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  • Overview

    Kuwait is one of the most liberal Islamic states inthe Middle East. Often overshadowed by the controversy surroundingneighbours Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, as well as falling victimto attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),Kuwait has rebuilt itself in a region ravaged by numerous recentconflicts.

    In 1990, Iraq claimed Kuwait as its 19th province.But a US led alliance expelled the Iraqis in a short war in 1991,and Kuwait consequently erected a barrier along its border to deterits threatening neighbour.

    Despite the turbulence of its history, Kuwait todayis, once again, beginning to reflect its status as an oil-richnation. Now, Kuwait attracts both business travellers and touristsfrom the west, particularly the US.

    Those visiting Kuwait today are imbued with a lustfor adventure that has nothing to do with adrenalin, but rather ayearning to explore and invest in this increasingly westernisedIslamic state.

    In comparison to its more conservative neighbours,women comprise nearly 50 percent of the workforce in Kuwait, andthe dual legal system, with some separate legal codes for Muslimsand non-Muslims, is a good indication of the progressive nature ofthe country.

    Kuwait developed a reputation as a haven for the artsin the 20th Century and this legacy continues today. The countryhas the oldest modern arts and literary movements in the region, aswell as a famous talent for theatre.

    Kuwait City has become a buzzing metropolis withgleaming high rises, numerous luxury hotels, and lush parks setalong wide avenues. The city's major landmark is Kuwait Towers,visible from the harbour where oil tankers come and go, dockingalongside hundreds of cargo ships and pleasure crafts.

    There is plenty to interest the traveller, not onlyin Kuwait City itself but also throughout the country, from itsarid desert plateau to the fertile coastal belt and its nine smalloffshore islands. Unfortunately, the terrorist attack by ISIL inJune 2015 has harmed the region's newly acquired reputation as asafe travel destination, but authorities maintain strict securitymeasures in order to secure the safety of its citizens andguests.

    Phrase Book

    English Pronounciation

    Kuwait enjoys a variable continental climate, characterised bylong, hot, and dry summers, with short, warm winters that haveoccasional rainfall. The hottest months are between May and Octoberand the rainy season (if you can call it that) runs from Decemberto February, when humidity can also be high. In summer,temperatures can get over 100°F (38°C), but drop below 70°F (21°C)in winter and occasionally under 50°F (10°C), especially atnight.

    Kuwait International Airport
    Location: The airport is situated 12.5 miles (20km) from KuwaitCity.
    Time: GMT +3.
    Getting to the city: Taxis and buses are available to take passengers to Kuwait City.Taxis are reasonably priced, but it is important to travel withreputable companies. There are three bus lines operating between4.30am and 11.45pm, and can often be crowded. The trip to the citycentre takes around 30 minutes.
    Car Rental: A car rental desk is located in Arrivals and includes companieslike Avis, Budget, and Hertz.
    Airport Taxis: There are many different taxi companies and types of taxisavailable from the airport. It is advisable to book a taxi atArrivals, as drivers are notorious for overcharging unsuspectingtravellers.
    Fascilities: The first-class lounges offer five-star catering, a children'splay area, hot shower facilities and high-speed internet. TheCommercial Centre Complex is linked directly to the Arrival andDeparture halls of the airport terminal and includes facilitiessuch as duty-free shopping and popular retailers, as well as avariety of food and beverage outlets. Other services offered arebanks, a help desk and facilities for the disabled.
    Parking There is a multi-storey car park next to the mall and astreet-level car park outside of the arrivals hall available forboth short- and long-term stays. There is also a valet parkingservice available.
    Website: www.dgca.gov.kw
    Money:

    Kuwait's currency is the Kuwaiti Dinar (KWD). Major credit cardsare widely accepted. Currency is best taken in US Dollars orBritish Pounds, with the Indian Rupee (INR) also easy to exchange.There are banks with foreign exchange facilities in the largecentres and ATMs are plentiful. Many banks are open from 8am to 3pmfrom Sunday to Thursday, but some banks have more varied hours.ATMs are usually open 24 hours.

    Language:

    Arabic is the official language, but English is widelyused and understood; a compulsory language in secondary schools.Other widely spoken languages include Farsi (common among Iranianexpats) and Urdu (common among South Asian expats).

    Electricity:

    240 volts, 50Hz. The UK-style three-pin is in use(Type G).

    Entry Requirements:

    US citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least sixmonths beyond their arrival in Kuwait. A visa is required, and canbe obtained on arrival for a maximum stay of three months.

    British citizens must have a passport that is valid for at leastsix months beyond their arrival in Kuwait. A visa is required, andcan be obtained on arrival for a maximum stay of three months.

    Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for atleast six months beyond their arrival in Kuwait. A visa isrequired, and can be obtained on arrival for a maximum stay ofthree months.

    Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for atleast six months beyond their arrival in Kuwait. A visa isrequired, and can be obtained on arrival for a maximum stay ofthree months.

    South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for atleast six months beyond their arrival, and require a visa, to enterKuwait. A visa can be obtained on arrival for up to one month only,provided (i) travellers are holding confirmation that their visa isavailable on arrival, (ii) that they are entering Kuwait fortouristic purposes, (iii) that they have a sponsor in Kuwait who isin possession of the original visa, and (iv) that they stay inKuwait for a maximum of 30 days.

    Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for six monthsbeyond their arrival in Kuwait. A visa is required, and can beobtained on arrival for a maximum stay of three months.

    US citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least sixmonths beyond their arrival in Kuwait. A visa is required, and canbe obtained on arrival for a maximum stay of three months.

    New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for aminimum of 6 months beyond arrival in Kuwait. A visa is required,and can be obtained on arrival for a maximum stay of threemonths.

    Passport/Visa Note:Visa:

    All foreign passengers to Kuwait must hold return/onwardtickets, the necessary travel documentation for their nextdestination, and proof of sufficient funds to cover their expenseswhile in the country. Most foreign nationals can obtain athree-month tourist visa on arrival. Visas may also be obtainedprior to departure from one's country of origin, as are e-visas.NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least sixmonths validity remaining after your intended date of departurefrom your travel destination. Immigration officials often applydifferent rules to those stated by travel agents and officialsources.

    Travel Health:

    No vaccination certificates are required for entry into Kuwait,but inoculation against typhoid is advisable for travellers eatingoutside of major hotels and restaurants. General vaccinations forhepatitis A and B, and MMR updates (measles, mumps, and rubella)are also recommended.

    Additionally, there is a risk of diarrhoeal diseases, which arecommon in Kuwait. Tap water is safest when boiled, filtered, anddisinfected, and, while many people consider tap water relativelysafe to drink, most visitors stick to bottled water.

    Medical fees are high and medical insurance is recommended.However, many doctors will expect payment in cash regardless ofwhether travellers have medical insurance or not. All prescriptionmedicines must be accompanied by a doctor's letter detailingexactly why the medication is required and travellers should checkthe list of medical contraband, so as to avoid importing bannedprescription drugs (e.g. drugs containing alcohol) into thecountry.

    Tipping:

    A service charge of 15 percent is usually added to bills inrestaurants and hotels. If not, a tip of 10 percent is acceptable.Additional tipping is only expected in more expensive hotels. Taxidrivers appreciate a small tip for long journeys. Baggage handlers,petrol attendants, and assistants can also be tipped a smallamount, following common practice.

    Safety Information:

    The country is regarded as trouble-free as far as crime isconcerned but, while unorganised protests are illegal they do occuroccasional. Visitors should avoid public gatherings anddemonstrations as some have turned violent in the past.

    When travelling outside Kuwait City keep to tarmac roads andtake care on beaches and picnic spots because landmines and otherunexploded ordnance still litters the countryside. Driving inKuwait is hazardous owing to negligent and reckless local drivers,so constant vigilance is essential.

    Local Customs:

    Being a strict Muslim society, dress in public shouldbe modest while formal attire is always preferable to casual. Anypublic display of affection between men and women beyond marriedcouples holding hands is punishable.

    Male homosexuality is illegal and the legal status offemale homosexuality is ambiguous. Because of the influx of westerntourists, some hotels allow unmarried couples to share a room, butunmarried couples are not allowed to stay together on a permanentbasis.

    Alcohol is not permitted in Kuwait, and the use ofthis or the importation of obscene material is an imprisoningoffense. Touch between the same genders is allowed, but not betweenopposite genders. Verbal greetings are customary.

    Photography near industrial, military, or governmentbuildings is illegal, including oil fields. Religious customsshould be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan wheneating, drinking, and smoking during daylight hours should bediscreet. This is because it's forbidden and punishable by law. Itis important to carry identification at all times.

    Business:

    More aspects of the business culture are conservativethan not. Dress should be formal and conservative, particularly forwomen. There is often accompanying small talk when meeting for thefirst time, but be sure to adhere to local customs.

    Public affection between opposite sexes is forbidden,while people should take a woman's lead when greeting. Mostbusiness is conducted in English, although using a few words ofArabic will be appreciated, particularly for titles.

    The working week runs from Sunday to Thursday.Business hours vary but are usually from 7am to 1pm and 4pm to10pm. Government offices and banks are usually open from 8am to2pm.

    Communications:

    The international dialling code for Kuwait is +965. Alltelecommunications services are of a high quality in Kuwait. Asinternational roaming fees can be high, buying a local SIM card canbe a cheaper option. Free wifi is available in most hotels, cafes,and restaurants in tourist areas.

    Duty Free:

    Travellers to Kuwait do not have to pay duty on 500 cigarettes,or 2lbs tobacco. It is prohibited to enter the country with alcoholor narcotics; milk products and unsealed salty fish; mineral water,unsealed olives and pickles; homemade foods; fresh vegetables;shellfish and by-products; and fresh figs.

    Useful Contacts:

    Kuwait Embassies:

    Kuwait Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 9660702.

    Kuwait Embassy, London, United Kingdom (also responsible forIreland): +44 20 7590 3400/3406/3407.

    Kuwait Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 780 9999.

    Kuwait Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 342 0877.

    Kuwait Embassy, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for NewZealand): +61 2 6286 7777.

    Foreign Embassies in Kuwait :

    American Embassy, Kuwait City: +965 259 1001 or +965 25386562.

    British Embassy, Kuwait City: +965 2259 4320

    Canadian Embassy, Kuwait City: +965 2256 3025.

    South African Embassy, Mishref: +965 561 7988 (Switchboard) or+965 997 94483 (emergency).

    Australian Embassy, Kuwait City: +965 2232 2422.

    Irish Embassy, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (also responsiblefor Kuwait): +971 2 495 8200.

    New Zealand Embassy, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (also responsible forKuwait): +966 11 488 7988.

    Kuwait Emergency Numbers : 112 (General Emergencies).
    Kuwait