Basic Info on Brunei - History

Basic Info on Brunei - History

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Flags, Symbols & Currency of Brunei Darussalam

The Brunei flag was officially adopted on September 29, 1959, when the country was a British protectorate and was retained when the country gained independence on January 1, 1984, as Brunei Darussalam (“Brunei, the Abode of Peace”).

The National flag of Brunei Darussalam is rectangular shaped and has a yellow background with two diagonal bands of white (top, almost double width) and black starting from the upper hoist-side. The National Crest in red is superimposed at the center of the flag. Embodied in the crest in yellow Arabic script is the national motto that can be translated: “Always Render Service with God’s Guidance”. The color yellow is the color of royalty and symbolizes the Sultanate. The white and black bands denote the two chief ministers of Brunei, who advise the Sultan and serve as regents when he is unable to rule. The flag has a width: length proportion ratio of 1:2.

History of the flag of Brunei Darussalam

The predecessor to the modern flag of Brunei was adopted in 1906 when the country was a British protectorate. The new flag of Brunei featured the yellow background and a pair of stripes as the modern flag, but it did not include the nation’s crest. The national crest was added to the flag in 1959. The flag was retained as the national flag of Brunei Darussalam when the country gained independence on January 1, 1984.

Historical Flags of Brunei Darussalam

Flag of the Bruneian Empire

The yellow flag used by the Bruneian Empire (later protectorate).

Flag of the Protectorate of Brunei

A yellow flag with black and white diagonal stripes was used by the Protectorate of Brunei.

Brunei: History

A native sultanate was established at Brunei in the 15th cent. At one time the sultan controlled nearly all of Borneo, but by the 19th cent. his power had declined and Brunei had become a haven for pirates. In 1888 the British established a protectorate over Brunei, administered by a British resident, although the sultan retained formal authority. The Japanese overran the area during World War II.

In 1959 a written constitution went into effect. Under it, the sultanate remained and the protectorate was governed by a chief minister, council of ministers, and elected legislative body. Following elections won by an antimonarchist left-wing party in 1962 and an abortive uprising by the party's military wing, a state of emergency was proclaimed and the legislature disbanded. Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah became sultan in 1967. In 1970 the legislature was made an appointed body. Following the signing of a treaty with the British in 1979, Brunei became fully independent in 1984, and the legislature was suspended the same year. After independence the sultan became an absolute monarch, and oil revenues were used to create a prosperous welfare state oil and natural gas exports are expected to decrease during the 21st cent.

The 1997–98 Asian economic crisis affected Brunei, which lost billions of dollars in investments. In 1998 the sultan's son, Prince al-Muhtadee Billah, was installed as heir to the throne. After a 20-year hiatus, the sultan convened the appointed legislature in 2004 and signed a constitutional amendment calling for a 45-seat council with 15 elected members. However, the sultan dissolved the legislature in 2005 and appointed a new member council the council since then has continued to consist of only appointed members. In 2014 the country began a process of adopting Islamic law (sharia) as the basis for its legal system the establishment in 2019 of stoning as the penalty for adultery, sodomy, and other offenses and of amputation of the hand for theft was widely criticized internationally.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Malaysia and Singapore Political Geography

Ten interesting facts about Brunei

1. Despite the fact that Brunei is classified as a developing country, Bruneians get free education and health care, subsidized food and housing, and they do not pay personal income taxes.

2. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, 29 th sultan of Brunei, owns five thousand cars, including around 20 Lamborghinis, 160 Porsches, 130 Rolls Royces, 360 Ferraris, 170 Jaguars, 180 BMWs, 360 Bentleys, and 530 Mercedes-Benzes.

3. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah belongs to the same family that has ruled Brunei for over six hundred years.

4. Traditionally, Bruneians don’t shake hands with the opposite sex.

5. Bruneians don’t point using their index fingers this is considered impolite. They point with their thumbs instead.

6. Whenever Bruneians enter someone else’s house, they always take off their shoes.

7. It is illegal to drink alcohol in public in Brunei.

8. When Brunei first participated at the 1988 Olympic Games, its delegation was composed of a single official and no athletes.

9. The Belalong Tree Frog (Rhacophorus belalongensis) can only be found in Brunei.

10. There are about 35 species of plants that come only from Brunei. Some of these are the orchid Coelogyne bruneiensis, the palms Calamus maiadum and Livistona exigua, and the bamboo Temburongia simplex.

U.S. Embassy Bandar Seri Begawan

Simpang 336-52-16-9
Jalan Duta
Bandar Seri Begawan BC4115, Brunei Darussalam
+(673) 238-4616
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(673) 873-0691
Fax number: +(673) 238-4606
Email: [email protected]

Destination Description

See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Brunei for information on U.S. - Brunei relations.

Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

U.S. passport holders must have at least six months’ validity remaining on their passport before entering Brunei for business or pleasure, and are required to obtain a visa prior to arrival in Brunei for visits of 90 days or longer. Travelers are also required to have at least six blank passport pages. For further information about entry or exit requirements, travelers may consult the Consular Section of the Embassy of Brunei, 3520 International Court NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202) 237-1838, or visit the Embassy of Brunei website for the most current visa information.

  • Immigration offenses, including overstay of your visa, are punishable by jail sentence, fines, and caning.
  • Individuals associated with violators, such as contractors or employers, are subject to the same penalties if the violator is found guilty.
  • Brunei has imposed HIV/AIDS travel restrictions as part of a ban on communicable diseases. The Ministry of Health (MOH) of Brunei Darussalam requires all travelers entering Brunei to fill out a Health Declaration Card and submit it to the Officer-In-Charge (MOH) upon disembarkation.
  • You may be subjected to a medical examination upon arrival in Brunei Darussalam.
  • Travelers may be quarantined if infected or suspected to be infected with an infectious disease or if travelers have had contact with such a person
  • Please verify this information with the Embassy of Brunei before you travel.

Safety and Security

U.S. citizens in Brunei should be vigilant with regard to their personal security, maintain a low profile, vary times and routes during their daily routines, and report any suspicious activity to the local police and to the U.S. Embassy.

Noting several past anti-Western terrorist bombings in Indonesia, the Department of State continues to be concerned that terrorist groups, such as those claiming affiliation with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), have the capability to carry out terrorist attacks throughout the region.

Crime: Most crimes that occur in Brunei are non-violent crimes of opportunity, including residential burglaries and vehicle break-ins.

  • While in Brunei, you can generally avoid becoming a victim of a crime of opportunity by practicing good security awareness. For example, secure your valuables (remove them from plain view), avoid secluded locations, properly secure your residence and vehicle, and do not travel alone late at night.
  • Crime in Brunei peaks in July and December, due to the holidays and schools being out of session.

See the Department of State and the FBI pages for information on scams.

  • U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault should first contact the U.S. Embassy.
  • Report crimes to the local police at 993 and contact the U.S. Embassy at (673) 238-4616 ext. 2100 Monday – Friday from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or (673) 873-0691 (24 hours).
  • Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime. See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
  • help you find appropriate medical care
  • assist you in reporting a crime to the police
  • contact relatives or friends with your written consent
  • explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
  • provide a list of local attorneys
  • provide our information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
  • provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
  • help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
  • replace a stolen or lost passport

Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.

Tourism: The tourism industry is generally regulated and rules with regard to best practices and safety inspections are regularly enforced. Hazardous areas/activities are identified with appropriate signage and professional staff is typically on hand in support of organized activities. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is widely available throughout the country. In remote areas, it may take more time for first responders and medical professionals to respond, stabilize a patient, and provide life-saving assistance. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.

Local Laws & Special Circumstances

Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be subject to penalties as prescribed by local laws. Brunei’s civil penal code and Syariah Penal Code (commonly known as the sharia law) operate in parallel, and both include provisions for corporal and capital punishments.

  • Criminal penalties for some offenses are harsher than in the United States, including for some acts that are not crimes in the United States. As of April 3, 2019, the Syariah Penal Code introduced new judicial procedures and punishments, including, for certain offenses and under certain evidentiary circumstances, amputation of hands or feet and death by stoning. The Syariah Penal Code applies regardless of an individual’s religion or nationality, although some sections of the law have specific applicability to Muslims.
  • Brunei adheres to conservative Islamic social values, and U.S. citizens are advised to learn and respect local customs and traditions.
  • Any public criticism of the Sultan or other members of the Royal Family, Syariah Law, or Islam is illegal and punishable under Bruneian law.
  • Under Brunei’s Syariah Penal Code, it is also an offense to consume any food, drink, or tobacco in public during the fasting hours of Ramadan.
  • Gambling is illegal in Brunei.
  • Prostitution and pornography are illegal and can result in harsh punishments.
  • Non-Muslims may be arrested for khalwat (close proximity between the sexes) under the Syariah Penal Code provided that the other accused party is Muslim. Khalwat may include activities from holding hands or public displays of affection to sexual activity. U.S. citizens are also subject to khalwat laws.
  • Extramarital sexual relations between a Muslim and non-Muslim are considered a crime in Brunei and may lead to severe punishment.
  • You should consult a guide book or other travel information on Brunei for more information about respecting local cultural norms.
  • Alcohol cannot be purchased legally in Brunei. However, two liters of spirits/wine and 12 cans of beer may be imported by non-Muslim adults for personal consumption in private.
  • Importation of firearms and ammunition is prohibited. The illegal possession of firearms or explosives and drug use/possession carry severe penalties, including the possibility of the death penalty.
  • Visit the Brunei Royal Customs and Excise Department’s website for further information about Brunei’s Customs laws.

Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.

  • If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately.
  • See our webpage on arrests and detentions for further information.
  • The Royal Brunei Police Force is generally professional and courteous. Most officers speak English but some, especially from the reserve units, have limited-to-no English speaking capability.
  • You should carry a copy of your passport with you as you will need to produce proof of your identity should an incident occur.

Dual Nationality: Brunei does not recognize or permit dual nationality. Brunei nationals are expected to enter and exit the country on their Brunei passports. Should Brunei authorities learn that a person is a dual national, they may require immediate renunciation of the citizenship of either the other nation or Brunei.

Customs Regulations: Brunei customs authorities enforce strict import/export regulations. Contact the Embassy of Brunei in Washington, D.C., for specific information regarding customs requirements.

LGBTI Travelers: LGBTI sex acts are criminalized in Brunei under Civil Law and also under the Syariah Penal Code.

  • As of April 3, 2019, possible penalties for LGBT acts under the Syariah Penal Code include fines, imprisonment, caning, and death by stoning.
  • Under the civil penal code, possible punishments include a fine and up to 10 years in prison.
  • Further information may be available from the Embassy of Brunei Darussalam in Washington, D.C. or by contacting an attorney in Brunei.

See our LGBTI Travel Information page and our Human Rights report for further details.

Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: While in Brunei, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from in the United States.

  • Wheelchair ramps may not be available on all sidewalks, which often have very deep and wide gutters that may not be covered.
  • Buildings may not always have wheelchair-accessible doorways or elevators.
  • Crosswalks, elevators, and buildings do not generally have signage or warnings for the visually or hearing impaired.
  • There is no specific law governing accessibility.

Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.


There is adequate care for basic medical conditions in Brunei however, for certain elective surgery or complicated care the best medical care in the region is obtained in Singapore.

  • Brunei has a number of public hospitals and clinics.
  • Further information about health care facilities in Brunei can be found on the U.S. Embassy website.
  • Medication and prescriptions are readily available but may not be the same brands as those found in the United States.
  • We do not pay medical bills.
  • Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.
  • Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas.
  • Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments.
  • See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
  • We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.


  • If traveling with prescription medication, check with the Embassy of Brunei in Washington, D.C., to ensure the medication is legal in Brunei.
  • Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.

Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Further health information:

Travel and Transportation

Road Conditions and Safety: Brunei has an extensive network of roads comparable to those in most western countries, and they are well maintained.

  • Traffic moves on the left side of the road.
  • Holders of a foreign driver’s license are permitted to drive in Brunei Darussalam for 90 days only.
  • For longer stays, a foreign driver’s license must be endorsed to a Brunei driver’s license, available at any Land Transport Department office.
  • Drivers must obey traffic rules at all times and should take extra caution when approaching traffic signals.
  • The Royal Brunei Police Force routinely sets up checkpoints and traffic stops, particularly at night, normally for license and registration check or DWI and contraband.
  • If you are stopped by police, you will need to show your identification card, vehicle registration, and insurance card.

View the Brunei Land Transport Department office website for information.



Southeastern Asia, along the northern coast of the island of Borneo, bordering the South China Sea and Malaysia

Geographic coordinates

Map references

total: 5,765 sq km

land: 5,265 sq km

water: 500 sq km

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Delaware

Area comparison map

Land boundaries

total: 266 km

border countries (1): Malaysia 266 km


Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm or to median line



flat coastal plain rises to mountains in east hilly lowland in west


highest point: Bukit Pagon 1,850 m

lowest point: South China Sea 0 m

mean elevation: 478 m

Natural resources

petroleum, natural gas, timber

Land use

agricultural land: 2.5% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 1.1% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0.6% (2018 est.)

forest: 71.8% (2018 est.)

other: 25.7% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

Total renewable water resources

8.5 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Natural hazards

typhoons, earthquakes, and severe flooding are rare

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

close to vital sea lanes through South China Sea linking Indian and Pacific Oceans two parts physically separated by Malaysia the eastern part, the Temburong district, is an exclave and is almost an enclave within Malaysia

Get around [ edit ]

By car [ edit ]

Foreign visitors who hold a valid drivers licence and an International Driving Permit are permitted to drive in Brunei for up to three months. While driving, drivers must have their identification cards (drivers licence, IDP and passport), vehicle registration documents, and insurance policy in the car.

There is one "motorway", from Bandar Seri Begawan along the coast. It devolves into dual and then single carriageway but is suitable for all vehicles, right through to Kuala Belait and the toll bridge to Malaysia/Sarawak in the west. There is also a side road off this, which runs into the jungle towards the settlement of Labi and beyond. Excellent scenery, and a 4-wheel drive may be useful, but the road is now sealed up to the longhouses some distance beyond Labi. Stock up on water at the convenience shop at the junction.

Drivers of vehicles not registered in Brunei can only purchase fuel at 10 designated filling stations throughout the country, to a maximum of 250 litres. Filling a foreign car is more expensive as the purchase price does not include the government subsidy for fuel.

Driving standards can be rather lax compared to other developed nations. Traffic will not always stop at red lights or pedestrian crossings. Speeding and non-use of seatbelts is also common.

Most road signs in Brunei are in Malay, written using the Roman script. They also use international symbols similar to that of Singapore and the United Kingdom. However, English is also used for important directional signs such as CIQ checkpoints, airports and tourist attractions.

By taxi [ edit ]

There are only ± 40 taxis in the whole of Brunei (2009) owing to the high rate of car ownership and usage. Since there are around 10 waiting at the airport and 8 in the Belait District, there is a little chance of finding a free taxi along the road, especially during morning and afternoon peak hours when they are hired by business people. Needing a taxi might require a phone call. The main taxi stand is direct north of the bus station in the capital with only a few taxis waiting. Taxis may also be available outside some major hotels.

Taxis are not metered since there is no single taxi company, nor any regulations requiring taxis to have a meter. Drivers have fixed prices for most trips, although the tariffs may vary between different drivers, or they will give a price for an irregular trip. There seems to be an app called Dart which is similar to Grab or Uber.

By tour vans [ edit ]

Another alternative is hiring a tour van to drive you around Brunei, for example, for a whole day, or several hours. Try asking about them from the ferry counters in Muara. Discuss the price first before agreeing to board the van.

By boat [ edit ]

By bus [ edit ]

Around Bandar Seri Begawan, there is a good-sized network of reliable and punctual purple minibuses. Brunei's high rate of private car ownership means very few Bruneians take these buses, which largely cater to foreign workers. The speed of the buses are limited to 50km/h, but they remain quite efficient. Note that bus routes cease operation before 2000.

In general, the bus system around the capital radiates from the bus terminal in the central district. There are designated bus stops along each route, but passengers are picked up or let off at unofficial locations at the discretion of the driver. The unofficial mode of operation makes easy travel and entices patronage. Unfortunately, it is difficult to obtain some form of details on bus routes and timetables. Recent experience in mid 2011 prompted a small contribution in the form of pictures of the known bus routes at the time.(The pictures of the bus routes will be posted at a later date). There are 13 routes and the fare is flat B$1.00, which is collected by a conductor. The passenger can advise the driver the location to disembark. Sometimes, the conductor asks the passengers their respective locations to disembark and skips part of the route, to the dismay of passenger who wishes to catch the bus. This also implies that there is no strict scheduled time. It is quite normal to wait 30 to 45 minutes for a bus.

There is also an infrequent long-distance bus which runs between BSB and Seria through Tutong.

Cambodia has an area of 181,040 square kilometers or 69,900 square miles.

It is bordered by Thailand to the west and north, Laos to the north, and Vietnam to the east and south. Cambodia also has a 443 kilometer (275 miles) coastline on the Gulf of Thailand.

The highest point in Cambodia is Phnum Aoral, at 1,810 meters (5,938 feet). The lowest point is the Gulf of Thailand coast, at sea level.

West-central Cambodia is dominated by Tonle Sap, a large lake. During the dry season, its area is about 2,700 square kilometers (1,042 square miles), but during the monsoon season, it swells to 16,000 sq. km (6,177 sq. miles).

The Geography of Brunei

Total Size: 5,770 square km

Size Comparison: slightly smaller than Delaware

Geographical Coordinates: 4 30 N, 114 40 E

World Region or Continent: Southeast Asia

General Terrain: flat coastal plain rises to mountains in east hilly lowland in west

Geographical Low Point: South China Sea 0 m

Geographical High Point: Bukit Pagon 1,850 m

Climate: tropical hot, humid, rainy

Major cities: BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (capital) 22,000 (2009)


Various names are given to kites, which included bilis, siar manjar, sijulak, lasik, jangkang and lipat. Why a different title is assigned to each kite, only the kitemaker can fully comprehend but the design, shape and size of the kite have a lot to do with it.
Although kite enthusiasts have not yet come close to forming a club or a society, there is some sort of a national committee in existence, which organises a kite festival at least once a year during the birthday celebrations of His Majesty the Sultan and selects participants to kite events overseas.

There is no reason to think that kite-playing will ever disappear from the scene in the forseeable future, given the zeal people are devoting to this ancient sport in Brunei Darussalam and many parts of Asia.


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