Bahrain

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 28 March 2014.   It contains new information in the Summary and under Safety and Security (terrorist attacks could occur at any time and could be directed against government buildings, public areas and locations known to be frequented by foreigners including tourist sites, hotels, shopping areas, restaurants and cafes, and large scale sporting and cultural events). The overall level of the travel advice has not changed. We continue to advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Bahrain at this time due to the uncertain security situation and threat of terrorist attack.

Bahrain overall

Summary

  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Bahrain due to the uncertain security situation and threat of terrorist attack.
  • Following a number of bombings in Manama in which people have been killed and injured, Bahraini authorities advised residents and visitors to Bahrain to avoid all suspicious objects. Further such bombings could occur.
  • Attacks could occur at any time and could be directed against government buildings, public areas and locations known to be frequented by foreigners including tourist sites, hotels, shopping areas, restaurants and cafes and large scale sporting and cultural events.
  • You should avoid all public gatherings and protests as they often turn violent. You should monitor local and international media for information on current developments affecting your safety and security and follow the advice of local authorities. If you are in an area where a protest is occurring you should either leave the area, if it is safe to do so, or remain indoors and away from windows.
  • There continues to be a visible security presence in Bahrain, particularly around Manama city centre and Shia villages. You should follow the instructions of local authorities and security forces.
  • You should take particular care in the period surrounding Friday prayers and at night due to the potential for civil disturbances. Shia-majority areas, including the Sanabis area, Hamad town, Saar, Budaiya and the Sitra area, may continue to experience unrest. Visitors to Bahrain should reconsider their need to travel outside the central business area after nightfall and should restrict their movements to major routes at all times.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Bahrain. The Australian Embassy in Saudi Arabia provides consular assistance to Australians in Bahrain.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

You should ensure that your travel documents are available for inspection by local authorities. Some travellers face close scrutiny from Bahraini authorities and should be prepared to answer questions regarding the purpose of their travel to Bahrain. The Government of Bahrain has refused some Australian citizens permission to enter Bahrain.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. You may experience difficulties as you enter Bahrain if your passport has evidence of travel to Israel, such as entry or exit stamps. Visit the website of the Bahrain Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the most up-to-date information. Bahrain does not have an embassy in Australia, the closest Embassy of Bahrain is located in Bangkok, Thailand.

Children born of a Bahraini father require their father's permission to depart Bahrain (regardless of their parents' marital status).

People involved in commercial disputes, including unpaid debts, may be prevented from leaving Bahrain until the dispute is resolved.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Bahrain at this time due to the uncertain security situation and the threat of terrorist attack. Terrorist attacks have caused a number of deaths and casualties in recent years. In the light of this Bahraini authorities have advised residents and visitors to Bahrain to avoid all suspicious objects. Further such bombings could occur.

Attacks could occur at any time and could be directed against government buildings, public areas and locations known to be frequented by foreigners including tourist sites, hotels, shopping areas, restaurants and cafes and large scale sporting and cultural events. Increased security measures are currently in place and may be reinforced at short notice.

Recent incidents include:

  • On 14 July 2013, four policemen were injured when a bomb exploded in Janabiyah in Northern Governorate.
  • On 6 July 2013, a policeman was killed and two others were injured when a home-made bomb exploded near a police station in Sitra in Central Governorate.
  • On 14 April 2013, gas cylinders were used to cause a vehicle explosion in the Financial Harbour district of Manama.
  • On 14 February 2013, a small bomb exploded at a shopping centre and a larger bomb found on the Bahraini side of the King Fahd Causeway, which links Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, was defused.
  • On 1 February 2013, a bomb exploded in the Jidhafs region, injuring three policemen.
  • On 27 November 2012, an explosive device detonated in a trash container in the vicinity of the Indian Embassy in Adliya in Manama.
  • On 5 November 2012, five home-made bombs exploded in two separate locations in Manama (Adliya and Qadaibiya districts, close to the CBD). Two people were killed, and a third critically injured.
  • On 27 June 2012, Bahraini authorities announced the seizure of over 100 kilograms of materials used to make explosives. Authorities said that the materials were intended for use in a mass casualty attack.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Civil unrest/political tension

We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Bahrain due to the uncertain security situation.

Since February 2011, there have been periodic violent clashes surrounding protests and funerals throughout Bahrain, including in Manama and in Shia villages. Demonstrations and disruptions are expected to continue and may include attempts to disrupt traffic, the use of burning tyres, throwing Molotov cocktails and the possible use of improvised explosive devices. You should avoid all public gatherings and protests as they may turn violent. You should monitor local and international media for information on current political developments and regional tensions affecting your safety and security and follow the advice of local authorities.

Security forces have responded violently to some demonstrations. If you are in an area where a protest is occurring you should either leave the area, if it is safe to do so, or remain indoors and away from windows.

In 2012 Bahraini authorities announced the banning of all public rallies and gatherings. According to the authorities, any participants in illegal rallies or gatherings will face legal action. Australians should be aware that bystanders could get caught up in demonstrations and consequently could face arrest.

There continues to be a visible security presence in Bahrain, particularly around the city centre and Shia villages. You should follow the instructions of local authorities and security forces.

You should take particular care in the period surrounding Friday prayers and at night due to the potential for civil disturbances. Shia-majority areas, including the Sanabis area, Hamad town, Saar, Budaiya and the Sitra area, may continue to experience unrest. Visitors to Bahrain should reconsider their need to travel outside the central business area after nightfall and should restrict their movement to major routes at all times.

The Causeway to Saudi Arabia is open but may be subject to intermittent closure without notice should the security situation in Bahrain deteriorate further.

We are aware of reports of unauthorised roadblocks being formed in some communities.

Crime

Petty crime including pick pocketing and bag snatching does occur, particularly in the old market areas (souks).

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways of accessing your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques and US dollars cash. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Road travel can be dangerous due to unsafe driving practices (particularly speeding). Roaming animals and drifting sands are additional road hazards.

Off road driving can be hazardous. You should ensure vehicles are well equipped and properly maintained. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Women should take particular care when travelling alone, especially at night.

You should be aware that vessels may not meet the safety standards you would expect in Australia. In March 2006, a dhow capsized in Bahrain killing 58 people, including foreigners. You should ensure life jackets are available.

Travellers entering the Gulf area by sea should be aware that many areas are sensitive in relation to security and territory. In particular, maritime boundaries and the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in the Southern Gulf are sensitive. There are reports of detentions and inspections of vessels and arrest.

Piracy occurs in the Gulf. See our piracy bulletin for further information. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website.

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Bahrain, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

The Australian Embassy in Riyadh does not have direct access to Bahraini Government institutions (police stations, jails, hospitals, etc) and is obliged to formally seek access via the Bahraini Embassy in Riyadh. This can cause delays for those requiring consular assistance.

Penalties for drug offences, including for possession, are severe and include the death penalty and life imprisonment.

Serious crimes, such as murder, may attract the death penalty.

Australians who might engage in activities that involve local legal matters, particularly with regard to family law (divorce, child custody and child support), are strongly advised to seek professional advice and ensure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities. See also Entry and Exit Requirements.

Be aware that you may not be allowed to leave Bahrain if you are involved in commercial or labour disputes, have unpaid debts, or legal proceedings are underway.

Homosexuality and homosexual acts are illegal in Bahrain. Those convicted may be imprisoned and/or deported. See our LGBTI travellers page.

There is zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol. Offenders may be detained, fined and banned from driving.

The penalty for some offences, including stealing, may be corporal punishment (lashing).

It is illegal to attempt to convert a Muslim to another religion.

It is illegal to photograph sensitive buildings. If in doubt, you should ask local authorities.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Bahrain. Any displays of disrespect for Islam will cause great offence. Men and women should dress modestly, with clothing that covers their elbows and knees, and take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Australians travelling to Muslim countries and countries with significant Muslim communities should take great care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. Ramadan and Shia religious festivals are particularly sensitive times.

During Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims.

Hotels may refuse accommodation to couples unable to provide proof of marriage.

Public displays of affection may offend.

The Bahraini weekend is Friday - Saturday.

Information for dual nationals

Bahrain does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian/Bahraini dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Our Dual nationals brochure provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical services in Bahrain is high. Costs can be high and payment may be required before treatment begins. The Bahraini Government may seek to recover costs from foreign nationals receiving emergency treatment. In the event of a serious illness or an accident or for complex medical procedures, medical evacuation may be required to a location with appropriate facilities. Costs for medical evacuation are considerable.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases can occur. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Bahrain. You can obtain consular assistance from the nearest Australian Embassy which is in Saudi Arabia:

Australian Embassy
Abdullah Bin Hozafa Al-Shami Avenue
Diplomatic Quarter
Riyadh KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA
Telephone: (966 11) 2500 900
Facsimile: (966 11) 2500 902
Website: www.saudiarabia.embassy.gov.au
Email: reg.riyadh@dfat.gov.au

The working week of the Embassy in Riyadh is Sunday to Thursday in accordance with local practice.

If you are travelling to Bahrain, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register on-line or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Bahrain often experiences extremely high temperatures. During the hottest months of the year, the temperature can exceed 50˚C.

Sand and dust storms occur regularly.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.