The Kingdom of Bahrain is an archipelago made up of 33 natural islands situated in the Arabian Gulf midway between the tip of the Qatar Peninsula to the south and the Saudi Arabian mainland, 25 km to the east. The country is centrally placed among the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and shares membership with Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
With a population of over 1.3 Million (approximately 49% of whom are non-nationals) you'll find that the majority of the population lives in the cosmopolitan capital of Manama. The official language is Arabic (Gulf dialect), although English is widely spoken and taught in schools as a second language due to years of British influence. Farsi and Urdu are also very common.
Bahrain time zone is three hours ahead of GMT.
The national currency of Bahrain is the Bahraini Dinar (BD) and it is linked to the US dollar.
For approximately eight months of the year Bahrain enjoys moderate, pleasant weather, with continuous sunshine and blue skies. Temperatures are at their lowest during December and January and come down to a low of 14 degrees Celsius. It typically starts getting hot around May, and the summer months of June through August are characterised as hot and humid, with temperatures averaging above 45 degrees Celsius.
Islam is the official religion of the country. However there is a general acceptance of other faiths. Places of worship for other faiths exist on the island.
Bahrain is described as one of the most liberal and modern Arabian Gulf states. It has a unique culture of being able to harmoniously combine modern and traditional cultures and customs characterised by its hospitable, open-minded and friendly people.
The working week and timing vary considerably between Government offices, commercial organisations and banks. Here are some general guidelines:
- Government offices: Sunday to Thursday 07.00-14.15
- Commercial organisations: Many establishments work Sunday to Thursday. Hours worked vary. 08.00-12.00 and 15.00 to 17.30 are common
- Sunday to Wednesday: 07.30-12.00 and 15.30-17.30
- Thursday: 07.30-13.00
There is an abundance of accommodation available with high quality new apartments, houses and villas. The majority of these come fully furnished and are inclusive of the rental price.
As for various living locations, Bahrain is divided into the four major cities of: Manama (the capital), Riffa, Muharraq (where Gulf Air Headquarters and the Bahrain International Airport are located), and Isa Town.
In your home
Bahrain uses UK style 3-pin electricity outlets. Electricity supply is 230 volts, 50 Hz.
All apartments and houses are air conditioned.
Although tap water is clean, for drinking purposes "sweet water" is recommended. This is widely sold by shops in bottles, or can be delivered to homes in large containers.
There are well-equipped quality public and private hospitals and clinics available on the island.
Security and personal safety
The crime rate is very low and since Bahrain has no international disputes with other countries, it makes for a very safe and secure environment.
Bahrain is very cosmopolitan, and it is normal to wear western clothing. However, it is important to remember that it is an Islamic country. Therefore, out of respect, expatriates should dress modestly and revealing clothing should be avoided.
Summer clothing is suggested for the most of the year. However you will need a few warm clothing items for the cooler months, air-conditioned places, or for any trips abroad.
Bahrain has a modern road system which includes a causeway linking it to neighbouring Saudi Arabia. Driving is on the right hand side of the road with road signs in both English and Arabic.
An International Driving Permit (IDP) is required to drive in Bahrain although holders of driving licences from the US, Canada, European Union countries, Australia, New Zealand and Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states are able to apply for a Bahraini licence in exchange for their local licence. The island is small and allows for easy navigation. A car trip around the island's coastline of 161 kms would take no more than a couple of hours.
There are plenty of rental car companies located at the airport and in most suburbs.
Taxis are metered and the fares are relatively low. There is a limited public transport system which operates between neighbouring towns.
Bahrain is a shopper's paradise. The main souq or "marketplace" located in central Manama is built in the great tradition of Middle Eastern bazaars where almost anything from the latest electronic items, fabrics to aromatic spice are available. The gold souq is a popular place to visit.
There are a number of large shopping malls in Bahrain located only five minutes away from Manama city centre. The malls have a variety of local and international stores, international food outlets and multiplex cinema theatres.
Horse riding, watersports, scuba diving, golf, football, rugby, cricket, squash, basketball, bowling, camping, tennis and ice skating are some of the many activities available.
There are limited beaches, mainly at five star hotels, but being an island, lots of boating activities are available giving you the opportunity to swim in beautiful aquamarine clear waters.
Many activities in Bahrain involve clubs, societies and sporting organisations. Some require membership or a fee for use of their facilities. In addition, most hotels offer gyms and spas.
There are many quality restaurants and cafes offering a large variety of cuisines. Western style fast food outlets and coffee shops are located throughout the island. Many of the outlets are licensed.
There is a variety of nightlife entertainment ranging from nightclubs, bars, and movie theatres.
Places of interest
The Grand Mosque - this mosque is the largest in Bahrain and can hold up to 7,000 worshippers. Non-Muslim visitors are welcome outside prayer times.
The Tree of Life - a lone tree in the middle of the desert apparently fed by an underground spring.
The National Museum - this museum covers 7,000 years of Bahrain's history.
Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) - home to the F1 races every year, this recently constructed circuit has been quoted as the best in the world.
Bahrain Fort - this is country's main archaeological site with excavations revealing occupation dating from 2800 BC.
Al 'Areen Wildlife Sanctuary - home to many of Arabia's indigenous species.
The Royal Tombs - there are 85,000 burial mounds dating from 2800 BC, covering about one fifth of Bahrain.
Media and communication
A good telecommunication system is in place, giving immediate telephone, telex, SMS, fax, and internet access to all parts of the world.
Most people have a mobile telephone and there is excellent coverage all around Bahrain.
Internet cafes are available around town.
There are several English-language local newspapers. International newspapers and magazines are also available.
Bahrain has some of the best education systems in the region. There are lots of private schools, ranging from pre-schools and nurseries, British primary and secondary schools, American curriculum schools, schools teaching an International syllabus and French schools. There are also a vast number of schools serving the Arabic-speaking community and the Indian sub-continent.
Most international banks can be found in Bahrain. There are numerous multinational firms with businesses in the Gulf, making it considered the Middle East's financial centre. Serving a regional and international market, a complete range of financial banking services is available.
Embassies and consulates
Most European, Asian and Arab countries have their embassies in Manama, Bahrain.