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Port Review: Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Joanna Hall

Capital of the Sultanate of Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan is the primary gateway to this small and unimposing country - which has plenty to offer visitors by cruise ship.

The Facts

Location: On the Brunei River, on the northwestern side of the island of Borneo.

Language: Malay, but English is generally spoken as a second language and well understood.

Currency: Brunei dollar. 

Docking/Anchoring: Ships dock at the cruise terminal, which is about 25 kilometres from the centre of the city.

Transport: Ships usually put on shuttle buses to transport people to Bandar Seri Begawan. Taxis are usually available but they are expensive, but if you’re feeling adventurous you can take a local bus from near the port which takes about an hour to reach the city.


Brunei has a long and quite fascinating history, with a past which includes being a British protectorate, and occupation by the Japanese during World War II. In 1984, following an uprising, Brunei gained its independence from Britain, and had since remodelled itself into a tax haven, and a wealthy and industrialised nation. The centre of Bandar Seri Begawan lies at the confluence of the Sungai Brunei and Sungai Dekayan, and it’s reasonably compact for exploring on foot on your own - once you’re there.

Don’t Miss

The Omar Saifuddin Mosque is open to the public when it’s not being used for prayers, and  is a very beautiful and welcoming place of worship. You will need to remove your shoes to enter, and cover up according to tradition. 

Kampong Ayer, also called the “water village”, is best visited by taxi boat. An entire village built on the water, the houses sit on stilts and are accessed by bridges. 

The Royal Regalia Museum is located near the city centre, and has a display of the Sultan’s many treasures, as well as royal regalia used during the coronation, and gifts received from dignitaries around the world.

The Brunei Museum is worth a look if you have time, with a key highlight being the Islamic Art Gallery. 

Best Photo Op

The exterior of the Omar Saifuddin Mosque, or daily life from the waterways of Kampong Ayer.


Brunei isn’t famous for shopping, in spite of its tax free status, however, if you are keen to see what’s on offer, head for The Mall in Gadong.

Food and Drink

There are many good local restaurants, some of which serve a Bruneian delicacy called ambuyat, a dish derived from the interior trunk of the sago palm, similar to tapioca, and which is eaten with a bamboo fork called a chandas, by rolling the starch around the prongs and then dipping it into a sauce. For snacks, head to a Kedai Kopi, or coffee shop, which sells cheap and simple food. You won’t find any bars of note here as Brunei is a Muslim country, and therefore alcohol-free.

Pick of the Excursions

As Brunei is difficult to negotiate on your own, a city tour is the best way for first timers to see most of the main sights including the mosques, the museum and the Sultan’s palace.

A water tour of Kampong Ayer is a great introduction into a unique way of life in Brunei, and often involves a visit to a local family home with tea and snacks.

If you prefer wildlife to culture, and it’s offered from your ship, a tour to view proboscis monkeys in their natural habitat is worth the money, usually only a half-day leaving you time to explore Bandar Seri Begawan afterwards.


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  1. Posted by on 8th Jan 2019 Verified Customer

    Surprisingly Good 5 Star Review

    We stopped here on a Regent cruise a few years back and initially I wasn't going to bother getting off ship. But a member of crew told me it was well worth it and he was right! We pretty much toured the entire day and saw the best things including the stilt village and some of the museums and it was a nice day albeit very hot and humid. I am not sure I'd travel there independently but really enjoyed Brunei as a port of call. Thanks for sharing.

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