Brunei Airport (BWN): 11 Things To Do On A Layover

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Brunei International Airport is a common layover spot for flights routed through Asia and the South Pacific region. The airport is located at roughly 10 mins (approximately 2 miles) distance from Brunei’s largest city centre Bandar Seri Begawan, the Capital of Brunei.

The city is well known for The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, which is also considered as one of the most beautiful mosques around the world. In addition, this city with a population of approximately 200,000 features historical sites, museums, mosques, shopping centres, parks & short trekking trails; which makes this city a tempting attraction for passengers with long layovers.

Here’s a list of all the assistance which you may require to enjoy a pleasant little outing in Brunei, followed by our pick of the top 11 things to do in Brunei while on a layover.

What’s Covered Inside

At Brunei Airport

If you decide to spend your time at the Brunei airport itself or in case of a short layover in Brunei, there are only a few things to do to keep you involved. The transit terminal area of this airport dons a clean & simple layout. One thing which can be immediately noticed upon arrival is that the airport lacks proper seating arrangements, there are not enough seats for the number of passengers this airport handles; and the ones which are provided, are not as comfortable as you may find in other international airports.

At the airport, you’ll find a shopping area featuring various international brands outlets offering apparels, watches, footwear, cosmetic products etc. as well as some local – general & concept stores. Again, in the eatery section you’ll find a variety to choose from various International food chains & local food options. In case, you are in mood for some relaxation then you may opt for services like vending massage chairs which are located just before the boarding area. There is also a dedicated viewing gallery with an unobstructed view of the runway area. For more information on facilities & services offered in transit area check out the official website of Royal Brunei Airlines.

Brunei Airport Lounge

Brunei International Airport also offers premium facilities at the VIP Lounge, located on the 1st floor and is operational from 6:00AM to 9:30PM. Amenities at Royal Brunei’s Sky Lounge includes snacks and beverages, shower facility, Wi-Fi access, massage chairs, TVs, a mini cinema room, kids zone and a games arcade.

The lounge accepts entry through lounge membership programs, pre-purchased passes or by simply paying directly at the entrance. Of course, the They charge BND 55 (approximately USD 42) for walk-ins, however if you make a reservation with them online prior to arrival, they may offer some pre-booking discount. The access is valid for 3 hours, post which, each additional hour would cost you approximately USD 10$.

The airport is wheelchair friendly and offers a variety of convenience facilities, serviced by easily approachable and friendly staff.

Here’s a brief overview of infrastructure at Brunei Airport:

Retail and Food & Beverages Space (in sq. metre.)9,000
Check-in/ Counters40
Emigration Counters12
Immigration Counters16
Car Park1440
Length of Runway (m)3685
Brief overview of infrastructure at Brunei International Airport

In addition to restaurants and shops, the Brunei International Airport features an Information Centre, Medical Centre, Postal Services, ATM’s, Telephone facility, Wi-Fi facility and a prayer room in the departure terminal.

Overnight Stay At Brunei Airport

If your layover involves overnight stay, then you may consider choosing between a variety of hotels near the airport itself. If you are in transit, you may consider the in-transit chargeable hotel facility offered by the airport; for which you need not go through immigration formalities as rooms are available within the airport premises as per your required duration. NEST Dayrooms is one such facility at the airport itself.

If you prefer to sleepover in the airport itself without opting for a room, then you may do so without any issues here, but you may be put up in a designated waiting area until security checkpoints open. This airport can be considered safe for overnight sleepovers and it is generally quiet at night, during day time this airport is quite noisy. Temperatures at night can be cold and you should consider carrying some comfortable warm clothes; based on experiences of fellow travellers, a single layer of warm clothing should be sufficient to do the job.

Outside Brunei Airport

The Brunei International Airport is within touching distance (roughly 2 miles) from the city centre of Bandar Seri Begawan (Capital of Brunei) featuring historical sites, museums, mosques, shopping centres, parks & short trekking trails; as discussed below. (Note: Traveller must prepare their own schedule as per the available time, Pre-Check Visa On Arrival Details)

General Information:

Time Required To Explore

There’s plenty to do for everyone visiting Brunei, depending on your layover be it short or long there’s a lot that can be done to make the best use of your time in Brunei. So if you have as little as about 2-3 hours or more than 5 hours, we have laid down all possible options for you to go and explore Brunei.

Luggage Storage At Brunei Airport

If your connecting flight is with the same carrier as your first leg, then you probably don’t need to worry about the luggage as the Airline will take care of your luggage transfer to your connecting flight.

Otherwise, as mentioned above in this article, Brunei Airport has day-room facility where rooms are available even on hourly basis depending on your requirements. This is a pretty secure and hassle-free option, where you can take a quick shower and leave your luggage in the room while going for your city tour.

Currently there are no dedicated luggage storage facilities or storage lockers offered at Brunei International Airport.

Visa Requirement

You may need a visa to get of the airport at Brunei depending on your country of origin. Visa-on-arrival and e-visa facility is also available; again depending on your country of origin. For more details, please check-out this official website of Ministry Of Foreign Affairs, Brunei.

Currency Exchange

Brunei Dollars is the official currency of Brunei. At present (Since 1967), there is a Currency Interchangeability Agreement between Singapore and Brunei, wherein a Singapore Dollar is treated at par with Brunei Dollar (1:1) & vice versa. So if you are travelling from Singapore or have Singapore Dollars handy, then it can be easily used in Brunei directly for payments.

Otherwise, there are couple of money exchange centres at the airport itself and an ATM for withdrawals in local currency from your international cards.

Purchase a Sim Card

Only if it’s an absolute necessary and you need to be connected on your short Brunei layover, then obtaining a sim card is a pretty straight-forward affair at Brunei International Airport (BWN). There are 2 networks to choose from, DST & Progresif. In our opinion DTS Network offers good service and has a better coverage. Both companies have their outlets conveniently placed near the arrival section at the airport.

The process is straight-forward where you have to present your passport, they’ll take a copy of it and offer you dedicated tourist sim with dedicated tourist-sim plans. You’ll be required to fill-up a form and the activated sim card will be allotted to you within minutes. You can expect to pay around $14 USD for a sim which would include an active plan comprising of 3GB data, valid for 7 days. The validity of tourist sim is 30 days. Data speeds are moderate, average download internet speed would be approximately 1.5 – 3 Mb/s.

There is not much price difference between purchasing the Sim Card at the airport or in the city, so we suggest that you should complete your purchase (if any) at the airport itself.

Getting To Bandar Seri Begawan From Brunei Airport

After you clear your immigration and exit Brunei Airport, these are the options which you can choose from to get to Bandar Seri Begawan.

Lake-side View In City - From Brunei Airport To Bandar Seri Begawan
Lake-side View In City – From Brunei Airport To Bandar Seri Begawan

App: Dart is Brunei’s first ride booking app and is available on both IOS & Android. It can be considered an equivalent to UBER, OLA, LYFT & GRAB, where you can enter you destination and your pick-up point. Payment is accepted in Cash as well as through Dart Credits Wallet which can be used with your Visa & Mastercard. However, we would suggest you to make payments in Cash as much as possible to avoid paying any high international transaction fee on you card. Plus in some countries mobile wallets need to be verified before activating.

Taxi: You can hire a taxi from the dedicated taxi stand just outside the airport, it’ll be a 15 minute ride to Bandar Seri Begawan and you can expect to pay approximately $15 USD (Generally around $10-$11 USD) for the ride. Cash payment is only accepted in local currency.

Bus: You may catch any one of the purple buses from outside the arrival area at the Brunei Airport to get to Bandar Seri Begawan. There are 6 different bus routes that can get you to Bandar Seri Begawan, you can expect to pay approximately $1 USD for the bus ride which might take approximately 30 minutes to reach the city depending on its route. Before boarding one, it is advised that you ask for more information about the bus route from the Information Desk at the Airport. Again payments are accepted in cash only in local currency.

There is a Tourist Information Desk as the exit of Arrivals gate from where you may find more information about getting to the city, access maps and clear doubts, if any before exiting the airport area.

11 Things To Do In Brunei During A Layover

It would take you approximately 15 minutes from the airport to reach Bandar Seri Begawan city by car/taxi. It’s a small city with pretty much every destination within walking distance, plus the city is not overcrowded unlike most other capital city’s around the world. Bruneians are jovial and friendly by nature, so it’ll be fun a fun & easy expedition for you while traveling in the city.

1. Visit Kampong Ayer – World’s Largest Water Village

Kampong Ayer is the world’s largest water village located in the Brunei river. The town is literally erected with the help of stilts and is connected by wooden walkways across marshy land. This four centuries old village is currently home to approximately 30,000 Bruneians and is laced with urban facilities like schools, police headquarters, shops and mosques. Kampong Ayer is otherwise also referred to as the “Venice of the East”.

Image Of Kampong Ayer – World’s Largest Water Village
Kampong Ayer – World’s Largest Water Village

You can reach this town easily by taking an inexpensive ride (less than $1 USD one-way) in a water-taxi boat; life jackets are provided. Boats are easily available on he city side of Brunei river. Once you reach this town, it is recommended that you visit the Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery. Interact with the locals and don’t be surprised if you’re invited into one of the locals’ houses for a cup of tea.

You’ll witness a blend of old classical houses and some new constructions. What’s particularly striking about the houses though, is their vivid colour schemes; which are a treat to eyes and a perfect location for selfie lovers.

At Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery, you’ll become familiar with different aspects of Kampong Ayer and it’s cultural heritage, with recorded history starting from the tenth century up to present-day life. The gallery displays archaeological discoveries, traditional items, pictures and maps.

2. The 29 Golden Domes of Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

The Beautiful 29 Domes - Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque
Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

It is one of the two National Mosques, and the largest Mosque of Brunei. It is impossible to miss the golden glittery dome surrounded by 4 impressive and extravagant minarets. The lavish interior of the Mosque will give you a glimpse of fine Islamic Art. Spread across 20 acre, this massive Mosque can accommodate 5000 worshipers at a time.

The Mosque was inaugurated in 1994 to celebrate the 48th Birthday and 25 years of reign of the current Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. The unique feature of this Mosque is that it features 29 Golden Domes, representing that the current Sultan is the 29th ruler of the dynasty.

This Mosque is city’s highlight at night when it’s all lit-up, the glittery golden dome appears like a golden flame. When inside the Mosque, don’t miss out on the opportunity to see the extravagantly designed private lift of Sultan at his private access to the Mosque.

Address: Simpang 127, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Mon, Tue, Wed & Sat: 8AM–12PM, 2–3PM

Thu & Fri: Closed

Sunday: 10:30AM–12PM, 2–3PM

3. Brunei Museum

Brunei Museum is also the National Museum of Brunei, located in the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan. It is the largest museum in Brunei and it’s building features elaborate carvings & design which relates to the traditional Islamic art & Malay Art, dating back to the 15th century.

Apart from learning about the history of Brunei, here you’ll witness exhibits of Islamic & Malay art from the historical period. In addition, you’ll learn more about the life of local communities in Brunei, the archaeological findings and the culture of Brunei.

The museum exhibits artefacts including some of Sultans’ personal collections like gold coins, paintings, pottery from the 10th century, gold ornaments, miniature version of holy Quran, exclusive woven fabrics, traditional weaponry etc. Here you’ll also learn about the history of discovery of oil in Brunei and it’s significant impact on the economy of Brunei.

In 2014, the museum was closed temporarily for public due to severe termite infestation inside the building.

4. Istana Nurul Iman – Considered World’s Largest Residential Palace

Istana Nurul Iman, the name is derived from Malay and Arabic which translates to Palace of Light & Faith. It is the official residence of the Sultan of Brunei and serves as the seat of Brunei Government. This magnificent palace is located on the banks of Brunei river in the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan.

Istana Nurul Iman in 2008 – Considered World’s Largest Residential Palace
Istana Nurul Iman – Considered World’s Largest Residential Palace | Image Credit: de:Benutzer:Chtrede

The palace is often used for state functions of the government of Brunei and houses Sultan’s personal belongings which is considered to include approximately 7200 cars in 110 garages within the palace premises, Sultan’s cars collection is believed to include 189 Land Rovers, 350 Ferraris, 260 Aston Martins, 229 Jaguars, 225 Porsches, 275 Audis, 610 Rolls Royce’s, 450 Mercedes Benzes, 360 Bentleys, 247 BMWs, 175 Bugatti’s and 270 Lamborghinis, most of which are custom-made.

Though tourist are not permitted within the palace premises for obvious reasons, many who visit the city, do include Istana Nurul Iman in their itinerary while taking the city tour and see the palace from the outside.

5. Royal Regalia Museum

The Royal Regalia Museum is located in the heart of Bandar Seri Begawan and primarily exhibits the regalia’s and treasures of the Sultan and the Royal family. Its a grand gold-dome shaped building and at the entrance of the museum you’ll notice a huge chariot which was used in the parade to carry the Sultan through the streets of the city in 1992 while celebrating 25 years of reign of the current Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

Entrance At Royal Regalia Building Brunei
Royal Regalia Building Brunei

Also, there is a second chariot on display, which was used in 1968 during the coronation ceremony of the current Sultan and also used in 1972 during Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Brunei. Other artefacts on display include gold and silver ceremonial weaponry, crowns embedded with jewels, ornaments and important treaties.

The museum was originally named the “Churchill’s Memorial Building” by Sultan Omar Ali Saifudien-3, current Sultan’s father, as he admired Winston Churchill a lot. Later in 1992 it was renamed to Royal Regalia Museum by the current Sultan.

6. Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque – Considered The Most Beautiful Mosque in Asia Pacific

Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is one of the two National mosque of Brunei, the other one being Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque. The mosque is named after Omar Ali Saifuddien-3, the 28th Sultan of Brunei, current Sultan’s father.

Completed in 1958, it is renowned for its pure-gold dome and construction style that exhibits the Moghul architecture. It’s interior walls are made with Italian marble and the main minaret has an elevator facility to the top, which gives access to a panoramic view of the city. It is considered as one of the most beautiful mosques around the world.

The interior of the Mosque is for offering prayers only and may not be accessible for tourists who wish to click photos. However, the exterior premises of the Mosque is absolutely picturesque and it’s location alongside Brunei river adds to its scenic beauty.

Address: Jalan McArthur, Bandar Seri Begawan BS8711, Brunei

Weekdays (Except Friday & Saturday): 8:30AM–12PM, 1:30–3PM, 4:30–5:30PM

Friday & Saturday: 4:30–5:30PM

7. Mangrove Tour In Brunei River

If you are mood for some peaceful time away from the hustle and bustles of the city, then consider taking a Mangrove tour in the Brunei River. You’ll have to hire a water-taxi boat for the tour which won’t cost you a bounty, a return trip can be easily negotiated for about $30. Life jackets are provided in boats and it would take you approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to complete the tour.

Mangrove Area in the Brunei River
Mangrove Area in the Brunei River

On this tour, you can expect to see Mangroves, Birds like Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Zebra Dove, White-breasted Waterhen & more. Additionally you may catch a glimpse of Crocodiles & the endangered long-nosed Proboscis Monkey.

Don’t forget to carry a good pair of binoculars and your camera gear for some amazing wild-life photography.

You may consider combining the Mangrove tour with the Kampong Ayer visit – World’s Largest Water Village. Where you may take the Mangrove tour first and visit Kampong Ayer on your return trip before returning to your base. Boats are easily available on he city side of Brunei river, prices can be negotiated with the boat operator (Captain).

8. Gadong Central

Gadong Central is a shopping mall in Bandar Seri Begawan. You’ll find many international and local retail shops, global food outlets as well as local eateries in and around this place. This place also features a night market; called Pasar Malam Gadong, and is a perfect place to spend your evening while shopping.

The market area features numerous small shops selling local articles. You’ll find a large number of eateries offering foods such as Sate, Soto, locally popular dishes like Nasi Katok and Ambuyat.

Wooden handicrafts collection produced by local craftsmen makes this place an attractive shopping destination for art lovers. During the day, this market area houses local botanists who sell their potted plants.

Address: Gadong Central, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

9. The Waterfront

The Waterfront is an open area to the Brunei River, accessible 24-hours to the public for leisure activities, sightseeing and visiting outdoor cafes.

The Waterfront Open Area to the Brunei River
The Waterfront open area to the Brunei River

Right in the middle of the capital city, this area is a prefect place to catch glimpses of the city and observe the local lifestyle, while sipping away your coffee in one of the outdoor cafes.

As the name suggests, this area promises an amazing view of the river where you can sit back and watch the water-taxi boats ferrying people from city to the accompanying areas & back. If your short layover doesn’t allow you enough time to go to different places in the city then this is the perfect place to spend your limited time and enjoy local flavours.

10. Damuan Recreational Park

The 1 km long stretch of the park has pleasant walkways around dense green vegetation and offers glimpses of the mangrove-rich Pulau Ranggu islands. The park is conveniently located within Bandar Seri Begawan city.

Proboscis Monkey
Proboscis Monkey

Pulau Ranggu Islands is home to the endangered long-nosed Proboscis Monkey, if you want to catch a glimpse of the Monkey and don’t want to engage into a forest expedition then coming to this park with a good set of binoculars will help. However, it is not guaranteed that you will be able spot one of those rare monkeys. Even otherwise, the park offers you a pleasant experience,

Originally formed as a square piece of land in 1986; today, this park showcases work of sculptors from each of the original ASEAN countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand).

This park is a perfect place to spend your last few minutes in the city before heading back to the airport. Ideal visiting time would be early morning or evenings during sunset, afternoons may get really hot.

11. Visit to Serusop Shopping Complex

If your layover is short, allowing you only a couple of hours and you still want to explore out for sometime, probably for some shopping of local souvenirs or to try some local food then Serusop Shopping Complex is the place to go.

It is the nearest shopping complex to Brunei Airport, will take you approximately 8-10 minutes to reach here. Here you’ll find a number of local restaurants and shops.

Serusop is a small neighbourhood of Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei, it is also known as Serusop Village. This absolutely short trip will give you a feel of Brunei, though you won’t be able to explore much except visiting Serusop Shopping Complex.

City Tour Package By Royal Brunei Airlines

If you have some spare hours at Brunei Airport but you don’t want the hassles of curating your own city tour then you may consider choosing one of the city tour option provided and organized by Royal Brunei Holidays – A Division of Royal Brunei Airlines. Royal Brunei Holidays offer various city tour packages which are scheduled for different time-slots of the day and according to places of interests, as follows:

City Tour Package By Royal Brunei Airlines - Kampong Ayer: World’s Largest Water Village
City Tour Package By Royal Brunei Airlines – Kampong Ayer: World’s Largest Water Village

Note: Royal Brunei Airlines charges a fee for these tours. Timings mentioned are subject to changes without notice. For more details visit the official website of Royal Brunei Holidays.