Country guides Middle East
Electrical current in Bahrain is 230 volts, 50Hz. UK-style three-pin plugs are used.
Arabic is the official language in Bahrain, although English is widely understood and is used by most businesses.
The official currency is the Bahraini dinar (BHD). The Bahraini dinar is linked to the US Dollar at a rate of US$1=BD 0.376. Money can be exchanged at bureaux de change, commercial banks in Manama or at money changers operating in souks. ATMs are available in larger towns. Credit cards are widely accepted.
Most restaurants and hotels in Bahrain add a service charge of 10 to 15 percent to their bills. However, you may leave a tip at your discretion. Taxi drivers expect a 10 percent tip and porters will be happy with about 100 fils per item of baggage.
Proof of a yellow fever vaccination is required for visitors who are coming from or have transited through an airport of a country where yellow fever occurs, and 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.
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 6,000 to 8,000 British nationals live in Bahrain, and thousands more visit each year. The vast majority of visits are trouble free.
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. LGBT travellers should note that while the law doesn't criminalise same-sex activity between consenting adults who are at least 21 years of age, individuals have been punished in the past. 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.
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. Rushing 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.
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.
Travellers to Bahrain over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 400 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.
The international direct dialling code for Bahrain is +973. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option. Internet is available at most of the larger hotels in Manama.
Passport & Visa
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 can be obtained on arrival or online at www.evisa.gov.bh. 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 as well as proof of sufficient funds and address of stay in Bahrain.
US citizens require a valid passport and a visa (or electronic visa) to enter Bahrain. Single entry Electronic Visas may be obtained online before travel, or a one-month tourist or business visa can be obtained on arrival, with the option to extend this by two weeks.
British citizens require a valid passport and an eVisa, obtainable online 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 online prior to their visit, or a one-month tourist or business visa obtainable on arrival. A two-week extension is possible.
Australians need a valid passport and a visa, obtainable online (www.evisa.gov.bh) prior to their visit, or a one-month tourist or business visa obtainable on arrival. A two-week extension is possible.
South Africans need a visa and a valid passport to visit Bahrain. Visas are obtainable online prior to travel.
Irish nationals need a valid passport and an eVisa, obtainable online 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 online prior to their visit, or a one-month tourist or business visa obtainable on arrival. A two-week extension is possible.
Bahrain Tourist Office, Manama: +973 1755 8800 or www.btea.bh.999 (General Emergencies)
Embassies / consulates in other countries
Embassy of Bahrain, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 342 1111.
Embassy of Bahrain, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 020 7201 9170.
Embassies / consulates in Bahrain
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 11 250 0900.
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.