Sophisticated, modern and cosmopolitan Bahrain, a kingdom of 33 islands in the Arabian Gulf, is welcoming an increasing number of international tourists who come to experience the country's fascinating blend of eastern and western cultures. Manama, on the main island, boasts excellent hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, an intriguing souq (bazaar) and all the other facilities visitors need for a great holiday. In addition, there are decent beaches, perenially hot and sunny weather, English is spoken and understood everywhere, and the kingdom has the remnants of more than 5,000 years of civilisation to be explored. Its future as a popular holiday destination for westerners seems assured.
Back in the mists of time Bahrain was attached to the Arabian Peninsula. Nature separated it from the mainland, but man has now rejoined it with a 16-mile (25km) long causeway linking it to Saudi Arabia. During construction of the causeway and a new road network, the islands' archaeological significance came to light with the discovery of thousands of burial mounds dating from the third millennium BC, part of the well-ordered ancient city of Dilmun that existed where a forest of skyscrapers now reaches for the sky.
Throughout its history Bahrain has been prosperous, first on the strength of its good position for trade and fishing, and the abundance and quality of the pearls found in its waters, and more latterly because of its oil resources (Bahrain was the first country in the Gulf to exploit its 'liquid gold').
Though the government is stable than in years past, Bahrain is still growing as a popular tourist destination in the Middle East. A visit to Bahrain, whether on business or pleasure, is an interesting, relaxing and rewarding experience.
The official currency is the Bahraini Dinar (BHD), divided into
1,000 fils. Notes come in denominations of 20, 10, 5 and 1 dinars
and 500 fils. The Bahraini Dinar is linked to the US Dollar at a
rate of US$1=BD 0.375. Money can be exchanged at the airport,
bureaux de change (which usually offer the best rates), commercial
banks in Manama or at moneychangers operating in the souq. ATMs are
available in the larger towns. Credit cards and travellers cheques
are widely accepted at hotels and the larger retail stores, but
smaller shops generally prefer cash. It is easiest to carry
travellers cheques in US dollars to avoid additional charges. Most
offices, businesses and government departments are closed on
Fridays, as it is a weekly holiday. Banks are usually open 7.30am
to 12pm and 3.30pm to 5.30pm, Saturday to Wednesday, and 7.30am to
|BHD 1 =||US$ 2.64||Â£ 1.72||C$ 2.69||A$ 2.56||R 22.29||EUR 2.08||NZ$ 3.32|
Note: These currency exchange rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.
No vaccinations are required for visitors to Bahrain, but a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended. Medical facilities are good in the main cities, but health insurance is recommended because visitors must pay for treatment. There are many well-stocked pharmacies in the country. Water is deemed clean and safe by the authorities, but visitors usually prefer to drink bottled water, which is widely available.
All persons who wish to enter Bahrain need a visa, except citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates). Visas are relatively easy to obtain on arrival if holding sufficient funds. A passport valid for at least six months, and tickets or documentation for return or onward travel are also required. 14 day business or tourist visas incur a fee of BD 5 on arrival. eVisas must be used within 30 days of approval and are valid for a single entry. Visas are extendable.
Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.
Bahrain Tourist Office, Manama: +973 715 713 or www.bahraintourism.com
Foreign Embassies in Bahrain
First mentioned in Islamic chronicles in the year 1345, historical Manama is now the capital and largest city of Bahrain, at the north-eastern tip of the Persian Gulf island state. There is a strong colonial influence in the area, with Portuguese occupation in 1521 followed by Persian dominance in 1602. This lovely city is a great base from which to enjoy the stunning beaches, buildings and sites in the area. The economy of Manama was traditionally based on pearling, fishing, boat building and trade, displays of which can now be seen in local museums. In 1932 the discovery of petroleum boosted the city's economy, which has recently diversified into tourism and retail. Declared a free port in 1958, the facilities of the MÃ®nÃ¢ SalmÃ¢n port, in the al-Qulayah Inlet, have also aided economic growth and provided more access to tourists. Open-minded and tolerant of other cultures, Manama is visited by a large number of foreigners each year. These visitors can enjoy a vast array of attractions, from souks (markets) and shopping malls to forts and pearl museums, as well as the friendly nature of the locals. There is also an active nightlife with many popular restaurants, bars and clubs to choose from, making this a splendid vacation destination.
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