What makes Bahrain a unique country to travel to?
The Kingdom of Bahrain is a hereditary monarchy and is home to both Bahrainis and a sizable expatriate community. In 2002, the country adopted a new constitution that reinstated a parliament consisting of one elected and one appointed chamber. Islamic ideals and beliefs provide the foundation of the country's customs, laws, and practices. Tourist facilities are widely available. The capital is Manama. Bahrain continues to experience political unrest, resulting in frequent protests and sporadic violence in certain areas of the country; however, U.S. citizens have not been the target of protests.
The crime rate in Bahrain is low and violent crime is rare. However, burglary, petty theft, and robberies do occur. Take the same security precautions in Bahrain that you would practice in the United States. Women should be cautious while traveling alone. If you are followed, do not lead the person back to your home. Find a populated area and locate a police or security officer. Try to seem purposeful when you move about. Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you are going. Try to ask for directions only from individuals in authority. When driving always ensure that your vehicle doors are locked. Hotel room doors should be locked when visitors are in their rooms, and travelers are encouraged to store valuables in hotel room safes when they are available. Women are encouraged to keep their purses firmly under their arms, and men should avoid keeping their wallets in their hip pockets while in the old market area. Embassy Manama recommends that travelers using local taxis insist on the use of a meter to avoid being overcharged. Bahrain has a professional police force; contact the police if you encounter problems.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in Bahrain, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Bahrain, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. Persons violating Bahrain’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bahrain are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. The use of vulgar language or hand gestures can result in heavy fines or criminal charges. Although alcohol is available, public drunkenness and disorderly behavior can result in arrest and one drink may be sufficient grounds for a drunken driving arrest.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Basic modern medical care and medicines are available in several hospitals and health centers in Bahrain. Two government hospitals, several private hospitals, and numerous private clinics located throughout the country offer a wide range of medical services. Cardiac care, general surgery, internal medicine, obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, orthopedics, and dentistry services are readily available, as are x-rays, CT-scan, and MRI testing. The government hospitals house both trauma and ICU units. Pharmacies are common throughout Bahrain and carry a wide range of medications. Prescriptions are normally required. Payment at all medical facilities is due at the time of service. Some hospitals have limited direct billing capability for certain insurance carriers. Billing and insurance practices vary among the medical facilities.
Safety and Security
Spontaneous and at times violent anti-government demonstrations occur in some neighborhoods, particularly at night and on weekends. These demonstrations have included blockades of major highways with burning debris and the establishment of unofficial checkpoints. Participants have thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails and used various other homemade weapons, to include improvised explosive devices and shotgun-like projectile launchers. The Ministry of Interior maintains official checkpoints in some areas and routinely uses tear gas and stun grenades, along with birdshot and other crowd control measures, against demonstrators. Violent clashes between security forces and demonstrators can make travel in and around Bahrain dangerous without advance warning.
There have been no direct attacks on U.S. citizens; however, Westerners and U.S. citizens have been caught in the middle of clashes. Anti-U.S. sentiment has been expressed on the streets and in some local press, and U.S. flags have occasionally been burned during demonstrations. U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal safety by knowing the locations of police and fire stations, hospitals, and the U.S. Embassy. The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid all demonstrations as even peaceful ones can quickly become unruly, and a foreigner could become a target of harassment or worse. If you are in immediate danger, call the police at 999.
The U.S. Embassy restricts its employees from traveling to specific areas and advises all U.S. citizens to do the same. Please check the Updated Travel Alert Map on the Embassy’s website for the latest travel restrictions. We continue to urge U.S. citizens to stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Please check our Demonstration Notices for information on demonstrations, security guidance, and a map outlining areas that are off-limits to Embassy U.S. citizen employees and their family members. The Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and U.S. interests throughout the world. U.S. citizens should maintain a low profile, vary routes and times for all required travel, and treat mail and packages from unfamiliar sources with caution. In addition, U.S. citizens are urged to avoid contact with any suspicious objects or people and to report their presence to local authorities.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Bahrain is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Travel by road in Bahrain is generally safe although unsafe driving practices are common. Highways and major roads in the northern third of Bahrain are four to six lanes wide and well maintained; roads in villages and older parts of Manama and Muharraq are narrow and twisting. As in the United States, traffic in Bahrain moves on the right. Roundabouts (traffic circles) follow the British system, with those automobiles within the traffic circle having right of way over those attempting to enter. Although the Bahraini penal code calls for fines of up to 100 Bahraini dinars ($270.00) or imprisonment of up to six months for driving above posted speed limits, drivers frequently drive well over the posted speed limits of 50-100 km per hour. The law allows the police to detain drivers for traffic violations until they can appear before a magistrate. It is illegal to use a cell phone while driving and drivers are required to wear seat belts.
Under Bahraini law, any sign of having consumed alcohol may be taken as prima facie evidence of driving under the influence, which can lead to imprisonment and/or fines of up to 1,000 Bahraini dinars (about $2,700). Except for minor accidents, drivers may not move their vehicles after an accident until areport has been filed with the traffic police. This is true even in cases of single-car accidents. Insurance companies may not provide coverage if the cars are moved. However, drivers involved in minor, non-injury accidents no longer need to wait at the scene for the police. Individuals should get their vehicles off the road to avoid further accidents. Drivers should call the accident hotline at 199 (if there are no injuries) or 999 (when someone is injured) where they will be directed to one of five centers to file the accident report. This report must be filed within 24 hours of the accident. Both drivers may be prohibited from leaving the country until the matter is resolved if an accident results in legal proceedings. The main switchboard at the traffic department is 1787-2222.