Bahrain Basics

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The Basics


Time: GMT +3.

Electricity: Electrical current in Bahrain is 230 volts, 50Hz. UK-style three-pin plugs are used.

Money: 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.

Currency Exchange Rates

BHD1.00 = USD 2.66GBP 2.19CAD 3.54AUD 3.95ZAR 40.27EUR 2.42NZD 4.21
Note: These rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Language: Arabic is the official language in Bahrain, although English is widely understood and is used by most businesses.

Entry requirements for Americans: 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.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: 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.

Entry requirements for Canadians: 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.

Entry requirements for Australians: 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.

Entry requirements for South Africans: South Africans need a visa and a valid passport to visit Bahrain. Visas are obtainable online prior to travel.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: 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.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: 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.

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 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.

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.

Tipping: 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.

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.

Business: 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.

Communications: The international direct dialling code for Bahrain is +973. There are no city or area codes. 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.

Duty Free: 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.