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Bahrain Travel Information

The Basics

Time

GMT +3.

Electricity

Electrical current in Bahrain is 230 volts, except in Awali where it is 110 volts. UK-style three-pin plugs are used.

Language

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

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 10-15% to their bills. However, you may leave a tip at your discretion. Taxi drivers expect a 10% 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; never rush 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, however you may address people by their first name (ei: Mr Adam). 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, and the outgoing code 00 followed by the relevant country code (eg. 0044 for the United Kingdom). There are no city or area codes. Public phone booths are easily located, accepting either freely available phone cards or coins. The country is covered by a GSM 900 and 1800 mobile phone network. There are several Internet service providers and 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 200 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. Arms and ammunition, methylated spirits, drugs and jewellery require an Import Permit.

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We are looking for contributors for our Bahrain travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to Bahrain or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.