Bahrain travel guide
Sophisticated, modern and cosmopolitan Bahrain, a kingdom of 33 islands in the Arabian Gulf, is welcoming an increasing number of international tourists who come to experience the country's fascinating blend of eastern and western cultures. Manama, on the main island, boasts excellent hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, an intriguing souq (bazaar) and all the other facilities visitors need for a great holiday. In addition, there are decent beaches, perennially hot and sunny weather, English is spoken and understood everywhere, and the kingdom has the remnants of more than 5,000 years of civilisation to be explored. Its future as a popular holiday destination for westerners seems assured.
Back in the mists of time Bahrain was attached to the Arabian Peninsula. Nature separated it from the mainland, but man has now rejoined it with a 16-mile (25km) long causeway linking it to Saudi Arabia. During construction of the causeway and a new road network, the islands' archaeological significance came to light with the discovery of thousands of burial mounds dating from the third millennium BC, part of the well-ordered ancient city of Dilmun that existed where a forest of skyscrapers now reaches for the sky.
Throughout its history Bahrain has been prosperous, first on the strength of its good position for trade and fishing, and the abundance and quality of the pearls found in its waters, and more latterly because of its oil resources (Bahrain was the first country in the Gulf to exploit its 'liquid gold').
Though the government is less stable than in years past, Bahrain is still growing as a popular tourist destination in the Middle East. A visit to Bahrain, whether on business or pleasure, is an interesting, relaxing and rewarding experience.
The official currency is the Bahraini Dinar (BHD). The Bahraini Dinar is linked to the US Dollar at a rate of US$1=BD 0.375. Money can be exchanged at bureaux de change, commercial banks in Manama or at money changers operating in souqs. ATMs are available in larger towns. Credit cards are widely accepted.
Language : Arabic is the official language in Bahrain, although English is widely understood and is used by most businesses.
Electricity : Electrical current in Bahrain is 230 volts, 50Hz. UK-style three-pin plugs are used.
Entry Requirements :
US citizens require a valid passport and a visa (or electronic visa) to enter Bahrain. Single entry Electronic Visas may be obtained on the internet (www.evisa.gov.bh) before travel, or a 14-day tourist or business visa can be obtained on arrival.
British citizens require a valid passport and an eVisa, obtainable via the internet (www.evisa.gov.bh) prior to their visit, or a three-month visa obtainable on arrival. British passport holders with endorsements other than 'British Citizen' should confirm official requirements before travel.
Canadian citizens require a valid passport and an eVisa, obtainable via the internet (www.evisa.gov.bh) prior to their visit, or a 14-day tourist or business visa obtainable on arrival.
Australians need a valid passport and an eVisa, obtainable via the internet (www.evisa.gov.bh) prior to their visit, or a 14-day tourist or business visa obtainable on arrival.
South Africans need a visa and a valid passport to visit Bahrain. Visas are obtainable via the internet (www.evisa.gov.bh) prior to travel.
Irish nationals need a valid passport and an eVisa, obtainable via the Internet (www.evisa.gov.bh) prior to their visit, or a three-month tourist or business visa obtainable on arrival.
New Zealanders require a valid passport and an eVisa, obtainable via the internet (www.evisa.gov.bh) prior to their visit, or a 14-day tourist or business visa obtainable on arrival.
Passport/Visa Note :
All persons who wish to enter Bahrain need a visa, except citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates). Visas are relatively easy to obtain on arrival if holding sufficient funds, but not all nationalities qualify for visas on arrival. A passport valid for duration of stay is required, but it is recommended that passports be valid for at least six months beyond intended travel. Visitors also require tickets or documentation for return or onward travel.
Travel Health :
No vaccinations are required for visitors to Bahrain, but a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended. Medical facilities are good in the main cities, but health insurance is recommended because visitors must pay for treatment. There are many well-stocked pharmacies in the country. Water is deemed clean and safe by the authorities, but visitors usually prefer to drink bottled water, which is widely available.
Most restaurants and hotels in Bahrain add a service charge of 10-15% to their bills. However, you may leave a tip at your discretion. Taxi drivers expect a 10% tip and porters will be happy with about 100 fils per item of baggage.
Safety Information :
Although the crime rate in Bahrain is relatively low, visitors should be aware that along with other states in the Gulf region, the country is at risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks by Al Qaeda on Western interests. Visitors are advised to be vigilant and avoid public demonstrations. Around 10,000 British nationals live in Bahrain, and thousands more visit each year. The vast majority of visits are trouble free.
Local Customs :
Although it is a liberal state, Bahrain is an Islamic country and many locals find scanty clothing and immoderate public behaviour offensive. Visitors should dress and act respectfully. Religious and social sensitivities should be observed and respected, especially during religious festivals. Foreigners are not expected to fast during the holy month of Ramadan, but it is considered extremely inconsiderate to eat, drink or smoke in public during this time. Homosexuality is illegal.
Bahrain is generally more liberal than its Arab neighbours, but businesswomen should nevertheless ensure that they wear conservative clothing and men are expected to wear smart suits and ties. Bahrainis prefer to do business with those whom they have a personal relationship with so a letter of introduction from someone they know is appreciated. English is used as the language of business, but expect prolonged small talk and personal enquiries before sitting down to do business, as building a trustworthy relationship is important; never rush a deal, and high-pressure sales tactics are frowned upon. Impatience has no place, so plenty of time should be allowed for decision-making.
For meetings, punctuality is important and business cards are routinely handed out to everyone, using both hands and preferably with the Arabic translation on the back of the card face up. It is important to study a received card for a while before putting it away. Formal titles should be used, however you may address people by their first name (ei: Mr Adam). Business hours are Sunday to Thursday 7am to 2pm. Most businesses take a break in the afternoon between 1pm and 3pm, but are open later in the evening. During the holy month of Ramadan working hours are reduced.
The international direct dialling code for Bahrain is +973. There are no city or area codes. Public phone booths were once widely available, some accepting phone cards and some coins, but are slowly being removed due to lack of use. Mobile phone coverage is good. Internet is available at most of the larger hotels in Manama.
Duty Free :
Travellers to Bahrain over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars and 250g tobacco (in open packets); perfume up to 237ml; 1 litre alcoholic liquor and 6 cans of beer for non-Muslim passengers only; and gifts to the value of BD 250. Arms and ammunition, methylated spirits, drugs and jewellery require an Import Permit.
Bahrain International Airport
Location: The airport is about four miles (6km) north of the capital, Manama, on Muharraq Island.
Time: GMT +3.
Contacts: Tel: +973 1733 9339.
Getting to the city: Many hotels operate courtesy buses for their guests to and from the airport. There is a bus service to the Muharraq bus terminal approximately once per hour.
Car rental: Budget, Europcar, Hanco, Hertz, Oscar, National, Avis, Gulf, Sixt, Al Obaisi, and other companies operate from Bahrain Airport.
Airport Taxis: There are taxis outside the terminal, but they tend to overcharge foreigners. It is better to phone for a metered taxi service. It is about a 15-minute drive to Manama.
Facilities: Facilities include banks and currency exchange services, restaurants, cafes and bars, gift shops, a post office, communications centre, tourist information and a prayer room. The Bahrain Duty Free shopping complex is internationally acclaimed. Disabled facilities are good.
Parking: Short and long-term parking facilities are available in front of the terminal. The cashier counters are available at the exits and they are open 24 hours. No credit cards are allowed, only cash payment. A free shuttle bus service operates between the terminal and the long-term car parks.
Departure tax: None.
Bahrain weather is generally warm and fairly dry. The most pleasant time of year in Bahrain is during spring or autumn when sunshine is virtually guaranteed, along with warm temperatures tempered by soft breezes.
Summers can be very hot and humid, though the humidity is modified at the end of the season when a dry northwesterly wind blows, known locally as the 'Al Barah'. Winter is cooler and influenced by low-pressure systems, which bring rainfall. Average rainfall is low, but most of it falls in winter.
Bahrain Tourist Office, Manama: +973 715 713 or
United States Embassy, Manama: +973 1724 2700.
British Embassy, Manama: +973 1757 4100.
Canadian Embassy, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (also responsible for Bahrain): +966 1 488 2288.
Australian Embassy, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (also responsible for Bahrain): +966 01 488 7788.
South African Embassy, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (also responsible for Bahrain): +966 1 442 9716.
Irish Embassy, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (also responsible for Bahrain): +966 1 488 2300.
New Zealand Embassy, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (also responsible for Bahrain): +966 1 488 7988.
Embassy of Bahrain, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 342
Foreign Embassies in Bahrain
Embassy of Bahrain, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 020 7201 9170.
Bahrain Emergency Numbers
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