Saturday, September 17, 2011

[LABUAN] Brunei Through Labuan Via Ferry

Coming from the Philippines, first you have to get to Kota Kinabalu. Both Air Asia and Cebu Pacific have flights to those destination. Since most flights arrive in the late afternoon, you have to postpone your three hour Labuan trip until the next day. I suggest you stay at a guest house located near Jesselton Point, which will be your point of embarkation the next day.

Ferries from KK to Labuan usually take three hours and a half. The ticket is 31 ringgit plus 3.60 terminal fee. As far as I know there's just one counter selling this ticket. They also have discounted tickets if you're planning to go directly to Brunei on that same day. It costs around 55 ringgit. A single journey ticket from Labuan to Brunei, on the contrary, will cost you another 35. If you are planning a one-day stop in Labuan, I don’t think this ticket is an option. There are two ferries on a daily basis. One leaves at 8 AM, the other at 1:30 PM. If you want to reach Brunei on the same day, take the morning trip from KK. Upon docking in Labuan you’ll still have time to run and change money or eat lunch before your ferry to Brunei leaves.

The ferry is air-conditioned and it won't take you more than three hours and a half to get to Labuan. It gets a bit chilly inside so better wear a few layers or just bring a sweater. There'll be a TV in front playing a pirated movie. The film of the day was Too Fast Too Furious. You'll be able to finish that movie because the trip is long and bumpy. May lubak ang dagat? Hahaha. I almost got seasick so I just tried to sleep but could not find the right position.

I guess it would be nicer if the ferry was of an open-air type. Nothing beats being slapped in the face by the strong winds of the sea while battling motion sickness. Projectile vomit! Better sedate anyone from your party who is paranoid because this part of the South China Sea is really rough, and it is not uncommon to see giant waves by the window. I no longer tried to find out if going outside was an option or what the difference was between economy and business class. Better to just stay on your seat. You really don’t want to puke on someone while trying to navigate the shaking cabin.

Since Labuan is an international port, you'll have to go through immigration if you are going to or coming from Brunei. Having said that, please always bring your passport with you. The terminal is small so getting lost is not an issue. If you still need to buy a ticket for the next day (if you are not going direct) the ticket counter is just next to the arrival hall. In the arrival hall itself are flyers and counters for renting cars or motorbikes, which is a popular choice for foreigners who would like to explore the city on their own. A motorbike costs around 30 ringgit per day. A Proton Gen-2 will cost you some 70 ringgit, not bad for driving around Labuan in style. You will also see lots of paper ads for Uncle Jack’s guest house.

The Departure Hall is on the other side but still on the front side of the building, next to the toilets. Both international and domestic departures pass through there. There is an X-Ray for your baggage and a counter at the center where a member of the staff gets one part of your ticket. After that you head straight to the immigration counter where your passport will be stamped for exit of Malaysia via Labuan. Again, only guests going to Brunei pass through here because Brunei is the only international destination. Check-in time is not strict. The ticket will tell you to be there 45 minutes prior. Do that and the crew at the terminal will tell you to wait until 30 minutes before the trip before they let you pass through immigration. There are five daily trips to and from Brunei and not all of them are full. In our case, not even half of the ferry’s seating capacity got filled. Or maybe because it is a Sunday? Connect? Hahaha.

My seat number was not indicated on my Labuan - Brunei ferry ticket because as I already told you, it wasn’t full. Free seating! The toilet was pretty nasty. It was flushing but looked so unsanitary. And the smell is not something you’d really like. In other news, the movie playing on the ferry TV was very inspirational. It was Titanic starring Catherine Zeta Jones. Okay. At least this particular ferry ride lasts for just less than an hour and a half. Upon arrival at Muara Terminal you have to line up for immigration again. And then you go through the Customs’ X-Ray. I mean, your things go through the X-Ray, not you. Welcome to Brunei!

This is not yet BSB. BSB = Bandar Seri Begawan, not Back Street Boys. There will be a bus waiting for you which will bring you to the city center of BSB, but not before it goes through the airport. Muara belongs to a different district. BSB is also in a different area, so expect around an hour of travel, or maybe just around 40 minutes. After that, welcome to BSB!

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