After 3 days in Brunei, even though I love this country, I have to say that it’s very hard to live there if you’re not Bruneian. There is no public transportation there. Actually there are buses but they are very random and there are only 40+ taxis the whole country. Everything is expensive in Brunei, and foreign workers get paid much lower than local people. There are few things about Brunei good to know if you plan to visit this country.
In Brunei, Singapore dollars and Brunei dollars are both used at the rate 1:1.
All SIM cards in Brunei are 3G, but b-mobile sim cards are only compatible with 3G phones and DTS SIM cards are compatible with 2G phones as well (seriously I felt so depressed when I was there b/c I had no 3G phone). A SIM card normally costs B$30, but some shops charge B$40 or B$50. They are very hard to find, you can find them in some big shopping malls in the Mall Gadong. If you just stay in Brunei for a few days, it isn’t worth buying one. You can use buy VoIP card to use public phones instead. With B$5, you can have more than 1 hour call to local numbers. You can find public phones at every malls, supermarkets.
Bruneians don’t walk
If you walk on the street, you will soon realize that you are the only one doing so. My Bruneian friends told me that even if they want to cross the street, they will drive. So don’t expect to meet anyone on the road to ask for the way
One scary thing about Brunei is that everybody knows everybody there. The population of the whole country is less than 400,000 people so it’s somewhat like a small town. Here is a story: When I was hanging out with Caroline Ang (another Caroline Ang – the owner of Bon Asia Holidays, a travel agency) and she asked who was going to pick me up, I said my friend’s name. She asked more about him but I didn’t know much. So she said: “Let me check.” and picked up the phone to call her friend to ask if her friend knows my friend. After only 2 phone calls, she knew exactly who he is, where he works. Scary!
The gap between rich and poor people
… is huge in Brunei. Most of people here are very rich: They live in big houses, drive expensive cars (Mercedes and Lexus are very popular here), and have their own drivers. However, poor people are really poor. Many people just work for B$500-B$1000/month (a normal room in an apartment already costs around B$300/month) and live in slump areas. Foreign workers are living much below standard, but still better in their own countries (I guess) because of the currency difference.
Green & Clean
Brunei is a green & clean country, literally & figuratively. There are a lot of trees and no corruption. The sky is so blue
From what I said above, it’s clearly that even though Brunei is home for many glamorous mosques and , this country is not the paradise for tourists. My friend Caroline Ang – the owner of a leading travel agency in Brunei – confirmed that the government (the King) doesn’t focus on developing tourism in this country, but she hopes that they will someday. I hope so too.
1. Education is totally free in Brunei. If you are a Bruneian and good enough, the government will even send you overseas.
2. The government also provides you houses if you are Bruneian. However, government houses all look the same and you cannot do anything with it, so rich people prefer to buy and build their own houses.
3. English is widely spoken through out the country.
4. Jobs as shop assistants, waitresses are available for local/PR card holders only.
If you have a lot of money and want to find a place to spend it up, then Brunei is way to go. There are few taxis in the country but they are very hard to find and very expensive. You have to call in advance and wait for a while. A cheaper way is to go on a tour.
If you plan to work there, make sure that your company provides you transportation, or you are well paid enough to buy your own cars/motorbikes. Second hand cars are actually pretty cheap there. You can easily get one with about B$3000.