Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei Asia

How to spend a day in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

It is easy to spend a day exploring the capital of Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan. Especially if you are wanting to do something while in transit. Some of the highlights include the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. As well as a boat trip through the Kampong Ayer (water village).

Jame asr Hassani Bolkiah Mosque

The first stop on my press trip was Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei. I was excited to explore this diverse destination and experience the culture. As well as learn about the heritage and people.

I was also keen to see what this very wealthy but small Muslim country had to offer tourists in the way of attractions.

 Head over to my Asian destinations page to discover things to do in this part of the world.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Please make sure to have your Face Mask and Hand Sanitiser where required before travelling. #Travelsafe 

1. Things you can do in Bandar Seri Begawan

Bandar Seri Begawan is the capital of Brunei, a small city on the island of Borneo. This tiny country has a lot to offer, including opulent mosques, rare Proboscis Monkeys, and the world’s largest floating village, Kampong Ayer.  

Despite its size, there are plenty of things to do in Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei for a day to keep busy.

Royal chariot in the museum

2. Start your day at Kianggeh Market

Address: Jln Sungai Kianggeh, Bandar Seri Begawan BS8111, Brunei

Start your day off by visiting Kianggeh Market, a popular open market in Bandar Seri Begawan. Located on the banks of the Kianggeh River, this market sells local produce, seafood, meat & local dishes. 

Everything was very well organised and the food stalls were colourful. There was a wide selection and everyone was super nice and friendly. This is also a great spot if you want to support local businesses and buy local products. 

  If you love night markets in Asia, how about this read on Best Night Markets to Visit in Taiwan?

3. Visiting the Grand Mosques of Brunei

There are two national mosques in Bandar Seri Begawan worth a visit when in the capital city. Even if you don’t go inside, they are very grand to see, especially the real gold domes. Which is a great photo opportunity from outside. 



3.1 Rules before entering a Mosques for non-Muslims

These are places of worship for the Muslim community and are major historical sites. Please be aware of the following rules before entering a Mosques, as a non-Muslim:

  • Before entering the Mosques, women are provided with black robes. 
  • Men will also be required to wear black robes if their legs are not covered.
  • Shoes will need to be removed before entering.
  • Taking pictures inside the Mosque is not permitted.
  • Check timings, as you cannot enter the mosque during prayer time if you are a non-Muslim.

Golden domes of Jame asr Hassani Bolkiah Mosque at night

4. Jame asr Hassani Bolkiah Mosque

Address; Simpang 127, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Jame asr Hassani Bolkiah mosque is one of the main attractions to see in Brunei and the first time I saw it I thought WOW!. Built-in 1992 to celebrate the 25th year of the current sultan’s reign, Brunei’s largest mosque is hard to miss. 

Surrounded by well groomed and maintained landscaped gardens and various fountains, the mosque is a fantastic example of Islamic architecture. There is just so much attention to detail. 

Nothing has been missed to signify that the Sultan is the dynasty’s 29th ruler. From the 29 domes made from 24-carat gold to the 29 ornate minarets and inside the 29 crystal chandeliers.

Jame asr Hassani Bolkiah mosque is also great to add to your to do list at night when it is all lit up. 

Mel taking a selfie in front of Jame asr Hassani Bolkiah Mosque

5. Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque

Address; Jalan McArthur, Bandar Seri Begawan BS8711, Brunei

Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque should be next up on your list of things to do in Brunei. Named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei, the mosque sits at the very heart of Bandar Seri Begawan city. It looks impressive, located in its own lagoon along the Brunei River. Surrounded by lush greenery and floral gardens,  its gold dome shines in bright daylight.

Built in 1958, it’s a fine example of modern Islamic architecture. The lake and ship nearby make it feel like you just stepped back in time or into a fairy tale. It is also a great spot for taking pictures outside with the Brunei river in the background.

Do you require a visa or need a covid test before you visit Brunei? You can check hassle-free and apply at ivisa 

6. Perpuspaan Main Gate 1968

After you have finished visiting Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, head over to Perpuspaan Main Gate. Built to commemorate the coronation of the current Sultan in 1968.

This is only a short walk away and you only need around 5-10 minutes here. However, just like the Mosque, it is grand to see and a great photo opportunity.

Royal boat

7. Spend half a day on Kampong Ayer – Water Village

Visit the largest water settlement in Southeast Asia, Kampong Ayer and experience the culture in a unique way. It should only take a couple of hours and is a great way to spend part of your day in Bandar Seri Begawan.

Kampong Ayer meaning Water Village in Malay is located on Brunei River just across from the city centre It is super easy to get a water taxi or book a take a guided tour from the Royal Wharf. 

A century ago, half of Brunei’s population lived here, and even today many Bruneians still prefer the lifestyle of the water village to residency on dry land. The water village even has its own schools, mosques, police station, and fire brigade built on stilts.

7.1 Experiencing the Kampong Ayer

When we were exploring Kampong Ayer in our taxi boat, it was fascinating to see the extensive network of wooden walkways. As well as footbridges, and boardwalks to get about when locals were not using their boats.

I was a little taken aback by the rubbish that could be seen at low tide floating in the water.

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7.2 Catch a water taxi to Kampong Ayer

If you are not doing a tour but want to visit and experience this heritage site, then I suggest taking one of the many water taxis in front of the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah. Though you can just stand somewhere a water taxi can dock and flag one down (the fare is B$1).

8. Kampong Ayer Cultural & Tourism Gallery

Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery is a great addition while exploring the water village. Opened in 2009, here you can learn about the history, customs, and crafts of the Kampong Ayer people.

Afterwards, head up the glass-enclosed viewing tower and take in the panoramic views over the water village.

View of Kampong Ayer - Water Village from water taxi

9. The Royal Regalia Building (Kings Museum)

Address: Jln Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien, Bandar Seri Begawan BS8611, Brunei

You must check out The Royal Regalia Building also known as the King’s Museum. The exhibits inside the museum are so impressive and grand.  It is worth adding to the top of your list of things to see in Bandar Seri Begawan’s Brunei. 

Built to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s accession to the throne. It showcases various exhibits of the Brunei monarchy and the incredible gifts given to the Sultan over the years.

It is also the only place in the city that I know that you can buy crude oil, as a souvenir!

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9.1 What you will see in the Royal Regalia Building

There are some great exhibits to see inside, like the life-sized replica of the Sultan’s jubilee parade float. It is a made-to-scale model with scores of uniformed mannequins. all-encompassing it to represent his honour guard. In another room, different countries’ military honours and decorations exemplify the Sultan’s apparent military prowess.

While the museum is free, you can only take pictures in the main area when you walk into the building. Like the Mosques, you will need to remove your shoes before entering. You will also need to leave your bag and phone at the lockers they provide. 

Parade float inside the museum

10. Visit Teng Yun Temple 

Just up the road from Royal Regalia Building is the Teng Yun Temple. Built-in the 1960s it is the oldest Chinese temple and the only one in Brunei.

This vibrant colourful temple pops out between the traditional buildings in Bandar Seri Begawan. It is a great spot to stop for pictures.

  If you love Temples? How about this read on visiting Temples in Tainan Taiwan.

11. Go Proboscis Monkey spotting

One activity that is great for everyone especially families is proboscis monkey spotting. You can take a mangrove cruise along the Brunei River through the natural mangroves in search of the rare Proboscis Monkeys. These can only be found on Borneo Island. 

I have been lucky enough to see Proboscis monkeys in the wild. They look funny with their big noses and fascinating to watch them interact with each other. They were a highlight for me to see.

The best way to see the Proboscis monkeys is to book a Mangrove river boat ride 

Make sure that have the right camera for taking pictures of all the amazing wildlife

 

12. Hotels in Bandar Seri Begawan

There is not a big selection of hotels in Brunei with most of them being located in Bandar Seri Begawan. So it makes sense to stay in the capital while exploring the city.

The good thing though is that most of the hotels in Bandar Seri Begawan are within walking distance of most of the sites. As well as a short drive away from the Brunei international airport. 

Check availability of on booking for hotels in Bandar Seri Begawan


12.1 The Empire Hotel & Country Club

I stayed at the luxury hotel resort The Empire Hotel & Country Club and all I can say is WOW. It is like no other place I have stayed in before and had an overall feeling of refinement. From the lavish decoration of the main building, to all the amazing furnishings of the interiors and rooms. 

It also had its own private beach, impeccably maintained outdoor spaces, and stunning swimming pools. Even though this hotel was located just out outside of Bandar Seri Begawan, it is the most luxurious hotel in the whole of Brunei. 

12.2 Hotel suggestions in central Bandar Seri Begawan

The Radisson Hotel Brunei Darussalam centrally located and less than 5 minutes walk to Royal Regalia Museum. The hotel offers a shuttle to and from the airport. 

The Brunei Hotel Strategically located in the city centre with most of the places of interest within 5-10 minutes walk. Like the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and Royal Wharf where you can catch a water taxi to Kampong Ayer.

Beach view from The Empire Hotel & Country Club

13. Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei transit airport

The closest international airport to the capital of Bandar Seri Begawan is Brunei International Airport. As the city is not very big, it is only 9klms (around 20mins) to the city centre via cab.

Royal Brunei Airlines tends to have affordable tickets for destinations all around the world. However, nearly all flights need to go via Brunei, especially from Europe. Meaning Brunei international airport is a popular transit spot. 

Depending on your nationality, you will need to obtain a visa. Which you can do upon arrival in customs for a small fee in Brunei dollars. Not to worry if you don’t have Brunei dollars as there is a currency exchange next to customs.

Top Things to do in Brunei

14. Consuming alcohol during the day in Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei

As an Islamic country, alcohol is forbidden to be sold anywhere in Brunei, even in the capital Bandar Seri Begawan.

Foreigners can bring in alcohol but it must be declared at customs. The limit is either 1 litre of spirits or 2 bottles of wine.  If you do take alcohol into the country, it can only be consumed in your hotel room.

Just be aware that Brunei Air does not serve alcohol on its planes. 

15. Things to know before spending a day in Bandar Seri Begawan

  • No photos in most of the buildings
  • This is a Muslim country, so please be aware of what you are wearing when you are not in your hotel.
  • Take a reusable water bottle, with you to keep hydrated. As it gets quite humid and warm during the day.
  •  Most attractions are not likely to be opened during any holy months or major festive seasons.
  • Carry a scarf with you in case you visit any religious areas like the mosques.
  • You will be doing a lot of walking, so wear comfortable shoes

local fish market - Things to do in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

16. Is Bandar Seri Begawan worth spending a day in?

Seeing the sites in Bandar Seri Begawan was a great way to spend the day while in Brunei. It’s definitely worth thinking about doing especially if you are looking for something to do while in transit. You can even book a Brunei transit guided tour that picks you up from the airport. 

It is also a good spot to take the family especially if you want to participate in outdoor actives. Like taking a Sunset River Safari to look for Proboscis Monkeys or even diving.

As a Muslim country, they do have stricter rules than some other countries in the area, like no selling of alcohol. But don’t let this deter you from going there. Even just for a few days to explore and experience the culture. Next time I would stay longer and head out to places like Ulu Temborong National park.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Please make sure to have your Face Mask and Hand Sanitiser where required before travelling. #Travelsafe 

17. Take a guided day tour in Bandar Seri Begawan

If you want to spend the day in Brunei but don’t want to do it on your own or unsure how to get around. Then take a half or full day guided tour that covers Bandar Seri Begawan’s top sites. There are a number of options covering both Brunei’s unique culture, museums, and mosques. As well outdoor activities like a mangrove cruise to spot wildlife.

Here are a number of options you can book in Brunei that can be done in a day.

Full day to Kampong Ayer & Mangrove – Boat Tour

Half Day City including Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque – Walking & Bus Tour

Brunei Transit half day tour – If you only have a few hours, this tour picks you up from the airport. 

Things to do in a day in Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei

18. Activities you can do, if you are staying longer than a day

I think one day is enough time to see Bandar Seri Begawan’s main landmark sites. However, if you want to get out of the capital and see other things in Brunei then you will need an extra few days. Here are some activities you can do if you are staying longer in Brunei;

18.1 Go diving in Brunei for a few days

In recent years Brunei’s diving industry has grown rapidly due to its beautiful seabeds and underwater sea life. Check out one of the many diving tours on offer in Brunei. 

You can do a day, 2 days, or even 3 days diving in Brunei. 

18.2 Spend a day Ulu Temborong

Spend a day exploring Brunei’s first national park, Ulu Temborong. Here you can walk amongst the trees on the canopy walk or take a water tube down the Temburong River. This is a great add-on if you staying 2 days in Brunei and love the outdoors and nature.

Book a full day guided tour to Ulu Temborong national park before you go to Brunei. 

18.3 Do a Brunei Eco Adventure

How about doing a 3 day eco adventure guided tour, exploring caves, trekking in the mountains, and tubing. One of the highlights is seeing the stunning Mulu Formation and the Gunung Buda limestone massif. Which is part of the Melinau Limestone Formation, estimated about 4,000-5,000 m thick and 40-90 million years old.

This can only be accessed via 4wd with a guide.

19. Other places in Asia to discover

Are you using Asia as your base while in Brunei? How about these other articles on Asia for travel inspiration. 

Do you require a visa or need a covid test before you visit Brunei? You can check hassle-free and apply at ivisa 

Thank you for reading this article on how to spend a day in Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei. The capital city is definitely a fascinating place to visit and experience. Feel free to visit the Brunei Tourism Site for additional information. 

Have you been to Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei before? I would love to hear your experiences in the comments below.

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Things to do in Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei for a day    Things to do in a day in Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei

Disclaimer: Even though I was invited by ASEAN to see Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei for a day.  All views are my own and based on my own experience in this interesting country.

“This post contains affiliate links, which means that at no additional cost to you if you click on one of the product links, we may earn a commission.”  For further details, you can view our Privacy Policy, Terms & Conditions or contact me directly. 

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55 thoughts on “How to spend a day in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

  1. Ryan Biddulph says:

    Hi Mel,

    Nope, I have not been to Brunei but I would love to go.

    One of my Facebook friends is from Brunei. She has noted a few times how I should visit, and I am often in the SE Asia, region visiting Bali and Thailand so much.

    As for the Muslim country thingee, no worries here. Neither my wife or I drinks and we visited Qatar earlier this year so we cut our Muslim teeth, with covering everything up when we left the compound and not holding hands in public and all that stuff. No biggie.

    I’d enough a nice little hike to see those monkeys too. Sounds like so much fun.

    Thanks for sharing Mel.

    Ryan

    • melbtravel says:

      I have stopped in Qatar airport in transit on my way to Australia. I have thought about stopping there for a few days but I have mixed feelings about it. Brunei is not like that you don’t have to cover up and I am pretty sure it was ok for you to hold hands. Everyone was super nice to and as soon as they knew you were a tourist they would stop and say hi and want to know where you were from. In regards to the Monkeys, I recently saw them in Borneo and it was amazing, definitely recommend that. Thanks for your comment, Paul

  2. Lisa says:

    I’ve never been here before so this was very interesting to read. The water village is gorgeous and doesn’t look big enough for 39,000 people. Good tips on visiting a Muslim country as a non-Muslim. I remember going to Jakarta for 2 nights and was unprepared! Definitely one to add to the list!

  3. Alexia Green says:

    I never thought about visiting Brunei because it didn’t seem like a place for tourists. What an interesting insight you have written. Great tips too for us non-muslims

  4. Lynn T says:

    Firstly beautiful pictures, what a colourful grand city. I’m not much of a drinker so l would be happy to go here and explore.

  5. Mick Young says:

    I have heard about the diving in Brunei but it was not a place on my radar. Interesting read and my wife and kids would love that resort. I think l more look into diving in to Brunei more now.

  6. Joella says:

    I have not had the pleasure to visit this country yet. It is interesting to see the different culture and customs and you provide some great tips. It is always good to be respectful of others and their customs so knowing what is acceptable dress is important. I love the suggestion of visiting a market and also was quite surprised to see the opulence mixed in with the homes on the waters which look like would not survive a strong breeze let alone a monsoon. Thanks for enlightening me to a different side of the world.

    • melbtravel says:

      Brunei was definitely an interesting one for sure and I am glad that I got to experience it. Some of those places in the water I wondering if they were about to fall down too but they don’t. I thought it was really interesting too to see the school on the water, I did ask if any of the students fall in and they said yes.

  7. James says:

    I visited Brunei a few years ago, my motivation was because Michael Jackson made his last Dangerous concert there! I thought that the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque was one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen and you photographed it beautifully! I think the hotel you stayed at is a seven star hotel isn’t it?

    • melbtravel says:

      I never knew that Michael Jackson that is an interesting fact. I think the hotel is 6star and I am pretty sure that it is owned by Hassanal Bolkiah the king of Brunei and Thank you in regards to my photos.

  8. Martha says:

    I knew very little about Brunei, but now I’m obsessed! I’ve become more interested in traveling Asia and the Middle East and I might just have to venture there next. All the sites you visited look beautiful!

    • melbtravel says:

      I recommend it especially for a few days, it is not like the other Muslim countries that I have visited in the past. The locals were so happy to see tourist there

  9. Abhinav Singh says:

    Brunei is such an offbeat destination. Not many tourists go there. Despite the lack of media attention, Brunei has attracted my attention for many years now. I didn’t know about Kampong Ayer though. Sounds like a nice place.

    • melbtravel says:

      I agree it is definitely offbeat destination even though it is right in the middle of other popular Asia tourist destinations. Kampong Ayer is interesting to see, even the houses look like they are falling down. Everyone seems very happy and this is their way of life. We even got to go into one of the houses and meet the locals.

  10. Jodie Young says:

    It’s strange to think that l go to all these other countries around it like Bali but never to Brunei. I suppose I never really thought about it being a tourist destination until now. Love your pictures of the Moques 🙂

    • melbtravel says:

      I went to Vietnam a couple of years ago and we thought about heading to Brunei for a couple of days but then we changed our minds. I am glad that I have been now and see what it was like, it was a pleasant surprise.

  11. Gem Hayes says:

    What a colourful beautiful place. Brunei sounds like an interesting place, l especially love the water village and the Empire Hotel. I could easily get lost walking around the hotel

    • melbtravel says:

      Those Mosques were definitely colourful and grand that is for sure. LOL, would you believe that I did get lost in that hotel when I arrived as I was way down the end and couldn’t find my way back.

  12. Suze says:

    I met a couple from Brunei when I was in Tanzania and they were really friendly. They also got me intrigued in the country when they told me about the abundant wildlife. I’d love to visit to see it as well as the architecture and the floating village. Your hotel looks great too

    • melbtravel says:

      I would like to go back and explore the rainforest and do some diving, it is supposed to be really beautiful. You would love the hotel it is grand as the Mosques that is for sure.

  13. Rachelle says:

    I’ve heard of Brunei before, but I’m a little ashamed to say that I had to double check a map to find it’s exact location. I love visiting churches of different religions and completely understand the need to cover up and not take pictures in those mosques. I would love to try snorkeling in the area. I had no idea they had so many untouched dive sites!

    • melbtravel says:

      Don’t worry, I didn’t know much about the place either until I went there. I am definitely glad though that I went as I was pleasantly surprised by the country and the people. I would be keen to go back and dive too before it becomes so popular.

  14. Soraya says:

    I have never been to Brunei and like you, didn’t know too much about Brunei. The mosques here look quite flash. I remember the flights with Royal Brunei being so cheap from Australia, but never ended up taking them. Looks like quite an intriguing and colourful place to visit!

    • melbtravel says:

      These mosques were definitely grand and I can’ believe that they are covered in real gold. I wished I could have taken photos from inside as it was just as pretty with the gold too. Btw I am Australian, so I will be keeping my eye out for flights to Australia from England for my next trip home.

  15. Nina Zara says:

    Despite the brief encounter with Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei you have seen a lot! For my passport its hard to obtain visa so Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei will have to wait for a while, but would love to see this in person!

    • melbtravel says:

      I was shipped into places and then out again, I didn’t mind though but it would have been nice to stay longer to appreciate the place especially the hotel.

  16. Candy says:

    I have never been to Brunei, but it sounds like a wonderful place to explore. You have really great tips like avoiding to visit during holy months. I love visiting night markets and it’s great to hear that it’s very clean well organized.

    • melbtravel says:

      I think the night market was even clear than the ones in London, it was great walking around them and we were definitely an attraction to them 🙂 They were very smiley and said hi.

  17. Tatum says:

    I love how grand, and gold everything is here! Those mosques are literally insane, almost too amazing for words! Also, where are your sunnies from? I love them!

    • Melbtravel says:

      It was definitely grand and it was a shame that we could not take photos inside as it was beautiful. My sunnies are from SunGod, it is a company that supplies them to me.

  18. Gem of Travels with a Hobo says:

    Thanks for the comprehensive post on Brunei! Felt like I was already having a tour while reading your post. I was supposed to go here as a sidetrip while I was in Malaysia but the plan didn’t push through. Hope to go there in the future though, would really love to see what’s inside the beautiful mosques and explore the water village.

    • Melbtravel says:

      You are more than welcome 🙂 I was also supposed to go here ages ago on a side trip but didn’t work out, glad it has this time though and it was definitely an interesting place to visit.

  19. Jurga says:

    So interesting to read about a country I knew nothing about! It looks like a great place to visit, also because it’s so little known and still authentic and not overrun with tourist I suppose.

  20. Abigail Sinsona says:

    I agree with you – I am left to wonder why there are not many tourists blogging about Brunei. It truly is spectacular based on what you had shared about your experience. Those mosques are so grand – even though I have been to the Grand Palace in Bangkok, both of their major mosques look more grand and awe-inspiring!

  21. Cat says:

    I’ve always wondered what Brunei is like. I’d be particularly interested in visiting the mosque – the decor is very unique. The Empire Hotel & Country Club is covered in gold – what a luxurious place to stay at!

  22. Alessia Morello says:

    Hi Mel! I never been in Brunei, but I’ve been close, in Malaysia and Singapore but never there. Yeah their temples are so rich and vast that are incredible to see. The hotels are amazing and is so cool to have the opportunity to do snorkeling. I love it! Is absolutely a place to visit!

  23. Alessia Morello says:

    I Mel! I never been in Brunei, I’ve been in close in Malaysia and Singapore but never there. Yeah they temples are so rich and vast that are incredible to see. The hotels are amazing and is so cool to have the opportunity to do snorkeling. I love it! Is absolutely a place to visit!

  24. Arianne says:

    WOW Mel! Thank you for sharing! This place looks seriously amazing! So great you got to participate in this event and see these unique places

  25. Alex - My LIfe Long Holiday says:

    Oh my – that lobby! I get the impression you were surrounded by oppulence for a few days Mel. It seems like a great place for a spot of R&R, even without the alcohol! Although I am still trying to work out why one would want some crude oil as a souvenir!?

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