Brunei uses the Brunei dollar as its official currency. Brunei is referred to as Negara Brunei Derussalam in Malay, which is the main language spoken in the country.
As you might expect of a dollar currency, the dollar is split into 100 cents. The currency is also represented by the dollar sign, although it typically has a B in front of the sign – as in B$ – to distinguish it from the many other dollar currencies around the world today.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
There are five coins available, all of which are denominated in cents. These are the 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins. As you would expect, all the banknotes are in dollar denominations and there are lots of them. However half of them are very rarely seen or used nowadays. The rare ones are the $20, $25, $500, $1,000 and $10,000 notes. The ones you will use while you are in Brunei are very likely to be the $1, $5, $10, $50 and $100 notes.
From past to present – the history of the dollar
The Brunei dollar came into being in the country back in 1967. This came about when Malaysia was formed and the area was no longer part of the British Empire. Before this time the country used the Malaya and British Borneo dollar, so it was really a question of keeping the dollar name and creating a currency that was unique to Brunei.
How to get hold of Brunei dollars
It is easy enough to get hold of this currency once you arrive in Brunei. The departure hall at the airport has a selection of money changers so look for one with a good exchange rate and get your local currency before leaving. The good news is these are open around the clock so there is no danger of getting there only to find they are closed. The airport also has a selection of cash machines for your use.
There are of course plenty of banks you can go to as well. Generally speaking they open between 9am and 4pm every day during the week. You may also find you can visit a bank for a couple of hours on a Saturday morning, between 9am and 11am. It is relatively easy to find cash machines that welcome foreign bank cards too, so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting the cash you need.
Of course you can also use your credit card to pay for purchases and services in Brunei. Visa and Mastercard are both accepted and will provide you with another option when paying for goods.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Brunei dollar
This is an easy process and one you can complete in a few short minutes online. Simply look for a currency converter that provides relatively up to date results and choose your own currency as the first one. Select the amount you want to convert and then select the Brunei dollar as the destination currency to convert the amount into. You will then get the current conversion rate to work with.
Bureaux de change and similar exchange places will charge differing rates of exchange so bear this in mind. Compare different providers whenever you can to ensure you get the most competitive rates.
If you wish to learn more about Brunei before travelling there you may find this page at the official UK government website helpful: https://www.gov.uk/government/world/brunei.
Travelling safely with Brunei dollars
Most people who visit Brunei have no issues whatsoever. The good news is that crime is generally low as well; petty crime tends to crop up every now and then but on the whole Brunei is a safe country to visit.
It is wise to follow the traditional safety advice recommended wherever you go in the world. Petty thieves tend to be opportunistic so you should think about concealing your cash from sight. Separating it into different pockets or ideally keeping it in a money belt will minimise the odds of being targeted, and if you are the pickpockets won’t get much in return. Your passport should ideally be locked in your hotel safe for the duration of your visit to Brunei.
Where to spend your dollars in Brunei – and what to spend them on
Brunei is a country in two sections, both of which border Malaysia to the west, east and south. The northern parts of the country border the South China Sea. It is a relatively small country compared in size to the rest of the land mass on which it can be found, which is shared by Malaysia and part of Indonesia.
The capital of the country is Bandar Seri Begawan and this can be found in the north of the country, on the western half of the two sections of Brunei. There are some stunning sights to be found here and you really should spend some time in the city exploring everything it has to offer, even if you go elsewhere as well.
For example the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque is impressive in itself and quite beautiful too. However it also boasts the Ceremonial Ship which usually sits alongside it. This ship is breath-taking in its beauty and detail so make sure you check this out as well.
There are historical sites here as well, including those that have royal significance. Perhaps most potent of all these is the Royal Mausoleum. As the name suggests, many notable royal figures have been interred here, including the most recent four sultans.
Another must-see sight in the city is Brunei Museum. This doesn’t just open up an opportunity to learn more about the history of the city; it also reveals much of the history of the country as a whole. There are many artefacts and historical items here that will give you a different view of the country.
Of course the country has a lot more to offer than simply its capital city. You may not immediately think of beaches when you think of visiting Brunei but there are plenty of them here if this is the type of holiday you want. The fact that the country enjoys a long coastline along its northern edge means you have an excellent opportunity to make your choice from a number of stunning beaches. These include Muara Beach, which is well-equipped for visitors to enjoy. Elsewhere and just a few minutes’ down the road you’ll find Serasa Beach which is another popular choice. There is a water sports complex here that makes it a beacon for those who love jet skiing, sailing and a variety of other similar sports.
Another must-see place is the so-called Water Village, otherwise referred to as Brunei Kampong Ayer. This is a fascinating place and is called a Water Village because it is literally built on the water. This is more than just a small number of rickety structures though – it has to be seen to be believed. There are nearly 30,000 metres of foot bridges for starters! These wind through various buildings including many homes and even a hospital. It is worth wandering along the walkways to explore the area on foot, although you can also get a tour on the surrounding waters by paying for a tour boat. The ideal way to explore would be to do both. One fact that may surprise you when you arrive at Brunei Kampong Ayer is that it dates back more than 1,000 years! It is no big surprise to learn that someone referred to it as the Venice of the East. You are bound to spot the similarities in some ways if you take the time to have a closer look.
There are many other sights and attractions worth looking at in Brunei. Much of the country is covered by rainforests so this provides an engaging way to learn more about the rural areas of the country. You can try a national park tour that includes a canopy walk to see the best parts of the rainforests if you wish. It is certainly enough to take your breath away – and probably more than once.
Brunei may not be for everyone but for those who do pay a visit it provides a sensational selection of places to visit and things to see and do. Whether you go to the capital city or to the beaches, or you decide you want to go into the rainforests (on a tour of course) you will be impressed with what you see.
It is wise to know a little about the way of life here and the religion residents believe in before you plan a visit. For some people the idea of visiting Brunei would not be a good or welcome one, but if you are prepared to live by their rules while you are there and to respect their customs, you will be impressed. Their part of the world has some amazing natural and manmade sights.