Most of Brunei’s fortune comes from the oil. But it’s not true that every Bruneian is a billionaire, or even millionaire. The real “rich guys” are the royals (because of the huge amount of land they own under the monarchy) and a few successful industrialists (most of them are Chinese Bruneians). Normal Bruneians’ life is no different from their Singaporean or Malaysian cousins, except for the following areas:
Education all the way to University (yes, Brunei even got its own university!) is free for all citizens. And if you go to a government clinic, you only need to pay B$1 per visit, no matter what kind of treatment or medicine you got (given that the clinic can offer such treatment/medicine). That’s why with a much lower pay (compared to Singapore, normal ppl’s salary is only about half), Bruneians seem to have an at least roughly equal lifestyle.
Not like Singapore, where private cars are strongly discouraged by COE (a rule in Singapore, that ppl need to bid for COE to own a car, normally 10k to 15k S$, valid for 10 yrs), you only need to pay about B$50 per yr for the road tax plus around B$200 for the insurance, you can buy a Japanese economic car at the price of about B$25k. And since the patrol is so cheap, almost every family in Brunei owns a car, some even got more than one.
If you are a Brunei citizen, the government will give you a piece of land for free when you reach a certain age (normally the legal marriage age). You can use the land for building you own house, doing some small business, or even cultivation. The land can be inherited by your heir/heiress, but you cannot sell it. If you don’t like the land given to you, you can rent another piece from the government, B$5 per year (!!!) for the rental. Normal Bruneian ppl spend B$250k to B$350k to build their own dream house, but with this price, you can hardly buy an 80-sqm flat in from Singapore government (HDB).
Bruneian ppl normally quite respect the royalty, especially the Sultan. He built a lot of public facilities like museum, stadium and traditional handcraft centre for the ppl, and they are all free to the public. So don’t try to “bad-mouth” the Sultan with a Bruneian.
Some travel tips:
1. Wear decent clothes, meaning don’t try to expose your sexy breast, thigh or butt. You will not be arrested even if you do so, and you could still get inside the mosques when you put on the black robe they provide, but most likely you will be politely refused by some restaurants, shops and public buildings. The only exception is when you are doing sports in a gym or swimming, you can wear the sports attires, provided you will change back to “normal” clothes when you step out of the gym or swimming area.
2. If you wanna buy some souvenirs, you will find out that the price are the same all over the country. Difference among the souvenir shops is just the product range. The ones in the airport got some bit high-end stuff, where I bought a quite unique deco – Brunei’s oil!
3. Jerudong Park is out of the sightseeing list of every travel agency in Brunei, and even local taxi driver will tell you that it is a waste of time and money (taxi ride is B$60-70 for return trip from city hotels) to go there. Seems Lonely Planet is kind of out of date here… If you really have half day to kill, try Empire Hotel area instead.