Country: Bahrain
Currency: Dinar (BHD)
Peak Season: November-February
Shoulder Season: October, April
Median Temperature: 26.40 C / 79.52 F
Main Languages: Arabic, English
Primary Modes of Transportation: Bus, taxi, boat
Recommended Duration of Stay: 2 days
Recommended Pocket Money: $150.00/day
Tourist Passes: n/a
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Bahrain is a land of excesses – in a very good way. If you're looking to re-sell some goods, explore cultural destinations, or just tour local foods, Bahrain, being the small island it is, definitely fits the bill for a short stay with an opening to visit other nearby destinations. Bahrain's souqs are a good place to buy gold (its plentiful here, believe us) and other artisan items for cheap. Despite being a predominantly Muslim country, Bahrain goes out of its way to introduce fun to its tourists. There has been a surge in bars, cafes, and leisure points to attract more tourists. This, along with preponderance of high-rise structures, has made Bahrain a key player in the league of top tourist destinations along the Persian Gulf, along with Kuwait and Qatar.

Bahrain is a maverick archipelago of 33 islands located in the western coast of the Persian Gulf. Making the country interesting is how it easily deviates from the usual austerity and conservative values held by nearby Islamic nations. Foreigners make up nearly half of the population of Bahrain, further bolstering the country’s cultural diversity and diplomatic status. Additionally, the country does not impose any form of income tax, making it a safe haven for businesses and locals alike. The country is also known for its strong religious tolerance, with little to no hostility teeming between different faiths. However – though a bit far from the normative Islamic spectrum – Bahrain still enforces Islamic laws to prevent any major disparities between it and Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and with the rest of the countries lying on the Persian Gulf coastline. These, and a slew of other idiosyncrasies, make Bahrain an interesting place to visit.

Bahrain has been the speculative subject of many positive forecasts based on its GNP and GDP, having grown rapidly in the past five years. The country’s main source of revenue had always been petroleum-based products since 1932, catalyzing the booming investor interest we see today. Other major industries include: Islamic and offshore banking, aluminum refining, metalworks, and of course its tourism industry (garnering over two million foreign visits per year). The country opens its arms to immigrant laborers and expatriates, deriving most of its skilled labor from Middle Eastern and Asian immigrants. Both the country’s communications and transport sectors greatly benefit from these multinational operations and its recent free trade alliance with the United States.

Packing List

  • Decent and fashionable clothing (that conform to societal standards), sunglasses, hats and sturdy walking shoes; bring smart dresses for evenings and bathing suits for waterparks
  • Sunscreen with the highest SPF levels (it’s actually safe) if you’re not used to scorching heat and humidity; sleeves and collars will do fine if you don’t want to have uneven skin tone
  • Essential medication and toiletries; international brands (electronics included) are widely available in Bahrain due to the expatriate population at somewhat lower costs
  • Shopping bags and extra luggage for store and souk purchases; you’d also want to take some references of authentic items and guidebooks due to the proliferation of phony merchandise
  • A decent camera with good storage; although we’d recommend to buy the batteries here, since after all, Bahrain is an electronics haven—or just buy the camera itself here if packing light

Things to Do

  • Visiting the Arad Fort, the island’s compact line of defense against invaders; the 16th century age mini-fort’s strategic location and its proven effectiveness has made it a cultural landmark of the city
  • Viewing the A'Ali Burial Mounds, which date back three millennia; the unsuspecting tourist would mistake the mounds for massive heaps of dirt, but are actually fortified by aged minerals
  • Plunging in rides at the Lost Paradise of Dilmun water park in Manama; a venture of Al Areen Holdings, it cost $50 million, and it is the first complete water park in the Middle East
  • Shopping for jewelry, textiles electronics and handmade craft at the Bab el-Bahrain Souk; the merchants will actually be insulted if you don’t haggle, since it keeps their work day lively
  • Catching a Formula One race during the Bahrain Grand Prix; the first race (also the first one in the Middle East) was held in 2004 and has drawn Bahrain international acclaim ever since

DON'T

  • Discuss politics and religion with the locals, as there have been recent uprisings spurring from political and racial issues; steer clear of hostile areas and avoid talking to dubious people
  • Wear revealing clothing or otherwise prohibited attire into religious and select historical venues; make sure your dress is clean and does not reek of body odor, as those are signs of respect
  • Expect first-time acquaintances to speak directly to you; it is common to see a Bahraini using an accomplice to relay information or communicate with tourists, so make a good impression
  • Attempt to smuggle or be an accessory to the distribution and usage of illegal drugs; Bahrain is one of the many Gulf countries that impose either life imprisonment or death penalty
  • Leave your precious belongings inside your hotel room without locking the door; although crime is relatively low here, there have been sightings of pickpockets and robbers at crowded souks