Brunei Country Profile – Cost of Living

     
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Overview

Brunei’s abundant gas and oil wealth means that residents and non-residents pay no income tax or other personal taxes, making the country increasingly popular among expat workers. High quality state-funded healthcare and education also contribute to Brunei having one of the world’s highest standards of living. The cost of living in Brunei is reasonable in comparison with some Western nations. Expats will find that food, accommodation and bills cost more in the capital, however this can be offset by a higher-than-average disposable income.

Accommodation

Expats are not permitted to purchase land or property in Brunei, however rented accommodation is not difficult to find and will usually be arranged by your employer, if you are moving with a company or other organisation. You will pay more for a rented house in the more upmarket areas of the capital but on the whole rents are reasonable (around $600 BND/£341 per month for a small apartment) and, as with every other purchase in Brunei, it is perfectly acceptable to haggle on rental prices with the landlord. The majority of homes are rented fully furnished and the standard tenancy agreement is for a period of six months or one year. One of the perks of a healthy disposable income is that many expat families have the means to hire a home help to assist with cleaning, cooking and childcare duties.  

Rental deposit

The amount tenants will pay as a deposit varies depending on the property. However, most tenants can expect to pay a minimum of one month’s rent up front.

Property tax

Only commercial properties are liable to pay a property tax in Brunei. This is based on the estimated value of the commercial property and is decided by the local authority.

Utilities

Electricity is supplied by the state-run Department of Electrical Services and landlords will usually assist tenants in getting connected. Bear in mind that there is no domestic gas supply in Brunei and most household appliances are run by electricity. Water is safe to drink from the tap and is supplied by the government’s Department of Water Services. Communications in Brunei use up-to-the minute technology and mobile phones, broadband connections and satellite and cable networks are widely available. The communications network is monopolised by the state-owned Telekom Brunei.

The basic cost of utilities (gas, water, electricity, refuse) for an 85m² city centre apartment is around $51 BND (£28) per month. Broadband, phone and TV packages start at around $124 BND (£69) per month.

TV Licence

There is no TV licence payment in Brunei. The media is strictly controlled by the state government, although it is possible to watch foreign television programmes through satellite and cable. Radio Television Brunei (RTB) is the state broadcaster.

Healthcare and medical costs

Brunei has one of the best state healthcare systems and one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world. Healthcare, including dentistry and medicines, is low cost (around $1BND or £0.56 for a consultation with a GP) to citizens and expats alike. Treatment is free at point of contact and residents must settle their bills afterwards. The country has state-of-the-art medical facilities in all four Bruneian districts, the largest hospital - Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha - is located in the capital and there are plenty of smaller clinics dotted around the country. Health insurance is provided by employers in Brunei, so expats should check to see what their contract covers.

Shopping

The Bruneian love of shopping means there is a wealth of options available. In the capital of Bandar Seri Begawan, you will find a heady mix of high end shopping malls and bustling markets, such as the sprawling Pasar Gadong night market, which sells groceries, clothing, traditional handicrafts and local street food.

Shopping options are more limited outside of the capital but in such a small nation, it is easy to travel to the capital in pursuit of your favourite stores. For more convenient grocery shopping away from the markets, Brunei offers large supermarkets which are cheaper outside of the capital. You cannot buy alcohol in supermarkets, although non-Muslims are permitted to import limited quantities of alcohol for personal consumption whenever they enter the country. Expats should also be aware that cash is King in Brunei, most transactions are made with cash and many shops do not accept credit cards.

Sales tax

Brunei does not have a Value Added Tax (VAT) or any tax levied on the sale of goods and services.

Price guide

  • Rent 1-bedroom apartment in city centre: $1,046 BND (£587)
  • Rent 1-bedroom apartment outside city centre: £605 BND (£339)
  • Price of apartment per square metre in city centre: $1,333 BND (£747)
  • Price of apartment per square metre outside city centre: $993 BND (£556)
  • Loaf of bread: $1.88 BND (£1.05)
  • Milk (1 litre): $2.47 BND (£1.39)
  • Bottled water (1.5 litre): $1.17 BND (£0.65)
  • Non-alcoholic draught beer (0.5 litre): $3.30 BND (£1.85)
  • Packet of cigarettes: $7.15 BND (£4)
  • Petrol (1 litre): $0.57 BND (£0.30)
  • Cinema ticket: $7.71 BND (£4.32)

Source: www.numbeo.com (accessed November 2018)

Budgeting and saving

There is no income or personal tax in Brunei, so expats will find that they are able to save more over time. Additionally, as there are no bars and clubs and a ban on the sale of alcohol, it is easy to save money on going out. Groceries are cheaper when bought from the huge markets, rather than in supermarkets.

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