In my ongoing series of world borders, I prove how easy it is to travel the world, cross borders into new countries and get visas. This post is all about getting from Malaysia to Brunei Darussalam on the island of Borneo. Obviously there are many different ways to cross this border, but for the basis of this post I am writing about the crossing from the Malaysian island of Labuan to Serasa ferry terminal near Muara in Brunei. This also involved getting a ferry from Kota Kinabalu out to Labuan to begin with, so it was a two ferry border crossing in essence. As world borders go, this is an easy one to organise and get across, plus it’s an exciting one and you have the bonus of seeing Labuan!
I crossed the border from Malaysia to Brunei last month by ferry. On a personal level this was a bit of a milestone as I clocked up my 70th country with Brunei. So first things first – Visas and costs…
Do you need a visa to visit Brunei Darussalam?
OK again this varies from country to country and I can’t possibly cover all passports but I travel with a British and an Irish passport and both are absolutely visa free to enter Brunei. There is no visa required and no cost for British or Irish citizens to enter Brunei. It’s free.
There is just a simple immigration form and passport stamp on arrival. It couldn’t be simpler – you get the immigration form in the Malaysian port of Labuan, you can also get it on the ferry or on arrival into Serasa ferry terminal.
You will get an exit stamp in Labuan, West Malaysia and Sabah before boarding the ferry.
You will get an entry stamp and 90 days on arrival at Serasa, Brunei, but unless you’re working there or visiting a local, there will be no need to stay that long!
How do you get from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei?
OK I’ll cover the trip in detail here. The best way to get from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei is by taking two ferries. This has its bonuses and is much quicker and easier than going overland by bus. If you have time to play with, by all means go by bus, but trust me the Kota Kinabalu to Serasa double ferry option is great.
First ferry - Leaves from Jesselton Point, Kota Kinabalu and takes around 3 hours to arrive in the port of Labuan on the island of Pulau Labuan, MALAYSIA.
Second ferry - Leaves from the port of Labuan on the island of Pulau Labuan in MALAYSIA and takes around 1 hour to arrive into the port of Serasa near Muara on mainland Borneo in BRUNEI DARUSSALAM.
In between the two ferries you have two main options – option one is just spend a few hours in Labuan, the other option is to stay overnight, or stay a few nights to break up your journey.
We were passing through Labuan twice and had a total time of around 6 hours in the town of Bandar Labuan on our two visits so we decided to do the two ferries on the same day. Basically if you’re in a hurry, then do both ferries on the same day. If you’re not then I’m envious, and you’ll get to explore the island of Labuan in a bit more detail – it’s the duty free Casino haven of Malaysia, often dubbed the Pearl of Borneo. There’s enough time on the day trip to see the Mosque, buy your duty free, have a beer, have lunch and get some money changed. I will write a separate post on Labuan itself though…
How do you get from Labuan to Brunei?
So as mentioned you will most likely have left Kota Kinabalu and arrived on the island of Pulau Labuan, more commonly known as Labuan. The only option to get from Labuan to Brunei is by ferry and all the ferries leave from the port of Bandar Labuan (often just called Labuan, the same as the island name of Pulau Labuan) and they arrive in the Serasa Ferry Terminal near Muara in Brunei. Serasa is a remote ferry terminal and is not in a town. There is no option to get a direct ferry to Bandar Seri Begawan the capital of Brunei. Once you get there you will see why – it’s not easily accessible by water as the waterfront has a shallow river, which runs through an estuary.
How do you buy tickets for the ferry to Brunei?
Get them from the ticket desk and ticket office in either Kota Kinabalu or Labuan. There is no real need to book in advance as the ferries are regular during the day and are rarely full. Brunei is not a major “backpacking hub” so if you’re a long term traveller or experienced backpacker, you’ll love the experience of it!
We bought our tickets on the morning of departure but do check in advance just in case there is a special event on or a reason as to why the ferries might be busier. Payment must be in cash of course, but you’ll know that if you’ve travelled in Asia before 0 it’s fairly standard. The tickets cost a total of 68.60 Ringitts and the breakdown is as follows:
Ferry from Kota Kinabalu to Labuan, Malaysia - 36 Malaysian Ringitts
Ferry from Labuan to Serasa, Brunei - 19 Malaysian Ringitts (I’m quoting this price as we booked it altogether – this costs more if you book it seperately)
Option to upgrade to first class on the Kota Kinabalu to Labuan ferry - 5 Malaysian Ringitts (we paid this as we wanted more leg room and I wanted to do my blogging on the ferry – but it’s not really worth the extra 5 Ringitts to be honest)
So the ferry tickets and the optional upgrade came to 60 Ringitts, then there’s tax:
Departure Tax from Kota Kinabalu - 3.60 Malaysian Ringitts
Departure Tax from Labuan to Brunei - 5 Malaysian Ringitts
Total ticket price to get from Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia to Serasa, Brunei – 68.60 Malaysian Ringitts ($23 US Dollars)
Can I bring alcohol into Brunei Darussalam?
Yes you can! Brunei is a completely alcohol free state and the state religion is Muslim. However non-Muslims are permitted to bring an allowance of alcohol in with them, which I’d recommend doing. I wrote in depth about this here: how to take alcohol into Brunei so check that post out!
Apart from Labuan what other routes are there from Malaysia to Brunei?
OK so you might be reading this and want to go another way from Malaysia to Brunei, so here’s a full list of the SEVEN options:
1. Labuan, MALAYSIA to Serasa Ferry Terminal, Muara, BRUNEI – Water border
2. Kampong Rentis, MALAYSIA to Sungai Tujuh, BRUNEI – Land border to the Western most point of Brunei
3. Limbang, MALAYSIA to Kuala Lurah, BRUNEI – Land border
4. Pandaruan, MALAYSIA to Kampung Puni, BRUNEI – Road border yet apparently has to be done by ferry
5. Mangkalap, MALAYSIA to Labu, BRUNEI – Land border
6. Flying – you can fly into the international airport in Bandar Seri Begawan from other airports in Malaysia and further afield.
7. Chance it and head across the border through the jungle!! Good luck with that one
Where can I get my money changed?
There is a money changing facility at both the Malaysian ferry port on Labuan and the Serasa ferry terminal in Brunei. There are no ATMs in Serasa ferry terminal, so I’d actually recommend getting some Malaysian Ringitts changed into Brunei Dollars in Labuan, which is what we did.
Once we got to Serasa in Brunei, the Money Chyanger was actually open anyway but don’t count on it. Please note that Labuan also has Mosques and a Muslim population and therefore the Money Changers are sometimes closed for prayers during the day. If this happens, there is a money changing facility in the main town, try the banks or oddly…a silk and linen shop.
What currency do they use in Brunei Darussalam?
Officially it is the Brunei Dollar, but you can also use the Singapore Dollar which is fixed at the same rate as the Brunei Dollar. If you get stuck, I’d imagine some places accept US Dollars or maybe even Malaysian Ringitts. But if you want my advice – stick to the local currency – use Brunei Dollars throughout your stay.
What do you do once you arrive at Serasa Ferry Terminal in Brunei Darussalam?
OK first of all you get your bags off the boat and head to the immigration checkpoint. It’s fast and efficient, get your passport stamped and you’re in the country. Then you hand over your Liquor Form for alcohol if you have one. Then it’s up to you.
The main thing to note however is that Serasa ferry terminal is remote and not really in a town or village so staying nearby is really not an option. If you really wanted to stay out in the sticks you could try staying at Muara which is served by a local bus.
So this basically means you should head to where it’s at, Bandar Seri Begawan the capital city which leaves you with a mere THREE options:
1. Get the hourly bus into Bandar Seri Begawan. It costs $1 and you’ll have to change at Muara. You could be waiting a while, but this is the CHEAP option and the one we were going to do, but an hour passed and still no bus so…
2. Bite the bullet and get a taxi to Bandar Seri Begawan but bargain like hell! The taxi drivers start off on $40 but we just sat down and read our books and had a drink and ignored them until they finally said $25 – I said no way mate but if it’s $20 you have a deal. This was after an hour of waiting around trying to save money.
3. Hire a car. Ultimately this could cost you more and you might get lost.
BEWARE OF FAKE INFORMATION
My girlfriend and I are fairly seasoned travellers and we don’t really fall for scams or trust people very easily, so it was a big surprise when taxi drivers and their mates tried to give us fake information straight away!! Not in so many words I told them we weren’t interested and to go away. They were basically lying to us and some fellow travellers from Norway, by telling us the buses had finished for the day and the only route into town was by taxi. We knew it was a lie as it had just gone 3pm, and our research had told us that buses run until 6.30 pm and that they only cost $1 Brunei Dollar.
After waiting for an hour indeed no bus turned up, but we believe when we finally got our $20 taxi that a bus was probably on its way. We didn’t have the time to waste. But just be mindful of the lying taxi drivers. There are buses, just not many of them and one an hour is lucky.
Anything Else I need to know?
Just a reminder of these points really:
- There is NO alcohol on sale in Brunei so if you want to drink there you need to bring it in from Malaysia.
- Labuan is a duty free island and is worth stocking up on beers, spirits and tobacco products.
- There is a 3.60 Malaysian Ringitts departure tax for leaving Kota Kinabalu by boat.
- There is a 5 Malaysian Ringitts departure tax for leaving Labuan.
- Drugs are illegal in Brunei and trafficking will result in death.
My videos from entering Labuan island to crossing into and arriving in Serasa, Brunei:
Buying our tickets in Kota Kinabalu:
Waiting in Kota Kinabalu for the ferry to Labuan:
On board the Labuan Express from Kota Kinabalu to Labuan:
Arrival in Labuan Island, Malaysia:
Buying Beer to take into Brunei:
Relaxing with a drink before heading to Brunei:
Exiting Malaysia and heading onto the Brunei for Brunei:
On the boat to Brunei:
Arrival in Serasa, Brunei:
Arrival at Serasa in Brunei:
Waiting for a bus at Serasa in Brunei:
Waiting for a bus in Serasa ferry terminal:
Getting at $20 Taxi from Serasa to Bandar Seri Begawan:
That’s how to get from Malaysia to Brunei!! Safe travels folks!