Bahrain is the smallest of the independent Persian Gulf states,
and has often had to walk a diplomatic tightrope in relation
to its larger neighbours. The country has few oil reserves,
however it has established itself as a hub for refining as well
as international banking, while also achieving a liberal (by
Gulf standards at least) political system.
Officially 220V 50Hz. Most outlets are the British standard
BS-1363 type. Generally speaking, U.S., Canadian and Continental
European travellers should pack adapters for these outlets if
they plan to use their electrical equipment in Bahrain.
The best time to visit Bahrain is November-March, with October
& April being just bearable. Be sure to take along a sweater
during December-March, evenings can be cool. Bahrain's summer,
which is from May-September, is very hot and humid, though occasional
cool northerly winds blow to provide some relief. More frequent
are the qaws, the hot, dry summer winds that can bring sandstorms.
The Bahraini dinar is pegged at one to ten with the Saudi Riyal
to facilitate tourism. Both nation's bank-notes are accepted in
Bahrain. Since the Riyal is pegged to the US$, we can say the
dinar is also linked to the greenback.
One dinar is equal to ten Saudi Riyals or to US$2.67. US$1
is equal to 0.375 Bahraini dinars.
A visit to the local suk (sook) is a must. There you can negotiate
the price on rolexes, jewelry, and many other gifts.
The suk is also home to many excellent tailors. If you're there
for long enough (say a week) then you can take a favourite clothing
item in and they will "clone" it precisely in any
material you select from the huge range available.
Where food is concerned, a full spectrum of price ranges and
cuisines can be found in Bahrain.
For food in the lower price range, the best places to go are
the areas around Exhibition Avenue and Adlyia, as well as parts
of Manama and the Souq. It should be noted that in Bahrain,
low-prices attached to food do not necessarily denote quality
or taste, as some of the tastiest meals on the island can be
had for under a dinar. Of special note are "Habara Snacks
& Fish," "Century Restaurant," and the somewhat
pricier "Al-Abraaj." American fast food franchises
such as Burger King and McDonalds are ubiquitous as well.
Western (mostly American) style-foods and franchises can be
found around the malls and in the city center, offering food
for upper mid-range prices. Restaurants carrying international
foods can be found in these areas as well.
Higher priced food can end up running quite a bill in Bahrain,
though the taste is very often worth it. Most upscale hotels
have several restaurants, allowing you to sample things from
all over the world. Of special mention are: "Lanterns",
an Indian restaurant with great food and lovely decor next to
Burgerland Roundabout in Budaiya. "Zahle", a tasty
Lebanese place with daily buffets and live entertainment. And
"Trader Vic's", a polynesian dining/drinking experience,
located on the grounds of the Ritz Carlton
Although Bahrain which has relatively liberal laws regarding
alcohol has long been popular with tourists from Saudi
Arabia and other nearby "dry" countries, in May 2007
the government imposed restrictions that limit sales to bars
in five-star hotels, and banned alcohol in restaurants near
mosques, schools, or residential areas. It's unclear how strongly
this will be enforced.