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Grocery shopping: Is it worth the trip to Miri?

It is the norm to see long queues of vehicles lining the roads towards the borders of Sungai Tujoh and Kuala Lurah each weekend, as Bruneian families make their way to Miri, Sarawak for their shopping needs.

Ask any Bruneian why they do their grocery shopping in Miri, and chances are they will say, “Because it’s cheaper.”

But is this really so?

The Neue editorial team recently did some grocery shopping at Supa Save Gadong, Brunei and Ta Kiong Departmental Store at Merdeka Mall, Miri to see how much we could get with a budget of 50 BND in Brunei and RM150 in Miri.

All prices are calculated in BND

Photo above shows items that were bought from Supa Save in Brunei with a 50 BND budget, while the photo below it shows what was obtained with a 150 RM budget in Miri.

There is a saying that goes, “Time is money.”

With that in mind, are Bruneians really saving money doing their grocery shopping in Miri? Or are they spending more?

We believe it’s the latter.

Let’s consider the budget of a Bruneian man who takes home a monthly salary of 2,000 BND after TAP (Employees Trust Fund) and SCP (Supplement Contributory Pension) deductions. Mr X is married and lives in Bandar Seri Begawan with his family of three.

Let’s now consider the amount of time he has to spend travelling from Bandar Seri Begawan to Miri and vice versa. Let’s also factor in the cost of fuel, toll bridges and meals.

That’s roughly three hours to travel down to Miri and another three hours to get back to Bandar Seri Begawan.

Let’s assume that he works 25 days in a month (putting in 8 hours of work each day). After doing the math, Mr X basically earns approximately 10 BND for each hour he works in a month.

Six hours of travel – 3 hours to get to Miri and another 3 hours to get back to Bandar Seri Begawan – equates to 60 BND. That’s basically how much his 6 hours is worth.

Now let’s factor in the cost of fuel for a day trip to Miri (13 BND) and the tolls – 3 BND x 2 at the Rasau toll bridge (6 BND in total) and 10 RM x 2 (roughly 6 BND in total) at the Asean Bridge at Kuala Baram). This equates to roughly 25 BND.

(The photo above is basically what would be left of your groceries from Miri if you took away 25 BND worth of goods.)

Let’s not forget to set aside some money for meals while in Miri. Let’s say lunch and dinner for one person while in Miri is 15 BND. For each additional person that joins in on the trip, that’s another 15 BND to factor in for lunch and dinner.

Other factors we need to consider are the wear and tear on one’s vehicle.

On the other hand, the photo below shows what items you would have left if you factored in money for the toll bridges and petrol for the day trip.

Given the choice, I’d rather do my grocery shopping here in Brunei.

But that’s just my opinion.

Do you agree?

After reading this article, what are your thoughts on shoppers from Brunei doing their grocery shopping in Miri?
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19 Comments

  1. I don’t do my shopping in Miri, but many of my friends and family do, and they do end up saving quite alot. Perhaps try this experiment again, but this time buying household and non perishable goods like detergent, diapers, dettol, cooking oil, dishwashing soap, milk, babies’ formula milk – or even things like books, in the bookstore. I doubt many people buy the foodstuff and snacks listed in your examples above in miri, other than for snacks for the road trip probably. In addition, people tend to stock up for a few months worth of these items, for extra savings, so they do not have to make trips that often 🙂

    1. Thank you Sheena Lim for your feedback. The ‘Neue’ team would love to do this experiment again for the benefit of our readers. Could you recommend shops in Brunei and Miri where we could purchase these items?

        1. Thank you Dewi for your feedback. We’ll definitely look into those items you suggested for our follow-up report.

  2. Try buying “Made in Malaysia” foodstuff, that’s where you will see the bigger price difference. Their import duty is high as well. That’s why the price difference you got seems to be low and that’s why your result might show it’s not worth it.
    Next month they will be abolishing GST which will lower the price more.

    Your second part of argument about meals, car maintenance, etc, do we not also need to factor in for those shopping here? If you eat in restaurant then you need to count that cost and if they eat at home you need to count that cost too and reduction in their stock thus the needing a sooner trip again to the supermarket to top up.

    In designing an experiment you have to be consistent in reducing the variables. If you wanted to factor in food and time, then do so at the beginning and not add these supposed value at the end.

    Also, to be fair, it’s a family trip, people go over not just for grocery but people go to stock up, relax, enjoy meals, and that’s a big difference in value for money.

    For those from KB and Seria, no question about which one is more worth it.

    1. Thank you Jack for your comments. We look forward to working on a follow-up story once GST is abolished in Malaysia.

  3. Probably the choice of shop in Brunei Darussalam should not be Supa Save. Should try to compare with other local Supermarkets to see the actual differences since its a bit expensive to shop at Supa Save.

    1. Thank you Sham Sulaiman for your comments. Could you recommend us other supermarkets in Brunei that you think would be cheaper? I’m sure our readers would love to check those shops out.

  4. I agree with Sheena. Don’t shop at Ta Kiong, that shop is similar to supasave. Pick a place like Giant, GK supermarket or Kenyalang store instead and go for malaysian brands no the imported goods. U do save a lot for detergents, plastic bags, canned foods, cat foods!

    1. Thank you for the valuable feedback. May we ask how often would you cross the border for your grocery shopping?

  5. I do agree with Sheena. A more statistically reliable information and calculations would be required before any such findings can be published. The public who has been crossborder shopping might have already made their own calculations and why they think it’s savings for them. Well that’s from individual point of view. However it’s also important to look at this from a nation perspective. Is it possible, for example, for business in Brunei to forgo some of their profits for lower prices. What about import duties? Rents? etc. Things might need to be looked at in a more holistic way. The effects might go a long way to help sustain businesses as well as employment in Brunei

    1. Thanks for your comments. If you had the power to do so, what changes / improvements would you make to help sustain businesses and employment in Brunei?

  6. I only went to Miri to buy goods that are not available in Brunei especially make-up & cosmetics, brands, entertainment. Will stock up few pcs till the next trip. Its worth my weekend gateaway as well.

    1. Thank you KBian for your feedback. How often would you frequent Miri in a month? Why do you think people enjoy shopping in Miri (across the border)? We’d love to hear from you.

  7. Honestly all those listed above I wouldnt mind getting it in Brunei if that’s the only things my children need but in reality, we need much more than that.. we usually shop for 2 months worth of shopping from milk, detergent, etc and we only go their once every two months and its all worth it.. we use to shop in Brunei.. 1 trolley shopping in Hua Ho equivalent to 2 trolleys of our shopping at Ekonomi Mart in Miri.. not exaggerating but that’s my own personal experience.. and that 2 trolleys can actually last for a month in compare to 1 hua ho trolley that need us to refill in the middle of the month.. we also experience going to Miri on monthly basis but yes I have to admit I tend to shop something else too so thats when it can be dangerous for our family budget..so after thorough calculation, etc we decided that once every two months will be better.. and yes..get more than above list so you can see the difference..😊

    1. That’s a good point! How much money do you think we should put aside for our next grocery shopping experiment for Brunei and Miri?

  8. I think for most people they don’t go there solely for grocery shopping, but for a mini weekend getaway usually with their family. The grocery shopping is the sensible bit (buy in bulk, then it’s worth it) to do while you’re there. Main reasons are to eat, and to just go walk around and “eat some wind” instead of spending the weekend in Brunei. Having said that, I haven’t properly been to Miri for leisure for a long while. What new places are there to explore besides shopping?

    1. Good day KBian! You raised a good point. We’ll be sure to make another visit to Miri in the near future to list out places to explore there (aside from shopping, of course!).

  9. I just regretted not buying more during my trip to KL last week. The cheeses (same brand here in SupaSave) are so much cheaper there! I also like AKAsia, a Malaysian brand of yoghurt that doesn’t sell here. Plus, there are so many stuff such as coconut and almond flour, konjac noodles, coloured cherry tomatoes, sugar free options which are harder to find here. However, we do have **healthier** alternatives here at SupaSave (heavy cream with no carrageenan, coconut milk with no additives). I’m on a healthy diet for health concerns so it’s worth it to make the trip. But I usually only go when I have some errands to run, like sending a family member to Miri airport.

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