Bahrain Travel Guide – Everything You Need to Know

Bahrain, a small but captivating island nation in the Arabian Gulf, beckons tourists with a rich blend of ancient history and modernity. This tiny kingdom boasts a wealth of attractions, from historic sites like the Bahrain Fort to the bustling markets of Manama Souq. Travelers can explore its cultural heritage, unwind on beautiful beaches, and indulge in a dynamic culinary scene. With its welcoming hospitality and a strategic location, Bahrain offers a unique Middle Eastern experience that is both culturally enriching and visually stunning.

What’s the Best Time to Visit? 📅

The best time to visit Bahrain as a tourist is during the cooler and more pleasant months, which fall within the winter and early spring season. Here’s a breakdown of Bahrain’s climate and the best times to visit:

  1. Winter (November to February):
    • This is the peak tourist season in Bahrain due to its pleasant weather.
    • Daytime temperatures are mild, ranging from the low 70s to mid-70s Fahrenheit (around 22-25°C).
    • Evenings can be cooler, so it’s a good idea to bring a light jacket or sweater.
    • Rainfall is minimal during this period, making it ideal for outdoor activities.
  2. Spring (March to April):
    • Spring in Bahrain continues to offer favorable weather for tourists.
    • Temperatures gradually start to rise, with daytime highs in the upper 70s to low 80s Fahrenheit (around 25-28°C).
    • The evenings remain pleasant, and it’s a great time to explore outdoor attractions and enjoy the blooming desert flora.
  3. Autumn (September to October):
    • Early autumn is another suitable time to visit Bahrain.
    • Temperatures are similar to those in spring, with daytime highs in the upper 70s to low 80s Fahrenheit (around 25-28°C).
    • The humidity starts to decrease compared to the peak summer months.
  4. Summer (May to August):
    • Bahrain’s summer is hot and extremely humid, with daytime temperatures soaring into the 90s and sometimes reaching over 100°F (around 37-43°C).
    • Humidity levels can be uncomfortable, making outdoor activities less enjoyable.
    • It’s advisable to stay hydrated, use sun protection, and limit outdoor excursions during the peak of summer.

While the winter and early spring months are the most comfortable for outdoor activities and sightseeing, Bahrain is a year-round destination. If you don’t mind the heat and humidity, you can still visit during the summer months. Just be prepared for scorching temperatures and take precautions to stay cool and hydrated.

Ultimately, the best time to visit Bahrain as a tourist depends on your tolerance for heat and humidity. Many travelers prefer the cooler months from November to April for a more comfortable and enjoyable experience.

What’s the Best Way to Get Around? 🚌

Getting around Bahrain as a tourist is relatively straightforward, thanks to a well-developed transportation infrastructure. Here are the best ways to explore the island:

  1. Taxis: Taxis are a convenient and readily available mode of transportation in Bahrain. They are metered, and fares are relatively affordable. Be sure to use licensed taxis and insist on the use of the meter or agree on a fare before starting your journey.
  2. Rental Cars: Renting a car is a popular option for tourists who want the flexibility to explore Bahrain at their own pace. Most major car rental companies have offices at Bahrain International Airport and in the capital, Manama. Driving is on the right side of the road, and road signs are in both Arabic and English.
  3. Public Buses: Bahrain has a public bus system operated by the Bahrain Public Transport Company (BPTC). The buses connect various parts of the island, including popular tourist areas. While the buses are affordable, it’s important to check schedules and routes in advance, as they may not be as frequent as in some other countries.
  4. Bahrain Metro: Bahrain is in the process of developing a metro system, with plans to have a fully operational network in the near future. Once completed, the metro will provide a convenient and efficient way to travel around the island.
  5. Bicycles: Some areas in Bahrain, particularly along the corniche and in Manama, have dedicated bike lanes and bike-sharing programs. Biking can be a great way to explore certain parts of the island, but it may not be suitable for longer distances due to the heat.
  6. Walking: In areas like Manama’s city center, you can explore on foot, as many attractions, shops, and restaurants are within walking distance. Just be mindful of the heat, especially during the summer months.
  7. Water Taxis: Water taxis and boats operate between certain locations in Bahrain, including the main island and nearby islands. This can be a unique and scenic way to travel if you’re visiting the surrounding archipelago.
  8. Tourist Tours: Consider joining guided tours or excursions, especially if you want to explore specific attractions or engage in activities like desert safaris, boat trips, or cultural tours. Many tour operators offer transportation as part of their packages.

When choosing your mode of transportation in Bahrain, consider factors such as your itinerary, budget, and the level of convenience you prefer. For short trips within cities, taxis and buses are practical options, while renting a car may be more suitable for exploring the island’s attractions and remote areas. As Bahrain continues to develop its transportation network, it’s becoming increasingly visitor-friendly and accessible for tourists.

What’s the Official Language?

The official language of Bahrain is Arabic. While Arabic is the primary language spoken in Bahrain, English is widely used, especially in business, tourism, and as a second language by many Bahrainis. Here are some basic Arabic words and phrases that can be helpful for tourists:

  1. Hello – مرحباً (Marhaban)
  2. Good morning – صباح الخير (Sabah al-khair)
  3. Good afternoon – مساء الخير (Masa’ al-khair)
  4. Good evening – مساء الخير (Masa’ al-khair)
  5. Goodbye – وداعاً (Wada’an)
  6. Yes – نعم (Na’am)
  7. No – لا (La)
  8. Please – من فضلك (Min fadlik)
  9. Thank you – شكراً (Shukran)
  10. You’re welcome – على الرحب والسعة (Ala al-rahb wal-sa’ah)
  11. Excuse me / Sorry – عذراً (A’athirana)
  12. How are you? – كيف حالك؟ (Kayfa haluk?)
  • Response: أنا بخير (Ana bikhair) – I’m fine.
  1. What is your name? – ما اسمك؟ (Ma ismuk?)
  2. My name is… – اسمي… (Ismi…)
  3. I don’t understand – لا أفهم (La afham)
  4. Where is…? – أين…؟ (Ayna…?)
  5. How much does this cost? – كم يكلف هذا؟ (Kam yukalifu hadha?)
  6. Water – ماء (Ma’)
  7. Food – طعام (Ta’am)
  8. Help – مساعدة (Musa’adah)
  9. Restroom / Toilet – دورة مياه (Dawrat maya)
  10. Hotel – فندق (Fondok)
  11. Airport – مطار (Matar)
  12. Bus station – محطة الحافلات (Mahattat al-hafalat)
  13. Taxi – سيارة أجرة (Sayara ajra)
  14. Numbers:
  • 1: واحد (Wahid)
  • 2: اثنان (Ithnan)
  • 3: ثلاثة (Thalatha)
  • 4: أربعة (Arba’a)
  • 5: خمسة (Khamsa)

Where to Stay? 🏨

Bahrain offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit various preferences and budgets. When deciding where to stay in Bahrain as a tourist, consider factors such as your interests, budget, and the type of experience you desire. Here are some popular areas for tourists to consider:

  1. Manama: As the capital city, Manama is a popular choice for tourists due to its central location and easy access to attractions, shopping, and dining. You’ll find a mix of luxury hotels, business hotels, and budget-friendly options in this bustling city center. The Diplomatic Area, Juffair, and Seef are some of the neighborhoods in Manama where you can find accommodations.
  2. Seef: This district is known for its modern shopping malls, upscale restaurants, and entertainment options. It’s a great area to stay if you enjoy shopping and dining out.
  3. Adliya: Adliya is a trendy neighborhood with a bohemian atmosphere. It’s known for its art galleries, cafes, and nightlife. This area is popular among travelers looking for a vibrant and artsy scene.
  4. Amwaj Islands: If you prefer a beachfront location, Amwaj Islands offers luxury resorts and waterfront apartments with beautiful views of the Arabian Gulf. It’s a tranquil area for relaxation and water activities.
  5. Muharraq: This historic district is home to cultural attractions like the Bahrain Fort and traditional markets. It provides a glimpse into Bahrain’s heritage and offers boutique hotels and guesthouses.
  6. Budaiya: Located in the northwest, Budaiya is known for its greenery, gardens, and calm residential atmosphere. It’s a peaceful area away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
  7. Zallaq: Zallaq is famous for its beautiful beaches and beachfront resorts. It’s a great choice if you want a resort-style vacation with a focus on relaxation and water sports.
  8. Riffa: Riffa is a residential area that offers a quieter and more suburban setting. It’s ideal for travelers seeking a peaceful stay away from the city center.
  9. Isa Town: This area is known for its traditional markets, and it provides a more authentic Bahraini experience. It’s a good option if you want to immerse yourself in local culture.
  10. Juffair: Juffair is a popular district with a mix of hotels, restaurants, and nightlife options. It’s a convenient choice for travelers looking for a lively atmosphere.

When choosing where to stay in Bahrain, consider your preferences for proximity to attractions, dining options, and the type of experience you want to have. Bahrain offers a diverse range of accommodations, from luxury hotels and resorts to budget-friendly guesthouses, ensuring that you can find the perfect place to enhance your visit to this dynamic Gulf nation.

What to Eat? 🍽️

Bahrain’s cuisine reflects a rich tapestry of Arabian and Persian influences, resulting in a delightful blend of flavors and dishes. As a tourist in Bahrain, be sure to try these must-try foods to savor the local culinary culture:

  1. Machboos: This is Bahrain’s national dish, a flavorful rice dish made with fragrant saffron, tender meat (often chicken, lamb, or fish), and a mix of aromatic spices. It’s typically garnished with fried onions and served with side dishes like yogurt or salad.
  2. Shawarma: Shawarma is a popular street food made from thinly sliced, marinated meat (usually chicken or beef) that’s roasted on a vertical rotisserie. It’s often wrapped in flatbread and served with a variety of sauces and vegetables.
  3. Harees: A comforting dish made from ground wheat and meat (usually chicken or lamb), Harees is slow-cooked to a porridge-like consistency. It’s seasoned with spices and enjoyed particularly during Ramadan.
  4. Jasheed: A traditional Bahraini dish, Jasheed features dried fish cooked in a spiced gravy made from garlic, tomatoes, and spices. It’s often served with rice or bread.
  5. Fish dishes: Bahrain is known for its fresh seafood, and you can’t visit without trying dishes like fried hammour (local fish), grilled kingfish, or the famous Bahraini fish stew.
  6. Khubz: Bahraini flatbread, known as Khubz, is a staple in the local diet. It’s often served with various dips and dishes.
  7. Gahwa: Bahraini coffee, or Gahwa, is a traditional Arabic coffee flavored with cardamom. It’s typically served in small cups and is an important part of the local hospitality.
  8. Dates: Bahrain is known for its high-quality dates, and they are often served as a snack or dessert. Try fresh or stuffed dates for a sweet treat.
  9. Halwa Showaiter: A Bahraini sweet made from roasted flour, ghee (clarified butter), and saffron, this dense confection is a favorite dessert often enjoyed with Gahwa.
  10. Luqaimat: Luqaimat are small, deep-fried dough balls drizzled with date syrup or honey. They are a popular dessert during Ramadan and special occasions.
  11. Balaleet: A sweet and savory breakfast dish, Balaleet combines vermicelli noodles with saffron, cardamom, sugar, and sometimes fried eggs on top.
  12. Ma’amoul: These are filled pastries often served as sweets. They come in various flavors, such as dates, nuts, or figs.
  13. Mixed Grill: If you’re a fan of grilled meats, try a mixed grill platter, which typically includes a variety of skewered and marinated meats, kebabs, and kofta.
  14. Mahyawa: A tangy sauce made from fermented sardines, Mahyawa is used as a condiment or dip for various dishes.
  15. Al Harees: A Ramadan specialty, Al Harees is a slow-cooked mixture of wheat and chicken, creating a creamy and hearty dish.

When dining in Bahrain, you’ll find a wide range of international cuisines, but don’t miss the chance to savor these authentic Bahraini dishes to truly experience the local flavors and culinary traditions.

What to See? 🔍

Bahrain offers a wealth of cultural, historical, and natural attractions for tourists to explore. Here are some must-see places and landmarks in Bahrain:

  1. Bahrain Fort (Qal’at al-Bahrain): This UNESCO World Heritage site is an ancient fort with a rich history dating back over 4,000 years. Explore the well-preserved ruins and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area.
  2. Bahrain National Museum: Located in Manama, this museum provides insight into Bahrain’s history, culture, and heritage through a collection of artifacts, art, and interactive exhibits.
  3. Al Fateh Grand Mosque: Visit one of the largest mosques in the world, known for its stunning architecture, massive chandelier, and tranquil ambiance. Non-Muslims are welcome to explore the mosque.
  4. Bab Al Bahrain: This historic gateway, also known as the “Gateway to Bahrain,” marks the entrance to Manama Souq. It’s a symbol of the city and a popular starting point for exploring the bustling market.
  5. Manama Souq: Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Manama Souq, where you can shop for traditional goods, spices, textiles, and souvenirs. Don’t forget to haggle for the best deals.
  6. Beit Al Quran: This museum and cultural center houses an impressive collection of Islamic manuscripts, rare Qurans, and calligraphy. It’s a place to learn about Islamic art and culture.
  7. Tree of Life (Shajarat al-Hayat): This solitary tree stands in the midst of the desert and is believed to be over 400 years old. It’s a mysterious natural wonder in Bahrain’s arid landscape.
  8. Al Areen Wildlife Park: Explore this wildlife park to see indigenous Arabian wildlife, including oryx, gazelles, and flamingos. It’s a great place for families and nature enthusiasts.
  9. King Fahd Causeway: The bridge connecting Bahrain to Saudi Arabia offers scenic views of the Gulf and is a symbol of connectivity in the region. Visitors can enjoy the drive or take a ferry to explore nearby islands.
  10. Arad Fort: Located on Muharraq Island, this historic fort dates back to the 15th century and provides a glimpse into Bahrain’s past. It’s beautifully illuminated at night.
  11. Bahrain World Trade Center: Known for its innovative design featuring wind turbines, this iconic skyscraper is a symbol of Bahrain’s modernity and sustainable architecture.
  12. Riffa Fort: Explore another historic fort on Bahrain’s southern tip, offering stunning views of the surrounding area and insight into the island’s history.
  13. Qal’at Bu Mahir: This ancient hilltop fort is located in the northern part of Bahrain and offers archaeological and historical significance.
  14. Jarada Island: Also known as “Hawar Islands,” this group of islands is known for its pristine beaches, wildlife, and water sports. It’s a great place for a day trip or overnight stay.
  15. Dolphin Watching: Take a boat tour to spot dolphins and enjoy the beautiful coastal scenery of Bahrain’s waters.
  16. Al Dar Islands: Located off the coast of Bahrain, these islands are known for their coral reefs and are a popular spot for snorkeling, diving, and water sports.

These must-see places in Bahrain offer a diverse range of experiences, from exploring ancient history and culture to enjoying the natural beauty of the Arabian Gulf. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or modern attractions, Bahrain has something to captivate every traveler.

What to Do? 📸

Bahrain offers a wide range of activities and experiences for tourists to enjoy. Here are some must-do things to make the most of your visit to this beautiful island nation:

  1. Explore Bahrain Fort: Visit the historic Bahrain Fort (Qal’at al-Bahrain) and its museum to delve into the island’s rich history. The fort offers panoramic views and a glimpse into Bahrain’s ancient past.
  2. Visit the Bahrain National Museum: Learn about Bahrain’s culture, heritage, and archaeological finds at the Bahrain National Museum. The museum’s exhibits provide insights into the country’s history.
  3. Stroll Through Manama Souq: Wander through the bustling Manama Souq and explore its narrow streets filled with shops selling spices, textiles, jewelry, and traditional goods. Don’t forget to haggle for souvenirs.
  4. Try Traditional Bahraini Cuisine: Savor Bahraini dishes like Machboos (a flavorful rice dish), Shawarma, and fresh seafood at local restaurants and street vendors.
  5. Attend a Cultural Festival: If your visit coincides with a cultural festival or event, such as the Bahrain International Music Festival or Bahrain International Airshow, be sure to attend and experience the local culture.
  6. Visit the Al Fateh Grand Mosque: Explore this magnificent mosque, appreciate its architecture, and learn about Islamic culture. Non-Muslims are welcome to visit and take guided tours.
  7. Relax at Bahrain’s Beaches: Bahrain boasts beautiful beaches like Al Jazayer Beach and Al Dar Islands. Enjoy sunbathing, swimming, and water sports in the crystal-clear waters of the Arabian Gulf.
  8. Take a Desert Safari: Experience the desert’s natural beauty with a desert safari. You can go dune bashing, camel riding, or simply enjoy the tranquil desert landscape.
  9. Dive or Snorkel in Bahrain’s Waters: Explore the underwater world of Bahrain by diving or snorkeling at popular sites like Dive Bahrain, where you can discover sunken artifacts and marine life.
  10. Visit the Tree of Life: Marvel at the centuries-old Tree of Life, which stands in the midst of the desert, seemingly defying nature by thriving in such a harsh environment.
  11. Shop at Modern Malls: Bahrain offers modern shopping malls like City Centre Bahrain and Bahrain Mall, where you can shop for international brands and enjoy dining and entertainment.
  12. Learn About Pearl Diving: Discover Bahrain’s pearl diving heritage at the Beit Al Tijjar (House of Merchants) museum and gain insights into the country’s past as a major pearl trading hub.
  13. Explore Muharraq: Visit Muharraq Island to explore its historic streets, traditional houses, and cultural sites like the Sheikh Isa Bin Ali House.
  14. Attend a Traditional Coffee Ceremony: Experience a traditional Bahraini Gahwa (coffee) ceremony, where you can savor the aromatic coffee and learn about local customs and hospitality.
  15. Relax at a Spa: Bahrain offers a range of luxurious spas where you can indulge in massages and relaxation treatments to unwind after a day of exploration.
  16. Take a Boat Trip: Enjoy a boat trip around the archipelago, including trips to Hawar Islands or dolphin-watching excursions.
  17. Discover Bahrain’s Art Scene: Explore Bahrain’s growing art scene by visiting galleries and exhibitions featuring the work of local and international artists.

Bahrain’s blend of culture, history, and natural beauty offers a diverse array of activities for tourists. Whether you’re interested in ancient heritage, outdoor adventures, or modern amenities, there’s something for every traveler to enjoy in Bahrain.

Culture and Safety 🦺

When traveling to Bahrain as a tourist, it’s important to be aware of the local culture and customs, as well as take necessary safety precautions to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip. Here are some insights into Bahrain’s culture and safety tips for tourists:

Culture:

  1. Respect Islamic Traditions: Bahrain is a predominantly Muslim country, and Islamic traditions are deeply ingrained in daily life. It’s essential to be respectful of Islamic customs, such as dressing modestly when visiting religious sites, including mosques.
  2. Greetings: The traditional Arabic greeting is “As-salamu alaykum,” which means “peace be upon you.” Respond with “Wa alaykum as-salam” to reciprocate the greeting.
  3. Ramadan: If your visit coincides with Ramadan, be aware that Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during this holy month. It’s important to be discreet about eating, drinking, and smoking in public during fasting hours.
  4. Friday Prayer: On Fridays, which is the holy day of the week in Islam, many businesses and government offices may close for midday prayers. Plan your activities accordingly.
  5. Alcohol: Bahrain allows the sale of alcohol in hotels and licensed venues for non-Muslims. Public consumption and excessive drinking are frowned upon.
  6. Public Displays of Affection: Public displays of affection, including kissing and hugging, should be kept private, as they are not culturally acceptable in public spaces.
  7. Dress Modestly: While Bahrain is relatively liberal in terms of dress code compared to some other Gulf countries, it’s respectful to dress modestly, particularly in conservative areas and religious sites. For women, this may mean covering shoulders, knees, and cleavage.
  8. Hospitality: Bahrainis are known for their hospitality. If invited to someone’s home, it’s customary to bring a small gift as a token of appreciation.

Safety:

  1. Political Climate: Bahrain has experienced political protests and demonstrations in the past. Stay informed about the current political situation and avoid areas where protests or gatherings are taking place.
  2. Petty Crime: Bahrain is generally safe for tourists, with low rates of violent crime. However, like in any destination, be mindful of petty theft, such as pickpocketing, especially in crowded areas and markets.
  3. Travel Insurance: It’s advisable to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies and potential trip disruptions.
  4. Road Safety: Bahrain has a well-maintained road infrastructure, but traffic can be chaotic, and drivers can be aggressive. Exercise caution when crossing roads and consider using marked pedestrian crossings.
  5. Extreme Heat: Bahrain experiences extremely hot and humid summers. Stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and avoid outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day.
  6. Swimming: Be cautious when swimming, especially in areas with strong currents. Always follow safety guidelines and adhere to warnings at beaches.
  7. Health Precautions: Check if any vaccinations are required before traveling to Bahrain. The tap water is generally safe to drink, but bottled water is readily available.
  8. Emergency Numbers: The emergency contact number in Bahrain for police, fire, and ambulance services is 999.

By respecting local customs and following safety guidelines, you can have a culturally enriching and safe experience while exploring the cultural treasures and modern attractions of Bahrain.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a visit to Bahrain promises an enchanting journey through a land of historical wonders, modern marvels, and warm Arabian hospitality. Whether you’re exploring ancient archaeological sites, savoring delectable Middle Eastern cuisine, or relaxing on pristine beaches, Bahrain offers a blend of tradition and innovation that leaves a lasting impression on every traveler. This island kingdom invites you to uncover its treasures and immerse yourself in a vibrant tapestry of culture, making it a rewarding destination for those seeking a taste of Arabia’s past and present.