If you’re anything like us then the idea of visiting a small and mysterious country that almost no one else puts the effort into exploring fills you with excitement! We love the idea of visiting far off places and seeing countries not many get the chance to visit. Whilst having the most amazing time on Borneo we decided to make the trip over to the tiny country of Brunei whilst over in Kota Kinabalu. It turns out that its a little more complicated and drawn out that we initially hoped, but as is the case with everything travel related; once you do it its actually not that hard! Here is our how to get to Brunei from Kota Kinabalu guide!
What are your options:
Well really you have three options if you want to use public transport, you can take an expensive flight, a gruelling bus or spend the day on two boats! Either way its either going to be expensive or take all day!
We opted for the ferry option as it cuts out crossing the border multiple times (around 5!) and offers a rest stop on the Malaysian island of Labuan around half way there. It also seemed like the more relaxing option for how to get to Brunei from Kota Kinabalu.
NOTE: It isn’t possible to do this in a day trip unfortunately, the ferry takes ALL DAY and will get you into BSB in the evening which would mean you had to literally get straight back on the last ferry. We suggest staying over 2 nights as the ferry on the way back is in the morning, this will give you at least a full day to explore.
How to get to Brunei from Kota Kinabalu
Taking the ferry over to Labuan:
The express ferry is comfortable and has a seating plan. It does get a little cold with the AC if you are up near the front and the journey back from Labuan to KK is also a lot busier. This ferry doesn’t really allow you to look out of the window and can get pretty boring as well as being quite choppy! Bring along some entertainment! The ferries usually take off pretty punctually and it was quite an enjoyable ride all things considered. How to get to Brunei from Kota Kinabalu? The ferry for us was comfortable, quick (ish) and not too expensive.
The ferry from Labuan to Brunei:
In Labuan you have time to have a wander and get some food, there is baggage storage if you need it at the terminal. Here you can also do some duty free shopping on the way back. The ferry from here was very similar to the one we got on at first but was a quicker ride, once again pretty comfortable.
On our return leg of this section we took the larger car ferry, it was a much longer and slower journey however we were able to go out onto the deck and take in the scenery and refreshing sea air/ sun which was much nicer as once again it was like a fridge freezer inside! They also have a better selection of food and drink on offer which you can just go up and order.
Hopping on the bus into Bandar Seri Begawan:
Once you arrive in Brunei you will notice you are not in the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan but over in Muara around 30km away.
From here you can take a taxi which will cost around B$20 (£11.33 / $14.42)
Or you can take the local bus for B$1 (£0.57 / $0.72)
The number 39 is the express bus that goes from the station in BSB to the terminal but is only once an hour and itself takes around 1 hour. In the morning make sure to set off to the bus station in good time.
Bus 33 and 38 also go to the ferry terminal. However sometimes you do have to connect in Muara town, although both times we didn’t have to do this.
How to get to Brunei from Kota Kinabalu
You will leave Malaysia and get stamped out when you go to board the ferry from Labuan to Brunei, this involves your bags being scanned also. Allow enough time for this.
You will then enter Brunei through immigration in the ferry terminal, again your bag will be scanned. For us (UK citizens) we don’t need a visa and we were just asked how long we intended to stay. We were then given a 30 day permit without having to show any additional paper work.
You will leave Brunei the same way you entered and have bags scanned and then be stamped out. Again, leave enough time before the ferry departs.
You will enter into Malaysia again at the Labuan terminal, we don’t need visas for Malaysia and despite only leaving 2 days before we were given a new 90 day stamp with no questions asked.
From elsewhere in Borneo:
From Kuching you can take a long bus that due to the terrain of the county will enter and exit Brunei before entering again! This apparently takes around 15-20 hours and you end up with a passport full of stamps.
If coming from Kuching the best option on a budget would probably be to fly to Miri and take the bus onwards (see below). You can also fly direct to BSB though this can be expensive.
Miri is probably the most convenient city in Malaysian Borneo to get a bus to Brunei from and should only take around 2- 3 hours and cost between 50-70 Ringit. It would make a great stop off point if you were heading from Miri up to KK.
How to get to Brunei from Kota Kinabalu: Price, time and tips
We suggest buying tickets for the ferry at least the day before as it can get busy, you can do this by heading down to Jessleton Ferry port and buying them at the counter. Here you can buy tickets for both ferries in a package deal.
Return leg tickets:
Again, we suggest buying them at the dock once you arrive for when you want to leave, especially if you are only staying a couple of days. However there are more ferries leaving on the way back from here to Labuan and many more from Labuan to KK. We did have to wait however for a later ferry than the one we wanted.
The package deal cost 56 Ringit each (£10.25 , $13.06) (Check up to date prices)
At Labuan you will be charged a 5 Ringit terminal fee
On the return leg there are more ferries to choose from and the price varies ever so slightly. You will have to buy them separately at each terminal.
KK to Labuan ferry sets off at 8:00am and arrives around 11:00am
Labuan to Brunei sets off around 1:30pm and arrives around 3:30pm
On the return leg we took a different ferry from Brunei to Labuan as we missed the express, this was larger and had space for cars etc. This took much longer, more like 4 hours.
Bring along something warm as the express ferry can get pretty chilly and there is no where to escape like on the car ferry!
There is some limited food on board such as noodles and snacks but we suggest bringing at least something to keep you going just incase.
If you are into your duty free then stock up on chocolate and spirits in Labuan on the way back to Malaysia (Brunei is dry!)
Book in advance if you can!
The Brunei dollar is fixed to the same rate at the Singapore Dollar and both can be used here!
Book your accommodation here
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