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The Kingdom of Bahrain, comprising 33 islands in the Persian Gulf, may seem tiny when compared to neighbouring countries. But what the archipelago lacks in size, it clearly makes up for in wealth. It is, after all, one of the first Arab countries to have struck oil in this oil-rich region. Visiting the north to see the Qala'at al-Bahrain (Bahrain Fort) is highly recommended, as is seeing the centrally located Tree of Life, a huge single tree living in the middle of the arid desert.
Roads are generally safe and in good condition. This is especially true for the more developed northern third of the main island where motorways and major roads have four to six lanes and are well maintained. In the older parts of Manama and Muharraq, however, roads can be narrow with a lot of twists and turns.
Driving licences: holders of a valid UK driving licence can drive here for up to three months, while an International Driving Permit allows visitors to drive here for up to one year.
Which side does Bahrain drive on: the right.
Motorways: 62mph (100kph)
Other areas: 31mph (50kph) to 50mph (80kph)
Alcohol limits: nil compared with the UK's 0.08 per cent limit. Offenders may face imprisonment, a fine or a travel ban.
Driving age: 18 years.
Seatbelts: mandatory for the driver and front seat passenger.
Mobile phones and GPS: driving while taking a phone call is illegal. Using a hands-free kit, however, is allowed. The use of GPS is encouraged as many roads lack signage.
Cost of fuel in Bahrain: petrol and diesel are significantly cheaper here than in the UK, as in all the countries belonging to the Gulf States.
Car hire and fuel payment: many petrol stations accept payments via major international credit cards. Car hire can also be paid for by credit card.
Insurance: car hire companies usually include insurance as well as offer excess insurance. It is best to check if the insurance coverage has restrictions or limitations.
Traffic and parking: parking is available at a number of parking lots and meters; charges can be paid in cash or by credit card.
Official metered taxis are identified by their blue-and-orange colour. Fares begin at £1.60. Although cabs are metered, drivers may sometimes insist the meter is broken or damaged. Visitors are sometimes quoted exorbitant prices. Agreeing on a fare is strongly advised before getting in the cab. Rides within the capital city of Manama typically cost between £5 and £8. The most popular and most reliable taxi operators in the kingdom include Bahrain Taxi Online, SMS Radio-Meter Taxi and Bahrain Limo.
Public buses run to and from the major towns and are the most economical means of getting around the country. The minimum fare is affordable at only £0.30 per ride. The main bus terminal is Manama Bus Station, situated along Government Avenue. Secondary stations are located in Muharraq, Isa Town and Riffa. Services from Manama run from 06:00 to 21:00. Visitors are advised to carefully study the routes and timetables as they can be confusing for the uninitiated.
The three main ports of Bahrain are Mina Manama, Mina Salman and Mina Muharraq. There are passenger ferries linking Bushehr in Iran to Manama in Bahrain. The ride takes 16 hours and costs around £56, including two meals. The ferries are run by Valfajr 8 Shipping Company. Cruises on the Red Sea and the Gulf also call at Bahrain. Travel to the smaller islands requires chartering a traditional boat, called a dhow, or a motorboat.
Bahrain occupies a small territory and the main gateway, Bahrain International Airport, is the only airport worth noting here. It is located on Muharraq Island, a little over four miles from the capital of Manama. It receives a number of flights from the rest of the Middle East, Asia and Europe. National carrier Gulf Air has regular flights to and from London-Heathrow, as does British Airways.
The Kingdom of Bahrain is comprised of 33 islands which are scattered in a small area of the Persian Gulf. Most attractions here are easy to access, especially by car.
One of the main attractions is the Qala'at al-Bahrain or the Bahrain Fort, just five to 10 minutes’ drive from Manama. This stunning 16th century fort has been restored to its former grandeur and is definitely worth a visit.
Another attraction, which is really more of a curiosity, is what locals call the Tree of Life. This large centrally located tree beguiles all those who come upon it precisely because it is able to live in the middle of an arid desert wasteland.
Driving over the engineering marvel that is the King Fahd Causeway is an experience in itself. The bridge connects Bahrain to Saudi Arabia via a 75-foot wide, 16-mile long road which crosses the waterway that separates the two countries.
Pearls are a huge industry in Bahrain and the production of them sustained the country before the discovery of oil. They have since earned some merchant houses, stores and mosques of Muharraq City UNESCO World Heritage status. Visitors can learn about the history of pearl farming in the country at the Bahrain National Museum.
Bahrain belongs to a region that is particularly dry and arid. Temperatures in summer (April to October) can be unbearable, rising to 48°C at times. A hot and dry southwest wind blows sand clouds into Manama during the summer season, bringing heat haze. Winter (December to March) sees temperatures drop to 10°C. The most pleasant times to visit are February to April and October to December when the weather is not too extreme. There is no haze or stifling heat to hamper an enjoyable time in the kingdom.