Preface Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:22 AM
Negara Brunei Darussalam (the country’s official name, meaning
“Abode of Peace”) is one of the most ancient kingdoms in Asia. Early
Chinese records mention a certain kingdom referred to as “Po-lo,”
“Po-ni,” and “Puni.” The present Sultan is the 29th in a line dating
from Sultan Muhammad, who converted to Islam in 1514. From 1888 to
1983, Brunei was a protectorate of the United Kingdom. In 1959,
Brunei became a self-governing constitutional monarchy, with the
British retaining responsibility for the country’s foreign affairs
and defense. Brunei became fully independent on January 1, 1984 at
which time, the American Consulate General (established only 12 days
earlier) was elevated to Embassy status. Brunei’s capital and
largest city is Bandar Seri Begawan. Formerly known as Brunei Town,
the capital was renamed to honor the present Sultan's father in
From the 14th to the 16th century, Brunei was the center of an
empire covering most of the northern part of the Island of Borneo
and extending north through the Philippines to Manila. By the 19th
century, much of Brunei’s empire had been whittled away by piracy,
wars, and the spread of European nations into the Far East. By the
end of the century, Brunei was a British protectorate, and in 1906,
the British Resident system was introduced. The discovery of major
oilfields in the western end of Brunei during the 1920s brought
economic stability and created a new style of life for the
Constitutionally, Brunei was regulated by an agreement with
Britain that was concluded in 1959 and amended in 1971. Under this
agreement, Brunei was internally self-governing, with Britain
responsible for foreign affairs and having a consultative role in
external defense. In 1984, Brunei resumed full sovereign status and
assumed responsibility for its own defense and foreign affairs.
Brunei is a member of the United Nations, the Association of South
East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Organization of the Islamic
Conference (OIC), the Commonwealth, the Asia Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC) Forum, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the
Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the International Monetary Fund (IMF),
and the World Bank.
The Host Country
Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:22 AM
Brunei occupies 3,459 square miles on the northern coast of the
Island of Borneo and is 350 statute miles north of the Equator at 5º
North, 115º East. Brunei is comprised of two separate areas: the
capital area and a thinly populated enclave to the east consisting
mostly of jungle. Separating the two is a salient of the Malaysian
state of Sarawak, which on the landward side surrounds both parts of
Brunei. To the north of Brunei lies the South China Sea. The country
has four districts: Belait, Tutong, Brunei and Muara, and Temburong.
Brunei’s oil and gas fields are centered in the towns of Seria
and Kuala Belait, approximately 67 miles southwest of the capital,
as well as offshore. Other large towns include Tutong, midway
between Bandar Seri Begawan and Kuala Belait, and Bangar in the
The country’s landscape is mainly primary and secondary tropical
rainforest with only a narrow coastal strip from Kuala Belait to
Bandar Seri Begawan that is cultivated. The rainforest receives as
much as 146 inches of rain in the interior, but only 108 inches a
year is recorded on the coast. The two defined rainy seasons are
from September to January (with December being the wettest month)
and May to July. The climate is equatorial with uniform temperatures
and high humidity.
Population Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:22 AM
Of a total population of approximately 338,000, 68% are Malays,
15% are Chinese, and 6% are non-Malay indigenous people, including
Ibans, Dusins, and several other tribal groupings. Expatriates
(mostly foreign workers) make up 12% of the population, including
Australians, British, Filipinos, Indonesians, Malaysians, and South
Malay is the official language, but English is spoken almost
everywhere in the country. While many in the Chinese community speak
Hokkien, other dialects, such as Hakka and Cantonese, are used.
Other residents speak Hindi.
Brunei has no personal income tax, and the people enjoy free
education and subsidized medical care.
Public Institutions Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:23 AM
The Sultan of Brunei assumed the offices of Prime Minister,
Minister of Finance, and Minister of Home Affairs in 1984 after the
resumption of full political independence.
In October 1986, he relinquished the Ministries of Finance and
Home Affairs and took over the Ministry of Defense, a portfolio that
his late father had held since 1984. In 1997, he resumed his
position as Minister of Finance. The Sultan is Supreme Commander of
the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, and as Prime Minister, presides over
a Cabinet of 10 members. He is also head of the Islamic faith in
Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:23 AM
Brunei’s small population base cannot support national theatre
and arts organizations, but there are still opportunities to sample
Brunei’s rich artistic traditions. While there are no public art
galleries in Brunei, there are often art exhibitions where many
talented local artists display their works. The Ministry of Culture,
Youth and Sports often organizes cultural performances that include
Malay folk dancing and singing, accompanied by traditional Malay
instruments. Performances are usually held at official receptions.
Radio Television Brunei’s theatre is also used as a venue for
The Brunei capital has two cinemas that screen English, Malay and
Chinese movies. The luxurious Empire Hotel also has its own
Brunei has more than two hundred primary and secondary schools
(including non-government schools); many are being computerized.
Brunei’s education system has been extended with the
establishment of the University Brunei Darussalam. Currently the
University has six faculties — Education, Science, Arts, Management,
Islamic Studies, and Academy of Brunei Studies. Other degrees are
pursued overseas, mainly in the United Kingdom and Australia. Until
recently, the University's academic staff was mainly non-Bruneian.
Annual tuition for non-Bruneian students is B$3,000 per year.
Some classes are taught in English. Other institutions at tertiary
level include an agricultural training center and various technical
institutes. These are designed to meet skill shortages.
Most expatriate children attend either the Jerudong International
School (JIS) or the International School of Brunei (ISB).
Instruction in both schools is in English. ISB has classes from
kindergarten through grade 10 while JIS is through grade 12. Both
schools use a British-based curriculum.
Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:24 AM
Oil and natural gas, the economic backbone of the country,
represent more than 80 percent of Brunei’s total exports and about
half its gross domestic product. Most of Brunei’s petroleum and
liquefied natural gas is exported to other Asian countries, notably
Japan and Korea.
Brunei is working to diversify its economy to reduce its
dependency on oil and gas production. Proposals the government is
promoting include an international financial center, a regional
information technology center, downstream oil and gas facilities,
Automobiles Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:25 AM
A car is essential in Brunei, especially if you live in an
outlying residential district. Driving is on the left.
Right-hand-drive vehicles are recommended. Left-hand-drive vehicles
can be used but must be re-exported upon completion of tour. The
Brunei Government has firm policies on the importation of used cars.
Imported used cars cannot exceed 5 years of age. Tinted windows are
not permitted in Brunei. Imported vehicles may require some
modifications before licensing (e.g., all imported cars must have a
catalytic converter and tail and headlights must meet local color
requirements). Diplomats purchasing new cars in Brunei may
experience significant depreciation or difficulty selling their cars
at the completion of their tour.
Personal vehicles must be imported under the owners’ names. All
cars must be registered and licensed with the Brunei Land Transport
Department. Before registration, obtain third-party liability
insurance for a regular passenger vehicle. Diplomatic license tags
are locally made with the cost reimbursed by the Embassy. Brunei
driver’s licenses are issued without charge to diplomats. Americans
assigned to the Embassy may drive on their U.S. driver’s license for
Cars with air-conditioners and light interiors are advisable.
Limited parking in town makes smaller, easily maneuverable cars more
convenient. Very low-riding cars can fall victim to standing water
during the rainy season and the high speed bumps that litter
Bandar’s surrounding area. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are well suited
to Brunei’s roads and grant more freedom for “off the beaten
path”excursions. Cars available locally include Nissan, Toyota,
Honda, Mitsubishi, BMW, Mercedes, and Ford of Australia. Most
Embassy staff purchase a local used car and resell it when they
Main urban arterial and highways are modern and in good
condition. Expansion of the highways is ongoing to accommodate
ever-increasing numbers of commuters on the highways. In conjunction
with the standard workday rush hours, parents transporting their
children to and from school significantly contribute to traffic
congestion. Some local drivers tend to be casual about stopping for
Shell enjoys a monopoly on retail gasoline outlets and unleaded
gasoline costs about US$1.15 per gallon.
Local Transportation Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:25 AM
Most Bruneians own cars (an average of 1.8 cars per person). As a
result, public transport and taxis are not in great demand, although
they are available. A limited number of buses also operate between
the city centers. Chauffeur-driven or rental cars are available for
hire through major hotels or the airport.
Taxis, if allowed to charge the metered rate, can be more
expensive than rates in the U.S. Negotiation before entering the
taxi is sometimes possible. The fare from the airport to Bandar Seri
Begawan varies from about US$12 to US$30, depending on taxi
availability and the driver’s whim.
Water taxis are the most common form of transport in Kampong
Ayer, Brunei’s water village. Regular water taxis and boat services
ply the routes between Bandar Seri Begawan, Bangar, Limbang (in
Malaysia’s Sarawak), Labuan (Malaysia), and some towns in the
Malaysian state of Sabah.
Regional Transportation Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:26 AM
Air transportation is commonly used for destinations outside
Brunei. Several international airlines and the national airline,
Royal Brunei Airlines, serve Brunei.
Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:26
Telephone — including cellular — service is good. Cellular
(mobile) phone use is rapidly increasing. Local, fixed line
telephone calls are free, except from public phone booths. Use of
public phones requires the pre-purchase of a calling card even for
local calls, as the phones are not coin-operated. Long-distance
telephone, FAX, and telegraph service to the U.S. is good, but
The U.S. is 12 hours behind Brunei time and 13 hours during
daylight savings time.
Internet Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:26 AM
Brunei has its own Internet service provider called Brunet, which
can be accessed at a reasonable price. Internet access can be slow,
though service is improving. A new, higher speed service, Espeed,
has been recently introduced. Pre-paid internet access cards are
Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:27 AM
Commercial rates for mail to the U.S. are B$1.20 per 10 grams of
airmail, B$.60 for airmail post cards and every 10 grams of
second-class airmail, and B $.45 for airgrams. There is also a B$2
registration fee for all destinations and a B$2 insurance fee for
every $200 value.
Airmail between Brunei and the U.S. takes about 10 days and
within Southeast Asia about 5 days. Mail coming into Brunei takes
slightly less time. Brunei customs authorities check parcels mailed
at the General Post Office.
International mail should be addressed as follows:
Local Address: [Full Name] American Embassy 3rd Floor, Teck Guan
Plaza Jalan Sultan Bandar Seri Begawan BS 8811 Negara Brunei
International mailing address: [Full Name] American Embassy P.O.
Box 2991 Jalan Sultan Bandar Seri Begawan BS 8675 Negara Brunei
FPO mailing address: [Name] PSC 470, BSB FPO AP 96507
Embassy personnel may send and receive mail via FPO pouched
to/from Singapore. FPO mail is received twice weekly, and takes 7 to
15 days to reach its destination.
Radio and TV Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:27 AM
The government-owned Radio Television Brunei (RTB) radio stations
broadcast daily on AM and FM, with programs in English, Malay, and
Chinese. Programs are varied and international news is reported
twice a day at 12:15 p.m. and 10 p.m. Radio stations piped in via
satellite include London’s Capital Radio and Capital Gold. One local
TV channel and three Malaysian channels are received over the
airwaves. Brunei programs, which have included some award winning
documentaries, comprise about 40 percent of programming. The
remaining programs come from other ASEAN countries, Australia, the
United Kingdom and the United States. Satellite dishes and TV
decoders are available. The Embassy provides post housing with a
decoder, although employees pay monthly cable programming charges.
The decoders provide access to a number of channels, including HBO,
CNN, the BBC, MTV, Cartoon Network, National Geographic, the
Discovery Channel, and Star TV.
The TV system is PAL, as opposed to the NTSC system used in the
U.S. Multisystem TV monitors and videodisc players can be purchased
locally at reasonable prices. Embassy-provided housing comes
equipped with a local TV set and multisystem video tape player.
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated:
12/2/2003 10:27 AM
Some western publications are available, including Time and
Newsweek. The ASEAN edition of Reader’s Digest is also available.
Other U.S. magazines appear on the newsstands a few weeks late and
at a price two or three times their U.S. price. Many outdated
magazines are sold at newsstands. The two daily English-language
newspapers are the Borneo Bulletin and News Express. International
newspapers available include the Straits Times (Singapore), the New
Straits Times (Malaysia), the Asian Wall Street Journal, and the
International Herald Tribune.
A limited selection of American and British books on various
subjects is available at bookshops at 50 to 100 percent above
publisher prices. The public library downtown has a small collection
of books in English, but few recent publications. The university
library has a better collection. Several recreational clubs have
their own libraries.
Health and Medicine
Medical Facilities Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:28 AM
Health services are free for Brunei citizens with a reasonable
charge for permanent residents and expatriates; fees for doctors’
visits cost about B$25. Health care is a three-tier system: clinics
provide primary care, health centers offer secondary care, and
district hospitals provide tertiary care.
The main medical facility in Brunei — a 550-bed central referral
hospital in Bandar Seri Begawan — is the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak
Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital. This hospital offers diagnostic and
therapeutic facilities for the entire country. RIPAS is considered
fine for emergencies and minor surgery. Most expatriates travel to
Singapore or elsewhere for major surgery.
The Jerudong Park Medical Center, an outpatient health care
facility, opened to the public in October 1995. It offers cardiac
stress tests, MRI, CAT scans and physical therapy. JP Medical Center
also houses fitness facilities and a spa. The professional staff
includes one Western doctor. Most doctors and dentists in the
country are non-Western expatriates. For specialized care, patients
are sent abroad. Routine dentistry is available, but major dental
work should be done before leaving for post. Opticians and
optometrists are available locally, and there are many doctors in
Bring an extra set of glasses or contact lenses if needed, from
the United States. If you or a family member is taking long-term
medications or injections, bring a six-month to a year's supply and
arrange beforehand for regular refills. Air pouch all medication
into the country. Many over-the-counter drugs are not available
Community Health Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:29 AM
Respiratory infections, such as colds, coughs, and sore throats,
lead the list of common complaints. Middle ear and external ear
infections, sinusitis, and bronchitis are not uncommon.
Brunei’s open storm drainage system can sometimes produce
unpleasant odors, but does not present health problems.
Indiscriminate dumping of waste and garbage mars some town and
residential areas. The Municipal Department provides garbage
collection services for a reasonable fee in residential areas; the
landlord for all Embassy residences arranges garbage collection
Preventive Measures Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:29 AM
Clean fruits and vegetables well before eating. Cook meat
thoroughly. Although local water is potable, Embassy personnel use
bottled water and do not drink tap water as it is sometimes
discolored. Insect control can be rudimentary. The Embassy maintains
a pest control contract for all U.S. Government-leased quarters.
Malaria suppressants are not necessary in Brunei. Employees have
experienced few if any problems in eating local food.
Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 12/2/2003
Employment opportunities in Brunei’s commercial sector are almost
American Embassy - Bandar Seri Begawan
Post City Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:29 AM
The capital and the main center of population (and site of the
only international airport) is Bandar Seri Begawan at the
northeastern corner of the main part of the State. Bandar’s downtown
area consists of shops, banks, government offices, and hotels. New
shopping centers are opening. Several places of interest are
situated along the bank of the Brunei River.
The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:30 AM
U.S. Embassy Bandar Seri Begawan is on the third and fifth floors
of Teck Guan Plaza in the center of the city. This five-story
building houses a Chinese restaurant, many small shops, the
Australian High Commission, the French Commercial Section, and other
offices. One side of the building provides a panoramic view of the
water village and another faces a commercial complex.
The Embassy staff consists of six American Officers and fifteen
FSNs, including a small local guard force. The Defense Attaché and
Foreign Commercial Officer are non-resident.
Embassy office hours are 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. with 30 minutes
scheduled for lunch, Monday through Friday. The telephone numbers
are country code (673), city code (2), 220–384, 229–670, and
229–785; the fax number is (673)(2) 225–293.
Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:30 AM
New arrivals are placed directly in permanent housing.
Permanent Housing Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:31 AM
The U.S. Government leases houses or apartments for all
personnel. The single-family homes have a carport and a small lawn
or garden area.
Furnishings Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:31 AM
All quarters have basic furnishings, including a gas or electric
stove, refrigerator, microwave, and automatic clothes washer and
Employees provide their own kitchenware, china, silverware,
glassware, table and bed linens, towels, pillows, blankets, hanging
pictures and decorations, ashtrays, shower curtains, wastepaper
baskets, ironing board, coat hangers, and other personal items. The
Embassy provides a Welcome Kit with household essentials for new
employees until their household effects arrive.
Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:31 AM
Electric current in Brunei is 220v–240v, 50-cycle, AC. It is
reliable but occasional fluctuations in voltage and outages occur.
Each household has a few transformers to use with 110v appliances.
All quarters have hot and cold running water. Heating is
unnecessary in Brunei, and landlords supply air-conditioners. The
local market offers appliances, but at higher prices than in the
Food Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:32 AM
Food tends to be more expensive than in the United States as most
is imported. Subject to seasonal variations and occasional outages,
a wide variety of foods are available in Brunei. Fresh meat, fish,
fruits, and vegetables are widely available. Canned and frozen
vegetables as well as fresh fruits and vegetables from the United
States, Europe, South Africa, Malaysia, and Australia are sold at
modern supermarkets. Frozen meat and poultry are imported from
Australia and Malaysia. Pork products can be hard to obtain since
they are not “halal,” but some can be purchased in designated areas
in supermarkets open to non-Muslims.
Apples, peaches, pears, oranges, grapes and plums are imported
seasonally from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and
occasionally from Chile and the United States. Buy local fruits,
such as bananas, papayas, and pineapples, at outdoor markets and
supermarkets. Indigenous fruits, such as durians, mangosteens, and
rambutans, offer exotic flavors and should not be missed.
Sterilized milk and powdered milk are available. Fresh milk is
usually available but is imported from Australia and is expensive.
Cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products are also expensive.
The Embassy does not have a commissary or a cooperative buying
system. Catering is often used for official entertaining, but is
expensive for private entertaining. Any local foods as well as
various Western foods can be catered.
Soft drinks such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, 7-Up, and Sprite are
available. Sales of alcoholic beverages are prohibited, but
diplomats are allowed to import limited quantities of beer, wine,
and spirits according to an established quota.
Clothing Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:33 AM
An extensive summer wardrobe is the only type of clothing
necessary for Brunei. Ready-made clothing is limited to small sizes,
but can be ordered via mail facilities. Ordering usually takes
several weeks. A variety of fabrics are available at reasonable
cost, but the selection of buttons, zippers, and other notions are
limited. If you enjoy sewing, bring your own patterns. Local
dressmakers and tailors have been used with varying degrees of
success, but good tailors are expensive. Acceptable dry cleaners
Men Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:33 AM
Lightweight summer suits, even tropical-weight wool suits, are
appropriate for office wear and for certain official functions;
slacks and long-sleeved sport shirts are appropriate for invitations
reading “smart casual” for dress. A dark suit is required at
official functions. Tails and morning dress are not worn in Brunei.
Some English and U.S. men’s style shoes, underwear, shirts,
neckties, socks, and ready-made suits are available, but can be
expensive. The selection of sizes, styles, and quality are limited.
Most Americans purchase clothing through mail-order catalogues.
Women Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:34 AM
Conservative dress is the rule. (Local Muslim women are usually
covered from head to toe.) Bring cotton dresses, slacks, long
skirts, blouses, and pantsuits for all occasions. Shorts are not
worn publicly, but can be worn at poolside or at beaches. Long
skirts and blouses, dresses, and pantsuits are worn to the office,
as well as to functions where the invitation reads “smart casual.”
Be advised, however, that women tend to dress up at social functions
in Brunei. An ankle-length dress is essential as social and official
invitations often dictate semiformal and formal attire, which
equates to not revealing bare arms or legs (or anything in between).
A long white dress with long sleeves (formal evening wear), and a
long black dress with long sleeves (formal morning wear) are very
useful. The color yellow is not worn in the presence of the royal
As air conditioning is often placed on maximum setting, women may
want to carry a shawl or jacket. Stores selling women’s clothing
offer various readymade dresses, skirts, and ensembles at
medium-to-high prices, but size, selection, fit and quality are
limited. Do not plan on purchasing any clothing locally unless it is
Lingerie and stockings are available but selection is limited and
quality is poor. Formal hats and gloves are seldom worn, but outdoor
hats are recommended when spending time under the strong Brunei sun.
European shoes of limited sizes are available at varying prices.
Bring all shoes needed; supplementing them with mail orders and
Children Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:34 AM
Clothing for children and babies is available at reasonable
prices but quality and sizes are not up to U.S. standards. Uniforms
may also become a part of your child’s wardrobe, as several schools
Supplies and Services
Supplies Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:34 AM
Toilet articles and cosmetics are available, but are more
expensive than in the United States. Bring a large supply of
preferred cosmetic items in your household effects (HHE).
Household items, such as clothespins, clotheslines, cleaning
equipment, and entertainment accessories, are available locally.
Most common brands of American cigarettes are available.
Bring an initial supply of hobby materials, games, books, and
toys for children. Many name brand toys are available, but are more
expensive than in the United States.
There are local bookstores but prices are 50 to 100 percent
higher than in the United States, and the selection is poor. Bring
specialty party supplies if you plan to have parties for birthdays,
Christmas, Halloween, and other events. The local selection is
Basic Services Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:35 AM
Engraving of business, calling, and invitation cards is
available, but quality is not as satisfactory as in Singapore or the
United States. Greeting cards are expensive, and Christmas cards
should be brought from the United States or ordered. Shoe and
luggage repair is available. Brunei has good, inexpensive beauty and
barbershops. Repair facilities for radios, electrical appliances,
and stereo equipment can be inadequate, and most replacement parts
If you are shipping a vehicle, also ship spare fan belts and
other supplemental parts. Some carpentry shops build good-quality
cabinets, bookshelves, and custom furniture at reasonable prices.
The quality of most in stock, Brunei made furniture is below U.S.
standards and different in taste.
Domestic Help Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:35 AM
The number of household staff employed by Embassy members depends
on entertaining needs, family size, and income. Families with small
children usually employ a maid to solve the evening baby-sitting
problem and help with cleaning and laundry. Live-in maid wages are
about B$500+ a month plus food and lodging. Part-time help for
parties is available.
Religious Activities Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:35 AM
In addition to the many mosques, both Roman Catholic and Anglican
services are conducted in the downtown area of Bandar Seri Begawan
at their respective churches. A Buddhist temple is also located
within the city.
Education Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:36 AM
Brunei has no American schools. Parents receive a U.S. Government
educational allowance for their children that attend school in
The Jerudong International School (JIS) opened in 1997, and has
an essentially British curriculum. It currently operates between
7:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. (Monday–Friday), depending on the grade
level. The facilities at JIS are outstanding. The school offers an
Olympic size pool, other sports and recreation facilities, science
labs, and “specialist rooms” in the areas of technology, music, art,
and home economics that are equipped with up-to-date resources and
equipment. After-school activities are also available. The Jerudong
International School admits students with learning disabilities. JIS
students are required to wear uniforms.
The International School of Brunei (ISB) also has a British
curriculum. Although it offers classes from kindergarten through
grade 10, some parents believe that the secondary education there is
not competitive with standards in the U.S. and U.K. ISB does,
however, offer a sense of community that wins the support of many
parents. The ISB operates from 7:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
(Monday–Thursday, and Saturday) with after-school activities
If your child is having difficulty in a subject, bring additional
study materials to assist you in working with your child, as the
British system here does not encourage parental involvement as an
American system would.
Space at both international schools may sometimes be limited.
Parents should notify the Embassy early about their school needs,
preferably 4 months in advance, to ensure a place. Both schools have
websites, and you can email the schools directly for more
information. The website for JIS is www.jis.edu.bn/ and the website
for ISB is www.ecis.org/brunei/.
Another school open to expatriate children is St. Andrews, which
is adequate through the elementary grades. A good boarding school is
available in Singapore.
Brunei schools do not offer transportation for their students.
Parents are responsible for transporting their children to and from
school. Both JIS and ISB end their school day before the Embassy's
close of business. For this reason, employees with school age
children may consider devising a car pool.
Special Needs Education Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:36 AM
Special educational opportunities are limited in Brunei. Those
with special educational needs should first contact the Embassy.
Alliance Francaise offers French and Malay language classes, the
British Council has Malay language classes, and private Malay tutors
are available. Small music schools provide instruction in Western
Recreation and Social Life
Sports Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:37 AM
Tennis, swimming, badminton, table tennis, snooker, soccer, golf,
basketball, sailing, wind surfing, bowling, racquetball, and squash
are available in Brunei. There are a number of golf courses
including the RBA Club (public) near the airport, Pantai Mentiri
(private), and the Royal Brunei Golf and Country Club (private) in
Jerudong. There are social recreation clubs that usually require
memberships or charge per use of their facilities. The Haji Hassanal
Bolkiah National Stadium, on the other hand, charges a nominal fee
and has an athletic field and track, soccer stadium, tennis and
squash courts, jogging tracks, an Olympic-size swimming pool, and a
restaurant all within the complex. National soccer games are also
played at the stadium and tickets can be obtained at a reasonable
Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:39 AM
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, a symbol of Brunei’s adherence to
Islam, is one of the most magnificent in Asia. Its classical Islamic
architecture consists of gold mosaic, marble, and stained glass. The
mosque’s two minarets (complete with elevators and distinctive gold
domes) rise to 166 feet and 160 feet. Linked to the mosque and built
in the middle of the lagoon is an elegant concrete boat that
resembles a 16th century royal barge. The mosque has been the
country’s most distinctive feature since its completion in 1958.
The Jame’ Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque, named for the present
Sultan, is the largest mosque in Brunei. The beautiful mosque is
opulent in the Persian style with gold domes and blue tile. As in
the case of all mosques, women must be fully covered. Robes are
available at the mosque’s entrance. It is also recommended that
mosques not be visited during prayer times, as non-Muslims are not
admitted during prayer.
The official residence of the Sultan of Brunei is the Istana
Nurul Iman in Bandar Seri Begawan. Completed in 1982, it is the
largest royal residence in this part of the world. The best views of
the Palace can be obtained by water taxi or from the Periaran Damuan,
a park that runs along the riverbank.
The Sultan of Brunei, as Prime Minister, has offices in the
Istana, which has become a symbol of national pride. In keeping with
ancient Brunei tradition, the ruler’s Istana is the seat of
Government. The palace itself is only open to the general public
during Hari Raya, the days of celebration following Ramadan.
The Royal Regalia Museum houses, appropriately enough, a
collection of royal regalia commemorating the Silver Jubilee (1992)
of the Sultan’s ascension to the throne. Among the more impressive
exhibits are the Royal Chariot, gold and silver ceremonial armory,
and the jewel-encrusted crowns used during the coronation.
The well-known, centuries-old Kampong Ayer (water village) is an
extensive village of houses on stilts in the Brunei River. The
Government provides a wide range of facilities that include schools,
clinics, a Post Office, mosques, electricity, and water supplies. A
water taxi trip through the water village and a boat cruise along
the Brunei River is a must for all tourists.
The Arts and Handicraft Center is situated along the bank of the
Brunei River, facing Kampong Ayer, and thus commands a panoramic
view. It offers an exhibition of locally made silverware, brassware,
and bronzeware crafted and inspired by the Malay cultural heritage.
The silver, brass, and bronze are hammered and crafted by hand into
a variety of articles, such as jugs, trays, gongs, boxes, napkin
rings, spoons, threads, and bracelets. There is also an assortment
of beautifully woven baskets and mats of bamboo and pandan. Prices
tend to be expensive.
The Brunei Museum is situated on the picturesque bank of the
Brunei River about 4 miles from the town center. The museum has a
collection of exhibits, including brassware, bronzeware, and Chinese
porcelain and ceramics, historical records, and artifacts of Islamic
cultural heritage. The Brunei Museum also has a standing exhibit of
Brunei wildlife and of Bruneian customs.
Within walking distance of the Embassy is Brunei's largest indoor
mall, Yayasan, which frames a view of the Omar Ali Saifuddien
Mosque. In addition to offering a wide variety of commercial goods,
the mall’s food court and other eateries make it a favorite lunch
retreat among the Embassy staff.
The undeveloped beaches of Brunei are of fine golden sand with
scenic picnic spots. Sadly, many of the beaches are littered. Rusted
debris and broken glass can pose serious threats to safety where the
water is calmer. The beaches facing the South China Sea are somewhat
cleaner but sandflies and poisonous jellyfish are sometimes present.
One of Brunei’s star attractions and a must for all visitors is
Jerudong Park. The amusement park was a gift to the people of Brunei
by the Royal Family and contains 70 acres of amusement rides and
food stalls-all without lines. Attached to the park is the 20-acre
Jerudong Park Garden, which displays a nightly water show using
colored lights, a laser, and fountains. The Garden also showcases
the open-air amphitheater where Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder,
Seal, and Whitney Houston have performed without admission charge as
a gift from the Sultan. Next to the park is the luxurious Royal
Brunei Golf and Country Club. The club is open for membership.
Besides Brunei’s man-made wonders, its natural resources offer a
naturalist’s paradise and a birdwatcher’s delight. In addition to
organized excursions into the rainforest through the Nature Society,
the Hash, or the Outward Bound program, a variety of parks offer
hiking trails, picnic spots, water falls, and canopy walks. Among
the favorites for day outings are Bukit Shabandar, located off of
Jalan Jerudong, Tasek Merimbun near Tutong, and Sungai Liang Forest
Recreational Park near Muara. For the more adventurous who also have
more time, Belalong National Park and Temburong are recommended.
Entertainment Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:40 AM
Despite the occasional high-profile show at Jerudong Park, Brunei
remains undistinguished as an entertainment center. Local music and
drama societies and diplomatic missions sponsor concerts or plays
from time to time, but most types of theater, opera, and ballet are
not present in Brunei. The Chinese temple occasionally houses lively
ceremonies or “wayangs” that depict classics borrowed from Chinese
literature. Local movie theaters are popular places among both
Bruneians and expatriates, and show western movies. There are no
nightclubs. Art exhibits are held occasionally at the Brunei Museum
and foreign missions.
Dining out is one of the most popular forms of recreation and
entertainment in Brunei. Several restaurants offer private karaoke
rooms for larger groups or live bands. Some restaurants, although
not serving alcohol themselves, will allow diners to bring alcohol
with them. The BYOB system is also common at various social
functions among expatriates. Video CD’s are also popular, but the
quality of recordings is often poor. Videotaped (VHS) movies are not
available. Most employees bring a collection from the U.S.
Social Activities Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:40 AM
Many foreigners belong to one or more of the various sports and
recreation clubs available in Brunei, such as the Royal Brunei Yacht
Club, Royal Brunei Recreation Club, or Polo Club.
In addition to the Brunei Music Society, there is a Brunei Nature
Society and an International Women’s Club. (Most of their members
are expatriates.) These organizations host lectures and outings;
they also coordinate several annual events.
Among the most strenuous of social activities is the Hash. Hash
groups are divided into men, women, mixed, and children. These
groups meet on different days of the week, and participate in treks
into the rain forest along paths often containing both man-made and
natural obstacles. Completion of the Hash is rewarded with
refreshments and a social gathering often migrating to a nearby
restaurant. There are several sewing groups that meet twice a month
and an American Women’s group that meet once a month.
Official Functions Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:41 AM
Most Embassies in Brunei hold medium-to-large size receptions in
celebration of their national days. Dress is business suits for men
and long- or medium-length dresses with long or elbow length sleeves
(or jacket) are appropriate for women.
“Smart casual,” sit-down dinners are given within the diplomatic
corps. Many dinner gatherings are buffet style, with small tables
for informal seating arrangements.
Special Information Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:41 AM
Post Orientation Program
Newly arrived Embassy personnel will be assigned a sponsor to
provide information and assistance. The sponsor will meet new
employees at the airport and will see that their house is stocked
with a small amount of basic food and household items. Those with
special needs or requests should contact the Embassy before arrival.
The sponsor will also familiarize new employees with local markets,
stores, churches, and the city in general.
The Regional Security Officer offers a security briefing that is
required for all new employees and is open to dependents.
Notes For Travelers
Getting to the Post Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:41 AM
Most travel to Brunei is by air. Several airlines provide direct,
nonstop flights to Brunei from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok,
Manila, and Hong Kong. International airlines serving Brunei include
Royal Brunei, Singapore, Thai, and Malaysian. Officially, the most
direct route from the U.S. to Brunei is via the west coast, with
connections made at any Asian city serving Brunei.
A staff member and an expediter meet arriving American personnel
at the airport. If the contact is missed, taxis are available. The
rate to the U.S. Embassy is about US$30. To avoid higher fares, you
may be able to negotiate the fare in advance. A public bus stops at
the airport but is difficult to manage when carrying luggage and may
not be present when travelers arrive. Visas are required for
diplomats assigned to Brunei and can be obtained in Washington, D.C.
Tourist visas for U.S. citizens who stay under 90 days are not
required in Brunei. Visas for longer stays are not difficult to
obtain in Washington. Bring at least 10 photographs for each family
member to cover requirements for identity cards, driver's licenses,
Brunei has a B$12 airport tax levied on all departing passengers.
Customs, Duties, and Passage
Customs and Duties Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:42 AM
Embassy personnel have no difficulty clearing luggage through
Brunei customs upon initial arrival or upon return from leave.
Diplomatic list personnel are accorded duty-free entry for their
personal effects. There are no restrictions placed on importing
and/or exporting currencies, traveler’s checks, or other dollar
instruments. All other personnel assigned to diplomatic missions are
accorded the same privilege for their initial shipments of personal
effects. Advance shipment notices or bills of lading enable Embassy
staff to initiate import licenses before the arrival of the shipment
in Brunei, thereby reducing time that the goods must remain in
customs awaiting clearance.
Passage Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:42 AM
All official personnel arriving in Brunei must have Brunei visas.
Brunei immigration will grant a 90-day stay permit upon entry. After
arrival, the Embassy will obtain a temporary residence permit valid
for the period of assignment or up to the expiration date of your
Pets Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:43 AM
Travelers coming to Brunei with pets must obtain a permit, prior
to importation of the animal, by requesting entry from:
Veterinary Officer Department of Agriculture Bandar Seri Begawan
Brunei Darussalam Tel: (673) (2) 382080
Include with the letter a health certificate and a certificate
from the veterinary authority of the exporting country stating that
the country has been free of rabies for a period of six months prior
to date or export of the animal(s). The clinic requires at least two
weeks’ notice before the pet’s arrival. Mail the letter to the
Administrative Officer, who will forward it to the clinic.
Quarantine is not required for pets that have been living in and
are arriving from the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand,
Australia, Singapore, and other parts of Borneo. If arriving from
other parts of the world (including the United States), the pet is
quarantined for 6 months, but cases can be considered individually
and the length of quarantine may be reduced. The Embassy has had
some success in getting pets released to home quarantine after a few
weeks; however, there is no guarantee this practice will always be
followed. No fee is imposed for incoming pets, but an outgoing fee
of US$1 is charged for each pet. Pets must arrive in Brunei as
cargo. If you plan to bring a pet, please consult the Administrative
Officer well in advance. Bruneians consider dogs unclean, and will
not touch a dog or enter a home with a dog present.
Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:43 AM
Importing firearms and ammunition is strictly prohibited.
Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated:
12/2/2003 10:43 AM
The monetary unit in Brunei is the ringgit (dollar), which is
issued in notes of 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, and 10,000.
Coins are in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents. US$1 is
equivalent to B$1.79 (Dec 2001). The exchange rate fluctuates
slightly daily. The Brunei dollar is at par with the Singapore
dollar, and the currencies (bills) are used interchangeably in both
countries. The Embassy does not have a full-scale disbursing
facility and does not cash personal checks. Cash personal U.S.
checks at Citibank with a signed letter from the Embassy.
Local banks include Citibank, Standard Chartered, and HSBC. ATM
machines are available in most bank branches and in the larger
supermarkets. American Express has an office near the Embassy.
Brunei uses the metric system of weights and measures. Gasoline
is sold by the liter; temperatures are cited in degrees Celsius; and
distances are measured in kilometers.
Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 12/2/2003
Taxes or excise duties do not affect Embassy personnel in Brunei.
Mandatory automobile insurance (first- or third-party) is in effect,
and non-diplomatic personnel must pay a small fee for car
registration and drivers licenses. Occasionally, fines can be
imposed for not buckling seat belts and for throwing waste onto
highways and streets.
Recommended Reading Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:46 AM
These titles are provided as an indication of the material
published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse
Bartholomew, James. The Richest Man in the World. A million and
one ways the Sultan allegedly used to spend his money — and more.
Take it with a pinch of salt.
Beccari, Odoardo. Wanderings in the Great Forests of Borneo.
London, 1904. A natural history of Borneo.
bin Mohamad, Mahatir. The Malay Dilemma. The well-known
book-length essay by the author who is now the Prime Minister of
Brooke, Slyvia and H.H. Queen of the Headhunters. London, 1936.
An eccentric but interesting account by the wife of one of the White
Chalfront, Lord Alun. By God’s Will. A flattering portrait of the
Sultan of Brunei penned by Lord Chalfont, one of the few authors to
have gained the royal confidence.
Criswell, Colin N. Rajah Charles Brooke-Monarch of All He
Surveyed. Oxford University Press: 1983.
De Ledesma, Charles. Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei: The Rough
Guide. December 1997.
Edwards, David S., Earl of Cranbrook. A Tropical Rainforest: The
Nature of Biodiversity in Borneo at Belalong, Brunei. December 1995.
Gunn, Geoffrey C., Language, Power and Ideology in Brunei
Darussalam. Ohio University Press, 1997.
Gunn, Geoffrey C. New World Hegemony in the Malay World. March
Harrison, Tom. World Within, a Borneo Story. Singapore. An
account of the Iban people by an officer who recruited them to fight
Kelly, Robert C. Brunei Country Review 1999/2000.
Leake Jr., David. Brunei — The Modern Southeast Asian Islamic
State. A former journalist with the Borneo Bulletin, Brunei’s
leading English-language newspaper, Leake examines Brunei’s history
and its future. Hundreds of anecdotes and insights onto the Brunei
Malay character. Written after the author was expelled from Brunei.
MacDonald, Malcolm. Borneo People. Oxford University Press: 1985.
A look at the racial and tribal make up of North Borneo written by a
former British High Commissioner from Singapore.
Pringle, Robert. Rajas and Rebels. Offers an account of the
Brookes, Borneo’s “White Rajahs.”
Runciman, Sir Steven. The White Rajas of Sarawak. Cambridge,
1960. Perhaps the best account of the Brooke family’s involvement in
North Borneo and its relationship to the Sultanate of Brunei.
St. John, Spenser. Life in the Forests of the Far East. London,
1862. A classic mid-19th century description of the environment,
people and customs of Borneo.
Siddayao, Corazon Morales. The Offshore Petroleum Resources of
South East Asia, Potential Conflict Situations and Related Economic
Considerations. Oxford University Press: 1980.
Siddayao, Corazon Morales. The Supply of Petroleum Reserves in
South East Asia, Economic Implication of Evolving Property Rights
Arrangements. Oxford University Press.
Singh, Rajit. Brunei 1839–1983: The Problems of Political
Survival. Oxford University Press. The only available account in
book form of political developments in Brunei in this century and
particularly since the Second World War.
Tregonning, K.G.P. British North Borneo. Out-of-date, but
provides a good account of the social structure in North Borneo.
Weaver, Mary Ann. “In the Sultan’s Palace.” The New Yorker.
October 7, 1991. A whimsical account of Mary Ann Weaver’s 6 weeks in
Wright, David K. Brunei (Enchantment of the World). School &
Library Binding, October 1991.
Local Holidays Last Updated: 12/2/2003 10:46 AM
The following holidays are observed:
New Year’s Day Ja n 1 Chinese New Year Feb 12 Hari Raya Aidiladha
Feb 25 Brunei National Day Mar 2 Islamic New Year 1423 Mar 15 Brunei
Armed Forces Day May 31 His Majesty the Sultan’s Birthday July 15
Israk Mikraj * Oct. 4 Awal Ramadhan * Nov 6 Anniversary of Quran *
Nov 22 Hari Raya Aidilfritri * Dec 7 Hari Raya Aidilfritri * Dec 10
Christmas Day Dec 25
* Subject to change