Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, acceptable business etiquette, dress, business cards, gifts, etc.
Business and account executives will generally not have language difficulties with their Kuwaiti counterparts, as English is widely spoken, and many Kuwaiti business professionals were educated overseas.
A personal relationship is an important basis for successful business ties in Kuwait. It is essential to allow time for friendly conversation before commencing with a business agenda. Scheduling appointments in advance is essential. With government officials, appointments normally occur between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Official government work hours are from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Some companies work split shifts, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and from 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. in the evening. Friday and Saturday are the official weekend in Kuwait. Friday is respected as family time. It is not advisable to attempt weekend meetings, unless your Kuwaiti host suggests it.
Most senior executives and key decision-makers maintain extensive travel schedules outside of Kuwait. This is particularly evident during summer months, when Kuwaitis tend to escape the heat that can often hover at or above 50C/122F. During the holy month of Ramadan, business is very slow and decisions and appointments are often delayed until after the month. Ramadan will be approximately April 12-May 11 in 2021. The two major holidays in Kuwait are Eid al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan and Eid al-Adha at the end of the Hajj or pilgrimage season, which occurs 70 days after Eid al-Fitr. National Day and Liberation Day (marking the liberation of Kuwait from Iraq), occur on February 25 and 26. These local holidays generally offer opportunities for many decision-makers to leave the country for a week or more, so travel to Kuwait during these dates would be less effective than at other times. Travelers should schedule appointments prior to their arrival in Kuwait, but reconfirm a day or two before and on the morning of the appointment. It is always good to have a mobile phone contact number in case of last minute changes.
No alcohol, pork products, controlled substances, or pornographic materials may be imported into or used in Kuwait. If prohibited items are discovered in a traveler’s effects, he or she may be arrested and prosecuted.
Passports and visas are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Kuwait. U.S. citizens can obtain visitor visas at the port of entry. International hotels in Kuwait frequently offer a service to facilitate the visa process and reduce time at the airport to acquire a visa. Travelers who overstay their visas may face serious fines when leaving Kuwait. Travelers attempting to leave Kuwait without paying traffic or other fines may not be allowed to leave. A Ministry of Justice office is located in Kuwait’s International Airport for passengers who wish to settle any fines before departure. This includes travelers proceeding via Kuwait to and from Iraq. For further information on entry and exit requirements, please see our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Kuwait and other countries. Visit the Kuwait Information Office – USA website for the most current visa information. Travelers may contact Kuwait’s diplomatic missions in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, CA:
Embassy of the State of Kuwait
2940 Tilden St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Telephone (202) 966-0702
General Consulate of the State of Kuwait
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Telephone (310) 556-0300
For entry and exit requirements pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction, please find information at: https://travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en.html
For Customs Information, please see https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/kuwait.html
U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign business professionals to the United States can find visa information at the following links:
- State Department Visa Website: https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en.html
- U.S. Embassy Kuwait Consular Section: https://kw.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/
The Kuwaiti Dinar (KD) is the official currency of the country. One KD is approximately $ 3.30.
The telephone system and communication services in Kuwait are supplied by the Ministry of Communications (MOC) and by private companies. The telephone system is adequate and e-mail, faxes, and the internet are widely used in international business. There are over four million Internet users in Kuwait and several service providers. Cellular service is readily available through local companies including: Zain, Viva, and Ooredoo. The voltage in Kuwait is 220, different from the 110 voltage in the United States. While some hotels have adapter plugs that allow for both the local and the U.S. plug to be used, it is a good idea to bring an adapter to charge electronics.
There are several local, regional, and European airlines serving Kuwait. There are currently no non-stop flights to the United States, but you can travel to more than a dozen U.S. destinations with one-stop by transferring via Europe, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, or Doha.
The road system in Kuwait is reasonably modern. Many travelers hire an automobile with driver to manage their transportation needs. Some of the better hotels offer this service to their guests. Most major car rental companies, including Avis, Hertz, and Budget, operate in Kuwait. U.S. motorists should be cognizant and exercise caution in Kuwait, as traffic conditions are often problematic given frequent congestion, speeding and limited adherence to traffic regulations. Kuwait, similar to other GCC countries, has a very high rate of traffic fatalities.
Luxury hotels, including U.S. hotel brands such as the Radisson Blu, Hilton, JW Marriott, Sheraton, Four Points, Crowne Plaza, the Four Seasons, and business-friendly 4-star hotels, are popular with travelers. As of 2020, 5-star hotels charge on average $327, plus 15% service charge, and 4-star hotels charge on average $240, plus 15% service charge, for single rooms per night.
Short-term visitors may also elect to stay in furnished apartments, which are generally rented for minimum stays of one week.
To host a hospitality event at a major hotel, business executives should expect to pay $35-50 per guest. Hotels generally require one-week notification to host such events. Function rooms are heavily booked during Ramadan and immediately following the Eid holidays.
The official language of the State of Kuwait is Arabic. For international projects and procurement tenders, written communication is often in English. In most cases, the Arabic text is the official contract version and will be the one that is upheld in court. Companies need to exercise care in understanding that the Arabic version of the contract must be correct. Translation and interpreter services are readily available and recommended. Private businesses are free to choose the language for contracts; however, some contracts such as employment contracts and business notices including announcements of the implementation of government of Kuwait regulations must, by law, be written in Arabic. Corporate and or agency registration with the Kuwait Ministry of Commerce and Industry must be in Arabic. However, English or foreign language translation may be included in the submission of registration documents. A private entity may offer translation of official Arabic text. Where documents are in multiple languages, the Arabic version is the legally binding text. English is widely spoken in the business community, and most expatriates have a sufficient command of the English language.
U.S. business visitors to Kuwait should arrive prepared to cope with the extreme heat and dust storms during the summer months. Although tap water is safe to drink, it is recommended to use bottled water as an added precaution. Food, including salads and dairy products, is generally fresh.
The quality of medical care varies depending on the facility, the personnel on duty, and the nature of the medical problem. Although many medications (mainly American) are available, visitors are advised to bring sufficient supplies of their prescription medication (as well as a signed prescription) for their entire stay. Visitors should consider purchasing short-term medical insurance, which includes a medical evacuation option in the event of a medical emergency that would require treatment outside of Kuwait. Should medical care be required while here, there are two options: the government system or private clinics. There are seven regional hospitals and numerous suburban polyclinics run by the Ministry of Public Health.
Additional information can be found in the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad. The brochure is available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.
Local Time, Business Hours and Holidays
Time in Kuwait is Universal Time Coordinated/Zulu + 3 hours (Zulu is London UTC/GMT). In comparison, Eastern Standard Time is UTC/Zulu – 5 hours, Central Standard Time is UTC/Zulu – 6 hours and Pacific Standard Time is UTC/Zulu – 8 hours. Kuwait does not observe Daylight Savings Time. (Kuwait is seven hours ahead of Eastern time zone from the second Sunday of March to the first Sunday of November and eight hours ahead of the Eastern time zone from the first Sunday in November until the second Sunday in March.
Government Offices: 07:30-14:30 Sunday-Thursday (Varies among government agencies)
Private Organizations: 08:30-12:30 and 16:30-20:00 (Friday closed) or
08.00-/17.00 (Friday-Saturday closed)
09:00-16:00 (Friday-Saturday closed)
(Financial and service companies)
09:00-14:00 and 19:00-00:00 (Ramadan hours)
Banks: 08:00-15:00 (closed Friday and Saturday)
Holidays – The U.S. Embassy work week is from Sunday to Thursday. If a holiday falls on Monday in the United States, the Embassy will generally celebrate it on Sunday.
Holidays observed by the U.S. Embassy and Consulate (local and U.S.) can be found here:
Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings
Samples and Advertising Material
Advertising material and samples may be admitted duty free if they are contained in packages describing the advertising nature of the contents and identifying the sender. Materials considered to be in excess of reasonable requirements may be subject to normal customs duty.
Temporary imports into Kuwait can enter under a customs bond, with the bond remitted to the importer when the product or goods leave Kuwait. This process is known as demonstration and re-export. In the event any outdoor equipment is imported to Kuwait for testing, the best months for demonstration are July and August when weather conditions are usually the most difficult with the hottest temperatures.