Kuwait Basics

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The Basics


Time: GMT +3

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

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

Currency Exchange Rates

KWD1.00 = USD 3.30GBP 2.57CAD 4.31AUD 4.83ZAR 48.08EUR 2.98NZD 5.20
Note: These rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

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

Entry requirements for Americans: US citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond their arrival in Kuwait. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for a maximum stay of three months.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: British citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond their arrival in Kuwait. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for a maximum stay of three months.

Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond their arrival in Kuwait. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for a maximum stay of three months.

Entry requirements for Australians: Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond their arrival in Kuwait. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for a maximum stay of three months.

Entry requirements for South Africans: South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond their arrival, and require a visa, to enter Kuwait. A visa can be obtained on arrival for up to one month only, provided (i) travellers are holding confirmation that their visa is available on arrival, (ii) that they are entering Kuwait for touristic purposes, (iii) that they have a sponsor in Kuwait who is in possession of the original visa, and (iv) that they stay in Kuwait for a maximum of 30 days.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for a minimum of 6 months beyond arrival in Kuwait. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for a maximum stay of three months.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for six months beyond their arrival in Kuwait. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for a maximum stay of three months.

Passport/Visa Note: All foreign passengers to Kuwait must hold return/onward tickets, the necessary travel documentation for their next destination, and proof of sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country. Most foreign nationals can obtain a three-month tourist visa on arrival. Visas may also be obtained prior to departure from one's country of origin, as are e-visas. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Travel Health: No vaccination certificates are required for entry into Kuwait, but inoculation against typhoid is advisable for travellers eating outside of major hotels and restaurants. General vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, and MMR updates (measles, mumps, and rubella) are also recommended. Additionally, there is a risk of diarrhoeal diseases, which are common in Kuwait. Tap water is safest when boiled, filtered, and disinfected, and, while many people consider tap water relatively safe 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 of whether travellers have medical insurance or not. All prescription medicines must be accompanied by a doctor's letter detailing exactly why the medication is required and travellers should check the list of medical contraband, so as to avoid importing banned prescription drugs (e.g. drugs containing alcohol) into the country.

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

Safety Information: The country is regarded as trouble-free as far as crime is concerned but, while unorganised protests are illegal they do occur occasional. Visitors should avoid public gatherings and demonstrations as some have turned violent in the past. When travelling outside Kuwait City keep to tarmac roads and take care on beaches and picnic spots because landmines and other unexploded ordnance still litters the countryside. Driving in Kuwait is hazardous owing to negligent and reckless local drivers, so constant vigilance is essential.

Local Customs: Being a strict Muslim society, dress in public should be modest while formal attire is always preferable to casual. Any public display of affection between men and women beyond married couples holding hands is punishable. Male homosexuality is illegal and the legal status of female homosexuality is ambiguous. Because of the influx of western tourists, some hotels allow unmarried couples to share a room, but unmarried couples are not allowed to stay together on a permanent basis. Alcohol is not permitted in Kuwait, and the use of this or the importation of obscene material is an imprisoning offense. Touch between the same genders is allowed, but not between opposite genders. Verbal greetings are customary. Photography near industrial, military, or government buildings is illegal, including oil fields. Religious customs should be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking, and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet. This is because it's forbidden and punishable by law. It is important to carry identification at all times.

Business: More aspects of the business culture are conservative than not. Dress should be formal and conservative, particularly for women. There is often accompanying small talk when meeting for the first 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. Most business is conducted in English, although using a few words of Arabic 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 to 10pm. Government offices and banks are usually open from 8am to 2pm.

Communications: The international dialling code for Kuwait is +965. All telecommunications services are of a high quality in Kuwait. As international roaming fees can be high, buying a local SIM card can be 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 alcohol or narcotics; milk products and unsealed salty fish; mineral water, unsealed olives and pickles; homemade foods; fresh vegetables; shellfish and by-products; and fresh figs.