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Kuwait travel guide

About Kuwait

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.

Key facts

Area:

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

Population:

4,007,146 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

156.5 per sq km.

Capital:

Kuwait City.

Government:

Constitutional emirate.

Head of state:

Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Jabir Al Sabah since 2020.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah since 2019.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Kuwait 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

From 1 August 2021 fully vaccinated foreigners with valid residency can enter Kuwait.

Check with your travel company for the latest information. You should follow @Kuwait_dgca on Twitter for details of the latest measures.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Kuwait.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements. A list of approved test centres is available when you register your flight details on the government portal, as required by the Kuwait Government before travel, or from your airline.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. 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, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

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

Public places and services

The wearing of face masks in public is required. Penalties for not wearing a mask in public are a fine of 5000 KD or a prison sentence of three months. Follow the official Kuwait News Agency and @CGCKuwait for the latest details.

Healthcare

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 Kuwait

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms you should call 151.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Kuwait

Wherever possible British nationals should be vaccinated in the country where they live. As further information is available about the national vaccination programme, this page will be updated. Sign up to get email notifications.

The Kuwaiti Ministry of Health has announced that all residents are eligible to be included in the vaccination programme. You can register through the Ministry of Health’s registration page.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the UK authority responsible for assessing the safety, quality and efficacy of vaccines. It has authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines for temporary supply and use in the UK. Find out more about MHRA approval for these vaccines.

British nationals living overseas should seek medical advice from their local healthcare provider in the country where they reside. Information about vaccines used in other national programmes, including regulatory status, should be available from the local authorities. This list of Stringent Regulatory Authorities recognised by the World Health Organisation may also be a useful source of additional information. Find out more about COVID-19 vaccines on the World Health Organisation COVID-19 vaccines page.

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.

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 Al Shuyoukh where there have been instances of robbery.

Local travel

You should only use authorised road border crossing points into Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Border posts can be easily missed on the Kuwait-Saudi Arabian border, however you must get an exit or entry stamp before continuing your journey. 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.

Road travel

If you have a visit visa, you can drive in Kuwait using an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a valid UK licence. From 28 March 2019, you should have the 1968 version IDP, as 1926 IDPs previously issued by the UK may no longer be accepted in Kuwait after this date. 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.

Before driving you must obtain third party 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, see our Living in Kuwait guide for information on driving licences.

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. Call the police on 112 and don’t attempt to move the vehicle before they arrive. If you have a major accident, where there are serious injuries or the car is not drivable, you must stay with the vehicle if it is safe to do so, call the police on 112, and do not attempt to move the vehicle before they arrive. If you have a minor accident, where there are no serious injuries and the car is drivable, try to take pictures of any damage to the vehicles involved in the accident if it is safe to do so. Record the licence plate numbers of any vehicles involved, and move the vehicle from the road to avoid blocking traffic (you can be fined if you fail to do so). Call the police and follow their instructions on what to do next.

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.

Following maritime restrictions issued by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior in 2011, you should take care when sailing in Kuwaiti waters. 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 and protests are uncommon in Kuwait and are normally, but not always, peaceful. Rioting is rare. You should be vigilant, avoid demonstrations, follow the advice of the local authorities, and be alert to local and regional developments.

Terrorist attacks in Kuwait can’t be ruled out. 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.

In December 2020 six minors were arrested in Kuwait on suspicion of links with ISIS. On 26 June 2015, Daesh carried out a suicide attack at the Imam Sadiq mosque in the Al Sawabir area of Kuwait City, resulting in 27 deaths and many injured. Further attacks on places of worship are possible.

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, particularly in public places. Avoid demonstrations, take security precautions and follow the advice of the local authorities.

There’s 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.

Kuwait is a Muslim country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. See Travelling during Ramadan

Carry your passport or a Kuwait civil identification card at all times.

Entry to and photography near government, military and industrial and other restricted areas (e.g. near borders and oil fields) is forbidden.

In public, you should dress and behave modestly. Women wearing shorts or tight-fitting clothes, in particular in downtown or conservative areas, are likely to attract unwelcome attention.

The importation or possession of narcotics, alcohol, pork products or obscene material is a crime and can lead to imprisonment.

Possession and abuse of drugs can lead to a prison sentence of between 5 and 10 years, and a heavy fine. Bail is not usually given and even if found not guilty you can expect to spend several months in detention while the case progresses through the judicial system. Penalties for drug trafficking include the death sentence.

Drunken behaviour in public or driving under the influence of alcohol is punishable by a fine or imprisonment, and/or deportation and the withdrawal of your driving licence.

Sexual intercourse between men and imitating the appearance of the opposite sex are punishable by law. See our information and advice page for LGBT travellers before you travel.

Intimate displays of affection between men and women are also frowned upon.

Co-habiting of unmarried partners in Kuwait is illegal. If you wish to live with your partner in the same house, you need to be married.

Bouncing cheques is illegal and the law does not provide for offenders to be released from custody on bail. Post-dated cheques can be banked immediately.

If you’re involved in a commercial dispute with a Kuwaiti company or individual, you may be prevented from leaving the country pending resolution of the dispute.

The British Embassy can’t intervene with labour disputes.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus

From 1 August 2021 foreigners with valid residency will be allowed to enter Kuwait. You must be fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved in Kuwait (Pfizer, Astra Zeneca, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson) and present a negative PCR test taken less than 72 hours before boarding. You must register with kuwaitmosafer.gov.kw, buy a PCR test on arrival, and download the Shlonik app before boarding. You will have to quarantine at home for seven days on arrival, although quarantine can end if the PCR test carried out on arrival proves negative.

Visit visas are not issued on arrival or at Embassies outside Kuwait, until further notice

Regular entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas

The Kuwaiti Government automatically extended visit visas and residency visas that expired after 1 March 2020 until 30 November 2020. A small number were subsequently extended for further three month periods. This only applies to visa holders already in Kuwait. If you hold valid Kuwaiti residency and are outside Kuwait, your residency is now valid until its expiry date, and does not automatically expire after 6 months outside Kuwait.

The Kuwaiti Government has suspended the visa on arrival and e-visa service. You should get a visa in advance from the Kuwaiti Embassy in London when this service reopens. On arrival in Kuwait, the immigration authorities may ask to see evidence of return or onward travel, a sponsor’s letter and hotel confirmation. For further information, contact the Embassy of Kuwait, 2 Albert Gate, London, SW1X 7JU (telephone 020 7590 3400).

Passport validity

For visit visas, obtained on arrival or in advance, your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Kuwait.

For residency visas, your passport should be valid for a minimum of 2 years.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are not valid for entry into Kuwait. However, ETDs are accepted for airside transit and exit from Kuwait. Residents and tourists will need to get an exit stamp before leaving. Kuwait residency permits are cancelled when an ETD is issued.

Previous travel to Israel

If you have an Israeli stamp in your passport you may be refused a visa and/or entry into Kuwait.

Living and working in Kuwait

For work or residency visas, apply to the Kuwaiti Embassy in London.

If you intend to use UK documents like academic records, marriage certificates, or your driving licence in your application, you should have all such documents authenticated by the FCDO in the UK or by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the country in which they were awarded and the nearest Kuwaiti Embassy. The same procedure is necessary for children’s birth certificates.

Your employers should not retain your passport.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Kuwait.

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).

Coronavirus

The authorities in Kuwait have introduced new measures in relation to coronavirus. See Staying during coronavirus

Local medical care

There is a state medical service with local clinics and several good hospitals. There are also private medical and dental facilities. Fees are controlled by the state and are expensive. Since 1 October 2017 the Kuwaiti government has increased the cost to expatriates and visitors of using state medical facilities. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. If you’re working in Kuwait, check whether your employer provides private medical insurance. If not, you’re strongly advised to take out personal medical insurance for yourself and any dependents.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

The currency in Kuwait is the Kuwaiti dinar.

There are plenty of ATMs and credit cards are widely accepted, although some banks and shops don’t accept foreign-issued bank or credit cards.

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. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

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