Bahrain - Country Commercial Guide
Business Travel

Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, and other aspects of international travel. 

Last published date: 2021-09-28

Business Customs

Frequent personal contact is the key to doing business successfully in Bahrain.  Visiting business professionals should be prepared to spend a portion of any business meeting socializing and getting to know their counterparts.  Most visitors to Bahrain should build flexibility into their schedules because some appointments may not be scheduled until the visitors have already arrived in Bahrain.  Appointments may be double-booked or scheduled on short notice.

A visitor should arrive on time for his meeting, particularly for a government appointment.  Once the meeting begins, it may be interrupted by telephone calls or office visits.  Coffee, tea, or soft drinks are commonly offered (except during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan), and should be accepted.  Alcohol is generally not acceptable in meetings or most public settings and is strictly prohibited during Ramadan.  Restaurants and liquor shops suspend the sale of alcohol during this month.  Politeness is highly valued; blunt statements should be recast into constructive, balanced terms.

The majority of local businessowners and government officials wear local attire - a white dress (thobe) for men with a fabric headdress including a scarf (ghatrah) and a headband (egal), and a black dress (abaya) and headcovering (hijab) for women.  However, expatriates typically wear business attire similar to that of the United States.

Business cards are usually exchanged during the first meeting.  Visiting business officials should have their business cards ready to hand out at the beginning of the meeting.

Devout Muslims pray five times daily.  Visitors should be sensitive to hosts who break off a discussion for prayer.

Many Bahraini government and business officials have attended school in the United Kingdom or United States and are knowledgeable about Western business customs.  Particularly with Western-educated officials, there is little that a visiting businessperson might find different from home.  English is widely spoken.

Most Bahraini government offices operate Sunday through Thursday, and many companies also are open half-days on Saturdays.  Most commercial banks are open Sunday through Thursday.

Travel Advisory

The crime rate in Bahrain is low and violent crimes are rare.  However, burglary, petty theft, and robberies do occur.  Visiting U.S. citizens should take the same security precautions in Bahrain as they would practice in the United States.  There are occasional civil disturbances in various parts of the country.  The U.S. Embassy advises American citizens to avoid protests or large gatherings in the streets.

Americans in Bahrain, as elsewhere, should enroll to receive alerts at step.state.gov, and should maintain a high level of security awareness while following their daily business or social routines, due to the global threat of terrorism.  For the latest travel advisories, please visit the U.S. Embassy Manama’s website at bh.usembassy.gov or the Department of State’s Bahrain Country Specific Information page: travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/bahrain.html

Visa Requirements

American citizens traveling to Bahrain can review visa eligibility requirements at https://www.evisa.gov.bh/ and complete the application process for several types of visas on that website. 

American citizens may apply for one of several visa types.  For updates on travel restrictions related to COVID-19, please visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 information page: bh.usembassy.gov/covid-19-information/.

In general, the Bahraini government of Bahrain offers the following visas for:

  • The two-week, single-entry visa can be obtained upon arrival at Bahrain International Airport.  It costs BD 5 (about $13).  It can be extended at the Nationality, Passports and Residence Administration in Bahrain by paying an additional fee. 
  • The one-month multiple-entry visa can be obtained upon arrival at Bahrain International Airport.  It costs BD 25 (about $67) and can be extended at the Nationality, Passports and Residence Administration in Bahrain by paying an additional fee. 
  • The one-month multiple-entry e-visa costs BD 29 (about $77).  It is valid for one month from the time of approval and authorizes a stay of up to 30 days. 
  • The two-week multiple-entry business visa can be obtained at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain in Washington, D.C.  It must be used within three months of approval and is valid for one month from the time of entry, although it can be used for multiple entries.  The maximum length of a single stay is two weeks.  It can be extended one time for 14 days through the Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs office in Bahrain by paying an additional fee.
  • The one-month multiple-entry tourism visa is valid for three months.  It can be obtained upon arrival at Bahrain International Airport and costs BD 25 (about $67).  This visa can be extended one time for 14 days through the Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs office in Bahrain by paying an additional fee.
  • The ten-year multiple re-entry visa (RV) costs BD 60 (about $160) and can be obtained at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain in Washington, D.C.  The visa can be used for multiple entries during this period.  It permits a maximum 90 days stay in Bahrain, per visit.  The visa can be extended through the Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs office in Bahrain by paying an additional fee. 

It is important to note that your U.S. passport must be valid for at least six months after your arrival in order to be granted admission into Bahrain. 

For more details, please visit https://www.evisa.gov.bh/.  U.S. citizens may pay for their visas using a variety of currencies, including U.S. Dollars, Bahraini Dinars, Euros, and British Pounds.

Of note, having an Israeli entry stamp in a passport does not preclude a person from obtaining a Bahraini visitor visa, nor from entering Bahrain. 

U.S. companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process.  For more information, visa applicants should go to the following link:  State Department Visa Website

Non-Bahraini nationals, wishing to live and work legally in Bahrain, will need to apply for a work visa and residency permit from the Labor Market Regulatory Authority (https://lmra.bh/portal/ar/home) and Nationality, Passport, and Residence Affairs (https://www.npra.gov.bh/ ).

For further details about visas for Bahrain, please contact the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain:

Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain

3502 International Dr., NW

Washington, D.C. 20008

Email: ambsecretary@bahrainembassy.org

Phone: +1-202-342-1111

Website: https://www.mofa.gov.bh/Default.aspx?tabid=7702&language=en-US

Currency

Bahrain’s currency is called the Bahraini Dinar (BD).  Businesses will often accept multiple currencies as payment, among them Saudi Riyals and Emirati Dirhams.

The BD is divided into 1000 fils, and is available in the following denominations: 5 fils, 10 fils, 25 fils, 50 fils, 100 fils, 500 fils, 1 BD, 5 BD, 10 BD and 20 BD.

The exchange rate of BD with the US Dollar is fixed at 1 BD = US$ 2.66.  Money can be conveniently exchanged at any commercial bank or moneychanger.

Most businesses accept international credit and debit cards.  Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted credit cards and are the most commonly issued cards by banks in Bahrain.  Charge cards such as those issued by American Express, CrediMax and Diners Club are also available in the Gulf region and are fairly widely accepted, although less so than the major credit cards, mainly because of the higher commission charged to the supplier of the goods or services.

Withdrawals of cash from an overseas account can be made using an international network such as Visa or MasterCard.  It is also possible to withdraw cash using a credit card, although this generally incurs high charges.

Visitors can withdraw cash from ATMs in Bahrain using all major credit and charge cards.  Customers must present a credit card as a form of guaranteed payment when renting a car or booking a hotel.

Telecommunications/Electronics

The state-owned Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco) operates a modern and efficient telecommunications network.  Mobile (GSM) phones are widely used.  Roaming arrangements cover the GCC, U.S., and European Union countries.  Three local companies, Batelco, STC and Zain, operate mobile phone networks and provide internet services. 

U.S. Executive Order 13873 bars U.S. companies from using telecommunications equipment or services of any firm posing a national security risk.  For further information regarding security of 5G technology can be found here:  https://share.america.gov/why-is-america-concerned-about-5g/

Accessibility to a free WIFI connection is available in most hotels in Bahrain.  Bahrain uses electricity voltage of 220-240 Volts (the U.S uses 110-120 Volts) and the primary socket is type G - British BS-1363 (http://www.adaptelec.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=3).

Transportation

Bahrain’s only public airport, Bahrain International Airport (airport code: BAH), is a regional hub for Bahrain’s national carrier, Gulf Air.  Several international airlines service Bahrain and the United States via connections through the Gulf region or Europe.  In January 2021, the Bahraini government inaugurated a new passenger terminal at Bahrain International Airport.  The project is part of the Airport Modernization Program, a comprehensive development plan designed to improve the infrastructure and services at the airport to cater to future aviation needs.  Bahrain has a well-developed road network with well-lit, multi-lane highways.  The Bahraini government is implementing a transportation master plan to improve the road transportation network with new highways, bridges and overpasses.  Most major roads have three to six lanes and are well maintained.  In older parts of the country, however, some streets are unpaved or are in poor condition.

Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are connected by the 25-km (16-mile) King Fahd Causeway, which opened in November 1986 and was closed to routine passenger traffic in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and resumed two-way traffic in May 2021.  The Bahraini government has announced plans to build a second causeway to Saudi Arabia.  When complete, this causeway also will include two rail links (one for passengers and one for cargo) as part of the planned GCC railway network.

Drivers in Bahrain should exercise extreme caution.  Accidents are common.  Local drivers often flout traffic regulations and police often do not enforce the traffic rules.  Speed cameras and radar have been installed at some intersections.  Driving on weekend nights can be particularly hazardous.  Bahrain has a zero-tolerance policy for drunk driving.  Traffic congestion is common in Manama, exacerbated by ongoing construction projects and weekend traffic from neighboring countries.

The Bahraini government is expanding public transportation options in an effort to decrease traffic congestion.  Over 141 public buses cover 27 routes in all regions of the island.  Usually, they are reliable and quite cheap.  Taxis are more expensive than buses, however they are air-conditioned and serve more places than the public transportation system offers.  Passenger boats connect Bahrain with the Hawar and Al Dar islands.

Language

The official language of Bahrain is Arabic, but English is widely spoken as the standard language of business and higher education.  Hindi, Farsi, Urdu, and various other South Asian languages also are common.

Health

Sanitary standards for food and water are generally quite good, particularly at major hotels.  The Government inspects restaurants to maintain hygienic standards.

Bahrain has a modern healthcare

system.  There is a BD 7 (about $19) fee for expatriates who visit an emergency clinic in a government hospital.  The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult with their medical insurance companies prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policies provide coverage overseas and if they cover emergency expenses such as medical evacuation.  Few hospitals and clinics accept U.S. insurance, and patients often must pay up front for service and seek reimbursement later from their insurance providers.

Hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies — including several twenty-four hour pharmacies – are widely available and of high quality.  Certain American pharmaceutical products may be unavailable or sold under a European brand name.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC’s internet site at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel.  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s website at  https://www.who.int/ .

Local Time, Business Hours and Holidays

Local time: Bahrain is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and seven hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time.  Bahrain does not observe daylight savings time and therefore is eight hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time during winter months.

Business hours: Sunday through Thursday is the normal workweek in Bahrain.  Government offices are generally open from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Most businesses operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, though smaller businesses close for lunch from noon to 4 p.m.  Larger companies operate seven days a week but may have reduced hours on weekends.

Bahrain’s numerous shopping malls are open late, often to 10 p.m. on weekdays and past midnight on weekends.

Ramadan

Ramadan (April 12 - May 11, 2021) is the holiest month of the Islamic Calendar.  Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan.  It is illegal in Bahrain for anyone – including non-Muslims – to smoke, eat, or drink in public during daylight hours.  Most restaurants and cafes are closed for dine-in during daylight hours but do deliver, and major hotels will normally keep one restaurant discretely open for non-Muslim guests.  During Ramadan, government offices and most businesses have shortened hours, though many shopping malls and restaurants reopen at dusk and operate well past midnight.

Public Holidays for 2021

  • January 3, New Year’s Day
  • May 2, Labor Day
  • *May 12-13, Eid Al Fitar
  • *July 20-22, Eid Al Adha
  • * July 30, Hijra Day (Muslim New Year)
  • * August 18-19, Ashura
  • * October 9, Prophet’s Birthday
  • December 16-17, National Day

*Local religious holidays are governed by the lunar calendar and are subject to change.  The Government of Bahrain announces exact dates a few days before the actual holiday.

Business travelers to Bahrain seeking appointments with officials at the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain should schedule their appointments prior to departure from the United States.  The U.S. Embassy Manama Commercial Section may be reached by e-mail at ManamaCommercial@state.gov.  The U.S. Embassy may observe U.S. and Bahraini public holidays. 

Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings

The Bahrain International Airport has no restrictions on the temporary entry of personal electronic devices such as laptops, software, or exhibit materials.  Religious propaganda and potentially offensive printed materials, CDs, videos or films, should not be brought into the country.  Strict copyright laws are enforced in Bahrain, and any pirated video and audio tapes, or illegal computer software, will be confiscated.  A list of goods prohibited from entry into Bahrain can be found on the Bahrain Customs Affairs website at  https://www.bahraincustoms.gov.bh/ .

Passengers are required to declare cash, or any other financial instrument exceeding BD 10,000 (approximately $26,600).  There is no restriction on the amount of cash that passengers may carry.  Any declaration requirement is for monitoring and statistical purposes.  For additional information, please visit the Civil Aviation Authority and Bahrain International Airport’s website (http://www.bahrainairport.com/en/prepare-documents/customs-rules.html)