FOLLOW US

World Travel Guide > Guides > Middle East > Bahrain

Bahrain travel guide

About Bahrain

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.

Key facts

Area:

765 sq km (295 sq miles).

Population:

1,492,584 (August 2017)

Population density:

1,867 per sq km

 

Capital:

Manama.

Government:

Constitutional monarchy.

Head of state:

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa since 1999.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa since 2020.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus health information

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Bahrain on the TravelHealthPro website.

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

Commercial flights are now operating to and from Bahrain on a reduced service. 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.

You should contact the Ministry of Health for information on testing facilities.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. 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.

If you test positive for COVID-19, in Bahrain, you will be contacted by the authorities or through the ‘BeAware’ app and subject to quarantine measures, required to self-isolate in a hotel or private accommodation, as well as given health treatment, offered free of charge, at hospital or quarantine centres if necessary.

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 remains open, including for transit and transfer passengers. Details are set out on the Entry requirements page.

For information on this and other updates, check Bahrain’s latest COVID-19 decisions and Bahrain’s Airport website.

The King Fahd Causeway is open for travel between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. From 20 February 2022 there is 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.

Accommodation

Accommodation and amenities including hotels and private rental properties are permitted to be open as usual with no COVID-19 restrictions.

Public places and services

There are no COVID-19 restrictions in public spaces and all services including shops, banks, and restaurants remain open as usual. Mask-wearing is optional in indoor and outdoor areas (except health facilities).

Healthcare in Bahrain

If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should call the local hotline of 444 and follow the authorities’ advice. For general COVID-19 enquires within Bahrain, please contact the Ministry of Health or on email at covid19@moh.gov.bh. Those who test positive for COVID-19 will be contacted by the authorities or through the ‘BeAware’ app and are required to self-isolate at home or at their hotel for 7 days (if fully vaccinated) or 10 days (if unvaccinated) from the date of infection. The self-isolation period can be concluded earlier by receiving a negative PCR result from a private hospital. If necessary, COVID-19 health treatment will be given free of charge.

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.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further information

If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.

Security situation

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.

While there have been no direct threats or attacks on British nationals to date, 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 you are unfamiliar with. You should familiarise yourself with alternative routes.

Developments in the wider region continue to have an impact on local public opinion in the region. 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.

Crime

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.

Road travel

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 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 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. British 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.

Air travel

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. You may be denied boarding, detained and fined.

Sea travel

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 areas of the Gulf are highly sensitive. 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.

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 more about the global threat from terrorism.

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 November 10 2017, an oil pipeline exploded in the village of Buri, with no reported casualties.
  • On October 27 2017, Shia militants detonated an IED along a major highway targeting an MOI 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.

There is a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Bahrain is a socially liberal state, but many Bahrainis are conservative.

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.

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.

Dress conservatively in public places, especially religious sites.

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.

Drugs

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

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.

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

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. Follow a few simple rules of respect:

  • 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.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus

Entry to Bahrain

Bahrain International Airport remains open, including for transit and transfer passengers, and visas on arrival are available for UK nationals. The King Fahd Causeway is also open for travel between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

From 20 February 2022 there is no PCR testing nor quarantine requirements for any arrivals regardless of their vaccination status, including those arriving via the Causeway.

Your airline may have their own boarding requirements and may be liable to move to a reduced service as appropriate depending on the COVID-19 situation. You should check with your airline for the most up to date information before travelling to Bahrain.

Non-vaccinated students (includes those attending schools, kindergartens, nurseries, rehab centres, training centres and institutions) will have to undertake their studies online for the period of ten days after arrival, regardless of exemptions.

Entry rules are subject to change at short notice so travellers are advised to check Bahrain’s latest COVID-19 decisions, the Bahrain News Agency, and Bahrain’s Airport website for information on this and other updates.

Demonstrating your COVID-19 status

You do not need to demonstrate your COVID-19 status to enter Bahrain. If this changes, Bahrain has confirmed they will accept the UK’s proof of COVID-19 recovery and vaccination record. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.

Transiting Bahrain

Transit and transfer passengers are permitted to use Bahrain International Airport without the requirement to undergo testing. You should check Bahrain’s visa portal for the most up to date information.

For travel from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, check the latest travel information on the Saudi Arabia Travel Advice page.

Testing on arrival

There is no requirement to test on arrival.

Quarantine requirements

There is no requirement to quarantine on arrival. However those who test positive for COVID-19 when in Bahrain are required to self-isolate at home or at their hotel for 7 days (if fully vaccinated) or 10 days (if unvaccinated) from the date of infection. The self-isolation period can be concluded earlier by receiving a negative PCR result from a private hospital. If necessary, COVID-19 health treatment will be given free of charge.

The Government of Bahrain has stated that anyone subjected to self-isolation/quarantine must comply or face up to three months in jail and a fine of up to 10,000 BHD. Visit the website of the Government of Bahrain’s Ministry of Health for additional information.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

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 NPRA 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.

If you are currently a resident of Qatar you require a visa to enter the Kingdom of Bahrain. Visas can be applied for online. You should attach a copy of your Qatari residency card to the application. Failure to obtain a visa in advance will result in a refusal of entry into Bahrain. If intending to travel to Qatar from Bahrain, travellers should ensure they seek advice from airlines or tour operators.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Bahrain.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are not valid for entry into Bahrain. However, ETDs are accepted for airside transit and exit from Bahrain, although an exit stamp is also required which can take one week to process. A police report is only needed if the previous passport was lost or stolen. Once the ETD is issued, an exit stamp is required from the Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs Agency (NPRA). This is only available via online request. This process requires a copy of the ETD, flight ticket and a complete Service Form. This form will need to be completed and stamped by the employer or sponsor (please ensure all sections on the form are completed). Please allow up to one week for the production of the exit stamp. British Nationals cannot exit Bahrain without this immigration stamp.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

Exit requirements

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. You can be fined if you overstay or fail to extend your legal residency.

Previous travel to Israel

Evidence of a previous visit to Israel like an Israeli entry/exit stamp in your passport doesn’t normally cause any difficulties when entering Bahrain. It is, however, for the Bahraini authorities to determine the right of entry into the country. If you have any concerns, you should contact the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain in London.

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.

See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.

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.

Travel safety

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.

Further help

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.

A digital image at https://illuminoto.com

Book a Hotel