To be very clear, alcoholic beverages are prohibited in Brunei. Don’t expect to see liquor shops, bars and party places that stay awake until the wee hours of the morning. That kind of partying is unheard of in this peaceful Muslim nation. Eating and drinking in Brunei is liquor-free, and you can count on it.
The sultanate, however, understands its non-Muslim visitors and so it provides a tiny opening to allow foreign tourists a few shots. Visitors may only drink up to 2 bottles of alcohol and 12 cans of beer every two days, and these must be consumed in private. Alcohol is not sold anywhere. Tourists must bring in their own but within the allowable quantity and with a customs permit, or buy some on the Malaysian border.
The anti-liquor law may be too harsh or off-putting for a number of foreigners but it is serving the country well. Brunei has a very low crime rate and is very peaceful. Foreigners do not have to worry about being mugged, robbed or harmed. Violators of the non-drinking law and other minor offenses are subject to caning. It is not a simple slap on the wrist, but hard blows by a rattan cane that could cause serious welts. And this applies to foreigners, too. The more serious offenses such as drug trafficking, murder and illegal possession of firearms are punishable by death.
The good news is that there are no laws against eating! Foreigners get to enjoy exotic Eastern cuisine at a number of roadside hawker-style stalls. Because Brunei is a wealthy country, there are not as many street stalls compared with other Southeast Asian countries, but there are a number of these along the districts of Tutong, Seria and Kuala Belait. Perhaps one of the most popular locations is Persiaran Damuan Park in Tutong.
A well-loved local dish is the nasi katok. “Nasi” means rice, and in this Southeast Asian country, there is an abundance of rice meals. Nasi katok is yellow fried rice, a piece of crispy-fried chicken in a special wrapping paper and a dose of spicy gravy called “sambal”. Just the smell makes locals crave and foreigners curious. This is a signature meal that every visitor should try and it only costs B$1. It is served best with local coffee or sweet milk tea called teh tarik.
There are several nasi katok stalls at the Yayasan Shopping Center, which is the most popular mall in the country. Also inside the mall are American food chains, KFC, Pizza Hut and McDonald’s for Western tourists who miss home.
For those who wish to go upscale, there is a restaurant by the waterfront that serves delicious seafood, Italian and Thai, among other delicacies, and the view of passing boats is also to die for. Diners, however, should settle not having to sip wine after a sumptuous meal. Brunei has one of the most expensive standards of living in Asia and so foreigners should expect high-end restaurants to be expensive.
Locals love eating out. Bruneians enjoy an easy, high-standard lifestyle and so they have time to go dining at first-class restaurants among friends and family. Brunei offers its citizens free access to leisure centers, house subsidy, free healthcare, free education, car subsidy, and handsome pension. Eating and drinking in Brunei, however, ends as evening falls. There is no nightlife to talk about. The capital and the rest of the country is practically deserted after dark.