Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, and other aspects of international travel.
Brunei is a predominately Muslim country and a hereditary Sultanate. Visitors are expected to show respect for both Islam and the Royal Family. The national language is Malay, although English, Hokkien, and Mandarin are widely spoken.
Introductions and connections are important and necessary in Brunei. Relationship-building precedes business negotiations and brokering deals can sometimes require several visits.
Visitors should avoid passing in front of a seated person or pointing with the index finger; Bruneians point with their thumb and clenched hand. Yellow is the royal color and should not be worn in the presence of royalty. When invited for a meal, the host will likely be offended if the guest offers to pay the bill. Guests should remove shoes before entering a private home. Handshakes are common among male businessmen. Business visitors should not reach to shake the hand of the opposite sex, unless that person extends it, but one can touch a hand to one’s chest as a sign of respect instead.
A visitor to Brunei will find restaurants to fit all budgets and tastes. Malaysian, Indian, Chinese, and Western food are all ubiquitous. Tipping is not customary in Brunei. Large hotels and restaurants may add a 10% service charge to the bill. Alcohol is not available for purchase in Brunei and restaurants do not serve alcohol. The consumption of alcohol in any public place is prohibited and should be avoided. Offering alcohol to a Muslim is a crime in Brunei. Public consumption of food or drink during Ramadan is illegal in Brunei; takeout can be purchased in restaurants and should be eaten in a private location.
Brunei has a warm, humid climate year-round, but most places of business are well air-conditioned. The Department of State advises travelers to view its travel advisory site here for the latest updates. Brunei’s official website offers tourism, government, business, and other information, and can be accessed here. Within Brunei, the information centers at the airport and hotels can provide maps and tourist services. Travel agencies are located throughout the capital. Please refer to the State Department Information Sheet for more information.
Business visitors and tourists from the United States do not need visas for visits of up to 90 days. Renewals and residency permits are routine and simple.
Brunei citizens are eligible to participate in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program allowing travel to the United States without a visa for short business and leisure trips.
U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Visa applicants should go to the following link(s): State Department Visa Website”
The Brunei dollar is pegged to the Singapore dollar at a one-to-one ratio, and the Singapore dollar is legal tender in the Sultanate. International credit and debit cards are widely accepted in the country under the Visa and Mastercard affiliations.
Brunei has a good telecommunications system and is in the midst of a major fiber-to-home improvement project which will increase bandwidth access. In 2019, the Brunei government consolidated all of its network infrastructure under a single entity Unified National Networks (UNN), currently managed by Europe’s largest telecommunications provider Deustche Telekom. There are three operators providing telecommunications services in Brunei: Imagine, Data Stream Technology (DST), and Progresif. Most hotels, cafes and restaurants have wifi coverage.
Brunei Voltage: The voltage in Brunei is 240 V.
Brunei Electrical Frequency: The electrical frequency in Brunei is 50 Hz.
Brunei Plug/Socket Type(s): Brunei uses the G plug. Universal travel adapters can be bought from hardware and electrical stores.
Brunei Mobile Network Frequencies: Brunei currently uses 1 GSM 900 Band, 2 UMTS B1 (2100) Bands, and 1 LTE Band B3 (1800+) frequencies for 4G. Brunei has rolled out its 5G pilot project deploying five testing sites, and targets 5g rollout by mid-2022. When travelling, mobile phones used in Brunei must support the GSM frequency. AITI regulates the telecommunications industry in Brunei.
Brunei is connected with the rest of the world through four international cable systems, namely Asia America Gateway (AAG), the South-East Asia Japan Cable (SJC), the Southeast Asia Middle East Western Europe 3 (SMW3) cable, and the Labuan-Brunei cable. These four submarine cable systems land at two sites, the Tungku Submarine Cable Station and the Telisai Submarine Cable Station. These links are diversified and backed up by a land-based transmission system, the Trans-Borneo Optical Fiber System.
Discuss how to get to and from the country/market well as the different transportation options and their reliability within country.
Brunei’s national airline conducts scheduled services across Asia, the Middle East, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Brunei International Airport also receives flights from other international airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Philippine Airlines, and Hong Kong Airlines. The international airport is a fifteen-minute drive from downtown Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital, which costs approximately US $18-21. Taxis and buses serve the capital and the outskirts, although hours of operation are limited. Taxis are required to use meters as of September 2016. Buses also travel to the oil towns of Seria and Kuala Belait. Rental cars and drivers are the most reliable form of transportation and can be hired with ease at competitive rates.
Brunei’s official language is Malay, with English, Hokkien, and Mandarin also widely spoken. English is normally the language of business. Menus and signs in English are common. The ethnic-Chinese community that makes up 12% of the total population generally speaks Mandarin and Hokkien.
When in doubt, Sir, Mr., Mrs. and Ms. can be used without fear of insult. Should U.S. businesses wish to follow local customs, Bruneian males can be called Awang and women Dayang. These titles roughly correspond to Mr. and Ms.
Additionally, Pehin and Dato are the two principal titles bestowed by the Sultan. Pehin is a conferred honorary title generally associated with an official position within the royal court. Dato is a state honorary medal conferred by the Sultan and may be bestowed on anyone the Sultan wishes to honor, regardless of nationality. The female equivalent to Dato is Datin, as is the wife of a Dato. Dato is roughly equivalent to Sir in Britain.
Pengiran refers to a Bruneian of royal descent. Children of Pengirans are referred to as Dayangku (daughter) and Awangku (son) and assume the title of Pengiran upon marriage. At the highest end of the scale is the title Pengiran Anak, denoting Bruneians closely related to the Sultan’s family.
Brunei offers all its citizens free and modern health care at state-run hospitals and clinics across the country. Most doctors speak English, and many have studied in the United Kingdom, United States, and Europe.
There is adequate care for basic medical conditions in Brunei. However, for certain elective surgery or complicated care, the Brunei medical system will send patients to Singapore. Brunei has a number of public hospitals and clinics. The biggest ones are RIPAS Hospital in Bandar Seri Begawan and Tutong Hospital in the district of the same name. The largest private hospital is Jerudong Park Medical Center (JPMC), approximately 20 minutes by car outside of Bandar Seri Begawan.
Brunei also hosts a number of private clinics, many of which are staffed by expatriates. More information can be found at the U.S. Embassy website (http://www.bruneiembassy.org/).
Medication and prescriptions for common conditions are generally available, although finding specific medications, such as decongestants, may be challenging. Local pharmacies may not carry the same brands as U.S. pharmacies. Visitors are advised to bring sufficient quantities of medicines that they know they will need prior to arriving in Brunei. It is important to be aware of Brunei’s strict laws on the import of controlled substances. To avoid complications, a prescription note should accompany any prescribed medicine brought to Brunei.
There has been a surge in cases of dengue fever in Southeast Asia, including Brunei. As there is no vaccine for dengue fever, visitors are advised to avoid mosquito bites by wearing skin-covering clothing and using insect repellent containing DEET.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention maintains information on vaccinations and other health precautions.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website (https://www.who.int/). The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Local time, business hours, and holidays:
Government offices are open for business from 7:45 a.m. to 12 noon and from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Saturday, but they are closed on Fridays and Sundays. The Ministry of Defense is the only ministry open on Fridays and closed on Saturdays. By law, everything in Brunei is closed on Fridays from 12 noon to 2:00 p.m. for Friday prayers. Most shopping centers are open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. including Sundays. Private offices generally conduct business from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturdays. Banks generally open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturdays. Some banks have branches open seven days a week until late. Most have ATMs and can exchange foreign currency. During Ramadhan, government work hours and other business hours may be shortened to facilitate personnel who are fasting. In late 2012, a government ruling was announced that all businesses must close for two hours every Friday from 12 noon to 2 p.m. to respect Muslim prayer times.
2021 Official Holidays
Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings:
There is no sales tax in Brunei. Arriving passengers over 17 years old are eligible to import 60 ml of perfume and 250 ml of eau de toilette. Non-Muslims at least 17 years old may bring in up to two bottles of liquor or wine and 12 cans of beer for personal consumption, but these goods must be declared to customs upon entry.