Here’s What You Need to Know Before Traveling to Bahrain
Located off the coast of Saudi Arabia and in the heart of the Middle East, Bahrain is a frequent destination for business executives and tourists alike. While crime remains a minor concern in comparison to other Middle Eastern countries, the country is not without its problems, including a violent uprising in 2011 as well as occasional political protests and acts of terrorism. And while Bahrainis tolerate foreigners and those from other faiths, just as in many countries in the Middle East, business travelers must become familiar with the culture and learn the country’s local laws and customs to avoid offending their hosts. From a practical perspective, what do you need to know before traveling to Bahrain?
Apply for the right type of visa.
Depending on the passport you hold, Bahrain offers a number of visa options. Some visas require a visit to a Bahraini Embassy, while the government issues others via the internet or upon arrival in the country. Well in advance of your trip, identify the appropriate visa for your needs. Regardless of your visa type, make sure your passport remains valid for at least six months after your planned arrival in Bahrain. And if applying for a business visa, make sure your employer submits documentation detailing the purpose and their approval of the trip.
Carry photographic identification.
Local authorities frequently conduct checks to identify people in the country working illegally. Law enforcement also sets up frequent checkpoints to conduct random inspections of cars and their occupants. Keep your passport in your possession at all times, and be prepared to produce it when asked.
Avoid large gatherings of people.
In comparison to its Middle Eastern neighbors, Bahrain’s political environment remains stable. Nonetheless, Bahrainis frequently exercise their right to public protest. While many demonstrations take place peacefully, occasionally clashes between protesters and the government’s security forces turn violent. Pay attention to your surroundings, and if a large group begins forming, leave the area immediately.
Hire a prescreened driver.
The roads in Bahrain are modern and well maintained. However, many Bahrainis routinely ignore traffic signs and drive aggressively and at a very high rate of speed. Traffic congestion poses a significant problem as well, especially when roads are closed due to public protests. To complicate matters further, Bahraini business and government officials expect meetings to start on time. With these challenges and expectations in mind, consider hiring a local driver to remove the stresses and strains of navigating the country’s roads.
Just as in every country with a majority-Muslim population, to avoid offending local sensibilities and violating cultural and religious norms, dress conservatively in public. Women should cover their knees, shoulders, and midriff and avoid wearing any clothing that does not cover their underwear; this includes not wearing any sheer clothing. While men face far fewer restrictions, many Bahrainis considerate it inappropriate for men to wear shorts in public.
Take note of special considerations for women and LGBTQIA travelers.
While Bahraini society is quite accepting of the rights of individuals, women and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA) community may find themselves subject to harassment. If you experience unwanted attention, avoid engaging with those harassing you; seek safety in a mall, hotel, or store; and notify the establishment’s security of your situation.