The Kingdom of Bahrain–means ‘two seas’, is a Middle Eastern archipelago in the Arabic Gulf, tucked into a pocket of the sea flanked by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Bahrain is a cosmopolitan capital city, an attractive liberal lifestyle and a rich history and culture: from historic monuments such as the Al Khamis Mosque, dating back to 692 A.D. to one of the most modern Formula One race-tracks in the world at the Bahrain International Circuit. It is well known as a country that prides itself in being a thriving multi-cultural hub which welcomes people from all around the world.
Boasting an archipelago of 33 islands, Bahrain covers 760 square kilometers of land, making it the 192nd largest nation in terms of land area.
While Islam is the official religion of Bahrain, it is well-known for its tolerance and respect for all religions. Besides mosques, the city houses many other places of worship including churches and temples. Visitors and residents are expected to respect Islam and abide by certain etiquette and code of conduct.
Deserted by a desert climate with prevailing winds from the northwest, this country has only two seasons: a summer which roughly ranges from May to October, with temperatures sometimes exceeding 40°C, during the day, and a winter from November to April, where the averages are between 20 and 25 °C.
Specifically, in March, weather conditions in Bahrain makes it a perfect destination. The average temperatures would be between 20.0°C and 25.0°C. with exceptional possible peaks as low as 14°C and high as 35°C as observed in previous years.
The working week can differ from business to business. It is generally Sunday to Thursday. However, retail and some other businesses open six days a week, closing on Fridays. Usual business hours are from 09:00 to 18:00.
Bahrain local time is UTC/GMT + 3 hours. There are no daylight-saving time adjustments.
Arabic is the official language of Bahrain but English is the most commonly spoken language. Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil, Tagalog, Persian, and Chinese are also spoken.
Bahrain’s hospitals can handle any medical emergency; it is sensible to ensure you have adequate travel insurance that covers you for healthcare. If you have a medical condition that requires ongoing treatment, be sure to bring enough medication with you to last you for your entire stay in Bahrain. However, you are advised to bring a medical certificate with you sanctioning the use of such medications, since certain substances are banned.
Tax and Tipping
Tipping varies from profession to profession and is also largely down to personal preference. While it is customary to tip in most cases, it isn’t compulsory. Majority of the restaurants will note at the bottom of the menu that taxes and service charge have already been included in the bill, it is still common among most diners to tip the service staff. A figure between 10 and 15 per cent is customary, but this is dependent on the quality of service. While tipping is always appreciated, it is rarely expected.
For Bahrain, the associated plug type is G, which is the plug that has three rectangular pins in a triangular pattern. Bahrain operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.
Bank opening hours are 9am to 2pm (Sundays to Thursdays). Banks are usually closed on Fridays.
The Bahraini Dinar is the currency of Bahrain (BD). The Bahraini dinar is divided into 1,000 fils. Bank notes are in denominations of 500 fils, BD1, 5, 10 and 20. The exchange rate is $1 = BD0.
Credit & Debit Cards
Credit and debit cards are widely accepted. Foreign currencies and travelers’ checks can be exchanged in licensed exchange offices, banks and hotels, a passport is required. Personal checks can be a bit trickier and many places won’t accept them. If you’re shopping in the souks (markets) or in smaller shops, cash is the best option. It is worth taking a combination of cash and credit cards.
As Islam is a way of life in Bahrain, tourists should adopt a certain level of cultural and religious sensitivity for the duration of their stay. While dress codes are fairly liberal, swim wear should only be worn on beaches or at swimming pools, and when visiting shopping malls and other attractions, tourists should wear clothing that is not too tight or revealing.
For ladies, please avoid wearing low-cut dresses or dresses or skirts above the knee. Sleeveless garments are not encouraged. Please bring along a scarf while visiting the mosque. Men are also discouraged to wear singlets or unbuttoned shirts.
There are many ways to navigate your way around Bahrain. The city boasts an excellent road network and a range of car hire firms, so if you have an international driving license it is possible to drive yourself around Bahrain.
Bahrain’s bus network is growing all the time and covers most parts of the city – while a bus ride may not always take you somewhere via the most direct route, it is a cheap and safe way to get around.
There are plenty of taxis in Bahrain which can be easily identified by the orange markings and a ‘Taxi’ sign on the roof. All taxis should operate with a meter by law. But sometimes it is necessary to kindly remind the driver to turn his meter on. Flagging down a taxi is easy: apart from numerous taxi ranks around the city, and designated taxi areas at all shopping malls, you can raise your hand while walking along the city’s quieter roads (just not on major highways), and if the taxi is available, the driver will stop at the nearest safe spot.
Alternatively, taxis can be booked by phone through the hotline (+973 ) 1666 – 1666
Booking an Uber is safe and a great transport alternative in Bahrain. If you do not have an Uber App, download it for free via the App Store on iOs & Android.
Passengers are only permitted to bring certain items, such as liquids, gels, pastes, lotions, creams and drinks past the security checkpoint if they are in containers with a capacity of 100ml or less. All the containers must be carried in a transparent, re-sealable plastic bag. Exemptions are made for medications, baby food and special dietary requirements. Other items considered dangerous, such as aerosols, potential weapons and flammable materials, are also not permitted past this point. You should check the customs regulations of your destination country before departure too.
There are several companies that organize air-conditioned bus tours to popular sight-seeing destinations. You may visit the great historical sites such as Qalat Arad, a remarkable fort dating back to the fifteenth century and the Bahrain National Museum with its unmissable archaeological artefacts, capturing 6000 years of Bahrain’s history.
There are many tour options available, speak to the concierge at your hotel reception to help you decide which one to pick.
There are many outdoor activities such as taking a cruise on a dhow, dolphin watching and many different water sports. Bahrain is a mecca for swimming, scuba diving or speed-boating and jet-skiing.
In the vibrant souqs, such as Suq Al-Qaisariya and Bab Al Bahrain Souq, you can see everything from locally coloured fabrics, to gold and jewellery, as well as delicious local fruits, vegetables and herbs. Bahrain also holds various seasonal shopping markets, such as the Farmers Market (every Saturday), and Al Basta Market (every Friday and Saturday).
Security and Emergency Numbers
There are multiple channels of communication between the public and Bahrain Police whose personnel work round the clock to protect the residents and their belongings and detect crimes before they happen.
When calling the emergency number, please remember to state your name, the nature of the accident, address of the emergency and how serious the situation is.
If you are involved in a traffic accident, it’s important to contact the police immediately. In case of a minor incident, move your car to the side of the road, as there are fines for obstructing traffic. You cannot file an insurance claim without a police report.
The number for National Emergency Call Center (Police/Ambulance/Fire Department) in Bahrain is 999.