Bahrain - Visa requirements

Bahrain - Visa requirements Last updated on Wednesday 14th April 2010

British citizens and Gulf Cooperation Council nationals (GCC -- Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman) do not need visas to enter Bahrain. Britons may stay up to one month while GCC nationals are free to stay as long as they like.

On production of a confirmed return or onward air ticket, passport-holders of most other western nations can get a 72-hour transit visa or a 7-day tourist visa upon arrival at Bahrain Airport or at the Bahraini customs post on the causeway from Saudi Arabia. The 72-hour visa costs BD4 and the 7-day one BD8, payable in either Bahraini or Saudi currency. In the transit lounge at the airport there is a money changer. Arrivals at the airport are often asked to show an onward or return air ticket.

Israeli stamps in your passport mean you will not be admitted to Bahrain.

One problem with arriving in Bahrain without a visa is that Bahrain does not recognize the idea of naturalization. In other words, if you are an Indian-born American or Briton who is a naturalized citizen of either country, you remain, as far as Bahraini immigration officials are concerned, an Indian, which means you cannot be issued with a visa at the airport. The best and safest way around this possible problem is to have your visa arranged by one of the larger hotels in Bahrain. (See below.)

Whatever your national background, if you classify yourself as a journalist, writer or editor, you stand a good chance of being refused admittance to Bahrain unless the Ministry of Information is sponsoring your visa. This glitch is also applicable to British citizens even if they are on holiday or in transit for a single night. The ministry normally takes about a week to arrange visas.

Women travelling alone may also experience difficulty in being granted visas at the airport. The rules pertaining to unaccompanied females seem to change frequently. Older women will probably have no problem but younger ones would do well to book a room at a hotel and have the hotel arrange the visa.

Drivers coming from Saudi Arabia are required to sign a guarantee promising to take the car out of Bahrain after a specified time. This paper is very important, as it must be turned in to customs on the way out of the country. A mandatory insurance fee of BD1.5 or SR15 is levied upon each car crossing the causeway.

Arranging a visa through a hotel

A hotel in Bahrain can act as your sponsor. In order to arrange this, send the hotel a fax at least three weeks prior to the date you wish to arrive in Bahrain. Include all your passport data as well as arrival and departure times and the purpose of your visit (tourism is acceptable).

You should give exact information about the time and flight you will arrive on. It is wise to include a telephone number and possibly a fax number where you can be reached. Obviously, it is also a good idea to reconfirm everything by phone a few days before your arrival. The hotel is then your sponsor and the small visa fee -- usually under BD5 -- will be added to your bill. The visa can be collected at the airport, port or on the causeway from Saudi Arabia.

It is unfortunately true that hotels are less eager to arrange visas than they once were. If you can give them a good reason, they will do so though they are happy to extend your visa once you are in the country and are staying in one of their rooms.

Extending Visas

Hotels that can obtain visas can also get them extended. They do prefer, however, to have you get a 72-hour transit visa and then let them handle the extension. The procedure is a simple one: pay the hotel a few dinars -- BD8 plus a hotel charge of BD 2-BD4 -- for a one week extension.

The government is very intolerant of people staying in the country and working on a tourist visa. If you want to stay in the country for more than two weeks, you will almost certainly be asked to explain your reasons.

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