Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Report of what it's like to live there - 08/07/14

Personal Experiences from Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei 08/07/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, I have lived in many places around the world.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

The United States. It takes about 2 days with connections in Singapore (overnight) and a connection usually in Tokyo.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Work.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Houses, condos, apartments, a wide variety of types. Commute times vary with the four rush hour times each day. Without traffic you can get everywhere in Bandar in 20 minutes. With traffic it can take much much longer.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Relatively expensive because everything is imported.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Consumables- preferred brands of normal household items.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Excellent Japanese food. Many other kinds of food, of varying quality. It is tough to find restaurants because information about them is spread by word of mouth. Walk around neighborhoods and you will find lots of places. Kiulap is a great neighborhood to get to know first.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes and ants and many tropical bugs.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I received some through the local mail service, which was reliable if you have a post office box. Mail delivery to home addresses is unreliable. All packages will be opened and inspected at the post office so you pay taxes and do not import things that are against the law via the mail.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available but hard to manage because of the quota process and paperwork. Some amahs like to "freelance" but that is illegal and should be avoided. Some services like Termicam will allow you to hire someone on an hourly basis through them, which makes it much easier.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, they are available but I don't know much about them.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Easy to use at normal shops, not usable at outdoor markets, etc.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None really.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes. It is getting a bit better but still not accessible.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Public transport is relatively nonexistent. There are buses, but they are not reliable. Taxis are available at the airport but otherwise need to be called. Private car services are available.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Small and nimble, Japanese brands or Ford best.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, increased availability to fiber to home high speed, not sure how much it will cost. Cable access is about US$70 per month. Quality and speed vary by neighborhood.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Get a smart phone and learn to use whatsapp, which is used by everyone in Brunei.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes, there is a quarantine. There is good pet care.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

With work permission, yes, but it's hard to get that permission.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Environmental and other organizations are available.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Conservative.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Petty crime and crimes of opportunity, but generally quite safe.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Healthcare is cheap in the government system but quality varies. Good private clinics for routine care. Anything complicated should be managed outside of Brunei.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Good, generally very clean.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Warm, warm and warm. With rain regularly. Very humid and sunny.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

ISB and JIS, but I have no experience with them.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, I think the schools have good sports programs.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small, but generally welcoming.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Movies, nature, house parties, hanging out with friends, traveling, eating, diving, beach going, etc.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great for families and couples, not great for singles.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. The implementation of Sharia law has started to put a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims, which is a sad change for moderate Brunei which used to be very open and supportive of its entire community.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

ASEAN 2013 activities, visits to Temburong, Kota Kinabalu, Mulu, Kuching and other parts of Borneo.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Join the various facebook groups for expats in Brunei and they can introduce you to the best of Brunei.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Some fabric, some artwork, some specialty items.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Nature, friendly people, welcoming expat community, great for families with young kids.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, unless you travel a lot.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Non-conservative clothing, your cold weather gear, your religious books.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, books, DVDs, cooking spices and supplies, anything that makes you happy.

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4. Do you have any other comments?

The Sultan and Royal Family are very well-respected by the whole population. If you do not show respect for them, you will not be welcomed.

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