Anyone who’s used to driving on UK roads will have one major advantage in Bahrain. The country was a British protectorate from 1892 until 1971, and as a result their street signs are likely to look very familiar to anyone relocating from these shores. Just to make life even easier, all signs are also in both Arabic and English.
That’s the good news, but there are also some notable differences between driving in Bahrain and driving in Britain, beyond the usual mental adjustment that always has to be made when driving on the right-hand side of the road.
How is Driving in Bahrain Different From the UK?
You can certainly expect to find that Bahrainis (and long-term non-Bahraini residents) tend to drive a little more “enthusiastically” than you might be used to, although reports from ex-pats – and a notable reduction in road deaths – suggest that this is a lot less of a problem since the traffic laws were tightened up considerably in 2015.
You can also expect to encounter roads that are a lot busier than those in the UK. Public transport in the country is woefully inadequate by European standards, and taxis are expensive – so if anyone wants to go anywhere, they generally do so by car. All that said, you’re unlikely to find driving in Bahrain too harrowing an experience, as long as you keep your wits about you and as long, of course, as you stick within the law.
Do I Need a Driving Permit?
To drive in Bahrain, you will need both your full driving licence and an international driving permit – and you must have these on you at all times when in charge of a vehicle. You will also need to be at least 18 years old, plus you should be aware that many car hire companies will not rent a car to anyone under the age of 24.
What are the Speed Limits?
The speed limit on motorways is 120km/h (75mph), while in cities it’s usually 60km/h (37mph). Most of the other rules of the road are very similar to those that apply in the UK – just be aware that in some cases they may even be more rigorously enforced, and that flouting the law can land you with some very hefty fines.
Drink Driving and Driving with Medication
As always, one thing that’s definitely a no-no is driving under the influence of alcohol. There is no “legal limit” in Bahrain – if your blood alcohol is anything higher than 0.0%, you’re going to be in serious trouble. So, if you’re going out for the evening, stick to soft drinks, or book a cab. Given the country’s harsh drug laws, it’s also advisable to keep a doctor’s note or a copy of your prescription with you if you are carrying any medication whatsoever.
Keep your hands on the wheel! No, seriously.
Using your mobile phone while driving is also forbidden, and again this law is more rigorously enforced than it is in Britain – and, previous visitors should be aware, more than it used to be in Bahrain itself. It’s also against the law to smoke, or to eat or drink anything at all, while driving. So “keep your hands on the wheel at all times” would be a good rule of thumb to go by.
Seat Belt Laws in Bahrain
Seat belts are compulsory for drivers and front-seat passengers, and children under the age of 10 must travel in the rear, either in a child seat or wearing a seat belt. Adult rear-seat passengers are not obliged by law to wear seat belts, but given what we’ve already said about the hectic roads, you’d be well advised to ensure that everyone in the car belts up before you set off. Better to be safe than sorry!
Culture in Bahrain
Bahrain is largely very tolerant towards western visitors compared to some other Islamic countries, but there are a few areas of cultural sensitivity that it’s as well to be aware of. Appropriate, modest dress should be worn at all times, public displays of affection such as kissing or hugging (even between married couples) are considered a breach of public decency, and these laws apply just as much when you’re in your car as they do while you’re walking down the street.
Driving During Ramadan
The month of Ramadan deserves a particular mention. While you’ll soon notice that Bahrainis are fond of driving around with their windows open and their music blaring at full blast, during the month of Ramadan this is strictly forbidden during daylight hours, and this law is applied every bit as much to tourists and ex-pats as it is to the locals. As an aside, smoking in public is also prohibited during this time.
Overall, though – Bahrain roads are reasonably well maintained, certainly in built-up areas, and visitors from the UK who obey the law shouldn’t find driving there too overwhelming. So, don’t be scared to get behind the wheel and make the most of your stay, however long it may be.
If you are shipping your car to Bahrain, please contact us here at Autoshippers for a car shipping quote and details of our car shipping services.
Useful links: How to get a driving license in Bahrain