So what can I get with just 5 Brunei dollars (BND) in my pocket?

A local Bruneian in his 20s who works in the private sector said, “Surviving on $5 Brunei dollars (US$3.80) a day would be possible but it would be unhealthy.”

“You’ll be able to survive but budgeting would be tight. It would be possible to have just one-dollar ‘nasi katok’ (a packet of rice, fried chicken and sauce or a slightly fancier meal like $2.50 noodles,” said a resident from Muara. “You can also get cheap food from cube stores.”

However, he said, “There would not be anything fun you could do with just $5 a day.”

An expatriate who works for the private sector, said that living on $5 a day is only possible if it’s exclusively just for food expenses.

“You first have to put money aside for petrol for your vehicle,” he said. “It should not eat into your food budget.”

According to him, $8 a day would be enough.

“I usually have two meals a day – lunch and dinner,” he said.

“Really?” I thought to myself.

And so I took on the “5-dollar challenge” to see what I could get for breakfast, lunch and dinner with just $5 in my pocket each day.

After surveying prices of food around your usual food joints in Kiarong, Gadong and Kiulap, this was what I learnt:


From March 5 (Monday) to March 9 (Friday), I went to work with only a green-coloured dollar note in my pocket.

This was what I did:

March 5 (Monday):
I skipped breakfast. For lunch, I ordered a bowl of Kolo Mee for $2 from Teazone Corner in Kiulap. Later that evening, I craved for a plate of chicken rice from Thien Thien in Gadong. However, it costs $3.20 for a plate of chicken rice. All I had was $3! Thank goodness I was out with friends and one of them spared me 20 cents.

Leftover change for the day: Minus 20 cents. (Ah, friendship!)

March 6 (Tuesday):
I was feeling famished early in the morning. I regretted skipping breakfast the day before. I ordered myself a plate of Roti Telur from Nadj Restaurant in Kiarong at 8.45am. For just $1, I was surprised that the meal was quite filling. I skipped lunch that day. With $4 to spare for dinner, I bought three packets of Nasi Katok ($3) and a fizzy drink ($1) from a shop in Kiulap. I was feeling generous that night and gave the two extra packets of Nasi Katok to my colleagues.

Leftover change for the day: Zero, but my buddies got some free food.

March 7 (Wednesday):
I skipped breakfast and decided to have a heavy lunch. I ordered two bowls of Kolo Mee for $4 ($2 per bowl) from Teazone Corner in Kiulap. For dinner, I enjoyed a $1 meal. Yes, you guessed it correctly: A packet of Nasi Katok.

Leftover change for the day : Zero.

March 8 (Thursday):
I skipped breakfast and lunch so that I could have a heavy dinner at Great Taste Restaurant in Kiulap. (Add abit of Humor) For $5, I ordered myself a plate of Butter Milk Chicken and Rice.

Leftover change for the day: Zero, but my tummy was rumbling by tea time.

March 9 (Friday):
It was the last day of a five-day workweek. I did not want to skip any meals. I made it a point to stick to my $5 budget. And so I did the math: $1 breakfast (Roti Telur at Nadj Restaurant), $2 lunch (pastries I found from a ‘food cube’ store) and $2 dinner (a bowl of Kolo Mee from Teazone Corner in Kiulap).

Leftover change for the day: Zero.

Guess what? It is possible to survive on $5 a day. I’ve proven it.

However, I must note that we did not factor in the cost of transportation, parking tickets, etc.

Did I enjoy it? Probably not.

Why? Because I kept requesting for a ‘free’ glass of Air Suam (warm water) whenever I was at an eatery.

And so what was the first thing I did after completing this 5-dollar challenge?

I splurged.

The following Saturday, I ordered myself a $9.90 plate of marinated grilled chicken with herbs with a side of mashed potatoes from De’olde Cottage Restaurant & Cafe in Kiulap. I asked for extra sauce, and I was charged an additional dollar. I had no regrets. I loved every single moment of it.

Do you think it’s possible to survive on just $5 a day in Brunei?

Maybe the next time I do this challenge, I could start with a lower amount. What do you think? Do you think you would be able to survive on just 5 dollars a day? We’d love to hear from you.

You can cast your poll below: