August 6, 2004
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Bahrain is a hereditary kingdom, governed by the Al-Khalifa family. In 2002, the country became a monarchy with a constitution that reinstated a legislative body, one of whose chambers is elected. Islamic ideals and beliefs provide the conservative foundation of the country's customs, laws and practices. In Bahrain, which is a modern developed country, tourist facilities are widely available. The capital is Manama.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Passports and visas are required. Two-week visas may be obtained for a fee upon arrival at the airport. Prior to travel, visitors may obtain from Bahraini embassies overseas five-year multiple entry visas valid for stays as long as one month. Visitors who fail to depart the country at the end of their authorized stay are heavily fined. The exact amount of the fine is determined by a formula related to the visa type, duration, and location of issuance. A small exit tax of BD 3.000 (equivalent to $8) is charged all travelers upon departure. Diplomatic passport holders do not pay exit tax. Residents of Bahrain who intend to return must obtain a re-entry permit before departing. For further information on entry requirements, travelers can contact the Embassy of the State of Bahrain, 3502 International Drive, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 342-0741; or the Bahraini Permanent Mission to the U.N., 2 United Nations Plaza, East 44th St., New York, N.Y. 10017, telephone (212) 223-6200. Information also may be obtained from the Embassy's Internet home page at http://www.bahrainembassy.org.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of the relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
DUAL NATIONALITY: The Bahraini government does not recognize dual nationality except for nationals of the Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC). Bahraini authorities have confiscated the U.S. passports of dual (Bahraini/U.S.) nationals when they applied for a Bahraini passport. This does not constitute loss of U.S. citizenship, but it should be reported to the U.S. Embassy in Manama. For additional information, please refer to the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov/ and click on the Dual Nationality flyer.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Americans in Bahrain should maintain a high level of security awareness. The security situation in Bahrain has changed significantly since the September 11, 2001 attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the initiation of U.S. military operations in Iraq, and the onset of the current cycle of violence in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Several anti-American demonstrations occurred in 2002, one of which resulted in the U.S. Embassy being attacked with firebombs, and in 2003 at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Isolated incidents of aggressive or violent confrontations with individual Americans also have occurred. Events in the region can spark a mass response locally and further inflame current sentiments. Visiting U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Manama upon arrival and to maintain a low profile. The U.S. Embassy in Manama recommends that visitors limit their activities to tourist attractions and major urban commercial districts, particularly at night. The U.S. Embassy in Manama suggests that all Americans maintain an unpredictable schedule and vary travel routes whenever possible. Americans also are urged to treat mail from unfamiliar sources with caution and to avoid contact with any suspicious, unfamiliar objects. Please report any suspicious activity, individuals, vehicles, or objects to the U.S. Embassy's Regional Security Office at telephone 00973-1724-2700 or 1727 or 5126 after hours.
The Embassy informs the registered resident American community of security matters through a warden system (please see the registration section below for more information).
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Middle East and North Africa Public Announcement, and other Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.
Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
CRIME: The crime rate in Bahrain is low and violent crime is rare. However, burglary, petty theft, and robberies do occur. Visiting Americans are urged to take the same security precautions in Bahrain that one would practice in the United States. Hotel room doors should be locked when visitors are in the 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 arm, and men should avoid keeping their wallets in their hip pocket while in the old market area (Souk). The U.S. Embassy in Manama recommends that travelers using local taxis insist on the use of a meter since unexpectedly-high fares may otherwise be charged. Bahrain has a professional police force, and visitors are encouraged to contact the police if problems are encountered.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist finding appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds can be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
U.S. citizens should refer to the Department of State's pamphlets, A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to the Middle East and North Africa, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: 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 to obtain certain restricted medications from pharmacies, much as they are required in the U.S.
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.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: 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 http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, please consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.
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 concerning Bahrain is provided for general reference only and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside/Ambulance Assistance: Fair
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. While there is a fine of at least 50 Bahraini Dinars for speeding (speed limits range from 50 to 100 km per hour), it is not uncommon to be passed by cars traveling 120 to 140 km per hour on the highway. A driver flashing his/her high beams is generally asking for a chance to pass.
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 Dinars (2,700 U.S. dollars). If involved in an accident, drivers may not move their vehicles until a report 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. Both drivers may be prohibited from leaving the country until the matter is resolved if an accident results in legal proceedings.
Emergency numbers are as follows:
Passers-by commonly stop to assist stranded drivers; many have mobile phones and will offer to call for assistance. Members of the American Automobile Association (AAA) can call for assistance from the red and white Automobile Association boxes located on highways.
Hitchhikers are common in Bahrain. While most hitchhikers pose little threat, visitors should resist offering rides to strangers, especially in groups. While rare, young men posing as hitchhikers have carried out carjackings.
For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/travel/abroad_roadsafety.html.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Bahrain by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Bahrain's civil aviation authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Bahraini customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary import or export of items such as: firearms, knives, ammunition, or other weapons; pornography or seditious literature; and habit-forming or hallucinatory drugs. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the State of Bahrain in Washington, D.C. or Bahrain's Consulate in New York for specific information regarding customs requirements.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. A current list of those countries with serious problems in this regard can be found at http://www.ustr.gov/reports/2003/special301.htm.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Bahrain's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bahrain are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.
Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Individuals subject to Bahraini court orders arising from indebtedness, labor disagreements, or other legal disputes may be prohibited 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. A list of local attorneys capable of representing Americans in such matters is available from the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Manama.
Businesses and banks in Bahrain no longer accept old-style U.S. one hundred dollar bills.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/family/index.html or telephone Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Bahrain are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Bahrain. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, you'll make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact you in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Bldg. 979, Road no. 3119, Zinj District (next to Al Ahli Sports Club). (The mailing address is P.O. Box 26431, Manama, Bahrain.) The telephone number is 00973-1724-2700. The Consular Section fax number is 973-1725-6242. The Embassy's website, which includes consular information and the most recent messages to the American community in Bahrain, is http://www.usembassy.bh.gov. The workweek in Bahrain is Saturday through Wednesday.