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Bandar Seri Begawan has some of Southeast Asia’s most beautiful mosques and the world’s largest stilted village. Not to mention duty-free shopping. Culture Trip presents the best ways to get around Brunei’s capital including a rundown on using public buses and when to get a water taxi.
Many of Bandar Seri Begawan’s attractions lie within walking distance of the city centre. Visitors can stroll along the Waterfront to Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and the Royal Regalia Museum in less than 30 minutes (minus photo stops). Wide pavements and a clean environment make walking a pleasant experience. Tourists with 48 hours in Bandar Seri Begawan might also use a combination of public buses, water taxis and sightseeing on foot.
Scorching midday temperatures combined with stifling humidity promises a sweaty and uncomfortable time outdoors. The best time to get around Bandar Seri Begawan on foot is before 11am and after 5pm. Spend the hottest part of the day in the Royal Regalia Museum of shopping at The Mall. Check the weather forecast. Plan your day around the downpours.
A network of public buses provides a cheap and convenient way to get around Bandar Seri Begawan. Passengers usually flag the minibuses (routes displayed in the driver’s window) by waving their arm at the side of the street. Specific and often ambiguous bus stops do exist, but buses usually don’t stick to the designated stops. If you want to get off, call or signal the driver (pointing at the door and waving your arms usually does the trick). All public and long-distance buses start and end at Jalan Cator Bus Terminal (near Jalan McArthur and the Waterfront). Pay the driver B$1 ($0.65 USD). This is valid for as many stops as you want. Pro tip: Public buses don’t operate later than 6pm or 8pm. Ask the driver to clarify the last one if you’re planning to stay out late. And have the telephone number of a taxi just in case.
Using the bus can be a cheap way to get around Bandar Seri Begawan. But it can also be confusing, especially in the afternoon heat or pouring rain. Don’t expect a ticket or information office. And it’s challenging to find routes and schedules online. Your hotel should be able to give you the bus number and tell you where to flag it down. Fortunately, Bruneians tend to be extremely helpful to confused-looking foreigners!
Water taxis line Bandar Seri Begawan’s Waterfront ferrying passengers to and from Kampong Ayer. The motorised boats carry hundreds of residents every day. Fares vary depending on the destination. Drivers usually quote prices somewhere between B$1 and B$2 ($0.65 and $1.30 USD) from the Waterfront to Kampong Ayer. If you hang around, you might be able to split the fare with locals.
What can be better than exploring the original ‘Venice of the East’ than by boat? Many of the water taxis drivers speak some English. Consider negotiating a price for a one-hour tour of Brunei’s stilted village. We recommend an impromptu sunset cruise.
Brunei doesn’t have many taxis. According to locals, only 50 exist in the entire country! Regardless of the accuracy of this statistic, visitors will undoubtedly face difficulties finding a taxi. Don’t expect roaming cabs honking at tourists like in other Southeast Asian cities. Instead, you’ll probably need to call the driver. Bandar Seri Begawan’s few cabs have a yellow top while airport taxis are usually white. Expect similar fares to Singapore. We recommend taxis as a last resort.
Ask your hotel to provide a driver’s number. Calling a cab is the only sure way to arrange a ride.
Some, but not all, hotels in Bandar Seri Begawan provide a free airport transfer. And sometimes this extends to driving guests around the capital’s main attractions (think Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, The Mall and Gadong Night Market). The driver picks passengers up from the hotel and collects them later at a specific time. While this does reduce flexibility, it is among the most convenient and cheapest ways to get around Bandar Seri Begawan. Drivers with a little English can provide nuggets of local history and facts, too.
Having a private driver taking you around Bandar Seri Begawan is a huge advantage. Read the hotel’s fine print or call their reception before making a reservation to see if they offer this service.
The fastest way to get around Bandar Seri Begawan is to rent a car. Rentals are affordable while ultra-low fuel prices allow a full tank for a few Bruneian Dollars. Be aware vehicles with a Malaysian or Indonesian license plate need to refuel at a different pump with slightly higher prices. High-quality roads and a lack of congestion make pleasant driving in Bandar Seri Begawan. Malay road signs use the Roman alphabet without English translations.
Sarawak splits Brunei into two separate landmasses. Cars need to exit Brunei into Malaysia before returning to Brunei. If you want to drive between both parts, make sure you have right paperwork and documents to drive in Malaysia legally. Double check visa requirements. You might need a multi-entry visa to Brunei.