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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


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


4,007,146 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

156.5 per sq km.


Kuwait City.


Constitutional emirate.

Head of state:

Sheikh Mishal Al Ahmad Al Jabir Al Sabah since 2023.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled Al Hamad Al Sabah since 2024.

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 Kuwait set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Kuwaiti Embassy in the UK: 

2 Albert Gate 

London, SW1X 7JU 

Telephone: 020 7590 3400 

COVID-19 rules 

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

Passport validity requirements 

To enter Kuwait, 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. 

Previous travel to Israel 

If your passport contains an Israeli stamp, you may be refused a visa or entry to Kuwait. 

Visa requirements 

You must have a visa to visit Kuwait. 

Applying for a visa 

You can apply for an e-visa before you travel or get a visa on arrival in Kuwait. The Kuwait Ministry of Interior has information on e-visas. 

Checks at border control  

You must be able to show: 

  • a ticket for return or onward travel 
  • proof of your accommodation, for example, a hotel booking  
  • work visas (both public and private sector) require further documents from employer. See further details on visas and requirements 

Working or living in Kuwait 

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

If you’re applying for a residency visa, your passport must be valid for at least 2 years. Your employers should not keep your passport. 

For further information, read about living in Kuwait. 

Vaccine requirements  

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

Customs rules 

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Kuwait. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty. Failure to declare could result in: 

  • imprisonment 
  • refusal of entry and possible deportation

It is illegal to import:  

  • narcotics  
  • alcohol  
  • gambling machines 
  • pork and pork products 
  • pornographic material  

Taking money into Kuwait 

Declare cash or travellers cheques if the value is 3000 Kuwaiti dinars (£7,500) or more. You will get a certified declaration to show you brought it in with you. If you do not, your money could be seized when you leave. 


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 Kuwait 

Terrorists are likely to try and carry out attacks in Kuwait. 

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

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

Stay aware of your surroundings, keep up to date with local media reports and follow the advice of local authorities. 

Examples of recent significant incidents include: 

  • in 2020, 6 minors were arrested in Kuwait on suspicion of links with ISIS 
  • in 2024, 3 individuals were arrested on suspicion of an alleged ISIS plot against a place of worship 
  • Red Sea military activity 

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 Kuwait could change at short notice. You should monitor travel advice and follow instructions from local authorities.

Political situation  

Recent developments in the Middle East have heightened tensions in the region. Planned and pre-approved peaceful protests are legal, however these are for Kuwaiti citizens only.  

There have also been minor, isolated cases of vandalism aimed at some international companies, or calls for them to be boycotted.  

Be mindful of local sensitivities on these issues, stay away from demonstrations or developing crowds and follow the advice of the local authorities.


Violent crime against foreigners is rare. However, take care if you plan to travel to Jahra or Jleeb Al Shuyoukh, where there have been incidents of robberies, petty theft and road rage. 

Border crossings  

It is illegal and dangerous to go near Kuwait’s borders without authorisation. Armed guards regularly patrol these areas.  

Kuwait-Saudi Arabia border 

It is easy to miss the border posts between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. You must only use an authorised land border crossing and make sure to get an exit or entry stamp before you continue your journey. 

Kuwait-Iraq border 

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 unexploded weapons 

There are landmines and other unexploded weapons in Kuwait.  

You should: 

  • avoid off-road driving 
  • stay on clearly marked identifiable tracks if you travel off-road 
  • take great care even if an area has been officially cleared 
  • not pick up metal, plastic or other objects 

Laws and cultural differences  

Kuwait is a Muslim country. Always respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions. Make sure your actions do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you visit religious areas.  

Personal ID 

As a visiting foreign national, you must always carry your passport. If you are resident in Kuwait, you must always carry your Kuwaiti civil identification card.  

Keep copies of your passport photo page and your visa or entry stamp in a separate place. 


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  

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 patient and show tolerance 

Dress code 

Dress and behave modestly in public, particularly in downtown or conservative areas. Women should avoid wearing shorts or tight-fitting or revealing clothing.

Do not expose body piercings or tattoos that may be perceived as extreme or offensive – for example, you could be accused of violating religious sanctity for a tattoo of verse from the holy Quran in Arabic.

Relationships outside of marriage 

It is illegal for an unmarried couple to live together in the same house or stay in the same hotel room. You will  be asked to provide a marriage certificate if sharing a hotel room.  

Public behaviour  

It’s illegal to insult or humiliate any person verbally or through obscene gestures in a public place, including a police officer, public official or private individual. Police may arrest you and conviction may lead to prosecution, imprisonment, or immediate deportation. 

It is frowned on for men and women to show affection in public. 

Alcohol laws 

Buying, selling or carrying alcohol and drunken behaviour in public is punishable by a fine or imprisonment and can result in deportation. 

Illegal drugs penalties  

Penalties for drug trafficking include the death sentence. Possession or use of illegal 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. 

Using cameras in secure areas 

It is illegal to photograph or take videos of: 

  • government buildings  
  • military buildings 
  • industrial buildings or oil-related infrastructure  
  • other restricted areas such as borders and oil fields 
  • record people without their knowledge or consent 

Unpaid fines and bills  

All foreign nationals must pay traffic fines, phone bills and utility bills before they leave Kuwait. The Kuwaiti authorities may:  

  • stop you from leaving the country 
  • arrest you, or send you to prison 
  • fine you 
  • deport you, and not allow you to return to Kuwait 
  • refuse renewal of your residency card or re-entry visa  

Financial crimes 

Bouncing cheques is illegal and the law does not provide for offenders to be released from custody on bail.  

Commercial disputes 

If you’re involved in a commercial dispute with a Kuwaiti company or individual, the Kuwaiti authorities may prevent you from leaving the country until it is resolved.  

LGBT+ travellers 

Same-sex activity is illegal. 

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers

Transport risks  

Road travel  

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

If you have a visit visa, you can drive in Kuwait using a UK photocard driving licence. If you still have a paper driving licence, you may need to update it to a photocard licence or get the correct version of the international driving permit (IDP) as well.  

There is also guidance on driving if you live in Kuwait

Car insurance 

You must get third-party insurance in Kuwait before you drive.  

If you hire a car, you can usually get insurance through the hire company. If you drive a relative or friend’s car, you’re responsible for getting insurance. You must always keep the insurance document with you while driving. 

Car accidents  

If you have a major accident, where there are serious injuries or a vehicle is not drivable:  

  • stay with your vehicle if it is safe to do so 
  • call the police on 112 
  • do not move the vehicle before the police arrive 

If you have a minor accident, where there are no serious injuries: 

  • take pictures of vehicle damage if it is safe to do so 
  • record licence plate numbers of vehicles involved 
  • move your vehicle to avoid blocking traffic if it is drivable - you can get a fine if you do not do this 
  • call the police on 112 and follow their instructions 


Drink-driving is a serious offence in Kuwait. If you are tested and found to have any alcohol in your system, you may get a fine, imprisonment, or deportation and the withdrawal of your driving licence. 

Driving conditions 

Driving conditions are hazardous. Many drivers pay little attention to other road users and may:  

  • drive faster than speed limits 
  • switch lanes without warning 
  • ignore traffic lights 
  • use mobile phones while driving 

Sea travel 

Many areas of the Gulf are highly sensitive, including near:  

  • maritime boundaries 
  • Bubiyan and Warbah, northern Gulf islands 
  • Abu Musa and the Tunbs, southern Gulf islands 

The area of the northern Gulf between Iran, Iraq and Kuwait has not been demarcated, and vessels entering this area have been detained and inspected. There have been occasional arrests. Make careful enquiries before entering these waters or visiting ports. 

Take extra care when sailing in Kuwaiti waters – regional tensions may affect your planned route. There may be an increased risk of attack on vessels in the Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Bab El Mandeb regions. 

Take care when travelling by dhow, as the safety of these sailing vessels may not be up to UK standards. Make sure life jackets 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 112 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:  


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

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro

Healthcare facilities in Kuwait 

There is a state medical service with local clinics and several good hospitals. There are also private medical and dental facilities.  

Private medical fees are high. The Kuwaiti government controls fees and has increased them for foreign residents and visitors. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.  

If you work in Kuwait, check whether your employer provides appropriate private medical insurance which includes repatriation. If not, you’re strongly advised to take out personal medical insurance for yourself and any dependants. 

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

There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Kuwait.  

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 Kuwait  

Telephone: 112 (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 Kuwait and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Kuwait City

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 Kuwait on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks. 

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