Top events in Kuwait

October
01

Races start around 0700 or 0800 at Al-Atraf Camel Racing Club on a track 7km west of Al-Jahra. The camel racing season is between October and...

February
01

Month-long cultural festival celebrating the spring and marked with shopping extravaganzas.

February
25

National Day marks the foundation of Kuwait as a country in 1961. This country-wide celebration includes public meetings, a firework display and...

Kuwait Towers
Pin This
Open Media Gallery

Kuwait Towers

© Creative Commons / Snap®

Kuwait Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

17,818 sq km (6,880 sq miles).

Population

2.8 million (2015).

Population density

156.5 per sq km.

Capital

Kuwait City.

Government

Constitutional emirate.

Head of state

Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah since 2006.

Head of government

Prime Minister Jaber al-Mubarak al-Hamad al-Sabah since 2011.

Electricity

240 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins and British-style plugs with three square pins are both used.

In Kuwait you'll find an intriguing mix of Western liberalism and traditional Islamic culture. The capital, Kuwait City, is a bustling metropolis of high-rise buildings and luxury hotels, while the Gulf country is also home to spectacular mosques and palaces. Religion is an integral part of daily life here.

This juxtaposition perhaps stems from Kuwait's marrying of Islamism with oil wealth, which for decades has earned it the attention of Western powers. Upon independence from Britain in 1961, Sheikh Abdullah assumed head of state, adopting the title of emir. The large revenues from oil production allowed independent Kuwait to build up its economic infrastructure and institute educational and social welfare programmes.

In the early 1990s, the emir established a National Assembly (Majlis), which placed limits on the power of the ruling family. Since then, the national assembly has clashed several times with the emir and the cabinet (which is still dominated by the al-Sabah family) over misuse of state funds and poor management of the all-important oil industry. Underlying these disputes is the growing impression that the ageing al-Sabah clan is no longer capable of running the country. However, they continue to dominate Kuwaiti policies.

Surrounded by three major Middle Eastern powers, Kuwait became the target of Iraqi territorial claims, leading to Saddam Hussein's invasion of the country in 1990. The Kuwaitis later recovered their country by virtue of a US-led, UN-backed multinational military force.

After a period of euphoria, the Kuwaitis had to address a number of difficult questions; the future security of the country was dealt with by the signing of defence and security pacts with the USA, the UK and Kuwait's Gulf allies. More recently, Kuwait was one of the first countries to join Operation Iraqi Freedom following the US-led war against Iraq, and provided aid and support during Iraq's (ongoing) process of reconstruction.

Beyond the geopolitical dimension, Kuwait is a fascinating country with much elaborate architecture and a superb culinary tradition. Its inhabitants are a warm, welcoming bunch, while the fact that Kuwait is a bit less glitzy than other oil-rich Gulf countries means that it can feel like a haven of tradition Arab culture.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 28 July 2016

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Crime

Violent crime against foreigners is rare. However, you should take care if you intend to travel in conservative areas like Jahra, where there have been incidents involving firearms, and Jleeb As Shuyoukh where there have been riots by migrant workers protesting about their conditions.

Local travel

You should only use authorised road border crossing points into Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Any other unauthorised movement near borders is illegal and dangerous. Armed guards patrol border areas. If you plan to cross the border from Kuwait into Iraq, make sure you have the correct paperwork. See the Iraqi Embassy to Kuwait website for more information

Landmines and other hazardous ordnance are still present in Kuwait. You should avoid off-road driving. If you do travel off-road, restrict your movements to clearly identifiable tracks, and take great care even if an area has been officially cleared. Don’t pick up any strange metal, plastic or other objects lying around or hunt for war memorabilia.  

Road travel

If you have a visit visa you can drive in Kuwait using an international driving permit or a valid UK licence. Before driving you must obtain insurance in Kuwait. If you’re hiring a car, you can usually get insurance through your car hire company. If you’re planning to drive a car belonging to a relative or friend then you’re responsible for obtaining insurance. The insurance document must be kept with you at all times while driving.

If you’re applying to live in Kuwait, you won’t be able to drive unless you have a Kuwaiti driving licence. In this case, you should apply for a Kuwaiti driving licence when you receive your residency permit. You should confirm eligibility requirements for a Kuwaiti driving licence with the nearest Kuwaiti Embassy before you arrive

Driving is hazardous. Many drivers pay little attention to other road users; drive in excess of speed limits, switch lanes without warning, ignore traffic lights and use mobile phones while driving. If you have an accident you must stay with the vehicle and not attempt to move it. Call the police on 112. It is an offence to leave the scene of an accident before the police arrive.

Avoid hailing a taxi from the road, particularly if you are female. There have been a few incidents of passengers being harassed. Book a taxi in advance by telephone from a known and reputable taxi company.

Sea travel

Many areas of the Gulf are highly sensitive, including near maritime boundaries and the islands of Bubiyan and Warbah in the northern Gulf and Abu Musa, and the Tunbs in the southern Gulf. The area in the northern Gulf, between Iran, Iraq and Kuwait has not been demarcated and vessels entering these areas have been detained and inspected. There have been occasional arrests. Make careful enquiries before entering these waters or visiting ports.

You should also remain alert to the effect any regional tensions may have on your route. Vessels operating in the Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Bab El Mandeb regions may be under an increased risk of maritime attack.

Take care when travelling by Dhow, as the safety of these vessels may not be up to UK standards. Make sure life jackets are available.

Political situation

Demonstrations take place occasionally in Kuwait and are normally peaceful. Protests are rare, the most recent took place in early 2014 and there were reports that tear gas and sound grenades were used to disperse demonstrators. Rioting is uncommon. The most recent small scale localised rioting was in the Sabah Al-Nasser, Riggae and Subahiya areas between 3 and 6 July 2014. You should maintain a high level of security awareness and avoid all demonstrations.

Newsletter