Getting Around in Brunei

I was reading Brunei Times today and came across this article written by Melvin Jong which I thought is a topic which we have not discussed about much. Unless you have a car, it is not easy getting around Brunei. Most Bruneians have cars so don't worry much about public transportation. The purple buses system work only if you need to travel during the daytime but come evening, you will not be able to get anywhere. But even for those with cars, the traffic jams are our bane early in the morning, lunch time and dinner.


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Melvin Jong
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Thursday, June 23, 2011

THERE is still much to be done to improve Brunei's public transport if it is to one day become a fixture and promoter of our tourism industry.

Much has been said about Brunei's public transport system, some of which is encouraging but mostly, unfortunately, is not encouraging. Responses from the relevant authorities have always stated how the set-up is either trying or 'currently is in the process' of updating the system to make it more effective and trustworthy.

In a report dated 2009, the global consultancy firm HOK Planning Group said that areas like layout, population density and distribution of Bandar Seri Begawan were being looked into to make recommendations on the future design of the city in the hope of enticing more people to use public transport.

Robert Marshall, brought in to oversee the design and formulation of the BSB Development Masterplan, said the firm believes the future of transport in the city will be a mix of different modes. "There will always be private vehicles, but there has to be more diversity when it comes to transport options," he told The Brunei Times.

But what was more interesting was Marshall's assessment of how a well-developed public transport system will also help benefit the tourism industry. "I can tell you from my personal experience that Brunei is not an easy place to get around if you don't have your own car. There are very few buses and no taxis around," he said. More than a year has passed, and while I understand that it takes time to implement changes, it is disheartening that nothing has been done yet.

Just recently, I had an old friend visiting Brunei from Perth, Australia. For convenience sake let's just call him Steve. On arriving in Brunei, Steve found it surprising that there were no taxis stationed at the Sultanate's national airport. He then decided to try his luck with the buses but found himself hapless due to lack of information provided on hand. He spent almost an hour at the airport before finally deciding to give me a call. While he was all smiles when I picked him up, I could sense his irritation and disappointment over his first couple of hours in the country.

Steve's transport woes did not end there. Staying at a prestigious hotel in the Gadong area, he had no trouble getting a taxi. The driver encouraged him to experience the sights and sounds of Kampong Ayer, one of Brunei's most well-known landmarks, and he happily took up the offer. Fearing not being able to get a ride back, Steve took down the number of the taxi driver to call him if need arose. All was well and when it was time to return, he called the number he had jotted down after failing to locate a taxi. All he heard was: 'Sorry, the caller could not...' His luck again failed him as the taxi driver had run out of phone credit.

Once again this good friend needed to be rescued. Slightly embarrassed at the state of our public transport, I offered to drive him around during his two days' remaining stay in Brunei. An offer he took up without a second thought. Fortunately, as I work on night shifts I had no problem in taking Steve around, but what about the tourists who have no contacts here.

Steve is not alone in his plight. In numerous reports, tourists have expressed dismay over the difficulties they faced while travelling around in Brunei. "Taxis are difficult to be found, the fares are exorbitant, bus stops are hardly visible and there is no infomation whatsoever that is available to help us explore this beautiful country," some tourists said in a separate news article.

Something has to be done, even if it is just a short-term fix in preparation for the introduction or implementation of a long-term plan, to help tourists get around Brunei easier.

The views are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Brunei Times.

The Brunei Times

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