Kuwait City, Salmiya, Jahra and Wafrah are the main destinations in Kuwait.
Wafrah and chalets are common getaways for Kuwaitis and residents. Wafrah (113km away from Kuwait City) is basically farmland. Chalets are beach houses in Khaitan and Bnaider, where Kuwaitis enjoy beach culture, yachts and participate in water sport activities like scuba-diving. Most Kuwaitis own chalets although some chalets can be rented. Failaka Island has a diverse climate from the rest of Kuwait. Before the war, Az-Zawr, the town on the island was heavily inhabited but after the war the town was destroyed and very few people live here. There is a heritage hotel here now. Ferries can be taken from Kuwait City and Salmiya.
Kuwaiti people originate from Arabia, Iran and Iraq, although a small minority of Kuwaitis trace their origins back to Africa and India.
By 1752, the long term residents of Kuwait called for the establishment of a stable government. Kuwait soon rapidly became the principal centre of commerce in the region, attracts merchants. Kuwait was established as a harbour city for merchants.
Mubarak I signed an agreement with the British making Kuwait a British Protectorate in 1899. The British were in Kuwait for quite a while by then, and as early as the 1770's Abdullah I had a contract with the British to deliver mail for them up to Aleppo in Syria. The agreement gave the British control of the Kuwaiti foreign policy in exchange for military protection.
In 1938, oil was first struck at the Burgan oil field in Kuwait, and by 1946, they started exporting it.
In 1961, Kuwait nullified the treaty of 1899, and became an independent nation.
The Kuwait Governorate (Arabic: محافظة الكويت) was the 19th governorate of Iraq established in the aftermath of the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq on 2 August 1990. It was preceded by the brief puppet state of the Republic of Kuwait. Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a US-led UN coalition began a ground assault on 23 Feb 1991 that completely liberated Kuwait in four days; 26 February is celebrated as Liberation Day. Kuwait spent more than USD5 billion to repair oil infrastructure damaged during 1990-91.
The whole of Kuwait is a dry desert with intensely hot summers and chilly and windy winters;
Flat to slightly undulating desert plain. Highest point is 306m.
Citizens of the European Union, Andorra, Australia, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Georgia, Hong Kong, Iceland, Japan, Laos, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Monaco, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Swaziland, Switzerland, Turkey, United States, Vatican City and Vietnam may obtain a visa valid for 3 months on arrival to Kuwait if arriving by air. Cost is 3KWD, payable by purchasing stamps at the airport, but fee is waived for certain countries as of August 2015.
All other nationals need advance visas, which require an invitation from a sponsor in Kuwait. Kuwait Airways offices and major hotels can provide invitations, but the process can take up to a week and may require a fee. The Embassy of Kuwait in Japan  has some information.
Alcohol is illegal and may not be imported into the country.
The national airline, Kuwait Airways, serves Frankfurt, Geneva, Rome, Kuala Lumpur, London, New York and Paris as well as several other European, Asian, African and Middle Eastern destinations, but is best avoided: a flag carrier with a poor reputation, its planes are old, delays are frequent, and customer service is weak. During Ramadan, check-in meant to open during Iftar prayers will not open, and employees will not be at the check-in counter. Even if the ticket says it is open, check-in will open only 1 hour before departure. Because of this, flights become delayed, and return flights will be even more delayed. In 2005 the Kuwaiti government supported two new airlines as part of its liberalisation programme: premium airline Wataniya Airways, which ceased operations without notice in March 2011, stranding many customers around the world, and semi-low-cost carrier Jazeera Airways, which provides a popular alternative for regional flights.
International airlines serving Kuwait include British Airways from London, United Airlines from Washington, D.C., Lufthansa from Frankfurt, KLM from Amsterdam, Singapore Airlines from Singapore, Thai Air from Bangkok and Turkish Airlines from Istanbul, plus connections through other large Gulf hubs (Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi, etc) are accessible through Emirates Airlines, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airlines, Gulf Air and many other airlines, There are also some airlines that operate seasonal flights to Kuwait, including Malaysia Airlines, Ukraine International Airlines, Bulgaria Air and Czech Airlines.
If you need a visa on arrival at the airport, do not head down to Arrivals, instead look for the "Visa Issuing" desks opposite the Dasman Lounge. Join the mob (no queuing is possible) to have your passport copied and pick up a queue ticket, fill out a visa entry form, and wait for your number to be called. (Be careful, you will only have 2 or 3 seconds to respond before you are skipped.) Payment is accepted only in Kuwaiti dinar; there are a number of bureau de change in the arrivals area, where the best rates appear to be for US dollars, Australian dollars and Euros. You'll also get an A4-sized sheet entirely in Arabic, which you must keep -- this is your visa! You can now proceed straight through immigration without queuing, just show your visa form at any desk and they'll let you through. Generally, you can pass through the open gate for flight crew and show your visa to the guard just past passport control.
Airport taxis can be found outside arrivals, with the fare to most points in the city being KWD5. Most hotels can arrange a transfer for the same price if not free of charge, which is probably a safer and more comfortable option. When in operation, you can also use the "limousine" service which is located to the right of the outside exit for KWD6. These generally have a reputation as having much safer drivers than the airport taxis (driven by Kuwaiti nationals who usually do not observe posted speed limits and will even drive on the verge/shoulder at 140km/h). It is illegal for a regular taxi to pick up arrivals passengers at the airport so most will refuse to do so because of the fear of hefty fines and possible imprisonment or deportation.
The legal driving age in Kuwait is 18.
Kuwait shares its borders with only 2 nations - Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The political situation in Iraq is volatile currently, so it's advisable not to see that route. One can take King Fahad Bin Abdul Road (40) from Saudi to reach Kuwait.
There are 3 bus lines in Kuwait: KPTC, City Bus, and KGL. KGL is the only one of the three that provides routes to other GCC countries, but visas will probably be an issue for non-GCC citizens. There are other long-distance bus services to Dammam and other points in Saudi, but you will of course need to have a valid Saudi visa.
Scheduled ferries to and from Iran are handled by Kuwait-Iran Shipping Company, phone +965 2410498, fax +965 2429508. The ferries go three times a week from Ash Shuwayk in Kuwait to Bushehr in Iran. One-way tickets from KD37.
Ports and harbours:
Kuwait has a good road system. All signs are in English and Arabic. The major north-south roads are effectively freeways numbered Expressway 30, 40, etc. These are traversed by increasingly widely spaced ring roads named First, Second, etc, making navigation fairly easy.
Public Transport: Kuwait's public transport is adequate with three companies (KPTC, City Bus and KGL) running dozens of routes in every major city. Waiting times for buses range from one minute for most frequent routes to fifteen minutes for less used routes. All buses are equipped with air-conditioners and usually one can find a seat without much trouble. Although, during peak hours (7-9AM, 2-4PM, 8-9PM) most routes are packed and public transport should be avoided for those seeking comfortable travelling. It must also be noted that although areas with expatriates majority are covered with many routes, Kuwaiti residence areas are scarcely connected with public transport buses and are reachable mostly by taxis only.
Taxi: These are recognisable by orange licence plates and may be hired by the day, in which case fares should be agreed beforehand. Although most taxis have meters these are rarely used and one needs to negotiate a fare beforehand. Share-taxis are also available. Hailing taxis from the road is the most practical approach. However some sources have reported it was not advisable, particularly for females, and they recommend that taxis are booked in advance by telephone from a reputable taxi company. The cream coloured taxis are the cheapest, but also likely to be poorly maintained and possibly dangerously so, considering the general speed and size of the rest of the vehicles on Kuwaiti roads. Orange coloured taxis which used to be the most common type of taxis in till the 1970's, have completely disappeared from roads.
A standard rate is applicable in most taxis, but those at hotel ranks are more expensive. Naive westerners routinely pay 2 to 5 times more than the standard rates which are typically KWD0.500 (500 fils) for up to a 5 minute ride plus about 100 fils (KWD0.100) per minute thereafter. The only exception being airport departures which are approximately KWD3. Tipping is not expected, however you should negotiate fares before boarding the taxi. It is customary to collect all baggage and exit the taxi before offering payment to avoid conflicts or loss of personal property should a taxi driver demand more than the agreed price after arriving at the destination. This way, the passenger can drop the money in the seat and walk away if necessary.
Car hire: Self-drive is available. If you produce an International Driving Permit, the rental company will, at the customer's expense, be able to arrange the statutory temporary insurance, which is drawn on the driver's visa. If you arrive at Kuwait International Airport, you will find the car hiring companies located at your left after you exit from the baggage claiming area. You can find international companies such as Avis and Budget among others.
However, it should be noted that driving in Kuwait, especially when new to driving in the country, can be extremely chaotic and frightening. Turn signals and lane divisions are effectively optional, speeding and aggressive driving is commonplace, and there is little active enforcement of traffic laws. Recently a law was passed to disallow the use of cell phones while driving (including but not limited to voice calls and text messaging or SMS.) If driving, ensure you keep out of the left hand emergency lane (often used as a fast lane) unless you are very relaxed about large 4-wheel drive vehicles tailgating you.
If involved in a car accident, do not attempt to move your car until police arrive and have made a report or you will be arrested.
Arabic is the official language. In schools, the classical version of Arabic is taught, but the Kuwaiti dialect in everyday conversation. English is widely used and spoken and is taught at all of the schools and universities in Kuwait. All traffic signs in Kuwait are bilingual (English and Arabic). English is taught as a second language in schools in Kuwait from the first grade. Many Kuwaitis speak English fluently, as there are numerous private English and American schools and universities, where all subjects are taught in English, and Arabic is taken only as a subject.
See Kuwait City for listings of attractions in the city.
Note there has been a lot of tank graveyard/highway of death pictures floating around the internet recently, but those pictures are from 2006 and earlier and the place is now cleaned up. It is not possible to see the tank graveyard anymore.
If on a business trip, there are some sites worth seeing:
See Kuwait City for more activities in the city.
The national currency is the Kuwaiti dinar symbolised as KWD placed before the amount with no intervening space.
The dinar is divided into 1000 fils. Notes are available in denominations of KWD20, 10, 5, 1, ½ and ¼, while 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 fils coins are also available. While notes have Latin numerals on one side, the coins are entirely in Arabic.
Notes issued before 1994, many of which were stolen during the Iraqi occupation, are not considered legal tender. You're unlikely to see these in Kuwait (the designs are clearly different), but unscrupulous dealers elsewhere have been known to try to pass them off. See the Central Bank of Kuwait for pictures.
Exchanging money can be difficult, and exchanging travellers cheques even more so. Stick to ATMs, which are ubiquitous and work fine. Higher-end establishments accept credit cards. Many money changers can be found in the Safat market, who offer very competitive rates.
New notes have been issued on 29 June 2014. You can not deposit these notes in ATMs, and if you want to deposit them, it can only be done in banks.
Although Kuwait is a tax haven 0% VAT and 0% income tax It would be hard to manage on under USD100 per day, and you can very easily spend USD200 just on an ordinary hotel room.
Tipping is generally not necessary. A 12% service charge is tacked onto your bill in expensive hotels and restaurants, but if you want some of the money to actually go to the staff, leave a little extra.
Prices on common expenses:
Petrol prices are one of the cheapest in the world and most of the time are cheaper than water, literally!
Kuwait is a tax free country. Custom-made items, imported items, and shipping out of the country can be expensive, so shop wisely.
There is a huge array of restaurants in Kuwait. Because the nightlife does not involve drinking, people go out to restaurants and malls. Almost every cuisine is available in high-end restaurants. Kuwait is known for its culinary specialties and catering services. Restaurants can be found in food courts in malls, and alternatively many international restaurants are grouped together in certain areas in Kuwait, namely: Behind the Roman Catholic Church in Kuwait City Outside the Movenpick Resort in Salmiya In the Marina Crescent Just ask any local where the "Restaurants Road" is and they will guide you to a road in Salmiya packed end-to-end with local restaurants serving a wide array of specialty sandwiches, juices and snacks. There are few restaurants that serve traditional Kuwaiti food. Al-Marsa restaurant in Le Meridien Hotel (Bneid Al Gar location) has some traditional Kuwaiti seafood but with a relatively high price tag. A better option is the quaint Shati Alwatia restaurant at the Behbehani Villa compound in the Qibla area of Kuwait City (behind the Mosques)and another Kuwaiti restaurant is Ferij Suwailih in salmiya area.
Tap water is drinkable, although most of it is desalinated. Bottled water is available everywhere for a few hundred fils. Alcohol is illegal in Kuwait: it may not be imported, manufactured or served.
Hotels in Kuwait are expensive, but major Western chains are well represented. See Kuwait City for hotel listings. Light sleepers should bring ear plugs as public announced prayers are broadcast at 04:30, again at 05:00 and several times during the day.
Chalets and other weekend accommodation can be rented in many places along the southern part of the coast.
There are many full service office providers available to businesses within Kuwait such as IO Centers . Most of the large companies have high quality office facilities however expect to see a great portion of Kuwaiti businesses operating out of small 3 to 4 people offices. These businesses are normally owned by a Kuwaiti and staffed by Middle Eastern or Asian staff and don't normally hire nationals of western descent. If you plan to work in Kuwait be sure to check the academic requirements of desired positions as in most cases the Kuwaiti government insists on degrees from accredited universities.
Expect to be paid anywhere from KWD250-600 for average middle range positions to KWD1000-1500 for higher positions such as teaching or consulting. Kuwait is heavily saturated with IT workers (mostly from India) and so wages in the IT industry are very low. If you are looking at accepting a job offer before coming to Kuwait be sure to check carefully how much you will be paid and if your employer will assist you with accommodation. It is commonplace for workers of Asian nationality to fall victim to promises of good pay and provision of accommodation only to find themselves having their passport confiscated and falling under the control of their sponsor. Be sure to check the reputation and credibility of any potential employer before accepting a position.
Any foreign national wishing to work in Kuwait MUST have a working visa under a Kuwaiti sponsor. There is little provision for freelance work and foreign nationals found working without a working visa will be promptly apprehended and asked to leave resulting in a possible ban from returning. Freelance work(such as private tuition)is possible if you have acquaintance with an independent Kuwaiti sponsor which is unlikely if you are new to Kuwait.
The crime threat in Kuwait is assessed as low. Beware of young Arabs pretending to be the police. They often ask for documents like passports or civil IDs, though they usually aim for resident Asians especially Asian woman. Homosexual sexual intercourse is prohibited and may lead to jail, cross dressing is illegal since 2010. Heterosexual intercourse outside marriage is also illegal and can be lead to a 6 months to 5 years(if the woman is above 21).
Kuwait adopts a live-and-let-live policy for clothing, and you'll see a wide range of styles: women wear anything ranging from daring designer fashions like tank tops and shorts to abayas, while men can be seen both in T-shirts and shorts or the traditional dazzling white dishdashah. Bikinis are fine at the hotel pool and beach resorts, but discouraged in public beaches.
Although Kuwait is a relatively democratic country with one of the best freedom of speech laws in the Middle East, the topic of the Emir is beyond the red line. It is advised not to talk about full democracy which indirectly means overthrowing the ruling family of Al-Sabah.
Alcohol is illegal in Kuwait and possessing or making alcohol for own use will result in a fine and if done in numerous times, you may go to jail.
Like in all Gulf countries, do not eat in public during the month of Ramadan, you may be fined or imprisoned for a month. The fine is KWD100 ($350).
Public health is entirely supported by the government at local clinics and hospitals, with a KWD5(c. USD17.88) fee paid by foreigners visiting Kuwait and KWD1 (c. USD3.57) for expats with a resident visa, or a visitor's visa. Private non-governmental clinics are available as well, but charge much more at KWD30 (c. USD$107.31) and upwards. You will be entitled to free treatment in case of an accident or an emergency. In case of an emergency, call 112.
The country code for Kuwait is 965. Local phone numbers are 8 digits long. The numbering system is as follows: Numbers starting with 2 are landline telephones. Numbers starting with 5 are mobile telephones for the VIVA Mobile Operator. Numbers starting with 6 are mobile telephones for the OOREDOO (previously Wataniya) Mobile Operator. Numbers starting with 9 are mobile telephones for the ZAIN Mobile Operator. Numbers starting with 1 are service numbers. To dial outside the country from Kuwait, prefix the country code with 00. E.g a US number would be dialled as 00-1-555-555-5555.
Kuwait uses GSM/3G/3.5G/4G/LTE and mobile phones are widely available. Major operators include Zain, Ooredoo, and Viva. As roaming charges can be very steep, it makes sense to get a local SIM card: prepaid starter kits are available for around KWD2(c. USD7.00), including at least KWD 5 worth of call time. Though VOIP, Skype, Hangouts etc are not legal in the strictest sense, usage of the same is generally permitted.
Internet kiosks are everywhere. The biggest ISPs in Kuwait are QualityNet and KEMS. High speed internet is available via DSL subscription (upto 48Mbps) 2mbps internet connection is free in Kuwait, anyone can sign up for it. Internet costs about KWD50 (c. USD176) for a year at 4mbps. This is in addition to the money you must pay to the MoC for a telephone landline.
Another recommendation is to try a relatively new service "Mada". This service is Wimax, up to 10mbps download speed, and no capping. the cost is KWD40 (c. USD140) for the main router and KWD20 (c. USD70) per month after the first 3 month period.
Calls made from landlines to any other phone is free. Kuwait has high international call rates. Although calling overseas is also very cheap if you use the many booths that advertise 'Net2Phone' service, which is illegal. Basically it is calling over the Internet. For home usage, Phoneserve cards are available (mostly in Hawally) that can be used for cheap calls worldwide. Users with credit cards use Skype and Yahoo Voice for communication as well, but Skype website was banned now.
Some traditional corner-shops commonly referred to as "Bakalat" sell an international calling card called Big Boss which offers good rates to Europe but only when calling landlines. For the rest of continents the rates are decent even when calling mobile phones.