The Kingdom of Bahrain has long been a favorite weekend destination for visitors from Saudi Arabia, but in recent years the country has begun investing significant resources in luxury resorts, unique events, high-end malls and other attractions in a bid to draw tourists from all over the world.
Beautiful beaches, historic sites, trendy restaurants and carpet shopping are just a few of the reasons to visit the tiny island nation.
The best time to visit Bahrain
Because of its location in the Arabian Gulf, Bahrain can be scorching hot and extremely humid in the summer months. However, the weather from October to early April is almost always sunny and pleasant, and can serve as a nice escape from colder climates.
Travelers hoping to see Bahrain’s Formula 1 race should plan to visit the first week of April, but those uninterested in the event may want to choose a different time; Grand Prix week is the most crowded time of year.
Public transportation in Bahrain
There are only two ways to get to Bahrain: by car, the causeway from Saudi Arabia or air. Bahrain International Airport has flights to and from locations all over the world, and an extensive project is underway to update and expand its facilities.
There also are 28 bus routes around the island. The buses are inexpensive, air-conditioned and offer free Wi-Fi; however, they are not typically used by tourists, and instead serve mainly locals.
Taxis are readily available at the airport, restaurants and hotels, and Uber is also a popular choice for transportation. Additionally, many rental car companies have outposts in Bahrain and several offer kiosks at the airport.
What to pack for a trip to Bahrain
Though many people in Bahrain wear traditional Arabic clothing, Western garb is also ubiquitous. Women may feel more comfortable wearing outfits that cover their shoulders and thighs, or packing a loose-fitting sweater, abaya or kimono to wear in more conservative areas. However, there is no official dress code and head coverings are not required, except inside mosques.
Bathing suits, shorts and sleeveless tops are all acceptable for men and women at beaches and resorts, but some restaurants and government buildings do not allow shorts at all.
Umbrellas and rain gear are unlikely to be necessary, as Bahrain only sees a few inches of precipitation each year, but sunscreen is a definite must.
Other helpful tips on Bahrain
The workweek in Bahrain runs from Sunday through Thursday, so Thursday nights are generally very busy at restaurants and bars.
If you’re looking to imbibe, you can find alcohol at most hotel venues, as well as some standalone eateries in Adliya — most locally owned spots don’t serve spirits. Similarly, pork products are also available at a handful of eateries.
Friday is a day of prayer, and many shops and tourist attractions are closed in the morning or all day. However, several hotels and restaurants provide all-you-can-eat-and-drink brunch on Friday afternoons for expats and visitors.
Locally owned shops tend to close in the heat of the afternoon and reopen in the evening during the week, though most stores and restaurants here tend to stay open later than in the United States and Europe.
The official language of Bahrain is Arabic, but English is spoken throughout the island as well.