Despite its reduced size and extensive exposure to a rich mixture of cultures and nationalities, Bahrain’s society has proudly maintained its Arab traditions and roots. Deeply influenced by the Islamic rules, religion is an undeniable side of the country’s cultural, moral, legal and economic life. In comparison to most neighbouring countries, Bahrain is regarded as a much more liberal and open land, where newcomers are always welcome. Therefore, Bahrain is a prosperous and heartwarming land for those looking for new experiences and life changing opportunities. Situated in the heart of the Middle East, Bahrain is a cosmopolitan country with a privileged location for any ambitious entrepreneur.
However, in order to integrate in the vibrant Bahrain society, it is advisable to inform yourself about the Arab way of life before your arrival in the country. This will help you to understand and appreciate the complexity of its culture, allowing you to minimize the transition process as a Westerner living in the Middle East. One of the things that can be shocking as a first time traveller is the local dress code. Smart and conservative, men and women often wear pristinely ironed clothing. The traditional dishdashas and gutras combine with women’s complex abayas, which are often delicately crafted and beautifully decorated. Respecting the dress code is crucial for a good integration in the country, specially for women. Shoulders and knees should be always covered, and although this is only a formal requirement when visiting the Grand Mosque, hair should be covered by a head scarf too. Shorts, tank tops and showing underwear are considered provocative clothing and are often condemned by locals. The conservative clothing style of Bahrain is broken at the beach, where bikinis are acceptable. However, topless is considered nudity and is therefore punished by a pricy fine.
Regarding etiquette, Bahrain is the proud heir of the ancient Arabian heritage. When invited to a Bahraini home, always bring a non alcoholic gift. Do not expect your hosts to open your present, the tradition dictates not to do so until the guests have left. In Bahraini culture, men greet other men with handshakes and kisses on the cheeks if they know each other, while women greet each other with a hug and a kiss. Men and women are not supposed to touch unless the woman offers her hand.
Visas are needed in order to visit Bahrain and, for citizens of most western nationalities, these can be conveniently obtained on arrival at Bahrain International Airport or at the border with Saudi Arabia. The cost of a three-month, multiple-entry visa, valid for stays of two weeks up to 30 days, costs BD25 (around US$66) and is payable in cash or credit card, either Bahraini dinars or major international currencies. You can also apply for an e-visa online – follow the links on www.evisa.gov.bh – wihich allows you to avoid long arrival immingration lines. You can check your eligibility for a visa on arrival online www.evisa.gov.bh, as there are some restrictions currently in place for certain professions and nationalities. Given the decreasing international interest about Bahrain in recent decades, and the fact that tourism outside of the Formula 1 Grand Prix has slowed to a trickle, expect to be questioned about your intentions if you're visiting the country as a tourist.
Once you are in the land you can extend your visa by visiting the General Directorate of Nationality, Passports & Residents. The cost of a visa extension is currently BD5 and the government takes a minimum of 72 hours to process and approve extension requests. This new document allows you to remain in the country for two more weeks, with no exception. Please consider that foreigners who overstay are rigorously fined.