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 areas.
In 2017, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 27 May and finish on 25 June. See Travelling during Ramadan.
His Majesty The Sultan and other members of the Bruneian Royal Family are highly revered and public criticism of them would cause great offence.
On 22 October 2013 a new Sharia criminal code was enacted. The new code sets out severe corporal penalties and punishments, including death, for a variety of offences and in some cases will apply to non-Muslims. Phase 1 was implemented from 1 May 2014, with offences punishable with a fine, imprisonment or both. Phases 2 and 3, which include more severe penalties, are subject to further legislation before implementation.
Adultery (involving a Muslim) and close proximity between the sexes is deemed an offence under Bruneian Law and may attract a fine, imprisonment or both. In some circumstances, it may also attract corporal punishment. Under the new Sharia criminal code it is also an offence for any person who consumes any food, drink or tobacco in public during the fasting hours of Ramadan. You could be fined up to B$4,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 1 year.
Possession of pornographic material is illegal. Homosexual activity is illegal. There are severe penalties for all drug offences in Brunei including, in some cases, the death penalty. Other crimes may attract caning and lengthy prison sentences.
The sale of alcohol in Brunei is prohibited. Non-Muslims over 17 years of age may import duty free two bottles of wine or spirits and twelve cans of beer on entry into Brunei, but must declare them to the customs authorities on arrival and consume them in private. There must be at least a 48-hour gap between each import. Keep the customs slip in case of inspection. 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 and government buildings. Offenders may be fined. It’s difficult to buy cigarettes in Brunei and there’s no duty-free allowance for tobacco or tobacco products, even for personal consumption.