Brunei isn’t just another airport to hang around in on the way to Australia. We’re here to bust 6 myths so you can enjoy its beautiful buildings, untouched rainforest, delicious food and friendly people, and enjoy a holiday within a holiday!
1) It makes the trip much more expensive
This will always depend on your itinerary and length of stay, but some of the best value flights – especially from London to Melbourne – include a stopover in Brunei. And let’s face it, one of the main expenses of your holiday is air travel!
What’s more, food in Brunei is the good kind of cheap, in fact you can buy yourself a filling, delicious meal for roughly £1. We recommend visiting the night market for an exotic and authentic taste of the region.
As for accommodation, hotels in Bandar Seri Begawan (or Bandar) centre can range from £35 a night for a standard room to £199 a night in the luxurious Empire Hotel. Both prices include breakfast too.
Most attractions are free of charge, and once you’re in downtown Bandar you can walk pretty much anywhere, so you only need to think about taxis or buses to and from the airport. This brings us to another worry about stopovers:
2) You might miss your connecting flight
This is near the top of most travellers’ nightmare lists, but Brunei is a small nation, so you’re never too far from the airport. It’s about 2 miles from downtown Bandar, or a 15 minute taxi ride/30 minute bus ride. Many tours specifically designed for stopovers (keep an eye out for Freme’s stopover packages, coming soon!) run to and from the airport, so that’s another load off your mind.
If that surprises you, it might be because you thought:
3) There’s no tourism infrastructure
Brunei’s tourism industry is growing, but without impacting its beautiful natural environments. This means that it’s still largely undiscovered and isn’t thronging with tourists, giving you a unique, and, dare we say it, more relaxing experience.
English is widely spoken, as is Chinese, so you never have to worry about being stranded or baffled by foreign signs and maps.
Also, British citizens can enter Brunei for up to 90 days without a visa, and the only vaccinations you need are the same as for Australia (yellow fever).
Given its size, and that it’s not as well known as other destinations in Southeast Asia, you might think that:
4) There’s not much to do there
…but Brunei is a small world all its own. In the capital Bandar you can visit the fragrant food markets, the gold-crowned and geometric marbled floors of the Jame Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, the beautiful royal artefacts of the Royal Regalia Museum, and the largest living residence of state head, the Sultan’s palace Istana Nurul Iman, with its glowing white walls, golden minarets and lush surroundings. The Water Village on stilts is also great to check out, and while on the water you can visit the mangroves with their rare monkeys and other wildlife, or go canoeing, rafting or kayaking.
Within a couple of hours of the capital you have some of Southeast Asia’s only virgin rainforest in the Ulu Temburong and Ulu Ulu national parks, with such activities as the Canopy Walkway, rope bridge, Flying Fox zipwire and the Gibbon Tower, the largest climbing wall in Borneo.
With all this variety, you could be forgiven for thinking that:
5) There’s not enough time to do anything
but it’s not true at all. As we mentioned earlier, Brunei is a small country and downtown Bandar is very compact. Freme’s half-day city and water village tour is just 3 ½ hours, and themangrove river safari is only 2 hours. Even if you go as far as the Temburong national parks, you can be there and back in a day, making it an ideal place for an exhilarating and varied break in your journey. Strangely enough, some people still worry that:
6) It drags out the journey
In reality, it can be quite the opposite. A stopover gives you a chance to stretch your legs in somewhere far more exciting, healthier and natural than an aeroplane gangway!
You can also feel more rested by the time you reach your final destination. Instead of dozing awkwardly in your seat, in recycled air dry enough to feel sore after a few hours, you would sleep in a sumptuous hotel bed and enjoy a breakfast far better than any airline food.
Think of it like a stop off on a cruise ship. It breaks up the journey and cuts down on flight time, which, as well as fighting off boredom, is good for your health. According to the Civil Aviation Authority, being seated and motionless for more than four hours can increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis, and Aviation Health says that taking breaks in the journey is especially important for the elderly, asthmatics, athletes, smokers, or people with lung problems, as they may be more sensitive to low cabin pressure.
Stopping over in Brunei gives you a glimpse of another climate, culture and world, and an extra bonus to your holiday in a place not many other people have been. It’s also better for your health, and yet another excuse to visit a lush and tropical location.
So, what are you waiting for? Leave the airport and the stresses of travel behind for a few hours and explore Brunei Darussalam.