Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia and Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei are two of the major cities in the island of Borneo. Travel between these two is easy and convenient, since there are a lot of options available. There are flights between Kota Kinabalu and Bandar Seri Begawan served by different airlines; there are ferries you can take from Kota Kinabalu to Labuan and onwards from Labuan to Brunei; and there is also an option for a long land journey, if you have enough time and you’re not in a rush. During my tour in Borneo, I only had a short time of vacation but I took the last option, because of one reason: PASSPORT STAMPS! In case you’re not aware of it, choosing this route will let you earn EIGHT (8) passport stamps, and this is a good way to fill up your passport if you’re fond of collecting them.
The only bus that caters this route is a day trip bus by Sipitang Express. The bus leaves every 8 o’clock in the morning and its terminal is located adjacent to the city park. Tickets can be bought either online or at the booth, which costs RM100. Even though it’s the sole bus that leaves for Brunei, it rarely gets full and on my experience, only half of the bus were filled and most of the passengers alighted at Lawas, Sarawak, which is just halfway to the destination. Only five of us were left after that time. The entire trip lasts for 8+ hours and ends at the waterfront in Bandar Seri Begawan.
Why eight stamps?
From Kota Kinabalu, as the journey progresses, the bus will exit Sabah and enter Sarawak. This will be your first encounter with the immigration borders. Even though these two states are part of Malaysia, you will have to have your passport stamped when you cross the boundary. Upon leaving Sarawak, you will enter the first Bruneian immigration. If you look at the map of Brunei or if you’re familiar with it, this tiny nation is composed of two sections divided by Sarawak. So it means that after the first entry in Temburong District in Brunei, you will exit immediately, enter and exit Sarawak again, and then enter Brunei for the second time. Check out the map to see the location of entry and exit points.
The entire travel does not only guarantee you eight stamps, but you will also have the chance to see the towns and scenic mountainous views between these two cities. So what happens while on the road? During my own travel, I recorded the time we entered the immigration gates and which borders we have crossed. As a reference, read more below:
8:00AM – Bus Departure from Kota Kinabalu
11:05AM – Sabah/ Sarawak Border (Sindumin, Sabah/ Merapok, Sarawak)
11:45AM – Lunchbreak at Lawas, Sarawak
12:30PM – Bus Departure from Lawas, Sarawak
1:05PM – Sarawak/Brunei Border (Mengkalap, Sarawak)
1:10PM – Sarawak/ Brunei Border (Labu, Brunei)
1:50PM – Brunei/ Sarawak Border (Ujung Jalan, Brunei)
1:55PM – Brunei/ Sarawak Border (Pandaruan, Sarawak)
3:15PM – Sarawak/ Brunei Border (Tedungan, Sarawak)
3:30PM – Sarawak/ Brunei Border (Kuala Lurah, Brunei)
4:20PM – Bus Arrival at Bandar Seri Begawan
So that’s the end of the trip. Based on my experience, the immigration at Kuala Lurah is the busiest and strictest of them all. There are a lot of Filipinos in Brunei, thus having a Philippine Passport can be another factor for the officers to be more strict in checking. Just be ready to show them the flight and hotel reservations, and there will be no problems. Good luck!