COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: 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. Read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Bahrain for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are planning to live in or visit Bahrain, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. When you enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in the event of an emergency. You can also download our free Smart Traveler App available through iTunes and Google Play to have travel information at your fingertips.
The U.S. Embassy in Manama
Building No. 979
Road 3119, Block 331
Telephone: (973) 1724-2700
Emergency after-hours telephone: (973) 1727-5126
Facsimile: (973) 1725-6242
The workweek in Bahrain is Sunday through Thursday.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: You must have a passport valid for at least six months and a visa to enter Bahrain. U.S. passport holders outside Bahrain may apply and pay for a two-week tourist eVisa online through the Bahraini government website, or may obtain and pay for a visa upon arrival at any of the ports of entry. Bahraini authorities encourage all U.S. citizens to apply for the appropriate visa prior to arriving in Bahrain; in many cases an eVisa is available. U.S. diplomatic passport holders and U.S. official passport holders can get a no-fee two-week visa upon arrival. Prior to travel, visitors may also obtain a five-year multiple-entry visa valid for stays as long as one month from Bahraini embassies overseas. Journalists planning to travel to Bahrain for reporting should be aware that Bahrain requires a journalism visa. For more information on how to apply for a journalism visa please visit the Bahraini government website. All travelers to Bahrain face close scrutiny from Bahraini authorities and should be prepared to answer questions regarding the purpose of their travel to Bahrain. The Government of Bahrain has refused some U.S. citizens permission to enter Bahrain.
Exit permits are not required; however, visitors must be in legal status before they will be allowed to depart. You may be prevented from departing if you are involved in legal proceedings, have unpaid debt, or are a child subject to a custody dispute. Bahrain assesses heavy fines on visitors who fail to extend their legal status or depart the country at the end of their authorized stays. An exit tax is included in theticket price for flights out of Bahrain; no additional exit fees are required upon departure. Residents of Bahrain who intend to return should obtain a re-entry permit before departing and the re-entry permit should be valid for at least six months.
For the most current information on entry and exit requirements, please contact the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain at 3502 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 342-1111; or the Bahrain Permanent Mission to the UN at 2 United Nations Plaza, East 44th St., New York, NY 10017, telephone (212) 223-6200. U.S. citizens who need to extend their visas or residence permits in Bahrain should contact the General Directorate of Nationality and Passports.
Some HIV/AIDS restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Bahrain. While U.S. citizens are not required to declare their HIV status upon applying for entry into Bahrain, the government revokes the visas of non-Bahrainis who are discovered to be HIV positive. Please verify this information with the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain before you travel.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO 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.
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CRIME: 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.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Bahrain is 999 for fire, ambulance, and police and 199 for traffic accidents (no injuries) or 999 (injuries).
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: 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.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Individuals subject to Bahraini court orders or involved in court proceedings arising from indebtedness, labor disagreements, family disputes, or other legal disputes may be prevented from departing Bahrain until their cases are resolved. Instances have occurred in which departure was prohibited for several years, since the legal process can be both lengthy and complex. Embassy Manama’s Consular Section maintains a list of local attorneys willing to represent U.S. citizens but cannot provide financial assistance for legal costs or living expenses while a person is prohibited from leaving Bahrain.
If you will be working in Bahrain, we urge you to have a valid work permit and signed employment contract prior to arriving in Bahrain. In particular, the contract should be clear in the provisions related to relocation expenses, type of housing and number of occupants, any visa fees to be paid by the employee, when salaries will be paid, any salary penalties, who will pay transportation costs if the contract is terminated by either the employee or the employer, and whether different provisions apply within the probation period. Under no circumstances should you take up employment while in Bahrain on a tourist visa. Bahraini authorities will hold you personally liable for remaining in legal immigration status, regardless of incorrect advice received from the employer or the employer’s failure to obtain a valid work permit for the employee. It is illegal for Bahraini employers to confiscate or otherwise retain an employee's passport. Questions regarding employment in Bahrain can be directed to Bahrain’s Ministry of Labor hotlines, or to a local attorney. While many U.S. citizens have a wonderful experience working in Bahrain, some individuals have complained of unfair employment practices. Specifically, the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain has received a number of complaints from U.S. citizens employed in the education sector.
Obtaining an employment permit may require providing properly authenticated documents. Failure to provide these documents may delay the issuance of the work permit or residence permits for the employee’s family. Applicants may visit the website of Bahrain’s Labor Market Regulatory Authority for complete requirements, and the Department of State’s Office of Authentications and Authentication of American Academic Credentials for Use Abroad pages for authentication procedures.
The Kingdom of Bahrain generally does not permit dual nationality. U.S. citizens eligible for Bahraini citizenship will usually be required to relinquish their U.S. passport to Bahrain’s General Directorate of Nationality, Passports, and Residence before they will be issued a Bahraini passport. However, the Kingdom of Bahrain has been known to make exceptions. For additional information, see our information on dual nationality.
There are no treaties in force between Bahrain and the United States dealing with international parental child abduction and custody cases. Child custody decrees issued in a U.S. court may be ignored by Bahraini courts, and may be unenforceable in Bahrain. Bahraini family law is different from U.S. family law. U.S. citizens who are divorced from or in the process of getting a divorce from a Bahraini citizen should seek legal counsel and ascertain their rights in Bahrain before visiting Bahrain, especially with their children. Please see the Department of State flyer on Bahrain for additional information.
While the law does not criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity between consenting persons who are at least 21 years of age, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activities are not socially accepted. LGBT travelers should read the State Department’s LGBT Travel Information page.
Accessibility: While in Bahrain, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Outside of a few of the more expensive hotels in the capital, individuals with disabilities will find almost no accessible accommodations. Similarly there are very few accessible restaurants, shops, or historical sites. Transportation is not accessible, and sidewalks and crosswalks, even in the main cities, are not accessible. Handicap accessible toilets and bathrooms, even in major hospitals, are generally not available. New public buildings in the central municipality must include facilities for persons with disabilities. The law does not mandate access to nonresidential buildings for persons with disabilities.
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.
You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It is very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctor and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy does not go with you when you travel, it is a very good idea to purchase another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
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.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Bahrain, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Bahrain’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Bahrain dated November 13, 2012, to update the sections on Entry/Exit Requirements for U.S. Citizens, Threats to Safety and Security, Crime, Special Circumstances and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.