Bahrain

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 30 July 2015.   This advice has been reviewed and updated. It contains new information, including on the need to exercise increased caution following attacks on mosques in Saudi Arabias Eastern Province and in Kuwait (see Safety and security). The level of the travel advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Bahrain due to the uncertain security environment 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.
  • If you choose to travel to Bahrain, you should exercise increased caution at this time following recent attacks on mosques in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province and in Kuwait. See the Safety and security section.
  • Bombings have also occurred 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, cafes, and large scale sporting and cultural events.
  • Demonstrations and protests occur regularly. You should avoid all public gatherings and protests as they often turn violent. 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 is a visible security presence in Bahrain, particularly around Manama city centre and Shia-majority 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.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
  • 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) can change at short notice. 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 Bahrain Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for the most up-to-date information. Bahrain does not have an embassy in Australia, the nearest Embassy of Bahrain is 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.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Following recent attacks on mosques in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province and in Kuwait, residents and visitors to Bahrain should exercise increased caution.
Terrorist attacks in Bahrain have caused a number of deaths and casualties in recent years. In 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, cafes, and large scale sporting and cultural events. Increased security measures are currently in place and may be reinforced at short notice.

Radical militant groups called for a campaign of violence against government security forces from April 2014.

Recent incidents include:

  • On 8 and 9 December 2014, two people, including one policeman were killed in two separate bomb attacks in Demistan and Karkazan.
  • On 4 July 2014, a policeman was killed in an explosion in East Eker.
  • On 19 April 2014, two people were killed and three injured when a car bomb exploded in Mughsha, near Manama.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin.

Civil unrest/political tension

Demonstrations and protests occur regularly. Since February 2011, there have been periodic violent clashes surrounding protests and funerals throughout Bahrain, including in Manama and in Shia-majority 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 use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Protests and demonstrations are likely on days of national significance, including on or around 14 February, the anniversary of the 2011 uprising in Bahrain. You should avoid all public gatherings and protests as they may turn violent. Security forces have responded violently to some demonstrations. Avoid areas where Bahraini Ministry of Interior forces are gathered due to the threat of pending unrest. 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. If you are in an area where a protest is occurring you should either leave the area or remain indoors and away from windows.

Public rallies and gatherings have been illegal in Bahrain since 2012. Participants in illegal rallies or gatherings face legal action. Australians should be aware that bystanders could get caught up in demonstrations and could face arrest.

There is 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 disturbance. 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 closed without notice should the security situation in Bahrain deteriorate.

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

Crime

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

Money and valuables

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 online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Local travel

Carrying photographic ID is compulsory for all residents and visitors to Bahrain. Fines may apply.

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 maritime vessels may not meet the safety standards you would expect in Australia. In 2006, a dhow capsized in Bahrain killing 58 people, including foreigners. Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if others don't. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, you should use another provider.

Travellers entering the Gulf area by sea should be aware that many areas of the Gulf are highly sensitive, and the Government of Bahrain may impose curfews on waterways around Bahrain. The islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in the Southern Gulf are particularly sensitive. There have been reports of inspections of vessels and detentions and arrests.

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

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Bahrain.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Bahrain, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

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. See our Drugs page.

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 the Entry and exit section.

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

While Bahraini law does not criminalize homosexual activity between consenting adults over 21 years of age, LGBTI activity is not socially accepted and is likely to attract the attention of Bahraini authorities under a number of broader morality and public order laws. 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

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin in early June 2016. During Ramadan, Australians travelling to countries with significant Muslim communities should take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, people who are not fasting are advised to avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting. For more information see our Ramadan bulletin.

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.

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 page provides further information.

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

Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.

For criminal issues, contact the local police. The national emergency number is 999. You should obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and cannot do to assist Australians overseas. Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Bahrain. You can contact the Australian Government at the Australian Embassy in Saudi Arabia for consular assistance. See contact details below:

Australian Embassy - Riyadh

Abdullah Bin Hozafa Al-Shami Avenue
Diplomatic Quarter
Riyadh, KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA
Telephone: +966 11 250 0900
Facsimile: +966 11 250 0902
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. See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

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 online 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.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Bahrain often experiences extremely high temperatures. During the hottest months of the year (July and August), 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.

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in Bahrain, see the following links:



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.