Monday 21st June 2021 – I arrived in Brunei on 18th June 2021 for my annual summer break after ended my final year exams on 11th June 2021. Due to limited flights scheduled by Royal Brunei Airlines and the mandatory 14-day hotel isolation, I opted to travel using Singapore Airlines, transit via Singapore, to maximise my time in Brunei with my family as my Foundation Year programme will start on 26th July 2021. Unfortunately, my journey was not a smooth process.
Required travel documents as a citizen/permanent resident to enter Brunei Darussalam includes:
Initially, I was due to fly from London Heathrow Airport on Monday 14th June 2021. My connecting flights included SQ317 from London to Singapore, followed by BI422 from Singapore to Brunei, arriving the following day on 15th June. The return journey was then set on 22nd July, departing Brunei using BI421 connecting with SQ322 to arrive in London on 23rd July. I had all valid travel documents for my journey available.
However, on 13th June, the day before my flight, I was informed that the current Singapore transit restrictions would not allow airline changes during my transit in Changi Airport. Consequences would include either denied permission to board the flight from London altogether, or exiting immigration through Changi Airport and be subjected to a 21-day mandatory isolation period upon entering Singapore.
After contacting Singapore Airline's customer service, I was able to change my flight to depart London on Thursday 17th June, using SQ317 to connect with SQ148, arriving in Brunei on 18th June. My new return journey is now set to depart Brunei on 23rd July, using SQ147 and connecting with SQ308, arriving in London on 24th July. I did not incur any additional fees to change my ticket and was only required to pay the difference in flight tickets, totalling SGD57.00 (GBP31.53).
The Royal Brunei Airlines flight ticket was refunded, deducting the refund and service fees, BND50.00 and BND30.00 respectively. The total amount refunded back was BND593.50 (GBP305.99).
As my flight had been postponed, I was required to undertake another COVID-19 PCR test to meet the travel criteria of being taken within 72 hours before the flight departure time. A new ADF and changes to my hotel reservation were additionally required with updated dates and flight itineraries.
Upon arrival at London Heathrow Airport on Thursday 17th June, there was some confusion with the ground staff at the check-in desk where they believed that I required an Entry Travel Pass (ETP) – adamant that my ADF was insufficient for entry. Therefore, I was initially denied permission to check-in for my flight, despite my efforts to explain that an ETP was only required for foreign travellers and was not applicable to me, a Bruneian citizen. Following confirmation from SADA, Ence Noh, and the Brunei High Commissioner's office via telephone call, I was granted permission to check-in and no further issues arose during my journey. I believe this confusion could be easily rectified for future travellers if the Brunei entry guidelines included the necessary travel documents for both foreigners and citizens, as currently, only guidelines for foreign travellers were outlined for the check-in staff.
During my transit in Singapore Changi Airport, all transit passengers were escorted to a holding area, grouped based on their final destinations and escorted to their boarding gates when appropriate.
Once I arrived in Brunei, the passage through the airport to the hotel was extremely well organised. I was met with transport prepared by Times Hotel which brought me straight from the airport to my room.
Despite some setbacks and stressful nights, Alhamdullilah, I have arrived safely in Brunei with quality time still available to enjoy with my family. I can only thank the Scholarship Section in Brunei, the DA and SADA for their patience and responsiveness in handling the difficulties I encountered during my travels.