A road trip is an embodiment of freedom and exploration, a journey where the destination takes a backseat, and the real joy lies in the path we choose to traverse. It is a voyage that transcends the conventional means of travel, allowing us to embrace the unknown, experience diverse cultures, and forge unforgettable memories.
In this article, we will delve into the essence of how a road trip from Malaysia to Brunei can be an exciting adventure, offering you the opportunity to explore diverse landscapes, cultures, and attractions along the way.
Preparations before Planning a Road Trip from Malaysia to Brunei:
Planning a road trip to Brunei can be an exciting experience! Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you plan your road trip from Malaysia to Brunei:
1. Research and Route Planning:
- Choose your route: Determine the route you want to take. The most common route is from West Malaysia through Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo) into Brunei. You can cross the border at the Sungai Tujuh checkpoint or Kuala Lurah-Tedungan Check point.
- Distance and Duration: Calculate the distance and approximate driving time for each leg of the journey. The trip can take around 3–5 hours of driving, so plan for several days on the road.
- Road Conditions: Check the current road conditions and any ongoing construction or maintenance work along your route. Road conditions in Borneo can vary, so be prepared for some challenging stretches.
2. Vehicle Preparation:
- Vehicle Inspection: Ensure your vehicle is in good working condition. Check tires, brakes, engine, and all essential fluids. Carry a spare tire and necessary tools for basic repairs.
- Documentation: Ensure your vehicle registration, insurance, and driver’s license are up-to-date and valid for both Malaysia and Brunei. Consider obtaining an international driving permit (IDP) if required.
- Emergency Kit: Prepare an emergency kit with items like a first-aid kit, a flashlight, basic tools, and a fire extinguisher.
3. Accommodation and itinerary:
- Accommodation: Research and book accommodations along your route. Plan your stops and overnight stays in advance.
- Itinerary: Create a rough itinerary outlining your daily stops, including places of interest and activities you’d like to enjoy.
4. Travel Documents:
- Passports: Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your planned return date.
- Visa Requirements: Check visa requirements for both Malaysia and Brunei. Depending on your nationality, you may need visas for one or both countries. Ensure you have the necessary visas before you depart.
5. Budget and Finance:
- Budget: Create a budget for your road trip, including expenses for fuel, accommodations, food, and activities. Carry some extra cash for emergencies.
- Currency: Be aware that the Malaysian Ringgit (MYR) is used in Malaysia, while Brunei uses the Brunei Dollar (BND). Consider exchanging currency or having a plan for currency exchange along the way. Note: Singapore Dollar (SGD) widely accepted in Brunei.
6. Safety and Health:
- Travel Insurance: Consider purchasing travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and roadside assistance.
- Health Precautions: Pack any necessary medications and a basic first-aid kit. Stay hydrated and eat well during the journey.
- Emergency Contacts: Share your itinerary and contact information with a trusted friend or family member in case of emergencies.
7. Navigation and Communication:
- GPS/Navigation: Download offline maps or use a GPS navigation system to help you find your way, especially in areas with limited mobile network coverage.
- Mobile Network: Ensure your mobile phone has good coverage and consider purchasing a local SIM card with data for internet access.
- Essentials: Pack clothing, toiletries, travel documents, and any special items you may need for the journey.
- Emergency Supplies: Carry extra water, non-perishable snacks, and a basic tool kit in case of unforeseen circumstances.
9. Check local laws and regulations:
- Traffic Rules: Familiarize yourself with the traffic laws and regulations in both Malaysia and Brunei. Be aware of speed limits, road signs, and driving customs.
- Smoking and Alcohol: Understand the smoking and alcohol regulations in both countries. Smoking in Malaysia permitted in Designated area, while in Brunei its illegal.
10. Enjoy the Journey:
Remember that a road trip is not just about the destination; it’s about the experiences along the way. Be flexible, stay safe, and savor the beauty of the landscapes and cultures you encounter. Capture memories, try local foods, and make the most of your road trip adventure from Malaysia to Brunei.
Miri, Sarawak Malaysia to Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Approximately 150–200 kilometers depending on your starting point and route choices.
The journey can take around 2–3 hours of driving time, but it’s advisable to break it up into several days to enjoy the sights and avoid fatigue.
Malaysia to Brunei Road Trip Itinerary with key stops along the way:
The road journey from Miri, Malaysia to Brunei Darussalam involves crossing the border and typically takes around 2-3 hours to cover a distance around 158 kms, depending on traffic and customs clearance. The route usually passes through the Sungai Tujuh checkpoint when entering Brunei from Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia.
The roads are generally well-maintained, making the trip comfortable. However, it’s always a good idea to check for any updated travel advisories or border regulations before planning your journey.
The distance between Miri, Sarawak and Bandar Seri Begawan is 108 miles or 174 kms. The driving time is 2 hours, 20 minutes. There are two ways to travel from Malaysia to Brunei:
- If you are from Kuala Lumpur, fly to Miri. This takes about 2 hours and 3 minutes.
- Rent a car at Miri Airport, then drive straight to Sungai Tujoh Immigration to Bandar Seri Begawan. This takes about 1 hours and 56 minutes.
Best options to go from Miri to Brunei without renting a car:
There is no longer a bus service from Miri to Brunei (or vice versa). The service that used to run by PHLS Express has not resumed operations since the pandemic started, and it does not seem like they will. There is no Miri bus to Brunei border either, so there is no way to get around having to take taxis for part of the journey.
Definitely set out early to make this journey so you have the best chance possible to find public transport from Miri to Brunei on as many segments as possible. Plus, for the segments where there aren’t buses, you’ll have more chance of finding the taxis you need in Brunei earlier in the day.
If you can’t find taxis for those sections, you may have to ask people around you for a ride.
The first part of travel Miri to Brunei is straightforward. Use the Grab app and get a taxi to take you to the border. They won’t be able to take you across, but they can take you to the immigration point for Malaysia. This is only about 28 kilometers and 40 minutes from the center of Miri. It cost RM37 when I was here, but the price can vary depending on how busy the network is.
Pass through the Malaysian formalities at the border. Once you have passed through here, you will need to walk to the Brunei side of the border which is about a kilometer. The border and this crossing are really made for cars, and it is awkward without one, but it is possible to cross on foot.
This is the trickiest part of this journey since you need to walk across the border itself, and you have to hope there are taxis available at the Brunei side to help you out.
Note that when you are crossing the border, there is no wifi and Malaysian sim cards don’t work so have any documents you need.
After you deal with the Brunei formalities, look to see if there is a taxi here that you can take. If you have a Brunei sim card, you can also try ordering a taxi using the Dart app (Brunei’s version of Grab or Uber). You want to take the taxi to Kuala Belait where the buses to Seria leave. This is about 20 kilometres away and costs around BND$20.
From Kuala Belait, you can take a bus to Seria. These depart regularly until about 4pm and cost BND$1 and take about half an hour. From Seria bus station, there is a minibus to Bandar Seri Begawan. This bus stops a lot over the 100 kilometres of this journey and can take many hours. It leaves hourly from Seria and costs BND$6. It will take you to central Bandar Seri Begawan. It may be possible to take a more express bus. If you find one, take it!
Miri, nestled in Sarawak, Malaysia, is a vibrant city known for its:
Oil Industry Roots: It’s the birthplace of Malaysia’s petroleum industry, shaping its economy and history.
Natural Beauty: Home to Gunung Mulu National Park, showcasing mesmerizing caves, including Deer Cave and Clearwater Cave.
Coastal Charms: Tusan Beach, with its distinctive Horse Head Rock, offers stunning sunsets and coastal beauty.
Cultural Diversity: A mix of ethnicities contributes to a rich tapestry of traditions, seen in local markets, cultural villages, and diverse cuisines.
Modern Comforts: Malls, like Bintang Megamall, offer shopping and entertainment, while the Petroleum Museum delves into the region’s oil heritage.
This city blends industrial significance with natural wonders, creating a unique tapestry of history, culture, and scenic landscapes.
Explore Bandar Seri Begawan:
Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital city of Brunei Darussalam. Bandar Seri Begawan is the largest and most populous city in Brunei, known for its mix of modern infrastructure, cultural heritage, and Islamic architecture like Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, Kampong Ayer aka Venice of the East, Royal Regalia Building, Istana Nurul Iman, Kampong Kiarong Mosque, Jerudong Park Playground, Waterfront and Tasek Lama Park, etc.
- Spend a full day exploring the capital city of Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan.
- Visit landmarks like the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, Royal Regalia Museum, and Kampong Ayer (water village).
- Enjoy local cuisine at a traditional Bruneian restaurant.
- Depending on your interests, you may choose to extend your stay in Brunei or head back to Malaysia.
Remember to check the latest travel advisories, road conditions, and visa requirements before your trip. Additionally, make sure your vehicle is in good condition and that you have all the necessary documents and permits for cross-border travel.
What to Eat in Brunei?
Brunei offers a diverse and flavorful culinary experience, with a mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and indigenous flavors. Here are some delicious dishes and foods to try when you’re in Brunei:
- Nasi Katok: This is one of Brunei’s signature dishes. It consists of fragrant steamed rice served with fried chicken, sambal (spicy chili paste), and cucumbers. It’s a simple yet delicious and affordable meal that you can find at various food stalls throughout Brunei.
- Ambuyat: Ambuyat is a unique Bruneian dish made from the starchy pith of the sago palm tree. It has a jelly-like texture and is typically eaten by dipping it into various sauces, such as a sour fruit sauce or a savory sambal.
- Ayam Penyet: Ayam penyet is Indonesian-inspired fried chicken, usually served with rice, a spicy sambal, and a side of fresh vegetables. The chicken is often marinated and fried to perfection.
- Soto: Soto is a flavorful soup made with chicken or beef, herbs, spices, and rice noodles. It’s a comforting dish that’s commonly enjoyed as a breakfast or brunch option.
- Rendang: While originally from Indonesia, rendang is a popular dish in Brunei. It’s a rich and spicy dry curry made with tender pieces of beef that have been simmered in a coconut milk and spice mixture until it’s incredibly flavorful.
- Nasi Lemak: Though more commonly associated with Malaysian cuisine, nasi lemak is also enjoyed in Brunei. It consists of coconut rice served with fried anchovies, peanuts, cucumber slices, a boiled egg, and a spicy sambal sauce.
- Kolo Mee: A beloved noodle dish in Brunei, kolo mee features springy egg noodles tossed in a flavorful sauce, usually made with soy sauce, pork lard, minced meat, and sometimes vegetables.
- Laksa: Bruneian laksa is a spicy noodle soup with a coconut milk base. It often includes prawns or chicken and is seasoned with aromatic herbs and spices. Laksa is known for its rich and complex flavors.
- Kuih: Kuih are a variety of colorful and sweet Malay desserts. They come in various shapes and flavors and are made from ingredients like coconut, glutinous rice, and pandan leaves.
- Seafood: Given its coastal location, Brunei offers a wide variety of fresh seafood, including fish, prawns, crabs, and clams. These are often prepared with various sauces and seasonings.
- Tutong Biscuits: Tutong biscuits are a popular local treat made with coconut and sugar. They are often enjoyed with a cup of Bruneian coffee or tea.
- Fresh Fruit: Be sure to try some of Brunei’s tropical fruits, such as rambutan, durian, and mangosteen, which are often available in local markets.
Remember that Brunei is a predominantly Muslim country, so you’ll find that most eateries do not serve alcohol, and pork is generally not available in many places. However, the local cuisine offers a wide range of delicious dishes that showcase the rich culinary heritage of Brunei.
Where to Stay in Brunei?
Brunei offers a range of accommodation options to suit various budgets and preferences. The capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan, is the most popular destination for travellers, and it offers the widest selection of hotels and guesthouses. Here are some recommended areas to consider when choosing where to stay in Brunei:
1. Bandar Seri Begawan: This is the capital and the largest city in Brunei, and it’s where you’ll find the most diverse range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to budget guesthouses. Many of the city’s attractions, including the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and the Royal Regalia Building, are located here.
- Kampung Kiarong: This area offers mid-range to upscale hotels and is known for its peaceful surroundings.
- Gadong: This bustling commercial district has various shopping centres and restaurants and offers a mix of accommodation options.
- Waterfront: Staying along the waterfront provides picturesque views of the Brunei River and easy access to restaurants and shops.
2. Jerudong: Located a short distance from Bandar Seri Begawan, Jerudong is known for the luxurious Empire Hotel & Country Club. It’s a quieter area with a beautiful beach and golf course.
3. Kuala Belait: If you plan to explore the western part of Brunei, Kuala Belait is a suitable base. This town is closer to attractions like the Oil and Gas Discovery Centre and Seria.
4. Tutong: Tutong is a quieter district with a mix of accommodations, making it a good option if you want to experience a more relaxed pace of life.
5. Kampong Ayer: For a unique experience, consider staying in one of the water villages in Kampong Ayer, also known as the “Venice of the East.” Some homestays and guesthouses offer a chance to immerse yourself in the traditional way of life.
6. Temburong: If you’re interested in exploring the pristine rainforests and natural beauty of Temburong District, there are eco-lodges and accommodations in the area that cater to adventurous travellers.
7. Seria: This town is known for its association with the oil and gas industry. While not as popular with tourists, it has a few lodging options if you plan to explore the nearby attractions.
When choosing where to stay in Brunei, consider your itinerary, budget, and the type of experience you want. Bandar Seri Begawan offers the most convenience in terms of access to attractions and dining options, but other areas may provide unique cultural experiences and opportunities to explore different parts of the country. Be sure to book your accommodation in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.
Budget for the Brunei Road Trip:
Your budget for a trip to Brunei can vary widely depending on several factors, including your travel style, the duration of your stay, and your planned activities. Brunei is known for its relatively high standard of living, but it’s possible to visit on a range of budgets. Here’s a breakdown of approximate daily expenses for different types of travellers in Brunei:
1. Budget Traveler: If you’re a budget-conscious traveler, you can enjoy Brunei without breaking the bank. Here’s a rough estimate of daily expenses.
- Accommodation: Budget guesthouses and hostels: $25 – $50 per night.
- Food: Eating at local eateries, hawker stalls, or food courts: $10 – $20 for three meals.
- Transportation: Rental cars in Malaysia: MYR-150 to MYR 250 for rental in Malaysia, MYR-2.20 cent petrol cost in Malaysia
- 1 day travel cost in Banadar Seri Begawan: $50 to 70 Bruneian Dollar
- If the car is rented in Brunei, then it costs around $90 Brunei Dollar.
- Activities: Exploring free or low-cost attractions: $10 – $20.
- Total Daily Budget: Approximately $50 – $180 per day.
2. Mid-Range Traveller: If you prefer a bit more comfort and are willing to spend a bit more, you can enjoy a mid-range experience in Brunei.
- Accommodation: Mid-range hotels and guesthouses: $75 – $150 per night.
- Food: Dining at mid-range restaurants and cafes: $20 – $40 for three meals.
- Transportation: Using taxis or rental cars for convenience: $50 to $ 100 per day depending on the type of car you hire. For foreign tourists, the rent is often given higher and hence, always negotiate to get a fair price.
- Activities: Enjoying guided tours and more expensive attractions: $30 – $50.
- Total Daily Budget: Approximately $150 – $250 per day.
3. Luxury Traveler: If you’re looking for luxury and plan to stay in upscale accommodations and dine at fine restaurants, expect higher daily expenses.
- Accommodation: Luxury hotels and resorts: $200 and above per night.
- Food: Dining at high-end restaurants: $50 and above for three meals.
- Transportation: Private chauffeur-driven cars or premium rental cars: $50 and above per day.
- Activities: Exclusive tours and experiences: $100 and above.
- Total Daily Budget: $300 and above per day.
Remember that these estimates are approximate and can vary based on your choices and preferences. Additionally, entrance fees to certain attractions and special activities can add to your expenses. It’s a good idea to plan your budget in advance, taking into account your priorities and the cost of specific activities or tours you’d like to experience in Brunei.