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


765 sq km (295 sq miles).


1,492,584 (August 2017)

Population density:

1,867 per sq km





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

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

About FCDO travel advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

This information is for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK. It is based on the UK government’s understanding of the current rules for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Bahrain set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Bahrain Embassy in the UK.  

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Bahrain.

Passport validity requirements

To enter Bahrain, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you arrive.  

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Visa requirements

You must have a visa to visit Bahrain.

Applying for a visa

You can get a visa:

Visas are automatically issued for a 2-week period, but visit visas for stays of up to 6 months are also available. You may be asked to provide evidence of onward or return travel when you apply.  

You cannot start employment in Bahrain if you enter on a visit visa. 

If you overstay your visa, there could be penalties, legal issues and your work visa could be cancelled.

You can apply to renew your visa at the Nationality, Passports and Residential Affairs department at the Ministry of Interior.

Applying for residency

You can apply for residency through the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA).

You can be fined if you overstay your legal residency.  

Travel bans 

You may be prevented from leaving Bahrain if you:

  • are subject to a travel ban
  • are involved in legal proceedings
  • have unpaid debt
  • are a child subject to a custody dispute

If you’re involved in a dispute, including civil and criminal disputes or immigration violation, you may be stopped from leaving the country. The travel ban will not be lifted until the issue is resolved. You may not know you’re subject to a travel ban until you try to leave or enter Bahrain. You can check with the Bahrain Immigration Department to see whether you’re subject to a travel ban.

Vaccine requirements

To enter Bahrain, you must have a certificate to prove you’ve had a yellow fever vaccination if you’re coming from a country listed as a transmission risk.

For full details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Bahrain guide.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Bahrain. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.


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. Stay aware of your surroundings 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.

Terrorism in Bahrain

Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Bahrain.

Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.

Previous attacks using explosive devices in public places have killed and injured people. An attack has not been carried out successfully for several years. 

Terrorists have threatened to carry out attacks in the Gulf region, including on:

  • residential compounds
  • military, oil, transport and aviation interests
  • public places, including restaurants, hotels, beaches, shopping centres and mosques

Be aware of your surroundings, particularly during high profile events, and avoid large demonstrations.

Military activity in the Red Sea area       

There is a military response to Houthi militants’ attempts to disrupt international shipping in the Red Sea. The military activity is limited to the Red Sea and Yemen, but travel advice for nearby countries could change at short notice. You should monitor travel advice and follow instructions from local authorities.

Political situation

Demonstrations and protests take place. This can cause:

  • disruption to traffic and roadblocks
  • disturbances in villages and near economic centres
  • localised clashes between government security forces and protesters

The risk of protest can increase around anniversaries of significant events in Bahrain and can start with little warning. Locations of past protests include:

  • Sitra
  • Bani Jamra
  • Karbabad
  • Saar
  • Karzakan
  • Budaiya Highway and surrounding villages

You should leave the area if you see a large public gathering or demonstration. In the event of a protest:

  • remain vigilant
  • follow the advice of the local authorities
  • be aware of your surroundings
  • familiarise yourself with other routes in case you are diverted

If you see a suspect item, 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 can be a police presence or checkpoints on major roads.    

Political developments in the wider region have an impact on local public opinion and actions. Be aware of local sensitivities, follow news reports and be alert to local and regional developments, which could lead to public disturbances.


Crime is low in most areas, but you should take normal precautions to protect your belongings. For personal safety, only use reputable taxi companies.

Laws and cultural differences

Bahrain is a liberal country compared to others in the region, but there are still conservative social views.

You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions and make sure your actions do not cause offence, especially during Ramadan and Shia religious festivals. Bahrainis observe some religious anniversaries that may not be celebrated in other Gulf countries.

Personal ID

You must carry photo ID such as a passport by law. You could be fined up to 300 Bahraini dinars if you cannot show photo ID if asked by the Bahraini authorities.

Dress code

Dress conservatively in public places, particularly religious sites.

Bahrainis often dress conservatively in traditional dress. You could cause offence if you dress inappropriately or not in accordance with Islamic values.

Dress appropriately and modestly in public places, such as malls, restaurants, and parks. Clothing should not:

  • be transparent
  • expose shoulders or knees if you are a woman
  • display offensive pictures or slogans

Nudity is strictly forbidden, including topless sunbathing. These rules are even more closely observed during Ramadan when modesty is promoted.

Respect for religion

Islamic religious values are respected in Bahrain. Any disrespect towards religious beliefs or practices is considered deeply offensive and will likely lead to a heavy fine or a prison sentence.

Muslims pray 5 times a day. Drivers may stop in lay-bys to pray.

Other religions are respected in Bahrain and can be followed with freedom.


Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims. The dates vary by year and country. During this time, do not:

  • eat, drink, smoke or chew gum in public in the daytime, including in your car
  • play loud music or dance
  • swear in public

These actions could amount to a crime under Bahraini law. Get more advice when you arrive from your tour guide, hotel or business contacts.

You should also:

  • check opening hours of shops and restaurants
  • be aware that if hotels and restaurants are providing food or drink in fasting hours, they may separate you from Islamic guests, for example with screens
  • follow local dress codes – clothing that does not meet local dress codes may cause more offence at this time
  • be aware that driving may be erratic, particularly when people are trying to get home at dusk
  • be aware that fasting can cause tiredness, particularly during the later afternoon and early evening
  • be patient and show tolerance

Public offences

Offensive language, spitting and aggressive behaviour (including ‘road rage’ hand gestures) are seen as seriously offensive and can result in a prison sentence and deportation.

Social media

Respect the local culture and public security rules when using social media. It could amount to a crime if you post online any message, video or photograph, that:

  • is critical of the Bahrain government or monarchy
  • appears to abuse, ridicule or criticise the country
  • is culturally insensitive

Alcohol laws and bans

Alcohol is legal in Bahrain. However, drunken public behaviour is against the law. You could be fined, imprisoned or deported.

Security officers and airline staff will not tolerate passengers believed to be drunk at the airport, including those who are in transit. You may be denied boarding, detained and fined.

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

Illegal drugs are strictly forbidden, even a residual amount. Consuming or carrying illegal drugs, even if you are travelling through the airport, can lead to a prison sentence and deportation. Buying or selling illegal drugs and narcotics is illegal and can lead to a life sentence.

Some skincare products and e-cigarette refills may contain ingredients that are illegal in Bahrain, such as CBD oil.

Drones and UAVs

It is illegal to fly drones or remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicle flying devices without a valid licence or in restricted airspace. See the Bahrain Civil Aviation Authority for further details.

LGBT+ travellers

Same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults who are at least 21 years old is not prohibited by law. However, public displays of affection can cause offence and are illegal. While arrests are rare, there are some reported cases of individuals punished for same-sex activity.  

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Bahrain, see information on driving abroad.

You can use a UK photocard driving licence to drive in Bahrain for up to 3 months. If you still have a paper driving licence, you may need to update it to a photocard licence.

If you are staying longer than 3 months, you’ll need to have the 1968 version of the international driving permit (IDP) or apply for a Bahraini driving licence. You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.

Drink-driving is a serious offence in Bahrain. If you are tested and found to have any alcohol in your system, you may get a fine, a travel ban and a possible prison sentence.

Sea travel 

There is a curfew on the waterways around Bahrain between 6.30pm to 4am.

The local authorities are sensitive to the security around the sea areas of the Gulf. Vessels entering these waters or posts can be detained and inspected, and there have been occasional arrests. Make sure you have the necessary clearances before you enter the waters or visit ports. Avoid any sensitive areas.

Take care when travelling by local sailing boats (‘dhows’). The safety of these vessels may not comply with UK standards. Make sure lifejackets are available.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccine recommendations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip:

See what health risks you’ll face in Bahrain.


The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

If you are using prescribed drugs, you should carry a doctor’s note. If you plan to bring prescription drugs into Bahrain, you may need to seek prior agreement from the authorities. Check with the nearest Bahrain Embassy or consulate before you travel.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

Healthcare in Bahrain

FCDO has a list of medical providers in Bahrain where some staff will speak English.

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.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Bahrain

Telephone: 999 (ambulance, fire, police)

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you’re in Bahrain, and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Manama.  

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating in Bahrain on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

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