolated areas, as well as through bad-reputed neighborhoods and such. You should not be traveling during the night, especially if you are alone.
Terrorism Risk in Brunei: LOW
Brunei is well known for the absence of terrorism and the country does not support transnational terrorism. The government is active against terrorist acts and none were reported in the country.
- How to avoid terrorism in Brunei?
In order to avoid terrorism, you should be extremely careful when traveling through areas that can get really crowded, such as shopping malls and districts, markets, city centers, and such. Also, places of prayer and official buildings are usually targeted by terrorists, so you would want to be cautious around these as well.
However, given the fact that the country's government is quite active in terms of preventing terrorist attacks, you should not worry about such matters too much.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in Brunei: LOW
According to female solo travelers, Brunei is safe. Normal safety precautions should be taken though. Remember that this is an Islamic country and some head wear will come in handy to avoid some eyes staring at you. Also, shorts are not recommended, although, on numerous travel blogs, shorts are not a problem in Brunei.
According to a female solo traveler, the only thing that men could offer you just by walking by them is a boat trip down the Brunei River. She also stated that a short “No, thanks” is the way to politely refuse them and they won’t bother you.
- How to avoid crime as a solo woman traveler in Brunei?
As stated above, it is recommended that you approach a decent dress code when traveling through Brunei. Even though shorts might not be a problem, you should still try and wear a pair of long pants so that you are sure that you stay out of trouble.
Other than that, you should stay away from any remote or isolated areas, including bad-neighborhoods or bad-reputed areas of the city you are accommodated in. As mentioned, simply refusing anyone that approaches you to offer anything is enough to keep you safe and sound.
Rape Risk in Brunei: LOW
As stated above that the country is an Islamic one, rape is punished severely, or by law, or by stoning, according to the Sharia law. The sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, modified the rape law not only against men but also against women. So, if a woman is accused of rape, the same penalty is applied.
- How to avoid getting raped in Brunei?
Given the facts mentioned above, it is highly unlikely that a tourist would be sexually assaulted. The penalties are harsh and the people/ locals won't go an extra mile, so to say, to do such a thing and then risk being imprisoned for a long time or publicly stoned. However, if you are traveling alone, it is better to keep an eye out for anything suspicious and stay away from areas that look dangerous.
Risks for People Traveling with Children: LOW
Traveling to Brunei with children is safe, but normal safety precautions are to be taken, especially in the rainforest. Children may wander around seeing the amazing wildlife, so keep them close.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios?
As mentioned above, children may wander off, exploring their surroundings. In this respect, the only risk here would be you losing them, either in a crowd or during a tour. Therefore, make sure to always keep an eye on the little ones so that they don't get in any trouble. If you can't do so, then you should have a friend/ relative travel with you, in order to have your children under surveillance, so to say, at all times.
Natural Disaster Risk: MEDIUM
When it comes to natural issues, you must remember that Brunei is a tropical country and heavy rainfalls could occur, especially in the rainy season. In 2009, heavy rainfalls led to huge landslides and floods in many parts of the country. Also, in early 2014, rainfalls led to huge material casualties.
Transportation Risks in Brunei: MEDIUM
If you plan on driving while in Brunei, keep in mind that drivers of vehicles that are not registered in this country are able to purchase fuel only from 10 designated filling stations that are scattered throughout the country. Because the purchase price doesn't include government subsidy, filling a car registered in other country is usually more expensive.
When it comes to road travel and driving standards, they may get quite erratic, mainly because cars don't always stop at pedestrian crossings or red lights in Brunei. Moreover, drivers are known to not use seat belts and engage in speeding. In terms of road conditions, they are overall good, but their surfaces are mostly uneven - reason for which you should be extremely careful if driving through heavy rain.
If on a long-distance trip, it is recommended that you do not leave any valuables inside your car during the night or when stopping to rest. There are reports of people breaking into cars and stealing everything they can, even if items were locked inside the boot.
Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Brunei: LOW
As expected, visiting a night-club, pub, or bar, does not come with any sort of risk. Obviously, you may encounter locals that don't appreciate you being there, so to say, but such cases are quite rare.
You should choose your company wisely, as to avoid any sort of incidents while in one of the aforementioned locations. Other than that, there's really nothing else you should be worried about. On one hand we have the friendly people and country and, on the other hand, we have the strict law of the country that protects locals and travelers alike from any unwanted incidents.
Health Risks in Brunei: MEDIUM
Brunei is home to lots of animals and some of them potentially life-threatening. In the rainforest, venomous snakes are encountered pretty often. Medical services are responsive and deal with minor health issues. If the situation is more delicate, air transport is available from Singapore. Also, a health insurance to cover everything is a must have and make sure you carry all the health documents and prescription drugs.
In terms of medical facilities, healthcare standards in Brunei are labelled as acceptable. Even though the two significant medical facilities of the country, the private Jerudong Park Medical Center and the Government General Hospital, are pretty well-equipped, you may still need to be transferred to Singapore in case of medical complications.
Make sure that you have enough funds with you, in order to cover the costs of any treatment, medicine, or emergency evacuation that you may be subject to.
List of Vaccines You Need in Brunei
- measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine
- varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
- hepatitis A and B
- typhoid fever
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Yellow fever (vaccines are currently limited in the US)
Most Dangerous Areas in Brunei
Naturally, most travelers and tourists tell that Brunei is one of the safest countries they have visited and that it would be impossible for them to pinpoint any dangerous areas. Most of them say that, while petty crime exists, it is not concentrated in certain areas within the country and, therefore, any tourist/ traveler should not purposely avoid any parts of the country.
In this respect, while traveling through Brunei, one should rely only on basic safety measures to ensure their protection and should not become more cautious or aware when in certain areas. Simply put - enjoy your trip!
Concluding Remarks: Is Brunei Safe to Visit?
How safe is Brunei for traveling? As stated by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the country is one of the safest by any means. Laws are strict and many regulations are active. Despite the fact that Brunei is an Islamic country, religious terrorism is completely absent, as well as other kinds of terrorism.
Normal precautions are to be taken, even though Brunei is safe to visit. Prices may vary from one location to another and taxi rides are a little high. Normal precautions are to be taken also when walking around the city at night and keep your valuables safe in the hotel room. Try not to carry too much cash in the wallet to avoid any kind of unpleasant situations.
Keeping in mind all these safety travel tips will give you the proper Brunei experience and a mind-blowing jungle experience.