Local laws and customs
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, especially during the holy month of Ramadan, or if you intend to visit religious buildings. While it is acceptable to wear shorts outside and in commercial premises, both men and women may be refused entry to government and public buildings such as health centres if wearing shorts.
His Majesty The Sultan and other members of the Bruneian Royal Family are highly revered and public criticism of them would cause great offence.
There may be serious penalties for doing something that might not be illegal in the UK. If you’re planning to visit or live in Brunei, you’re strongly advised to familiarise yourself with local laws and customs.
In 2014, Brunei began the introduction of a Sharia Penal Code, to run in parallel with the Common Law. The final phase was introduced on 3 April 2019. It specifies severe punishments for certain crimes, including some that are not illegal in the UK.
Most laws under Common Law and the Sharia Penal Code apply to all people in Brunei, regardless of nationality or religion.
Adultery and close proximity in private between an unmarried man and woman is illegal if one party is a Muslim.
Possession of pornographic material is illegal.
Brunei has very strict laws against the possession of firearms, ammunition (blank or live) and explosives (fireworks, firecrackers, etc.). Please take special care in ensuring that you are not carrying these items, even replicas resembling these items, with you when travelling to, from or transiting through Brunei .
Homosexual activity is illegal. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
It is an offence to criticise Islam, and for any person to consume food, drink or tobacco in public during the fasting hours of the holy month of Ramadan. For information on travelling during Ramadan, see Travelling during Ramadan.
There are severe penalties for drug offences in Brunei including, in some cases, the death penalty. Other crimes may attract caning and lengthy prison sentences.
The sale of alcohol and tobacco in Brunei is prohibited. Non-Muslims over 17 years of age may import a limited amount of alcohol, but must declare it to the customs authorities on arrival, and must consume it in private. A list of other prohibited and restricted items is available on the Royal Customs and Excise Department’s website.
Smoking is prohibited in certain public places, including shopping and eating areas, bus stops and stations, car parks and near buildings.
Places of business and offices including shops and restaurants shut between 12 noon and 2pm every Friday for prayers. Friday is a non-working day for government offices and local schools, which open instead on a Saturday.