Travel in Borneo

Borneo is the third largest island in the world after Greenland and New Guinea, and is divided among three separate countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and the Sultanate of Brunei. The Indonesian portion of Borneo is known as Kalimantan and the Malaysian part is divided into two states, Sabah and Sarawak. Our trips are based in Sabah and Sarawak, the two Malaysian states. Borneo is bisected by the equator and rainfall in most areas is high, 4000 mm – 5000 mm per annum, falling generally during two monsoon seasons between October – August, although this rain rarely affects travel and activities.

This high rainfall, along with daily temperatures in the lowland areas of 30-32°C and near constant humidity, has created a treasure trove of natural wealth. With over 15,000 species of plant and equally impressive fauna diversity the island is quite rightly recognised as a world bio-diversity hot spot. In one mere 52 acre survey site in the Lambir Hills Park in Sarawak an incredible 1,175 species of trees were indentified, more than the combined totals of the whole of Europe and North America. All the latest evidence suggests that there is much still be discovered and classified. The forests are the oldest climatically undisturbed tropical forests on Earth and also the tallest with giant emergents rising up to nearly 90 metres.

It would be difficult to overstate the attraction of Malaysia for anyone who appreciates the natural world. Its primal forests, ranging from shoreline mangrove to mountaintop oak, are of the sort that most of the world now knows only in myth. Although Malaysia's size is similar to that of Norway, natural trees and forests cover almost three quarters of the land, an area equivalent to almost the entire United Kingdom. One can walk for hundreds of miles in Borneo under a continuous canopy of green, marvelling at an abundance of plant and animal species equalled by no other location in the entire world.

This endlessly varied environment shelters a host of the world's rarest and most remarkable animals: the Sumatran Rhinoceros, the Clouded Leopard and Malaysian Tiger, the Sun Bear, the Monitor Lizard, and the Orangutan, or "man of the forest," are just a few examples. Borneo's forests are also home to Southeast Asia's highest peak (Mt Kinabalu), as well as to the world's most extensive natural caverns in Mulu National Park. The forest itself is one of the most ancient on the planet, far older than the equatorial forests of the Amazon or the Congo. It has been the home of nomadic forest peoples for tens of thousands of years, and ancient civilizations have flourished as well as disappeared in its vastness. Legends abound, and archaeologists have only just begun their efforts here.

Its people are equally as diverse with nearly 200 local tribal languages and dialects spoken from the coastal areas to the forested interiors, and evidence has been found in caves of human existence on the island for 40,000 years. With only 16 million total inhabitants population density is low; despite this, few areas remain totally free of human influence, the exceptions being remote interior regions along the border with Indonesia and virgin forest reserves such as the Maliau Basin in Sabah. Once feared as head-hunting warriors, the peoples of Borneo are now peaceful and respectful and the island composes a diverse and tolerant number of religious faiths.

The locals of Borneo are some of the most trustworthy and welcoming you will meet in the world. It is unlikely anyone will give you the hard sell nor rip you off, though of course if buying at street stalls then a little bargaining is part of the experience. If you are stopped by a local, more often than not it will be a chance to pass the time and have a chat - most locals have at least a basic level of spoken English or want to simply practice – don’t miss this opportunity to engage yourselves.

Street crime and begging is practically non-existent but, like anywhere at home, be wary when leaving cash machines and normal levels of awareness should be upheld.

Mt Kinabalu

Borneo boasts the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea, Mount Kinabalu, and its flora and fauna is as diverse as its many tribal, religious and ethnic groups. Whilst the unrelenting march of deforestation and new oil palm plantations are a stark reminder of what could be the islands future, for now it remains one of the world’s great adventure and wildlife destinations.

Mt Kinabalu is a stunning mountain to climb, at 4095 metres. It is one of the youngest mountains in the world, only ten million years old, rising out of the grand-daddy of all rainforests. In actual fact Mt Kinabalu is a batholith, a vast mound of granite that rose through a crack in the surface of the earth, and it was once covered by glaciers and sheets of ice. Visiting the craggy peaks on the summit plateaux is an experience in itself, a rock climbing paradise of fluted granite peaks and gullies and scoured surfaces . Shaped like an enormous U, the great 1800 metre deep gully in the middle is called Low’s Gully and is one of the great expeditions in the world.

Two hours from Kota Kinabalu rises the majestic Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in South-East Asia. The hundreds of square kilometres encompassed by its slopes, from sea level to the jagged stone edge marking its summit, form the Kinabalu National Park. Within this area of some 4300 square kilometres is found some of the richest flora in the world, ranging from lowland forest to the mountain oak, rhododendron, and conifer forests of the middle altitudes and eventually to the alpine meadows and stunted, windswept bushes of the summit.

Kinabalu's slopes possess a wealth of plant growth and a large variety of birds, and much of the climb's interest and beauty lies in tracing the transitions from one ecosystem to the next as one reaches ever higher altitude. For visitors with more time to spend in Kinabalu, there are graded paths leading through rich lowland forest to mountain rivers, waterfalls, and bat caves.

Travel Facts Borneo

Climate:  Typically hot, humid and can be wet at anytime, although most rain falls between November and January and less so between June and August. Temperature fluctuates little throughout the year; the average is between 21 C and 32 C. Humidity is high. Rain tends to occur between November to February on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, on western Sarawak, and north-eastern Sabah. On the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia the rainy season is April to May and October to November.  With few activity exceptions Borneo is a year round destination that is outside the Pacific 'Ring of Fire' so does not suffer from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or even tropical cyclones.

Language: Bahasa Malaysia is the official language spoken in the Sabah and Sarawak. Other widely spoken languages include Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil and English. All the indigenous tribes in Borneo also speak their own language.

Safety:  Malaysian Borneo is one of the safest destinations in the world to visit, crime levels are low generally and particularly rare against visitors though of course you should exercise normal levels of vigilanace as you would at home.

Religion:  Muslim 60.4%; Buddhist 19.2%; Christian 9.1%; Hindu 6.3%. Many of the indigenous groups, such as the Penan, are Christian. Borneo is a great example of a place where tolerance of religious and political views can create a peaceful and respectful society. You will be briefed on any relevant information you need to know if you are visiting local villages or centres of religion, but generally it is hard to cause true offence. You can find out more about cultural awareness in Borneo here.

Visas: Brisith Citizens do not need a visa to enter Malaysia, if you visit does not exceed 3 months and there is little red tape.

Currency: the local money is called Ringgit and you can buy these in the UK very easily at a bank or foreign exchange outlet. In all the major towns and cities there are many ATMs and credit cards are widely accepted.

Time: Malaysia is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)

Electric Supply: Electric supply is on a 240-volt 50-cycle system. The plug type is G which is the same as we have in the UK.

International Dialling Code: +60

Medical emergencies: Malaysia has a top class medical support system, with excellent hospitals and emergency facilities. You must make sure you have travel insurance. In the event of an emergency you can go to any one of several private hospitals or clinics.

Insects, bugs and wildlife: Borneo is of course host to many thousands of animal species, and some of them are insects. It is important to be careful and maintain normal common sense. You would be very unlucky to suffer a snake bite for example, and our guide will always give briefings about what to expect in any area. The reality is that most animals prefer to avoid human beings, so searching for elusive great apes is always an exercise in patience and keeping very quiet. There is sufficient breeze on the coast for most winged insects to be blown away, and there are no insects on the mountain as it is too high and cold. Any trip into the jungle will require caution and wearing long sleeved clothes and shoes in the evening.

Flights are into Kota Kinabalu, Miri or Kuching, generally via Kuala Lumpur. There are many airlines to choose from but if you want to include the regional sector then have a look at Malaysian Airlines or Air Asia.

Day trips in Sabah

In addition to the featured itinerary there are numerous add-ons that you can enjoy, from  snorkelling, to fishing trips, wildlife river cruises, mountain or road biking, white water rafting. For those with time to spare it is also feasible to organise a visit to other fascinating destinations in the region which are only a short flight away: The temples of Java and Bali, the world heritage limestone seascapes of Palawan in the Philippines or the world famous Orang-utan and Gibbon research centres in Kalimantan. Locally in Sabah, we recommend:

Biking  - this is mountain biking heaven with many opportunities to get off the beaten track and enjoy cycling along jungle tracks and seeing the wildlife. Bikes can be hired locally and our local guide can offer a variety of journeys.

Rafting – The Padas River offers white water rafting experiences, to a reasonable standard. Local companies have professional set-ups, with good staff and boats. Training is provided on the ground.

Kinabatanagan  - the river is a wonderful place to visit, with many cruises plying the water looking for birdlife on the banks. A variety of overnight options exist, from very comfortable lodges to jungle forest camps.

Turtle, Sipadan and Lankayan Islands – amazing diving locations, it takes a fast boat journey to get there and many local companies specialise in weekend tours. There is also snorkelling on the islands just near Kota Kinabalu, easily done as a day trip.

Sepilok – this is the famous orang utan sanctuary and it takes a short flight from Kota Kinabalu to get to the other side of Sabah in order to visit this remarkable place. It is easy to spend a whole day here, walking through the rainforest and spying these amazing apes.

Kayaking – a perfect activity is to rent a kayak and explore the islands and the coastline in shallow waters.
Contact us for any information about the above and we can help recommend the best local companies. Much of the planning can be left until you arrive in Sabah, since the tourist sector is well organised for the backpacking market.

City Tours Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu : Although KK, as it is known locally, is unlikely to make it into the top five world cities, there is enough to make for a great day out. It has an insightful museum, hectic night markets and many shops and restaurants.  A short distance away you can find cooling waterfalls and great snorkelling in the nearby marine park and islands. All this can be enjoyed by foot, bike and boat. There are many resort hotels and the area is very well set up for tourists with every imaginable facility. A favourite activity is to go to one of the islands offshore in a speedboat for a day lazing on the beach and exploring the coral reefs.

Sandakan: Like KK, Sandakan was flattened by the bombing during World War II. However it is one of the most authentic cities in Borneo to visit. Few tourists linger here and this ensures that those that do receive a warm welcome from the Filipino-influenced local populace (the international boundary is a mere 1 hour away by boat). Nearby is the famous Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary and Rainforest Discovery Centre where you can see this great ape and also the Proboscis Monkey in a nearby reserve. Just two hours by speedboat takes you to the stunning Lankayan island marine reserve where seasonally turtles come ashore to nest. If you love seafood, it does not come any fresher than this!

Miri: Not a place to hang around for too long, but the nearby Niah Caves and Lambir Hills Parks make great overnight trips and the hotels will seem lavish after a few days trekking in the interior forests.

Kuching:  Spared the WWII bombing that other cities in Sabah suffered, Kuching is arguably the most underrated city in South East Asia. Brimming with contrasting tribal groups, bustling markets and a busy waterway, it is easy to pass time here. The nearby mangroves and estuary host proboscis monkeys and Irrawaddy dolphins which are easily viewed in a day and the nearby national parks are simply stunning including a turtle nesting marine reserve. Not to be overlooked, Kuching encompasses all that is Borneo and is the best place to buy authentic handicrafts including the bizarre Palang – this has to be seen to be believed and is not for the fainthearted!

Information Links Borneo

Private groups Borneo

We offer scheduled itineraries for groups of normally around ten people, but we can easily cater for private groups who wish to have their own trip. Also, the trips themselves can be altered and modified to suit your preference.

For example, school groups, charities, fitness holidays, nature enthusiasts or clubs may wish to have a professional organisation prepare an itinerary which is complete specific to their needs. This is where Adventure Alternative really comes into its own; we have the interest and the ability to make this happen. Our whole purpose is to create fascinating holidays and sometimes this means thinking outside the box.

If you want somewhere to de-stress and enjoy great activities without being excessive then we can organise a holiday including trekking, cycling, kayaking, snorkelling and mountain climbing. If you are a keen mountain biker and you have a group of friends who just want to do that, then we can arrange it.

There is much exciting travel beneath the surface in Borneo and no matter what ticks your box, with the exception of skiing, it can happen here. From cooking classes to world class mountain biking, castaway islands to rainforest hideaways, unique culture and wildlife and scuba diving, Borneo has it all. Tell us your passion we can make it happen in the best possible way. An interesting combination is the wildlife of Sabah and World Heritage landscape islands of El Nido, Palawan, now serviced by a direct flight from Kota Kinabalu.

Culture tips Borneo

Borneo is largely a conservative and traditional society. However, this does vary from location to location and generally Malaysian Borneo is more relaxed in most aspects than Peninsular Malaysia. Many of the following guidelines would come under a general banner of polite subtlety and respect.

A Multi-Cultural Society.

Ethnic Groups - these are approximate figures to highlight the multi-cultural nature of Malaysia: Malay 50.4%, Chinese 23.7%, Indigenous groups 11%, Indian 7.1%, other 7.8%.

Malaysia's cultural mosaic is marked by many differences, but several in particular have had especially lasting influence on the country. Chief among these is the ancient Malay culture, and the cultures of Malaysia's two most prominent trading partners throughout history--the Chinese, and the Indians. These three groups are joined by a dizzying array of indigenous tribes, many of which live in the forests and coastal areas of Borneo. The oldest inhabitants of Malaysia are its tribal people. They account for about 11% of the total population, and represent a majority in Sarawak and Sabah. Though Malaysia's tribal people prefer to be categorized by their individual tribes, peninsular Malaysia blankets them under the term Orang Asli, or "Original People." In Sarawak, the dominant tribal groups are the Dayak, who typically live in longhouses and are either Iban (Sea Dayak) or Bidayuh (Land Dayak). In Sabah, most tribes fall under the term Kadazan. All of Malaysia's tribal people generally share a strong spiritual tie to the rainforest. When visiting the country it is clear that the ethnicities retain their religions, customs and way of life. The most important festivals of each group are public holidays of which there are many.

Although when growing up children are educated in the same schools and will eventually work in the same offices, few marry outside their own ethnicity. Families tend to socialise within their own ethnic group – all part of retaining their individual traditions and lifestyles.

Despite the ethnic differences there are commonalities culturally speaking.


Islam 60.4%; Buddhist 19.2%; Christian 9.1%; Hindu 6.3%. Many of the indigenous groups, such as the Penan, are Christian.
Borneo is a great example of a place where tolerance of religious and political views can create a peaceful and respectful society. You will be briefed on any relevant information you need to know if you are visiting local villages or centres of religion.

Group Orientation

The family is considered the centre of the social structure. As a result there is a great emphasis on unity, loyalty and respect for the elderly. The family is the place where the individual can be guaranteed both emotional and financial support. When one member of the family suffers a financial setback, the rest of the family will contribute what they can to help out. Families tend to be extended, although in the larger cities this will naturally differ.

The Concept of Face

Malays, Chinese and Indians all strive to maintain face and avoid shame both in public and private. Face is a personal concept that embraces qualities such as a good name, good character, and being held in esteem by one's peers. Face is considered a commodity that can be given, lost, taken away, or earned. On top of this face also extends to the family, school, company, and even the nation itself. The desire to maintain face makes Malaysians strive for harmonious relationships.

Face can be lost by openly criticizing, insulting, or putting someone on the spot; doing something that brings shame to the group; challenging someone in authority, especially if this is done in public; showing anger at another person; refusing a request; not keeping a promise; or disagreeing with someone publicly. Conversely, face can be saved by remaining calm and courteous; discussing errors or transgressions in private; speaking about problems without blaming anyone; using non-verbal communication to say "no"; and allowing the other person to get out of the situation with their pride intact.


Greetings in a social context will depend upon the ethnicity of the person you are meeting. In general, most Malays are aware of Western ways so the handshake is normal. There may be slight differences though and a few things to bear in mind include:
Malay women may not shake hands with men.Women can of course shake hands with women. Men may also not shake hands with women and may bow instead while placing their hand on their heart.

The Chinese handshake is light and may be rather prolonged. Men and women may shake hands, although the woman must extend her hand first. Many older Chinese lower their eyes during the greeting as a sign of respect.

Indians shake hands with members of the same sex. When being introduced to someone of the opposite sex, nodding the head and smiling is usually sufficient.

Among all cultures, there is a general tendency to introduce: the most important person to the lower ranking person. The older person to the younger person. Women to men.

Etiquette - to avoid "cultural offenses," here are some tips:
•    Remove shoes when entering homes and places of worship.
•    Dress neatly in suitable attire which covers arms and legs when visiting places of worship.
•    Handle food with your right hand.
•    Do not point your foot at someone.
•    When giving or receiving money gifts to/from a Malaysian, do so with your right hand.

When greeting a Muslim, offer your right hand then bring it towards you, fingertips lightly touching your heart. This is the traditional Salam or 'greeting of acceptance'. Hindus greet with a Namaste (in Hindi) or Vanakam (Tamil). Both palms are brought together as in prayer at mid-chest level. With a Chinese, you may shake hands. And remember, a smile always goes a long way!


All persons should dress 'modestly', this is especially true of female visitors. For general guidance you should keep your upper arms to the elbow and upper legs to the knee covered. In addition, tops should not finish above the waistline of your trousers and expose your midriff and your neckline should not extend down more than a few inches. If you are visiting a temple or holy place it would be appropriate to dress even more modestly than that above.

Of course if on the beach or trekking in the forest it can be more relaxed but be mindful of when bathing in rivers, women should wash in their sarongs and not just underwear.

Try to conduct yourselves in a generally calm and reasonably quiet manner. As a guide simply observe the local Borneo people around you and try not to be significantly louder or more boisterous than them.


Public displays of affection between a male and a female such as kissing will embarrass most locals, especially in more rural locations, and should be avoided. You may notice Borneo men walking or standing holding hands, this is normal between friends and does not indicate anything beyond platonic friendship, do not be concerned if a local whom you have come to know well sits with his arm around you.


The Muslim communities consider the left hand to be unclean. You should always therefore shake hands, offer and receive with the right hand. This is generally a good idea quite apart from the cultural aspect as the left is the one they will have used for nasty jobs like those immediately before exiting the long drop! An additional mark of respect or gratitude is shown by touching the heart with the right hand. Other tribal groups may not differentiate between right and left for eating.


Feet and shoes are often considered ritually unclean, avoid sitting with them up in the air or stepping over someone sitting on the ground. Also ensure that where you are sat you will not force others to step over you.


In situations in home stays you may find there are no eating implements in which case you will use your hands and observe the previously discussed points. In non Muslim cultures eating wild pig is considered just about the best meal there is, whilst of course this is not the case with the Muslim faith so be aware of where you are. The concept of vegetarianism is little understood or known so be very careful when ordering food as often shrimp paste and small fish (ikan bilis) will be in the food to add flavour. Rice is considered a valuable commodity so start with small amounts and go back for more rather than waste any.


If you are a guest in a home the host is likely to bring you a gift of food or drink. This may range anywhere from tea or coffee and biscuits to a whole meal of rice and vegetables. You should always eat or drink some of it as a mark of respect and gratitude. Be aware that the cup or plate may instantly be re-filled so if you are not enjoying it you may want to sip at it more slowly.

Churches and Mosques

When entering a place of worship make sure you are aware beforehand of correct etiquette expected. Usually you will be forbidden from taking photographs inside such a building.


Unlike most countries in the region there is no real culture of haggling in Malaysian Borneo. If you are making a large purchase you could ask for a discount. If there is a price marked on an object then it is almost certainly inappropriate to negotiate on the price unless perhaps you are buying many items at once. However on occasion in markets, if the price is not marked then you may begin the fine art of haggling. The vendor will quote you a price to begin with, depending on whether you are in the tourist district of a large town or in a village market the starting price may be somewhere from five to one and a half times the going rate. At this point you will need to make a judgment call. On the one hand, paying over the odds can drive up expectations and prices generally for everyone including locals. On the other hand, driving the price of a souvenir down by the equivalent of 25 pence will make virtually no difference to you but may change the weekly income of a rural family by a few percent.

Gift Giving Etiquette

Here are some general gift giving etiquette guidelines:

Gift giving to Malays:
If invited to someone's home for dinner, bring the hostess pastries or good quality chocolates.
 Never give alcohol.
 Do not give toy dogs or pigs to children.
 Do not give anything made of pigskin.
 Avoid white wrapping paper as it symbolizes death and mourning.
 Avoid yellow wrapping paper, as it is the colour of royalty.
 If you give food, it must be “halal” (meaning permissible for Muslims).
 Offer gifts with the right hand only or both hands if the item is large.
 Gifts are generally not opened when received.

Gift giving to Chinese:
If invited to someone's home, bring a small gift of fruit, sweets, or cakes, saying that it is for the children.
 A gift is traditionally refused before it is accepted to demonstrate that the recipient is not greedy.
 Do not give scissors, knives or other cutting utensils as they indicate a desire to sever the relationship.
 Flowers do not make good gifts as they are given to the sick and are used at funerals.
 Do not wrap gifts in mourning colours - white, blue, or black.
 Wrap the gifts in happy colours - red, pink, or yellow.
 Elaborate gift - wrapping is imperative.
 Never wrap a gift for a baby or decorate the gift in any way with a stork, as birds are the harbinger of death.
 It is best to give gifts in even numbers since odd numbers are unlucky.
 Gifts are generally not opened when received.

Laws in Malaysia

The following advice is intended to provide a brief outline of any laws in the desination country that are directly applicable to travelling there. This is not intended to be exhaustive or complete and laws do change from time to time so we strongly advise visiting the UK Foreign Office website and checking for their current advice.

In general the laws of any country will be based on the same values as at home but significant differences can be present subject to the prevailing cultural, religious and political environment in the country. These four basic factors can be your main guide to how to act in unfamiliar situations. If you are any doubt as to what to do in a given situation it is usually possible to identify the "safest" fallback option and go with it. For example, not buying something, not taking a photo of a government building etc.

This information should also be read in conjunction with our relevant pages dealing with Cultural Awareness and Visa Requirements.

Note: Borneo as an island is made up of three parts belonging to three different countries; Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. Laws and customs are similar but there are differences that you may need to be aware of if you visit different areas.


Malaysia is a multicultural but predominantly Islamic country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultural or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. You should also dress modestly in conservative and rural areas, and when visiting places of worship.
If you are a Muslim you should be aware that you may also be subject to local Shari'a law.

Homosexual acts are illegal.

There are severe penalties for all drug offences in Malaysia: trafficking (defined here as the possession of a certain quantity of drugs) incurs a mandatory death penalty; possession incurs a custodial sentence and possible whipping.  This includes the possession of or trafficking in Amphetamine-type stimulants.
You could be asked to take a urine test on arrival in Malaysia if you are suspected of having used drugs before your visit.  Should the test prove positive, you could be referred for rehabilitation treatment or be deported.

The importation of unlicensed firearms and ammunition into Malaysia is prohibited.  Possession can carry the death penalty.


You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.
You should be aware of offending Islamic sensitivities. Westerners have occasionally been harassed by fundamentalists in bars and nightclubs, particularly around major Islamic holidays such as Ramadan.

Do not get involved with illegal drugs. Possession, trafficking and manufacture of such drugs are serious offences in Indonesia. Those caught face lengthy prison sentences or the death penalty, usually after a protracted and expensive legal process. Police often raid locations (particularly in Bali) known to be frequented by foreigners, and may require an individual to take a urine or blood test where they have reasonable suspicion that drugs have been taken. Drug use or the possession of even small amounts of drugs such as marijuana or ecstasy can lead to prison sentences longer than four years. Convicted traffickers or users of hard drugs such as cocaine or heroin face the death penalty in Indonesia.

Gambling is illegal in Indonesia. There have been cases where tourists have fallen victim to organised gambling gangs, resulting in the loss of large amounts of money.

You must show evidence of your identity if it is requested by, for example, the Police. You should carry photocopies of the relevant pages of your passport and your arrival card to avoid losing the original, which should be kept in a safe place.


Local laws reflect the fact that Brunei is an Islamic country. You should dress modestly and respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times. You should be aware of your actions and take care not to offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan, or if you intend to visit religious areas.

Explicit Material
Possession of pornographic material is illegal.

Homosexual activity is illegal.

Any public criticism of His Majesty The Sultan or other members of the Bruneian Royal Family is discouraged.

There are severe penalties for all drug offences in Brunei including, in some cases, the death penalty. You should not become involved with drugs of any kind. The legal system in Brunei is partly based on Sharia law and can, in certain circumstances, apply to non-Muslims including visitors. Other crimes may attract canning and lengthy prison sentences.

The sale of alcohol in Brunei is prohibited. Non-Muslims over 17 years of age may import duty free, two bottles of wine or spirits and twelve cans of beer on entry into Brunei, but must declare them to Customs on arrival. There must be at least a 48-hour gap between each import. Keep the Customs slip in case of inspection. For a list of other prohibited and restricted items, please visit the Royal Customs and Excise Department’s website.

Visitors should be aware that smoking is prohibited in certain public places, including shopping and eating areas, bus stops and stations and government buildings. Offenders may be fined for breaking this law.