- Foreign & Commonwealth Office
- 9 October 2013
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 the 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 the country 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. The Bahrainis are friendly people who show tolerance and an open-minded approach to visitors in their country; but their 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 types of improper conduct and behaviour which can otherwise lead to fines, imprisonment and deportation.
Social ethics and traditions
Alcohol consumption in Bahrain
Drunken behaviour in public or driving under the influence of alcohol is a punishable offence, making the offender liable to a fine or imprisonment and/or deportation and withdrawal of the driving licence. Sentences in prison 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 an 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.
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. If you are caught committing this offence you could be subject to a fine.
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. Offensive language, spitting and aggressive behaviour (including hand gestures) are viewed very seriously and can result in imprisonment and deportation. This includes road rage.
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. Working without the proper visa is illegal. You cannot partake in any kind of paid employment without first obtaining a work visa. If caught, you will face imprisonment.
Dress code in Bahrain
Bahrain 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 respectable clothing should be worn). Any form of nudity is strictly forbidden, including topless sunbathing.
Respect for religion in Bahrain
Islamic religion 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 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
- every evening during Ramadan, Muslims celebrate the breaking of their fast with an evening meal called Iftar. You will find many hotels and restaurants throughout Bahrain who provide Iftar buffets
- 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
- stay aware of what is going on around you and keep away from situations where you do not feel comfortable
- find out from your guidebook or tour guide about 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. If a situation looks dangerous, it probably is
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.
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 travel-banned 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 travel-banned until they attempt to depart 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 on telephone: 17399777.
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 FCO 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.
Published: 9 October 2013