Roundabouts, such as the one seen above, are a feature of Bahrain roads. They are more commonly used to regulate intersections than are traffic lights. Picture by James Davis
'So, do you hang around on camels in Bahrain?"
"Sure we do!"
I've had this conversation countless times around the world when I was asked about the traffic in Bahrain. Yes - camel would be the obvious choice. And so it was - 180 years ago. But as you are viewing this website you obviously know more about the Middle East by now, so I can tell you the truth! No more camels on the roads...
In fact people in Bahrain are quite keen on automobiles. Cars are something of a spectator sport here: those who have the latest model vehicles love to flaunt them, those that don't make do with admiring them on the roads.
But as a visitor you do not have the latest Lamborghini or Ferrari to take for a spin in Manama. Never mind - there are other options.
Bahrain's public transport system is very limited - a small fleet of buses and no trains or trams. Bus fares are very cheap - just 50 fils (12 cents) a ride - but unless you have lots of time and tons of patience, you will quickly rule out this mode of transportation.
Here then are your choices:
There are several companies that organise air-conditioned bus tours to popular sight-seeing destinations. It is a comfortable way to view the sights and you will not get lost. You will also learn a great deal about Bahrain's history!
There are many tour options available, speak to the concierge at your hotel reception to help you decide which one to pick.
There are plenty of taxis in Bahrain, you can flag them down on the street. The taxicabs are easy to identify, they have orange markings and carry a 'Taxi' sign on the roof.
All taxis should operate with a meter by law. But sometimes it is necessary to kindly remind the driver to turn his meter on. See fare chart.
The standard minimum fare is 800 fils ($2.10). It covers the first three kilometres, after which you pay 100 fils (25 cents) for every subsequent kilometre. At night (from 2200 until 0600), the minimum fare is BD 1.200 ($3.10) for the first three kms and 150 fils for every kilometre after. If you are coming from the airport there is an extra charge of BD1 ($2.60) in addition to the meter fare. This fee applies from the airport only.
You can ask the driver for a printed receipt if you require. Tips are not expected, but most customers offer 100 to 200 fils (25-50 cents).
A cheaper alternative is the 'shared taxi' - these are usually pick-up trucks - which run pre-determined routes and charge about half what you would otherwise pay. You can identify these with the yellow sticker on the door. Since these taxis are 'shared', sometimes up to five passengers are crammed into each vehicle. No tips are expected.
Can be ordered over the phone, at any time of day or night. They are very reliable and charge only a little more than regular taxis. Radio taxis are metered and tips are not expected but welcomed.
RENT A CAR
The best option by far if you would like to go to places quickly and easily! Rental charges are very reasonable.
To drive in Bahrain you need a GCC or an International Driving License. You have to present your license to be able to hire a car and it has to be endorsed by the Traffic Directorate. Do not worry; you can get it done at the car rental firm!
Manama is small and most areas of interest can be explored on foot. It is important to get a map before you start, because the small and lovely alleys can be confusing when you are trying to find your way back to your hotel.
It can also get very hot from May till September, so it is better to start with shorter distances. Bahrain is a very safe country - but being careful anyway will not do any harm. It is a good idea to wear light coloured, natural materials, hat, sunscreen and sunglasses for protection.
One place you should never drive is in the souk, it is too crowded and almost impossible to find parking. There are big parking lots very near the souk, staffed by handicapped people, so you can park and do a good deed at the same time!