Bahrain by Sonny Saguil

Bahrain Driving Guide

Bahrain is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit.

2021-08-13 · 9min read

The Kingdom of Bahrain is a charming Middle Eastern country that offers various tourist destinations with fun-filled activities perfect for tourists of any age. From cultural and historical heritage to jaw-dropping modern architecture, the country will amaze you beyond your imagination. Bahrain boasts a diverse population, making it an appealing country to foreigners.

How Can This Guide Help You?

If you want to know more about Bahrain, spare a few minutes to read all the information you need to know before you travel to the country. Find out the driving rules you need to follow, the driving etiquette in certain situations, and the things you need to know when renting a car in Bahrain. Read on to understand why you need an international driving license in Bahrain. Lastly, find out the must-see destinations you need to visit in Bahrain.

General Information

Bahrain is a charming, progressive country in the Middle East that embraces different cultures, religions, and ethnicities. Tourists love to visit the country several times because of the cosmopolitan culture and marvelous tourist destinations. Thanks to continuous development, Bahrain is one of the must-visit countries in the world.

Geographic Location

Bahrain is a Middle Eastern country located between the Qatari peninsula and the northeastern coast of Saudi Arabia. It is a small archipelago made up of 43 islands and 51 artificial islands centered around Bahrain Island. The geographic location of Bahrain allows locals and tourists to visit the neighboring countries by car, thanks to the King Fahd Causeway.

Languages Spoken

The official language in Bahrain is Arabic, but English is also widely used in the country, making it one of the expat-friendly countries. The non-Bahraini population, including the Indian and Pakistani communities, speak other languages other than Arabic and English, including Nepalese, Baloch, Persian, Malayalam, Tamil, Bangla, and Hindi. Nonetheless, the language is not a barrier when you visit Bahrain since they speak English as well.

Land Area

Bahrain is the third smallest country in Asia after Maldives and Singapore at 780 square kilometers (300 square miles). It has a total land area of 665 square kilometers, but it increased to 780 square kilometers because of land reclamation projects. The largest Bahrain islands are Hawar Islands, Muharraq Island, Sitra, Umm an Nasan, and Bahrain Island. The 51 artificial islands around Bahrain island compromise 83% of the landmass of the country.

92% of Bahrain is a desert with only 2.8% of land for farming. Thus, the country’s natural resources are natural gas, oil, and fish in offshore waters. A one-month stay is long enough to +tour the whole country since most tourist destinations are near each other. You also won’t have a hard time navigating the roads since their road systems are well-developed.

History

Bahrain has a rich history of civilization and heritage. It was known for the pearl fisheries during the ancient Dilmun civilization and was one of the earliest Muslim countries during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad in 628 CE. In 1521, the Portuguese empire colonized the country until the Persian empire took over in 1602. In 1783, the Al Khalifa royal family of the Bani Utbah clan ruled Bahrain, making Ahmed al Fateh Bahrain's first hakim.

Bahrain became a United Kingdom protectorate in the 1800s until they declared independence in 1971. The country became an Islamic constitutional monarchy in 2002 after centuries of being an emirate. After decades of investing in the banking and tourism sectors, Bahrain developed the Persian Gulf’s first post-oil economy. Thus, the World Bank recognizes the Kingdom of Bahrain as a high-income economy.

Government

Bahrain became an Islamic constitutional monarchy in 2002 under the ruling of the Al-Khalifa royal family. Since 1971, the Prime Minister has headed the government along with the members of the parliament. Bahrain’s parliament is a bicameral legislature where the people elect the Council of Representatives while the Consultative Council is appointed directly by the king.

Tourism

In the 2010 census, Bahrain had a total population of over 1.2 million people, 48% of whom are foreigners. Known as an expat-friendly country, Bahrain attracts many foreigners every year for tourism purposes and residential. The Indian community is the biggest non-Bahraini community in the country. The government aims to provide a peaceful coexistence between people from different cultures, ethnicities, and religions.

International Driver’s Permit FAQs

An International Driver’s Permit (IDP) is a legal requirement that allows foreigners to rent and drive a Bahrain car. As a United Nations regulated travel document, it’s highly recommended to have an IDP when you visit Bahrain to ensure your safety and ease of travel. An IDP is incredibly valuable to avoid getting in trouble with authorities in Bahrain. Below is other information you need to know about IDP in Bahrain.

Is a Local Driver's License Valid in Bahrain?

A local driver’s license, such as an Indian driving license, is valid in Bahrain as long as it’s unexpired. You need to bring your local driver’s license, your IDP, and other essential documents when you drive around Bahrain to avoid getting into messy situations with the authorities. Besides, a local driver’s license is a requirement in car rental companies.

You don’t need a Bahrain driving license if you have an international driving license and are staying for less than a year. However, a local’s driver’s license becomes invalid when you stay for more than a year in Bahrain. You don’t have to schedule a driving test appointment in Bahrain with an IDP and take driving tests to drive.

Is an International Driver’s Permit Required in Bahrain?

Although an IDP is not a mandatory requirement in Bahrain, it is highly recommended by authorities to get one to avoid miscommunication. An IDP is highly recommended to drivers whose driving licenses are not in Arabic or English. Most car rental companies in Bahrain require both an IDP and your local driver’s license.

You don’t need to take a driving test if you apply for an IDP in the International Driver’s Association. All you need is to fill up the application online and upload your photos. A driving test in Bahrain is only applicable to those who need to get a Bahraini driving license, especially if they need to stay in the country for more than 12 months.

How Do I Get an International Driving Permit in Bahrain?

You can get an international driving license from the International Driver’s Association (IDA) in an instant. Once your application is approved, the IDA team will send you a digital copy of your international driving permit within two hours or even 20 minutes. IDA can ship out physical licenses anywhere in the world for up to 30 days. It’s fast, easy, and straightforward.

The International Driver’s Association offers a free replacement service if you lose your IDP. The new IDP will be reprinted within 24 hours after receiving your payment and mail it to you wherever you are. All you need to do is contact customer service, provide your IDP number and your name. You only need to pay for the shipping costs and get your new physical license in no time.

How Long is an International Driver’s Permit Valid in Bahrain?

An IDP issued by the International Driver’s Association is valid for one to three years, depending on your applied period. You can renew your international driving license after it expires by following the application process’s same steps. In Bahrain, an IDP is only valid for one year, so you need to secure a Bahraini driving license if you plan to stay for more than a year.

Does an IDP Replace a Native Driver’s License?

The IDP serves as a valid form of identification in more than 150 countries worldwide, including Bahrain. However, an IDP does not replace your driver’s license since it’s only a translation of your local driver’s license. With the IDP, your native driver’s license is translated into the world’s 12 most widely spoken languages. Bahraini authorities highly appreciate an IDP, especially from foreigners whose native driver’s license is not Arabic or English.

Renting a Car in Bahrain

Walking, taking buses, and driving cars are some of the everyday movements in Bahrain. For a memorable and pleasant stay in Bahrain, tourists opt to rent cars to get from one place to another. Since Bahrain has well-developed and well-maintained road systems, foreigners find it easy to drive throughout the country. Below is the information you need to know before renting a car in Bahrain.

Car Rental Companies

Most tourists and expats opt to rent a car in Bahrain to make their journey more enjoyable and memorable. There are several car rental companies you can find online such as Europcar and Sixt, that offer a vast selection of vehicles that you can rent. Sixt is one of the best car rental companies that rent out new cars up to 3-months old from the best car manufacturers. You can take standard vehicles for unlimited miles with GPS, child seats, and more inclusions.

Europcar is the first car hire company that implemented a sustainable development program. Like Sixt, Europcar also rents out new cars at affordable prices. They also have several options for every vehicle type you need, whether for business or trips. Car rental is quick and easy in Bahrain as long as you comply with all requirements and terms and conditions.

Documents Required

You don’t need to get a Bahrain driving license if you have an international license already to rent a car. Car rental companies will only ask for your valid local driving license, your International Driver’s Permit, a government-issued form of identification such as your passport, and your credit/debit card.

Customers from countries not part of the international driver’s license treaty must present their original driver’s license with an authorized translation of their passport from the authorities issuing the driver’s licenses in their originating countries.

Vehicle Types

Car rental companies offer different vehicles to ensure that you get the most suitable car for your trip. Drivers under 25 years of age can rent economy vehicles, full-size vehicles, SUVs, minivans, and large-sized vehicles. Sixt rents out luxury cars and a premium fleet of German cars such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Car Rental Cost

Car rentals in Bahrain are quite expensive compared to other countries. The total rate depends on the extras you select while booking. The quoted price may include VAT or any additional local tax, Premium station surcharge, road tax, license fees, third-party liability insurance, collision damage waiver, theft waiver, Unlimited Mileage option additional mileage fees.

You can incur other charges, such as fees for out-of-hours, premium location fee, and return guarantee. To get the best car rental deals, compare rental car prices of different rental companies. Comparing prices can help you save a ton, so it’s best to check out car rental companies in advance. Keep in mind that car rental car prices may spike during peak seasons.

Availing discounts can also save you a lot on the cost. Look for the car rentals with tags that say “deals” or “offers” to immediately spot the discounted prices. Avoid renting a car from airport car-rental locations since they charge more than other rental companies. Airport concession fees and taxes are also added to your bill, which will cost you a lot of money. When in doubt, rent a car from known rental companies like Sixt and Europcar.

Age Requirements

The minimum age requirement to rent a car in Bahrain is 21 years old and one must have a driving license for at least a year. The age requirements also vary depending on the type of vehicle a customer is allowed to rent. In Sixt, they allow drivers who are at least 18 years old to rent a car from all the vehicle classes. Some car rental companies like Sixt require an Underage Driving Fee for all drivers under 21 years old.

Car Insurance Cost

Car rental companies usually include car insurance costs in the rental fee. Mandatory insurance like a Collision Damage Waiver and Theft Protection is included in the rental fee/ You can also add other types of insurance for further protection.

Car Insurance Policy

It’s crucial to rent an insured car in Bahrain. The car rental companies usually include the insurance fees in the quoted price. For some rental companies, car insurance services should be availed separately. Insurance fees can be applied to short and long-term rentals. Nonetheless, the vehicle is only insured for the driver’s name on the contract.

Road rules in Bharain by Ajmal Shams

The Road Rules in Bahrain

If you opt to drive around Bahrain, keep in mind that Bahrain’s road rules apply to locals and tourists. So, it’s essential to follow the rules and regulations to avoid getting pulled over by the traffic police. Some rules may be unfamiliar to you, while some are general rules implemented everywhere in the world. It’s essential to follow the driving regulations to ensure everyone’s safety on the road.

Important Regulations

It is important to know the important traffic laws in Bahrain. Bahrain has some general measures of driving unfamiliar to most foreigners that led to dealing with the authorities. Knowing these will save you from a lot of unnecessary troubles along your journey.

Always Use Your Signals When Passing And Turning

Always use your signals to let the drivers know where you are turning. There are specific signs you need to remember when driving in Bahrain. When the driver flashes the headlight after you signal a turn, it means the driver is allowing you to pass. If you are driving on the left lane, if a driver behind you flashes the headlights, you need to make way for the driver to pass. The left lane is usually considered the fast lane, so if you’re planning to go slow, it’s better to stick to the middle or right lane.

Stop Behind The White Line At Traffic Lights

The main road and highways in Bahrain have road sensors behind the white line. If you want to get a green light, especially if you’re the only car in a 4-way intersection, make sure your vehicle stops behind the white line. Also, do not cross any red traffic light to avoid accidents.

Slow Down At Pedestrian Crossings

People cross the streets anytime they want, so it’s best to slow down when approaching any pedestrian crossing, especially in narrow streets. Honk your horns from afar so the pedestrians can speed up. Also, drive slowly in crowded areas.

Always Respect Lane Boundaries When Driving In Bahrain

Do not drive with a third of your car on one lane and the rest on another. This is to avoid possible accidents and mishaps with other drivers. Roads in Bahrain are filled with speeding cars, so it’s best to stay in your lane to be safe. Also, keep a safe distance from the incoming “Give Way” lane on your right. Always make way for ambulances sounding a siren, fire engines, police cars, and buses pulling out from the curb.

Wear Your Seatbelt All The Time

Wearing a seatbelt is mandatory in Bahrain. Anyone caught without a seatbelt while driving or sitting in the front seat can be fined for up to. Small children under the age of 10 should be seated in the rear, wearing a seat belt or a car seat. Passengers sitting at the back are not obliged to wear seat belts under the law, but for safety, especially on busy roads, it’s advisable to wear seat belts.

Do Not Drink And Drive

Just like in other countries, driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs is strictly prohibited. Alcohol and drugs can impair a driver’s senses and capability to focus on the road, which causes road accidents. Even the slight whiff of alcohol can get you jailed in Bahrain. The permitted blood alcohol level in Bahrain is 0%. The minimum fine is 500 Bahraini Dinar (BHD500) or 1-month to 1-year imprisonment, depending on how severe the offense is.

Do Not Use Your Phone While Driving

Also, you are not allowed to use your handheld mobile phones while driving. If you need to answer an important call, you can use your phone with a hands-free system. Driving while using your phone divides your attention to the road, which can lead to road accidents. You can face a fine of BD50 to BD500 or get imprisoned for up to six months if you’re caught using a handheld mobile phone.

General Standards

When driving in a foreign country, you need to observe general stang standards to avoid accidents and complaints. Bahrain has some general measures of driving unfamiliar to most foreigners that led to dealing with the authorities.

It’s also essential to keep your number plate, mirrors, side windows, main light, sidelights, rear lights, and front mirror clean. You should not use an unregistered vehicle if you don’t want to get in trouble. The car must have a valid registration certificate and a valid insurance policy against civil liability from traffic accidents

Speed Limit

The movement in Bahrain includes walking, driving cars, and taking buses, so it’s essential to obey the country’s speed limits, especially on pedestrian crossings. The city’s speed limit is 60 KpH, which everyone must abide by unless signs show otherwise. The speed limit in national highways and rural areas is up to 80 KpH, while the speed limit on expressways is up to 120 KpH.

Remember that it is not advisable to drive at these speeds since some Bahrain drivers can be unforgiving on the road. Going over the speed limit can result in severe consequences. Anyone caught overspeeding can be imprisoned for one month up to three years. You can also get fined BD50 to BD1,000, depending on the severity of the violation.

Driving Directions

Running across the country, Shaikh Isa Bin Salman Highway is one of the main routes that connect Manama with King Fahd Causeway. You’ll also travel along the King Samad highway that runs from the north to the southern part of the country. When driving in Bahrain, pay attention to the arrows that indicate which directions are possible in your current lane.

Traffic Road Signs

The traffic signs in Bahrain are the same as in other countries, such as parking, U-turn, no entry, no stopping, and speed limit. You can also find Give Way signs, No Horns sign, Roundabout sign, Width limit, and Height limit signs. The road signs are both in Arabic and English, so foreigners can easily understand traffic road signs. It’s essential to be familiar with their traffic road signs to avoid getting pulled over.

Right of Way

Right of Way is your right to precede over oncoming vehicles according to traffic laws as the traffic flows. Cars inside the roundabout have the right of way in Bahrain. Roundabouts are a distinct feature of roads that caused many accidents and traffic problems in the country. Hold the right lane if you’re about to head straight or turn right and stay in the left lane if you want to go back. If you’re going to exit or turn left, stay in the middle lane.

To drive a car in Bahrain, you must be at least 18 years old with a valid driving license. Underage drivers, even with a valid local driving license from their origin country, cannot drive in Bahrain. Moreover, underage drivers are also not allowed to rent a car in Bahrain.

Law on Overtaking

Overtaking is allowed in Bahrain, but there are some rules you need to keep in mind to ensure your safety. You are not allowed to overtake if you can’t see far enough to be sure it is safe to overtake, especially at a corner or the brow of a hill. Don’t overtake where you can get into conflict with other cars, especially when the roads are narrow, at a road junction, or when approaching any pedestrian crossing.

Once you are done overtaking, get back to the right lane as gradually as possible. Do not accelerate your speed when a car overtakes you. Instead, you need to slow down to let the overtaking car pass. Stick to the right side of the lane you are currently in as far as possible if you allow a vehicle to overtake you. Doing this can prevent you from increasing your speed. Also, do not change lanes to the right if you want to overtake.

Driving Side

Like in the United States, you should drive on the right side of the Bahrain road. Driving on the wrong side of the road may cause road accidents and traffic. So it’s essential to know this information before visiting Bahrain or any country to avoid issues. It’s confusing for people from countries driving on the left side to drive in Bahrain the first time. Adjustments are needed, especially for foreigners coming from the UK and countries that are old British colonies.

Bahrain started driving on the right side of the road 52 years ago after the King Fahd Causeway was conceived. Since Bahrain was driving on the opposite side of the road, people from neighboring countries found it hard to get to Bahrain. Thus, the left-hand traffic system was harming Bahrain’s relationship with its neighboring countries. It took many adjustments and work from both traffic authorities and the people, but all effort paid off.

Driving Etiquette in Bahrain

Knowing the road rules may not be enough to have a pleasant driving experience in Bahrain. It’s best to be prepared and knowledgeable on certain driving etiquette in Bahrain in case you face sudden situations, so you’ll know what to do. Here are some situations you may encounter on your visit and what to do in each situation.

Car Breakdown

If your car breaks down in the middle of the road, check if you can get your vehicle off the road. Consider the traffic on the other lanes before you do so. If your car has hazard warning signs, use them to signal the other drivers about your situation. You can use the “Danger” signal to indicate that there’s a hazard ahead, such as accidents or obstacles in the middle of the road.

Use the reflecting triangle to warn the other drivers. Place it at least 50 meters on the same side of the road and before the obstruction. If your car broke down at night, do not let anyone stand at the rear of your vehicle to keep the rear lamps visible. Keep yourself and your passengers off the road while waiting for help. Contact your car rental company if you ever experience a car breakdown. You can also contact car breakdown and towing services in Bahrain.

Police Stops

Bahrain has a designated task force for traffic, unlike other countries where the police force also manages traffic. You can easily recognize the traffic police in Bahrain by their uniform and vehicles. The traffic police wear a white uniform and use white vehicles with red stripes, while the Public Safety police wear a green uniform and use white vehicles with blue stripes.

The traffic police usually ask drivers to pull over when driving beyond the speed limit or any other traffic violations. When an officer stops you in Bahrain, pull over as soon as possible. Keep calm and roll down your window to answer the questions. The traffic police may ask you to present your international driving license and your passport. You need to know your violations first if they ask you to go with them.

Asking Directions

Bahrainis are friendly people, so it’s fine with them if you ask for directions. Be polite when calling their attention and when asking. Although Bahrainis can understand and speak English, you can also use basic phrases in their language such as uz ran or excuse me and shuk ran or thank you. Bahrainis will gladly tell you directions, especially if you’re heading to one of their top tourist destinations.

If you’re at the highway and missed your turn or exit, you need to drive straight and ask for directions on how to get back. You can ask people at the traffic light or outside the nearby office buildings for directions.

Checkpoints

You may encounter official checkpoints in Bahrain, but you don’t have to panic. In an official checkpoint, remain calm and polite to the police officer. Obey lawful commands of the police operating the checkpoints to avoid getting into arguments. Do not attempt to run through the checkpoint. They may ask for your U.S. passport or driver’s license, so be sure to carry your native license and IDP with you always.

If you ever see a roadblock or an unofficial checkpoint, don’t panic and keep your doors and windows locked. Contact the authorities as soon as possible and follow their commands. If the person operating the checkpoint asks for your ID cards, don’t surrender them.

Other Tips

There are also other situations that you may encounter during your driving in Bahrain. Because of this, here are some of the things you need to know during different situations or events in Bahrain. This will help you avoid getting confused during your journey and also to be aware of some of the major things while driving in the country.

What to Do if I Need to Drive During Ramadan?

As a Muslim country, Ramadan is a sacred month of fasting, reflection, and prayer in Bahrain. You are allowed to drive around Bahrain during this time, but you need to strictly observe rules to avoid offending the Muslims in the country. You are not allowed to play loud music, especially in daylight hours. The roads are mostly empty around this time, but it’s not an invitation to go beyond the speed limit.

The traffic during Iftar can be stressful but remain calm and patient. Iftar is the evening meal that Muslims take after their daily Ramadan fast. People usually go home to their families for Iftar, so it’s most likely that you get stuck in traffic during this time. If you want to avoid traffic, it’s best to plan and leave as early as possible. Also, avoid honking your horns repeatedly, especially when you are getting impatient during traffic congestion.

What Would I Do if a Driver Cuts Me Off?

This is a common situation in Bahrain since most drivers are aggressive and unforgiving on the road. You don’t have to fret over this as long as you follow the driving regulations in Bahrain. When a driver cuts in front of you, remain calm and don’t honk your horns aggressively. It can be frustrating but never give a rude gesture to the driver because it could lead to severe consequences. You can get punished over this.

Most drivers cut off in a hurry, especially during Ramadan, to get in time for Iftar in their homes. If this happens to you, be patient and don’t take it personally. People are often agitated and cranky during these times. Although some drivers can be quite erratic and impatient around this time, you don’t need to be afraid to drive during Ramadan. If possible, slow down your car if you think a car’s about to cut you off. Always be vigilant on the road since some cars just speed by others for no reason.

What Do I Need to Do if I Drive at Night in Bahrain?

As much as possible, avoid driving around 10 PM on weekdays. Always turn on your headlights when driving for your and the other drivers’ safety. Make sure that your headlights are not glaring to other drivers. You’ll notice some cars without their headlights on, so be vigilant on the road at night. Watch out for the car instead of the headlights whenever you’re driving in the evenings.

Keep in mind that using high beams when there are other vehicles on the road can blind the drivers for a few seconds. Only use high beams when there’s low visibility at night. Moreover, most streets are deserted at night throughout the country, but it doesn’t mean that you can drive above the speed limit. Overspeeding at night is one of the leading causes of road accidents in Bahrain, especially among young drivers.

What If I Need to Change Lanes?

Changing lanes is quite common in Bahrain. If you need to change lanes, always check your rear and side mirrors. Before you change lanes, it’s essential to signal the other cars behind you so they can slow down for you. Changing lanes without signaling causes road accidents. You should also check the blind-spot area before changing lanes for your safety.

Do not attempt to change lanes if you’ll get too close to the vehicle in the lane that you’ll join in or if the approaching car is running fast. Tailgating is not allowed in Bahrain, so you need to make sure that you don’t get too close to the rear of the vehicle ahead of you. Also, watch out for motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians when changing lanes. They sometimes pop at your side, trying to ease through the traffic.

Lastly, when you change lanes, do not leave half of your car on the other lane.

What If I Get Involved in an Accident?

Accidents can happen to everyone, even if you do your best to avoid it. When you get involved in a minor accident in Bahrain, you and the other party should approach the nearest police station. Do not call up the traffic police. In case of a major accident, do not move your vehicle nor let the other party move away theirs. Attempting to run away from the scene leads to facing grave consequences.

In case you injured a pedestrian or in an event of an emergency, you should contact the police and call up an ambulance to assist the wounded. Keep calm while waiting for help and, if possible, apply first aid to the injured. During the questioning, answer the questions honestly and politely. Follow the commands of the authorities to avoid legal complications.

Driving Conditions in Bahrain

Knowing the driving situations and conditions of Bahrain can help you prepare yourself before you hit the road. Some situations and conditions can be quite a shock to you. It’s best to learn about them before you drive a car in Bahrain.

Accident Statistics

According to the 2018 WHO Data, road accidents resulted in 3.88% of deaths in Bahrain. The death rate for road accidents is 8.17 per 100,000 population, making Bahrain land the 129th position in world rankings. Road traffic accidents ranked 12th among the most common causes of death in Bahrain. In 2019, Bahrain reported a 50% decrease in fatal traffic accidents despite an increase in the number of vehicles for the last five years.

People in Bahrain often drive aggressively, especially during rush hours and on weekends. It’s important to drive defensively and avoid giving a rude gesture to the driver. People from neighboring countries usually visit Bahrain on weekends, so traffic is expected, especially at night. Aggressive driving leads to road accidents in Bahrain, so it’s best to follow traffic rules and prioritize road safety.

Common Vehicles

Unlike its luxurious neighboring countries where elite people live, Bahrain is a livable place for middle-class people. You’ll often find SUVs, economy vehicles, and minivans on the road. However, you can also spot some luxurious cars heading to the financial hub in the country. You can also find motorcycles and trucks on the road.

Toll Roads

The King Fahd Causeway is a 24 km Causeway that links Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. You will only be using this Causeway if you are going to Saudi Arabia. You are not allowed to use a rental car in this situation as it is forbidden to enter Saudi Arabia using a car that is not your own. The causeway is a toll road, so expect that it will be a busy road.

Road Situation

What makes Bahrain appealing to foreigners is the state-of-the-art road system. The roads are well-maintained with smart cameras in traffic lights and road sensors that help the traffic authorities do their job efficiently. Some highways and major roads in Bahrain have four to six lanes with road signs written in Arabic and English. You can also find fuel stations throughout the country that are open 24/7.

On the other hand, village streets like in the older parts of Manama and Muharraq are narrower than other roads. Minor roads can be congested since they generally have only two lanes, unlike the major roadways. Although minor roads and village streets are narrow, they are well-maintained, just like the multi-lane highways.

Driving Culture

Gone were the days when women are not allowed to get behind the wheel. Female drivers are welcome to drive around Bahrain as long as they have a valid driving license and at least 18 years old. It’s not an unusual sight anymore to find women driving a car in Bahrain. Traffic in Bahrain may not be for the faint-hearted but female drivers can surely handle it. Just watch out for aggressive drivers on the road.

To better travel experience, avoid wearing too tight or too skimpy clothes as it attracts unwanted attention. The country is slowly integrating modernity and liberalism, especially for women, so it’s okay to wear clothes that you usually wear in your country. If possible, wear clothes that cover your arms and legs since showing too much skin is frowned upon.

Other Tips

It is important to know the different driving conditions in Bahrain so you could be aware of all the things you need to drive there. Here are some of the tips you need for driving in Bahrain as tourists.

Are Bahrainis Safe Drivers?

Driving around Bahrain is easy and hassle-free once you get the hang of it. Cutting in, changing lanes or turning unexpectedly, and aggressive honking are common traffic issues anywhere in the world. Aggressive driving usually happens during rush hours and in the evenings. As much as possible, avoid driving on Thursdays since it is when the worst driving scenario happens.

Nonetheless, Bahraini drivers are tolerant of foreign drivers. You don’t have to stress over the aggressive drivers since there’s only a few of them compared to the number of law-abiding drivers. If you want to avoid coming across impatient drivers, leave as early as possible. In this way, you’d get a hassle-free driving experience in Bahrain.

Are They Using KpH or MpH?

Speed limits are imposed to ensure the road safety of the citizens. There are two units of measurement for speed limits: KpH and MpH. Only 17 countries in the world, including the USA, UK, and Canada, use the MpH metric. Just like the majority, Bahrain uses the KpH measurement for speed limits. Knowing the right unit for the speed limit of the country can save you from getting pulled over.

Remembering the unit for speed limit can be quite confusing at first, especially when road signs only show the numbers without the unit of measurement. If you’re from the USA or UK renting a car in Bahrain, you’ll know how fast your vehicle is running from the speedometer on the dashboard. The speedometer will indicate the KpH symbol, so you don’t have an excuse when traffic police stop you for overspeeding.

Things to Do in Bahrain

As an expat-friendly country, Bahrain has been open to more foreigners wanting to live in Bahrain for years. Almost half of the population in Bahrain are foreigners from India, Pakistan, and more. If you want to live in this beautiful country, you need to learn about the things you can do during your long-term stay.

Drive as a Tourist

Driving on Bahrain’s beautiful roads could be one of the best experiences you’ll have in the country. You can either rent a car for this or buy your own car if you have enough budget intended for this activity. Driving as a tourist in the country will let you have the freedom to do the things you want like sightseeing, exploring and trying out new restaurants, anytime you want.

This will save you from the hassles of getting to wake up early or having to worry that you’ll miss the tour you availed. This is also a wise decision if you are bringing a group of friends or family with you.

Work as a Travel Guide

Working as a travel guide in the country might be the best option for you if you loved the beauty, history, and stories behind the attractions in Bahrain. This way, you can also share all its history with everyone else, especially tourists from all over the world. Like driving in Bahrain, you will also need to secure a work visa and comply with all the requirements needed.

Work as a Driver

Getting a driving job in Bahrain may not be easy but not entirely impossible. You can find several driving jobs in Bahrain from job listings sites online. However, you need to secure a work visa, comply with all requirements, and take the necessary tests to get a driving job in Bahrain. You should also be familiar with the driving test rules in Bahrain to land a driving job.

You can either get private car driving jobs like driving for families or teach driving lessons in Bahrain’s driving training school. You can find several driving training schools in Bahrain that are looking for driving instructors. Some driving schools may be hesitant to hire a foreigner to teach driving lessons, but there’s no harm in trying. If you know the Bahrain driving test rules by heart and possess a Bahrain driving license, your chances of getting hired will increase.

Apply for a Residency

If you wish to live and work in Bahrain, you need to apply for a residency permit and work visa. Your employer processes a work visa for you. All you need is to comply with the requirements such as your passport, passport-size photos, a copy of your work contract, your health record from an authorized clinic, and an accomplished visa application form. Your employer shoulders the fee for your application.

Your work visa is valid for one to two years. When you already have a work visa, you are automatically entitled to reside in Bahrain. If you want your family to live with you in Bahrain, they all need to secure a family visa. Only the immediate family is entitled to a family visa.

Other Things to Do

If you plan to stay in Bahrain for months and want to own a car to maximize the most out of your stay there, then here are more tips for you!

Can a Foreigner Own a Car in Bahrain?

Foreigners usually purchase cars when they stay longer than a year in Bahrain. You can buy from car sales centers or previous owners. You need to consider several things before purchasing a car in Bahrain, such as maintenance, renewal, and insurance. If you want to own a car in Bahrain, you have to secure a Population Registration Card (PRC). You also need to renew the vehicle registration every 12 months.

If you plan to buy a secondhand car, keep in mind that vehicles over five years old must undergo an annual test before the registration renewal. It’s best to schedule the annual test three months before the due date for the renewal to avoid long queues. You can enjoy privileges if you own a car and a driving license in Bahrain. Driving with an owned car and a Bahrain driving license is valid in UAE and other GCC countries.

Do I Need to Get a Bahrain Driving License if I Stay for More Than 12 Months?

Foreigners who are staying in Bahrain for more than 12 months need to get a Bahraini driving license. You may exchange your local driving license for a Bahraini driving permit from Traffic Services. Some countries can get a valid driving license in Bahrain without a test. All you need is to submit the requirements, fill up the paperwork, and take an eyesight test. You also need to set a driving test appointment in Bahrain to apply for a Bahrain driving license.

If you don’t have a local driver’s license, you can apply for a driving license in Bahrain and undergo the standard driving, medical, and educational tests. You can only get a driving license if you are at least 18 years old, possess a Bahraini ID card (CPR), and pass all the tests. You can enroll in a driving school in Bahrain if you haven’t taken a driving lesson before. Driving schools in Bahrain charge an hourly rate for driving lessons.

The Top Destinations in Bahrain

Aside from oil production and financial institutions, Bahrain’s economy also relies on tourism as more and more tourists visit the country every year. You can see a lot of tourist destinations, ranging from cultural heritage sites to modern infrastructures. If you’re driving to these sites, follow Bahrain’s driving regulations to avoid getting in trouble with the authorities. Below are the top destinations that you shouldn’t miss out on your visit to Bahrain.

Bahrain Photo by Todd Gardner

Bahrain International Circuit

Bahrain also offers a motorsport venue for car racing fans. Opened in 2004, Bahrain International Circuit has gained thousands of tourists yearly to witness racing events, including the annual Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix. There are also thrilling rides you can enjoy during the off-season.

Driving Directions:

Bahrain International Circuit is a 9-minute drive from Al Areen Wildlife Park via Gulf of Bahrain Road.

  1. Once you get to the Gulf of Bahrain Road, turn right at the 1st cross street.
  2. Continue to the Gulf of Bahrain Road, then turn right.
  3. Once you reach the intersection, turn right again. Turn left.
  4. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit and continue until you reach the entrance of the circuit. Bring your IDP with you in case authorities need to check your documents.

Things To Do

If you are a car racing fan, this place will be a wonderland for you! Here are some of the things you can do:

1. See The Giant Ferris Wheel

Car racing fans will surely love this idea of the ‘giant wheel’ as a Ferris wheel in Bahrain International Circuit. This Ferris wheel will let you see and enjoy the beautiful view from the top.

2. Try The Reverse Bungee

If you are in need of an additional adrenaline dose, this activity will surely satisfy that! This reverse bungee is like bungee jumping, but in reverse, it will toss you straight up to the sky at a very fast speed!

3. Enjoy The Car Race

If you are lucky enough to go here while there is an event, don’t miss the race cars in motion! You’ll also have the chance to see your favorite race car drivers and their amazing cars used for racing.

Bahrain Photo by Ajmal Shams

Bahrain National Museum

Built back in 1988, the majestic Bahrain National Museum gains thousands of tourists every year. Inside the museum, you’ll find several artifacts from the ancient Dilmun civilization and exhibits about the 6000-year history, tradition, and culture in Bahrain. Aside from the vast collection of artifacts, the Bahrain National Museum is a famous landmark for its grand patio that overlooks the island of Muharraq.

Driving Directions:

  1. Head northeast to Imam Hussain Avenue toward Al Mutanabi Avenue, then turn right onto Bab Al Bahrain Avenue.
  2. Then, turn left onto Isa Al Kabeer Avenue and bear right once you reach Isa Al Kabeer road.
  3. Turn right onto Government Avenue, then turn right again onto Palace Avenue. Then turn left onto Sheikh Hamad Causeway. The last intersection is 2209 Road.

Things To Do

Exploring Bahrain’s history in this Museum gives you the chance to know the country more. Here are some of the things you can do here:

1. Walk Through The Hall of Documents

This is the place where you’ll see the rare copies of the Qur’an dating from the 13th to 14th centuries. You’ll also see different documents and manuscripts from the old tribes that ruled Bahrain in the ancient days.

2. See The Different Exhibits

Through these exhibits, you’ll get to take a glimpse of everyday life in Bahrain. You will see how their culture nourished different life events like giving birth, weddings, death, different traditions, and many more.

3. Experience Their Culture

You’ll also see their old cultures and traditions in the Hall of Customs and Traditions. There, you’ll be observing the different traditions in Bahrain from the ancient days up till now. This includes their old ways of living, medical practices, structures of their houses, and traditions of their life events.

Bahrain Photo by Omaima Mosharaf

The Old Villages And Infrastructures

As a Muslim Country, Bahrain is also a home for many Ancient Mosques and Infrastructures. This makes the country an amazing place to visit because there are many things to learn and see, especially if you are very interested in culture and history.

Aside from these, you’ll also get to see the old cities and civilizations here in the country. Buy handicrafts in its villages, find the intricate Kufic calligraphy on the walls of the mosques, and see the amazing tree of life! After shopping in the handicrafts center, check out the magnificent Al Jasra House, where you’ll find old wind towers that once dominated the Bahraini skyline.

Driving Directions:

  1. From Bahrain National Museum, continue to Al Fatih Highway heading southwest, then take the 2nd exit at the roundabout.
  2. Then, take a sharp right onto Al Fatih Highway and keep right to stay on the highway.
  3. Make a sharp left to stay on Al Fatih Highway.
  4. Take Road No. 2407 and turn left at Shaikh Daij Avenue.
  5. Make a slight right turn, continuing down Road No. 2407.
  6. Then, take a right turn and take the 2nd exit at the roundabout.
  7. Turn right once again. You’ll see the mosque on the right side of the road.

Things To Do:

There are many old villages, infrastructures and mosques you can visit in Bahrain and here are some of them:

1. Tour Around Al Fateh Grand Mosque

As one of the largest mosques globally, the 6,500-square-meter Al Fateh Grand Mosque can accommodate over 7,000 people at a time. It’s famous for the fiberglass dome on top of the mosque, which is considered the world’s most giant glass dome. You can take a self-tour around the mosque, or you can join a guided tour facilitated by English- and Arabic-speaking tour guides.

2. Buy Handicrafts in Al Jasra

Located in the Northern Governorate administrative region of Bahrain, Al Jasra is a coastal village known as the country’s arts and handicrafts hub. Known for its handcrafting history, Al Jasra offers different types of handicrafts that you can buy in the handicraft center, including pots, baskets, and textiles.

3. See The Tree of Life

As a country comprising 91% desert, it’s a remarkable sight to see a healthy tree in the middle of the desert. For over 400 years, the tree is miraculously growing despite the harsh weather condition and the lack of water sources in the desert. Because of the growing number of tourists visiting the place, there are now visitor shelters with toilets for convenience. Some events, such as the Bahrain International Music Festival, are held here.

4. Visit The Old Infrastructures At Qal’at Bahrain

Qal’at Bahrain is a 12-meter high artificial mound that testifies human settlement from the ancient Dilmun civilization until the Portuguese colonial period. The site is famous for the impressive Bahrain Fort standing at the top of the mound. Here you’ll find different types of old infrastructures: public, commercial, residential, religious, and military.

Now that you know the essential driving information of Bahrain, it’s time to prepare yourself for a memorable driving experience. Make sure to apply for an International Driver’s Permit in Bahrain before your trip to avoid conflict and delays.

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