Respecting local laws and customs can help you avoid getting into trouble and have a trouble-free, enjoyable time while staying in Bahrain.
Thinking about a holiday in Bahrain, or maybe you are considering the possibilities of employment here? There are a few things you need to know before you go and while you are here. To ensure that your stay is memorable, for all the right reasons, keep in mind that you are no longer in the UK. Respect the laws and values of Bahrain and your stay should be an extremely enjoyable one!
Bahrain is built on generations of Islamic traditions which are rooted firmly in its culture and tribal heritage. These traditions have been passed down from generation to generation and form the cornerstone of everyday life for Bahraini family. Bahrainis are friendly people who show tolerance and an open-minded approach to visitors in their country; but Bahraini culture and values should always be respected. The culture and laws in Bahrain are designed to ensure that everyone is respectful of each other regardless of their faith and nationality. Visitors and residents alike should avoid conduct and behaviour which might be perceived as breaching these norms as it may lead to prosecution resulting in fines, imprisonment and deportation.
Arriving in Bahrain
If you are a British National and are coming to live in Bahrain soon, there are a few things you may wish to consider to make your arrival smoother. Please make sure to follow our tips for Checking in to the country.
If you are coming to Bahrain to take up work and arrive on a visit visa, please ensure that your employer registers you with the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) and provides you (and your family) with a Residence Permit and CPR (ID card) very shortly after you arrive. You should not take up any form of employment whilst in Bahrain on a visit visa. Working without the proper visa is illegal. You cannot undertake any kind of paid or unpaid employment in Bahrain without first obtaining a work visa. Failure to comply could result in prosecution and imprisonment.
If you have been living in Bahrain prior to taking up a new job opportunity here, it is common practice for employers in Bahrain to request a Good Conduct Certificate issued by the police.
If you have lived in Bahrain for more than 6 months and would like to request a Good Conduct Certificate click here.
Social ethics and traditions
Alcohol consumption in Bahrain
Drunken behaviour in public or driving under the influence of alcohol is against the law, making the offender liable to a fine or imprisonment and/or deportation and withdrawal of the driving licence. Prison sentences are not uncommon.
Drugs are strictly forbidden, even a residual amount. Consuming or carrying drugs, even if you are transiting through the airport from one country to another, can result in imprisonment and deportation. Buying or selling narcotics is considered a serious crime which can result in life imprisonment.
If you are using prescribed drugs, it is advisable to carry a doctor’s note. If you are bringing prescription drugs into Bahrain you may need to seek prior agreement from the authorities. You should check with the nearest Bahrain Embassy or consulate before you travel.
Driving in Bahrain
Bahrain has a zero-tolerance policy towards drinking and driving. You can be charged and imprisoned if you are caught with even the smallest amount of alcohol in your system. Tailgating, speeding, racing, lane jumping and using a mobile phone while driving are all against the law. There are numerous speed cameras on the roads and motorways. Fines in Bahrain are heavy. Wearing a seatbelt is mandatory. Failure to do so can result in a fine. Drivers in Bahrain should exercise caution - driving can be erratic, particularly at weekends.
Bahrain laws and customs
Sexual relationships outside of marriage are illegal, irrespective of any relationship you may have with your partner in the UK. Cohabiting, including in hotels, is also illegal. If you become pregnant outside of marriage, both you and your partner face the possibility of imprisonment. There are also legal ramifications when registering the birth with the local authorities. Civil partnerships are not recognised in Bahrain, the concept of a civil partnership does not exist and will also be treated as a sexual relationship outside of marriage which is illegal.
Holding hands for married couples is tolerated but kissing and hugging are considered offences against public decency. Open displays of affection are generally not tolerated.
Offensive language, spitting and aggressive behaviour (including hand gestures) are viewed very seriously and can result in imprisonment and deportation. This includes road rage.
Dress code in Bahrain
Bahrainis dress conservatively in traditional dress and can be offended when people dress inappropriately or not in accordance with Islamic values.
In public places such as shopping malls, restaurants and parks, you are encouraged to dress appropriately. Clothing should not be transparent, indecently expose parts of the body or display offensive pictures or slogans. Be aware that if you enter one of these areas dressed inappropriately you may be asked to leave (most of the larger shopping malls display signs warning that respectable clothing should be worn). Any form of nudity is strictly forbidden, including topless sunbathing. These rules are even more closely observed during Ramadan when modesty is promoted.
Respect for religion in Bahrain
Islamic religious values are greatly respected in Bahrain. Showing any disrespect towards religious beliefs or practices is considered deeply offensive and very likely to result in a heavy fine and/or imprisonment. Other religions are respected in Bahrain and can be followed by the expatriate community. Follow a few simple rules of respect:
- Muslims pray five times a day. You will notice that the mosques call people to pray through a speaker system
- Be aware that drivers who are not close to a mosque, may stop at a convenient lay-by to pray privately.
- During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. Throughout this month, eating, drinking, smoking, playing loud music and dancing in public places during daylight hours are strictly forbidden and punishable by law, including for non-Muslims.
- Be aware of security and take sensible precautions.
- Leave your jewellery and valuables at home if you can. Only carry as much money as you need for the day. Leave the rest, and at least one credit card, in the hotel safe if one is available.
- Keep copies of your passport, insurance details and other important travel documents separate from the originals. It is useful to always have some form of identity on you, such as a driving licence or a photocopy of your passport.
- Be aware of what is going on around you and keep away from situations where you do not feel comfortable.
- Seek guidance from your hotel (or consult a guidebook) to discover any local scams.
- Keep up to date with local and regional events in the media.
- Don’t take risks on holidays that you wouldn’t take at home. Trust your instincts: If a situation looks dangerous, it probably is.
If you are planning to leave Bahrain this summer, please make sure to follow our tips for Checking out of the country (ODT, 122KB).
Travel bans in Bahrain
Travel bans are legal prohibitions the Bahrain government imposes to prevent persons involved in disputes from departing the country. They can be the result of any sort of civil or criminal dispute or immigration violation. They are not normally lifted until the matter at issue, ie, civil suit, criminal case or immigration violation, is settled.
A travel ban can result from any number of causes. For example, civil courts in Bahrain can (and do) impose travel bans over financial disputes. Such disputes might include disputes between business partners, between borrowers and lenders, landlords and tenants. If a financial dispute is the basis of the travel ban, it may be possible to get the ban lifted by depositing a sum of money equal to the amount in dispute with the court or if the parties mutually settle the matter and withdraw litigation proceedings.
The Bahrain Public Prosecutor’s office may also impose travel bans on individuals while it is conducting criminal investigations in order to prevent them from leaving the country. The Ministry of the Interior will also impose travel bans on those who violate their visa status by overstaying, working without authorization, etc. These bans will not usually be lifted until the case at issue is concluded. Persons who are banned from travelling for immigration violations will sometimes also find themselves in deportation proceedings. Persons who are involved in disputes or investigations can check whether travel bans exist by checking with the Bahrain Immigration Department. Often travellers do not learn that they are subject to a travel ban until they attempt to depart the country or on entry into the country.
The Bahrain government will usually not lift a travel ban until the matter under dispute is resolved. If the resolution involves a financial penalty such as a fine, the process of getting the travel ban formally lifted can involve shuttling between various Bahrain government offices and courts to pay, obtain needed approvals, etc. Once the ban is lifted, the traveller is free to depart Bahrain.
For further information, please contact the Bahrain Department of Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs on telephone: 17399764.
To contact the Consular Team at the British Embassy please call 17574100 (option 1 for English and 2 for Consular Assistance) or email them using the following contact form www.gov.uk/contact-consulate-manama.
If you would like to sign up to receive Consular Newsletters to remain aware of the latest consular information. Click here to sign up.
This information is provided as a general guide and is based upon information provided to the embassy by the relevant local authorities and may be subject to change at any time with little or no notice. The FCDO and the British Embassy will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information. British nationals wishing to obtain any further information must contact the relevant local authority.