Difference between revisions of "Bahrain"
Revision as of 23:00, 10 February 2008
The Kingdom of Bahrain  is a Middle Eastern archipelago in the Persian Gulf, tucked into a pocket of the sea flanked by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It's an oasis of liberalism – or at least western-friendly moderation – among the Muslim countries of the region. It's popular with travelers for its authentic "Arabness" but without the strict application of Islamic law upon its non-Muslim minority. Case in point: alcohol is legal here. Although it has a heavily petroleum-based economy, its more relaxed culture has also made it a social and shopping mecca (so to speak), which has helped it develop a fairly cosmopolitan middle class not found in neighboring countries with just a rich elite and subsistence-level masses.
roughly north to south:
Bahrain is the smallest of the independent Persian Gulf states, and has often had to walk a diplomatic tightrope in relation to its larger neighbours. The country has few oil reserves, however it has established itself as a hub for refining as well as international banking, while also achieving a liberal (by Gulf standards at least) political system.
Officially 220V 50Hz. Most outlets are the British standard BS-1363 type. Generally speaking, U.S., Canadian and Continental European travellers should pack adapters for these outlets if they plan to use their electrical equipment in Bahrain.
The best time to visit Bahrain is November-March, with October & April being just bearable. Be sure to take along a sweater during December-March, evenings can be cool. Bahrain's summer, which is from May-September, is very hot and humid, though occasional cool northerly winds blow to provide some relief. More frequent are the qaws, the hot, dry summer winds that can bring sandstorms.
Citizens of following countries can obtain 14-day visa at all border stations and airports. The fee is 5 dinar.
Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, China, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland (3 months), Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia, San Marino, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom (3 months), United States, Uzbekistan, Vatican City
Bahrain is arcade and a 'Transotel' offering beds and showers (for a fee) to those awaiting flights. The airport is the main base for Gulf Air and has excellent connections throughout the region and London. *Bahrain is the only Gulf Arab State that accepts Israeli Passports and passports with evidence of visits to Israel.*
A paved causeway connects Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Saudi-Bahraini Transport Company (Sabatco) has a regular bus service from Khobar to Central Manama.
Taxis in Manama are negotiable in price. They will ask for as much as 15 dinar (US$30-40) but you should not pay more than 3 dinar for a ride anywhere in the city. Hard negotiation will be necessary to accomplish this.
Taxis are supposed to be metered. The drivers will often say their meter is broken, or cover it. Insist they use their meter, or call Radio Meter Taxi (+973 17 682999) or Speedy Cab for a fair honest price.
There are also public buses that run to many parts of the island. Bus fares are low, but understanding the system can be very confusing for visitors, due to difficulties in obtaining bus schedules and maps.
The Bahraini dinar is pegged at one to ten with the Saudi Riyal to facilitate tourism. Both nation's bank-notes are accepted in Bahrain. Since the Riyal is pegged to the US$, we can say the dinar is also linked to the greenback.
One dinar is equal to ten Saudi Riyals or to US$2.67. US$1 is equal to 0.375 Bahraini dinars.
A visit to the local suk (sook) is a must. There you can negotiate the price on “rolexes”, jewelry, and many other gifts. The suk is also home to many excellent tailors. If you're there for long enough (say a week) then you can take a favourite clothing item in and they will "clone" it precisely in any material you select from the huge range available.
Where food is concerned, a full spectrum of price ranges and cuisines can be found in Bahrain.
For food in the lower price range, the best places to go are the areas around Exhibition Avenue and Adlyia, as well as parts of Manama and the Souq. It should be noted that in Bahrain, low-prices attached to food do not necessarily denote quality or taste, as some of the tastiest meals on the island can be had for under a dinar. Of special note are "Habara Snacks & Fish," "Century Restaurant," and the somewhat pricier "Al-Abraaj." American fast food franchises such as Burger King and McDonalds are ubiquitous as well.
Western (mostly American) style-foods and franchises can be found around the malls and in the city center, offering food for upper mid-range prices. Restaurants carrying international foods can be found in these areas as well.
Higher priced food can end up running quite a bill in Bahrain, though the taste is very often worth it. Most upscale hotels have several restaurants, allowing you to sample things from all over the world. Of special mention are: "Lanterns", an Indian restaurant with great food and lovely decor next to Burgerland Roundabout in Budaiya. "Zahle", a tasty Lebanese place with daily buffets and live entertainment. And "Trader Vic's", a polynesian dining/drinking experience, located on the grounds of the Ritz Carlton
Although Bahrain – which has relatively liberal laws regarding alcohol – has long been popular with tourists from Saudi Arabia and other nearby "dry" countries, in May 2007 the government imposed restrictions that limit sales to bars in five-star hotels, and banned alcohol in restaurants near mosques, schools, or residential areas. It's unclear how strongly this will be enforced.
Mostly public schools, but enough private schools to serve majority of overseas. Modern Knowledge School (MKS), Bahrain School, St Christopher's School (http://www.st-chris.net/) educates to British GCSE and A-level qualifications and has a very diverse base, with students from many ethnic backgrounds, although most British expats working in Bahrain send their children there. There is also a school mostly frequented by the children of Indian expats.
Also many private universities and Bahrain University located in Sukheer next to Bahrain International Circuit.
Bahrain has a number of expatriates (they make up almost 30% of the population). The predominant industry is the financial sector where over 400 banks are licensed, although only about 30 can accept deposits from retail customers- the rest are basically investment houses. The construction industry is also finding takers in Bahrain. Large building complexes(commercial and residential) are coming up.
For an expat, life is easy. By law, a company must provide:- a) House or housing allowance b) Medical insurance c) Free flights home every year d) A additive salary of a minimum of 15 days for every year worked (there are slabs according to the number of years worked) e) No personal income or sales tax in Bahrain
At present, there is a 1% charge on salary (gosi tax) which goes to subsidize the unemployed, but a lot of employers are taking the bonus of paying it themselves instead of deducting it from the salary.
Most executive positions would have their children's education sponsored.
Working hours differ across different industries. Government offices work from 7:30 to 2:00; banks from 7:00 to 3:00.
Large demonstrations can occur at any time, can sometimes become violent but are typically NOT anti-western. Avoid areas where crowds of personnel appear to be assembling.
Drink plenty of water. April through November can be very hot (up to 45 ºC) and humid. It is important to stay hydrated, especially if you are outdoors during the day. Bottled water is sold practically everywhere in the city from "Cold Stores" and small restaurants at very reasonable prices. In the souk, walking vendors offer small chilled bottles but you may end up paying more than the bottle is really worth. If you are living in Bahrain for an extended period of time, you can set up an arrangement for a neighborhood Cold Store to delliver bottled water to your flat, or sign up for water delivery through several companies on the island.
Bahrain is a fairly gracious host nation but it is imperative to demonstrate respect and courtesy in reference to their particular cultural practices and religion at all times. When out in places where local Arabs can be found it is advisable to wear long trousers, not shorts, even when it is hot out, and women should wear long sleeves. However, in beach clubs and hotels, swimsuits, bikinis and shorts are okay to wear. Do not show signs of affection to members of the opposite sex in public or risk being mistaken as one with very loose morals and you will be treated accordingly. People of the opposite sex HAVE been arrested for lip kissing in public and it is just not socially accepted. Men will frequently be seen hugging and kissing other men in public and women may hold hands with other women. This does NOT imply that they are homosexual in the Arab world, it is simply their custom. Always avoid any confrontation and never become involved in an argument. In general it is desirable to understand and respect the culture in which you live or enjoy your vacation.