Kuwait travel guide
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.
17,818 sq km (6,880 sq miles).
4,007,146 (UN estimate 2016).
156.5 per sq km.
Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Jabir Al Sabah since 2020.
Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah since 2022.
Before you travel, check the ‘Entry requirements’ section for Kuwait’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 on any leg of your journey to or from Kuwait, 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 Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) guidance on foreign travel insurance.
Around 4,000 British nationals live in Kuwait and a further 10,000 visit each year. Most visits to Kuwait are trouble-free.
There is a possibility of an increased threat against Western interests, including UK citizens. You should remain vigilant and keep up to date with the latest developments, including via the media and this travel advice.
Terrorist attacks in Kuwait can’t be ruled out. See Terrorism
Visitors must carry their passport at all times. Those resident in Kuwait must carry their Kuwaiti civil identification card at all times. See Local laws and customs
Take care if you plan to travel to the areas of Jahra or Jleeb Al Shuyoukh, where there are higher than average levels of crime. See Local travel
Following maritime restrictions issued by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior in 2011, you should also take care when sailing in Kuwaiti waters. See Sea travel
You can contact the emergency services by calling 112 (fire, police and ambulance).
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
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 travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Kuwait on the TravelHealthPro website
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.
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, 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
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
Also see the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.
For information on financial support you can access 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.
Violent crime against foreigners is rare. However, you should take care if you intend to travel to Jahra, where there have been incidents involving firearms, or Jleeb Al Shuyoukh, where there have been instances of robbery.
You should only use authorised land border crossing points into Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Border posts can be easily missed on the Kuwait-Saudi Arabian border, but you must get an exit or entry stamp before continuing your journey. Any unauthorised movement near borders is illegal and dangerous, with armed guards regularly patrolling them. If you plan to cross the border from Kuwait into Iraq, make sure you have the correct paperwork. See the Iraqi Embassy to Kuwait’s 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 metal, plastic or other objects lying around.
If you have a visit visa, you can drive in Kuwait using an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a valid UK licence. Since 28 March 2019, it has been a requirement to have the 1968 version of the IDP, with the 1926 IDPs previously issued by the UK no longer accepted in Kuwait. You can only get IDPs over the counter from UK Post Offices. You will not be able to buy one outside the UK.
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. However, 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 live, or are considering living in Kuwait, see our Living in Kuwait guide for information on driving licences.
Driving conditions are 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 a major accident, where there are serious injuries or your car is not drivable, you must stay with your vehicle if it is safe to do so, call the police on 112, and not attempt to move the vehicle before they arrive. If you have a minor accident, where there are no serious injuries, 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, if it is drivable, move your car 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.
Many areas of the Gulf are highly sensitive, including near maritime boundaries and the islands of Bubiyan and Warbah in the northern Gulf and both 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 extra care when sailing in Kuwaiti waters. You should also remain alert to the effect any regional tensions may have on your planned 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 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.
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 how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
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 injuries. 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 such as 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 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.
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. This includes displaying/exposing body piercings or tattoos that may be perceived as extreme or offensive (for example, if the tattoo is in Arabic and includes a verse from the holy Quran, you could be accused of violating religious sanctity).
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.
This page has information on travelling to Kuwait.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Kuwait set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how Kuwait’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.
There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Kuwait.
Check your passport and travel documents before you travel
British Nationals have the option of either applying for an E-visa prior to travel or obtaining a visa on arrival in Kuwait. Visit the Ministry of Interior website for more information on E-visas. 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).
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.
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.
Unpaid fines and bills
From 1 September 2023, it is mandatory for all non-Kuwaitis to settle any traffic fines and unpaid utility bills before leaving Kuwait. From 6 September 2023, it is also mandatory for non-Kuwaitis to settle any unpaid telecommunications bills prior to departing 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.
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
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.
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.