Brunei Itinerary – How to Spend 3-5 Days in the Country

Mosque in BSB, Brunei

Brunei is a country that divides travellers. Some blast it as an uninspiring destination with very little to offer visitors. However, in my opinion, this is a rather hasty (and unfair) judgement. While the country is certainly less tourist-friendly than others in Southeast Asia, there are plenty of activities for intrepid travellers who are ready to get off the beaten track and find them!

If you’re considering visiting Brunei and are wondering how to divide your time, you’re in luck. These two itineraries, put together by someone who adores Brunei (that’s me!), will help you get the most out of your time in the country. 

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Amazing Brunei Itineraries 

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3-Day Brunei Itinerary

Getting from A to B: The Lowdown

If you stick to Bandar Seri Begawan, you will find many of the main attractions are within walking distance of each other. For anything a little further afield, we recommend using the Uber alternative Dart to make the most efficient use of your time. 

Day 1 🕰️

Once you arrive in Brunei, jump in a Dart car or hop on a bus to take you to the city. The waterfront is the hub of the action and you’ll find many of the most popular attractions in Bandar Seri Begawan within walking distance of here. 

Your first stop in the capital of Brunei is going to be the Royal Regalia Museum. The name is pretty self-explanatory: this museum contains keepsakes given by foreign dignitaries to the Sultan as well as other delicately preserved memorabilia of the Bruneian Royal Family.

Royal Regalia Museum, Brunei
Photo taking is limited in the Royal Regalia Museum.

There is a $5BND entry fee for foreigners (approx. $3.50USD) but if you ask me, this is worth it for access to the air conditioning alone! While museums generally can be a bit dull, this is not the case here – a visit provides a fascinating introduction to the role of the royal family within Brunei. 

The most noteworthy artefact is the majestic golden hand-carried carriage of the king, which is truly fit for no less than royalty. Unfortunately, photo taking is limited once you’re inside the museum, however, some of the treasures will blow your mind! 

Once you’ve toured the museum (which may take longer than you think!), embark on foot to the Arts and Handicrafts Center. Here you’ll find local jewellery, woven fabric and other traditional souvenirs. For more exotic finds, walk over to Tamu Kianggeh, the local wet market.

This area is connected to the city by a bridge over a narrow brook where water taxis pick up and drop off passengers. This market is a great place to shop for exotic fruit, medicinal herbs, dried fish and a range of spices.

The waterfront is home to a range of eateries catering to both Eastern and Western tastes. As Brunei is a cosmopolitan city, you can get a range of cuisine from all over the world. Kaizen Sushi Yayasan is a popular option for Japanese fare whereas Phongmun Restaurant serves Chinese cuisine. You can probably guess which country inspired London Café and Restaurant!

This murtabak was the best I had throughout Borneo!

“MenuBrunei, located opposite the waterfront, is a great option for a variety of local dishes. I’d definitely recommend trying the chicken and egg murtabak – it was by far the best I had on my Borneo trip! I was also pleasantly surprised by the price, most dishes came in at around $5BND.”

Sheree, Writer at South East Asia Backpacker

Your penultimate stop will be the Golden Jubilee Eco Park, a wonderful green space with incredible views of the water village and Brunei’s most famous landmark, the awe-inspiring Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. Don’t miss the opportunity to line up the perfect photo and get a shot of the mosque inside the gargantuan photo frame which sits in the park!

The mosque itself is constructed and named after the highly-revered 28th Sultan of Brunei and the grounds have an almost palatial vibe, with distinctly-shaped windows and ivory-like marble.

Needless to say, the mosque is an absolute dream for photographers, no matter when they visit. The grandeur of the mosque with its reflection on the lake makes for a flawless photo!

Any visit to the capital should involve a short walk around the building and those dressed appropriately (shoulders and knees covered) are permitted to enter outside of prayer times. If you’re keen to go inside, make sure you do your research, wear the right stuff and time your visit right! 

Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, BSB, Brunei
Picture perfect! 📸

Across from the mosque, you can visit the bougie Yayasan Shopping Complex which houses a supermarket, department store, various shops and international fast food chains. This is a good place to grab dinner. Alternatively, try one of the many waterfront restaurants within walking distance. 

Looking for Lodgings?

You’ll find loads of accommodation recommendations for Bandar Seri Begawan here. However, if you want a quick answer now, we’d recommend staying at Kunyit 7 Lodge, located in Kampong Ayer.

Day 2 🕌

On day two, you can explore the farther corners of the city. Your first stop will be the beautiful Jame’ Asr Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the largest mosque in Brunei. Unlike the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in the city centre, this one was built to honour the reigning Sultan. It is nothing short of stunning, with four minarets and 29 golden domes. This grandiose complex will remind you of Princess Jasmine’s palace in Disney’s Aladdin!

Visitors are permitted but only if they are appropriately dressed and it’s not prayer time. Official events may close the mosque to non-muslims with little warning too. Even if you time it wrong and can’t go in, it is still worth snapping some photos of the outside. 

“I am not exaggerating when I say that the Jame’ Asr Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque is the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen. It might be a little way out of the centre but it is definitely worth the journey!” 

Sheree, Editor at South East Asia Backpacker
Jame' Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque 3, BSB, Brunei
Hands down the most beautiful mosque I have ever seen!

If you’re getting fed up with all the city slicking, how about something a bit more natural? Hikers rejoice because there is a tropical jungle, just a stone’s throw from the centre of Bandar Seri Begawan. 

The family-friendly Tasek Lama Recreational Park is within walking distance of the city centre, however, those based further out will likely want to hop in a Dart car to get here. This semi-wild park is home to a natural waterfall, with plenty of rest stops, a children’s playground and marked paths. 

But, venture away from the tarmac pathways and it won’t be long until you are tackling hikes in the real Borneo jungle! These trails allow visitors to experience the wild flora and fauna of the country, and many routes offer a great view of the city. If you come across the resident macaques, do not let them see you carrying food, they quickly become ‘overly friendly’ and turn into aggressive little jerks.

Tasek Lama Recreational Park, BSB, Brunei
I loved exploring Tasek Lama Recreational Park – although I did get a bit sweaty!

When you’ve finished pounding the trails, head to Gadong Night Market, the social heart of the city. Despite its name, the market actually begins to open at 4 pm however, it is best to visit a little later to really experience it in full swing. 

Reminiscent of other night markets in Asia, it boasts a range of affordable snacks including grilled BBQ, fried pastries, sweet treats and colourful layered drinks. Ubiquitous dishes such as nasi lemak (coconut milk rice served with sambal, toasted peanuts, cucumber and anchovies) and nasi katok (white rice, sambal and a piece of fried chicken) cost as little as $1BND (approx. $0.70USD) for small servings.

Be sure to try Brunei’s kuih wajid, pandan leaf-wrapped glutinous rice cake. It is very similar to the Filipino biko and other types of kakanin. There’s no way you’re walking out of here hungry!

Don’t worry if you’re not feeling confident about the language, while this is definitely a local spot and tourists are few and far between, most of the vendors will be able to speak at least some English (the language is generally widely spoken throughout the country). Come with an empty belly and an open mind!

Fried noodles Gadong night market, BSB, Brunei
Fried noodles from Gadong Night Market.

Nightlife in Brunei 

Alcohol is banned in Brunei so those looking to party may want to go elsewhere. The country doesn’t really have a nightclub or bar scene, nor does it host casinos or other arcade-type buildings. While there are various night markets scattered across the country, once you’ve had your fill, you’ll likely need to make your own fun for the rest of the evening.

Day 3 🚣

The final day of your Brunei itinerary will involve exploring more of the city centre and in particular, the water village of Kampong Ayer. Water villages are pretty commonplace across Southeast Asia but Kampong Ayer is the largest in the world and has been inhabited for over a millennium! 

To get to the village, simply wait at the waterfront and flag down one of the many water taxis (we joke, they’ll be on you before you have the chance to flag one down!) and pay the $1BND (approx. $0.70USD) to take the speedy journey across the river. 

Despite being located above water, Kampong Ayer is a remarkable self-sustained community which boasts all the mod cons. You’ll double-take when you see some of the buildings – they don’t look like they belong in a water village! Schools, mosques, police and fire stations can also be found here. 

Boat trip 1, Kampong Ayer, Bandar Seri Begawan, brunei
It is believed that people first built houses over the river over 1,000 years ago!

Walkways connect the 40 different villages which make up this settlement and offer a fascinating insight into how the local people live. Don’t miss the Culture and Tourism Gallery while you’re there for more background on how Kampong Ayer came to be. 

After checking out the village, you can take another water taxi and do a boat trip around the village. You’ll be amazed at the mad skills of the boat drivers as they zoom through narrow stilts, all while avoiding the crocodiles that call this river home!

Combine this adventure with a tour of the mangroves to see the proboscis monkeys, found only in Borneo. To do a boat trip around Kampong Ayer and out to the mangroves will cost around $40-45BND (approx. $30-34USD) for two people if arranged with one of the boatmen. If you book a tour online in advance, it’ll be slightly more expensive but your driver will likely have better English-speaking ability. 

Monkey spotting Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Spotting monkeys in the jungles just outside Bandar Seri Begawan.

As you cruise the waterways, keep an eye out for crocodiles in the water, you never know where you could see them! As well as this, there is the opportunity to see all manner of birdlife in the areas around the mangroves – bring your camera!

If you are visiting Brunei outside of Hari Raya, a river trip will present some of the best opportunities for spotting the sultan’s palace, Istana Nurul Iman. It is the largest royal residence in the world but is sadly only open to the public for three days a year, during the Hari Raya celebrations at the end of Ramadan. 

Despite this, it is possible to have your photo taken at the entrance – the security guards are very friendly and usually up for a chat! Just a note that if you want to check out the entrance of the palace, you will need to make your way on foot (and it’s quite a long walk from the centre) or hop in a Dart car.

No visit to Brunei is complete without sampling the national dish ambuyat. Made using sago palm, ambuyat is essentially a bowl of gloopy starch. It is bland in taste, however, it is served alongside a range of flavourful dipping bowls, containing meats, fish and vegetables. The meal is eaten using candas, a utensil similar to chopsticks, which are used to twirl the starch before dipping it into the side bowls.

Ambuyat, Brunei
What will you make of Brunei’s national dish?

“Let’s be honest here, Ambuyat itself tastes of nothing. Literally nothing. But the selection of dipping dishes that come with it is incredible! You won’t get the chance to try it in many places, so give it a go while in Brunei!” 

Tim, Writer at South East Asia Backpacker

There are loads of places across Brunei to try this unique dish but I recommend heading to the local favourite Soto Pabo. The restaurant is set in a local part of the city and sits on stilts over the river, offering incredible views of Kampong Ayer. It is the perfect setting for your final meal in this fascinating country. 

5 Day Brunei Itinerary

Got Longer? 

If you want to spend a little longer exploring what Brunei has to offer, follow the above itinerary before adding on a trip to the rainforest. Surprisingly for an oil country, Brunei is home to some of the most pristine jungles in the world, with forest covering over 80% of the country!

Day 4 🥾

For your final two days in Brunei, you are going to explore the beautiful Ulu Temburoung National Park, also known as the ‘Green Jewel of Brunei’. You will need to do this as part of an organised tour. Depending on the tour that you book, your itinerary may vary a little. However, most of the trips tend to follow a similar schedule to the one outlined below. 

Most of these tours will pick up in Bandar Seri Begawan in the afternoon, so you’ll have the morning in the city to spend as you wish. After the last few busy days, you may want a bit more of a chilled start! Tours will transport you directly to the forest by boat so all you need to do is make sure you’re well-rested and energised to take on the adventure!

Brunei jungle
Brunei’s rainforest is a bit of a hidden gem in Southeast Asia!

Once you’ve finished the journey, you’ll check into your accommodation. This will likely be some form of eco-lodge but again, the exact lodgings will vary depending on what you have booked. A local dinner will be served before you head out in the evening for a night walk. This is a great opportunity to spot some of Borneo’s nocturnal wildlife – if you have binoculars, bring them! You’ll spend the night in the lodge before rousing bright and early the following morning. 

Day 5 🐒

Overnight tours to Ulu Temburoung National Park tend to make the most of the sunrise, so you’ll likely be heading out on a hike or taking on the canopy walk first thing. Be warned, the canopy walk is high and not for those with a fear of heights!

Early morning is one of the best times to spot wildlife, so stay quiet and keep your eyes peeled. You have the chance of spotting gibbons, proboscis monkeys and of course, the beautiful rhinoceros hornbill. 

Proboscis Monkey
A cheeky proboscis monkey hiding in the foliage.

Lunch will then be served before you head off to a waterfall and natural fish spa in the afternoon. This offers the opportunity to enjoy a swim (in an area free from crocodiles!) and also be pampered a little as the fish nibble away your dead skin. 

Sometimes adventure activities such as rock climbing or abseiling are included in these tours but you’ll need to double-check your itinerary in advance if this is something you want to do. Return transport to Bandar Seri Begawan is provided and from there you can either fly or travel overland to your next destination. 

It is important to make up your own mind about a place. That is why I am so glad that I didn’t listen to the haters and went to explore Brunei myself. While I get why some others may not like the country – it is certainly not as easy to travel around as other places in Southeast Asia – I found it to be a hugely underrated destination with plenty to offer travellers wanting to get off the beaten track. 

Either of these Brunei itineraries will offer you a good insight into this tiny country, helping you to understand the culture, history and landscapes that make up this oil-rich nation. If you have more time, why not stay longer and continue to unearth Brunei’s surprises?

Contributors: 👥

South East Asia Backpacker is a ‘travel diary for everyone’. This article has been written with the help of backpackers and local experts. We would like to thank…

🙏 Kevin Watson Tsai | @thetravelguyshops
🙏 Adrian | Member of South East Asia Backpacker Community
🙏 Tim Ashdown | Writer at South East Asia Backpacker
🙏 Pauline | Find Me Logistics

Sheree Hooker | Editor @ South East Asia Backpacker + Winging The World

Sheree is the awkward British wanderluster behind Winging The World, a blog designed to show that even the most useless of us can travel. Follow Sheree’s adventures as she blunders around the globe, falling into squat toilets, getting into cars with machete men and running away from angry peacocks. In recent years, Sheree has also taken on the role of editor at South East Asia Backpacker.

Find her on: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

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