Bahrain travel guide
Bahrain means 'Two Seas', a fitting name for an archipelago of 33 islands in the Gulf, which defines itself in relation to the water that surrounds its shallow shores.
Those shallows once harboured a precious trade in pearls, the most important in the world until the 19th century. Now the shoreline is increasingly dominated by ambitious developments, such as the twin 50-floor towers of Bahrain's World Trade Centre and the 2,787,000 sq m (30,000,000 sq ft) horseshoe of man-made islands at the southern tip of the country.
To those not in the know, Bahrain can seem a formidable place in the heart of the Gulf. But despite being situated just off Saudi Arabia's east coast, it is for the most part a welcoming, open country. Manama is an intriguing capital city, if not quite so glamorous is some of the region's other glittering metropolises. You'll find a decent culinary and artistic circuit, partly buoyed by westerners living here. Expect plenty of craft markets and pottery workshops.
For history buffs, Bahrain is the location of ancient Dilmun, home to what was an important semitic civilisation in the Bronze Age; Bahrain was later conquered by Babylonians and Persians. There are a number of ruins, burial mounds and forts to explore.
In the middle of Bahrain, not far from where the Formula 1 racetrack now draws the crowds, is the point where in 1932 the Arab world first struck gold – black gold, that is – and oil has been the mainstay of the country ever since. As visitors travel the modest length of Bahrain, they will run into many reminders of this momentous discovery, not least in the relaxed affluence of Bahrain's multicultural residents. Indeed, there are many signs of Arabian style and influence, along with more cosmopolitan vibes.
Since 2011, when the Arab Spring swept across the region, Bahrain's fate has been an uncertain one. The initial wave of protests by the largely Shia population against the Sunni rulers were put down with the help of Saudi Arabia, but demonstrations and unrest persist. Check the current situation before travelling.
765 sq km (295 sq miles).
1,492,584 (August 2017)
1,867 per sq km
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa since 1999.
Prime Minister Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa since 2020.
Before you travel, check the ‘Entry requirements’ section for Bahrain’s current entry restrictions and requirements. These may change with little warning. Monitor this advice for the latest updates and stay in contact with your travel provider.
If you plan to pass through another country to return to the UK, check the travel advice for the country you’re transiting.
It is more important than ever to get travel insurance and check it provides sufficient cover. See the FCDO’s guidance on foreign travel insurance.
Around 4,000 British nationals live in Bahrain, and thousands more visit each year. Most visits are trouble free.
You should be alert to local and regional developments. Localised protests can take place and generally there is a visible security presence. You should be vigilant, follow the advice of the local authorities, and avoid large crowds and demonstrations. If you encounter civil disturbance, leave the area immediately. Travel around Bahrain may be affected at such times. See Demonstrations
By law, all residents and visitors must carry photographic ID. Illegal drugs are strictly forbidden, even a residual amount. See Local laws and customs
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Bahrain. See Terrorism
You must have legal status in Bahrain and not be subject to a Travel Ban when you depart. See Exit requirements
Bahraini law does not criminalise same sex-activity between consenting adults who are at least 21 years of age, although sodomy is illegal.
Offensive language, spitting and aggressive behaviour (including ‘road rage’ hand gestures) are viewed as seriously offensive and can result in imprisonment and deportation. See Local Laws and customs
You can contact the emergency services by calling 999.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Coronavirus health information
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 on the Bahrain Ministry of Health Website
Commercial flights operate to and from Bahrain. Check with your travel company for the latest information.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Bahrain, including exemptions and further details.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Travel in Bahrain
Bahrain International Airport is open, including for transit and transfer passengers. Details are set out on the Entry requirements page.
The King Fahd Causeway is open for travel between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Since 20 February 2022 there has been no PCR testing nor quarantine requirements for any arrivals regardless of their vaccination status, including those arriving via the Causeway.
For travel from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, check the latest information on the Saudi Arabia Travel Advice page.
Healthcare in Bahrain
If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should call the local hotline on +973 80008100 and follow the authorities’ advice. Hotline is available from 0800 – 1400 local time daily. For general COVID-19 enquires within Bahrain, please contact the Ministry of Health or on email at email@example.com.
For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.
Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health
View Health for further details on healthcare in Bahrain.
See also the guidance on healthcare if you are waiting to return to the UK.
For information on financial support whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
Military activity in the Red Sea area
Military activity is currently underway in response to attempts by Houthi militants to prevent movement of international shipping in the Red Sea. While the area of activity is limited to the Red Sea and Yemen, there is a possibility that Travel Advice for nearby countries could change at short notice. You should continue to monitor Travel Advice and follow any relevant instructions from local authorities.
Demonstrations and protests can take place occasionally. This may include attempts to disrupt traffic, disturbances in villages and near economic centres. These occasionally result in localised clashes between government security forces and protesters. Anniversaries of significant events in Bahrain sometimes carry an increased risk of protests, which can start with little warning. Locations where such incidents have taken place in the past include Sitra, Bani Jamra, Karbabad, Saar, Karzakan, the Budaiya Highway and surrounding villages.
You should remain vigilant, follow the advice of the local authorities and be aware of your surroundings wherever you are on the island.
Violent protests pose a risk to those who might inadvertently find themselves near to an active demonstration.
If you encounter a large public gathering or demonstration, leave the area immediately. If you see any suspect item, don’t approach or touch it. Move away and call the police on 999 or the Police Hotline 8000 8008.
Travel on the main routes during daylight hours is generally orderly. There are some police checkpoints.
During demonstrations, roads can become blocked, resulting in diversions. These may re-route you to areas with which you are unfamiliar. You should familiarise yourself with alternative routes.
Developments in the wider region continue to have an impact on local public opinion. You should be aware of local sensitivities on these issues. Follow news reports and be alert to local and regional developments, which may trigger public disturbances.
The Ministry of Interior has issued a reminder that all residents and visitors must carry photographic ID. Under Bahraini law, it’s an offence not to be able to present photographic ID if asked to do so by a member of the Bahraini authorities, and you may be subject to a fine of up to 300BHD.
Around 4,000 British nationals live in Bahrain, and thousands more visit each year. Most visits are trouble free. Crime is generally uncommon in most areas, but nevertheless visitors should take due care and attention, including using reputable taxi companies.
You can drive in Bahrain with a valid UK driving licence for up to 3 months. If you’re staying longer, you will need to get either a local licence or an International Driving Permit (IDP). If you are using an IDP, please ensure that you visit the Traffic Authority upon arrival to have it certified.
As of 28 March 2019, the IDP you will need in Bahrain is a 1968 International Driving Permit (IDP). 1926 IDPs previously issued by the UK may no longer be accepted for use in Bahrain after this date. From 1 February 2019, you can only get IDPs over the counter from 2,500 UK Post Offices. You will not be able to buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.
Bahrain operates a zero tolerance policy to drink-driving. If you are caught you will be arrested and put in the drivers’ prison. Your case will not be heard until the next working day. First time offenders will have to pay a minimum £900 fine and could be banned from driving in Bahrain. Visitors from Saudi Arabia will be subject to the same punishment but with the addition of a driving ban there also. For repeat offenders the fine and ban will be more serious.
Bahrain International Airport is modern and efficient.
Although alcohol is available at Bahrain airport, security officers and airline staff deal firmly with passengers believed to be drunk - even those who are in transit through the airport. In such circumstance you may be denied boarding, detained and fined.
There is a Government of Bahrain imposed curfew on the waterways around Bahrain between 6.30pm and 4am. You should respect the curfew.
Take care when travelling by Dhow. The safety of these vessels may not be up to UK standards. Make sure life jackets are available.
Many sea areas of the Gulf are considered highly sensitive by local authorities. Vessels entering these areas have been detained and inspected, and there have been occasional arrests. Make careful enquiries before entering these waters or visiting ports.
Regional tensions may affect your route. Vessels operating in the Gulf of Oman, Northern Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Bab El Mandeb regions may be at increased risk of maritime attack.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Bahrain. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Past incidents involving explosive devices have killed and injured a number of individuals. These explosions occurred in public places, although there has not been a successful attack in a number of years. The most high profile and recent of these include:
- On 10 November 2017, an oil pipeline exploded in the village of Buri, with no reported casualties.
- On 27 October 2017, Shia militants detonated an Improved Explosive Device along a major highway targeting a Ministry of Interior police bus killing one officer and injuring eight others.
Terrorists continue to issue statements threatening to carry out attacks in the Gulf region. These include references to attacks on western interests, including residential compounds, military, oil, transport and aviation interests as well as crowded places, including restaurants, hotels, beaches, shopping centres and mosques. You should maintain a high level of security awareness and vigilance, including around significant high profile occasions and events, particularly in such public places and report anything suspicious to the local authorities.
Bahrain is a liberal country compared with most others in the region, but many Bahrainis hold conservative social views.
Respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they don’t offend, especially during the holy month of Ramadan and Shia religious festivals. Bahrainis observe some religious anniversaries that may not be celebrated in neighbouring Gulf countries.
Offensive language, spitting and aggressive behaviour (including ‘road rage’ hand gestures) are viewed as seriously offensive and can result in imprisonment and deportation.
Use social media responsibly while you are in Bahrain. Please remember to respect the local culture and public security rules. Posting material (including videos and photographs) online that is critical of the Bahrain government, or appearing to abuse/ridicule/criticise the country, or that is culturally insensitive, may be considered a crime punishable under Bahrain law.
All residents and visitors must carry photographic ID. Under Bahraini law, it’s an offence not to be able to present photographic ID if you’re asked to do so by a member of the Bahraini authorities, and you may be subject to a fine of up to 300BHD.
Bahraini law doesn’t criminalise same sex-activity between consenting adults who are at least 21 years of age, although sodomy is illegal. Bahrain is a liberal country compared with most others in the region, but many Bahrainis hold conservative social views. There are some reported cases of individuals punished for same-sexual activity, but in practice arrests for homosexual behaviour are relatively rare. See our information and advice page for the LGBT+ community before you travel.
See more about living in Bahrain.
Illegal drugs are strictly forbidden, even a residual amount. Consuming or carrying illegal drugs, even if you are transiting through the airport from one country to another, can result in imprisonment and deportation. Buying or selling illegal drugs and narcotics is considered a serious crime which can result in life imprisonment.
Some skincare products and E-cigarette refills may contain ingredients that are illegal in Bahrain such as CBD oil.
If you are using prescribed drugs, it is advisable to carry a doctor’s note. If you are bringing prescription drugs into Bahrain you may need to seek prior agreement from the authorities. You should check with the nearest Bahrain Embassy or consulate before you travel.
Alcohol is legal in Bahrain with a number of bars, licensed restaurants and off-licences; however, drunken behaviour in public or driving under the influence of alcohol is against the law, making the offender liable to a fine or imprisonment and/or deportation and withdrawal of their driving licence. Physical assault and damaging public property whilst under the influence of alcohol is an offence, which may lead to a prison sentence.
Drones and UAVs
Flying drones or remote-controlled Unmanned Air Vehicle flying devices either without a valid licence or in restricted airspace is against the law. Please consult the Bahrain Civil Aviation Authority for further details.
Driving in Bahrain
Bahrain has a zero-tolerance policy towards drinking and driving. You can be charged and imprisoned if you are caught with even the smallest amount of alcohol in your system. Tailgating, speeding, racing, lane jumping and using a mobile phone while driving are all against the law and can result in heavy fines. There are numerous speed cameras on the roads and motorways. Wearing a seatbelt is mandatory. Failure to do so can result in a fine.
Dress code in Bahrain
Dress conservatively in public places, especially religious sites.
Bahrainis often dress conservatively in traditional dress and can be offended when people dress inappropriately or not in accordance with Islamic values.
In public places such as shopping malls, restaurants and parks, you are encouraged to dress appropriately. Clothing should not be transparent, indecently expose parts of the body or display offensive pictures or slogans. Be aware that if you enter one of these areas dressed inappropriately you may be asked to leave (most of the larger shopping malls display signs warning that respectable clothing should be worn). Any form of nudity is strictly forbidden, including topless sunbathing. These rules are even more closely observed during Ramadan when modesty is promoted.
Respect for religion in Bahrain
Islamic religious values are greatly respected in Bahrain. Showing any disrespect towards religious beliefs or practices is considered deeply offensive and very likely to result in a heavy fine and/or imprisonment. Other religions are respected in Bahrain and can be followed with freedom.
- Muslims pray five times a day. You will notice that the mosques call people to pray through a speaker system *Be aware that drivers who are not close to a mosque, may stop at a convenient lay-by to pray privately
- During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. Throughout this month, eating, drinking, smoking, playing loud music and dancing in public places during daylight hours are strictly forbidden and punishable by law, including for non-Muslims.
This page has information on travelling to Bahrain.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Bahrain set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how Bahrain’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.’
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Make sure you check the latest entry requirements with the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain before you travel.
The Government of Bahrain reintroduced visas on-arrival across the Kingdom’s entry points from 4 September 2020. Travellers can also get a visa in advance, either online or from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain in the UK.
Holders of valid visas can enter Bahrain without the need for a letter of prior permission. This excludes visas issued on arrival at Bahrain’s ports and airports. Business visitors should bring a letter of invitation.
Visitors can be issued visas for various lengths up to 6 months, depending on their need and at the discretion of the Immigration Officer. You may be asked to provide evidence of onward or return travel. If you enter as a visitor you must not take up employment.
In Bahrain you can apply to renew your visa at the Nationality, Passports and Residential Affairs department at the Ministry of Interior. You can apply for residency through the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA). Individuals should enquire about their individual circumstances by visiting the NPRA website.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Bahrain.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
You can be fined if you overstay or fail to extend your legal residency.
You must have legal status in Bahrain when you leave. You may be prevented from leaving Bahrain if you are subject to a travel ban, involved in legal proceedings, have unpaid debt, or are a child subject to a custody dispute.
Travel bans are legal prohibitions the Government of Bahrain imposes to prevent persons involved in disputes from departing the country. They can be the result of a civil or criminal dispute or immigration violation. They are not lifted until the matter, i.e. civil suit; criminal case or immigration violation is settled. Persons who are involved in disputes or investigations can check if travel bans apply with the Bahrain Immigration Department. Often travellers do not learn that they are subject to a travel ban until they attempt to depart the country or on entry into the country.
If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
Local medical care
You will be charged for emergency medical treatment. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 999 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.