Is Bahrain worth visiting? 7 reasons to visit Bahrain

The ruins of an ancient fortress made of stone, set against a clear sky.

Jutting out into the Persian Gulf, connected to Saudi Arabia by a causeway but in reality a tiny island (a fifth of the size of Qatar), Bahrain is a Middle Eastern nation that few tourists visit. 

Those seeking glitz and glam head to Dubai, travellers on extended layovers touch down in Qatar, and more recently, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been attracting curious tourists. 

But, while Bahrain is open to tourists, it doesn’t draw the crowds like others in the region. 

Why? Well, it’s not as well-known as spots like Dubai, and doesn’t have the same level of glamour like it’s associated with. It’s also not a transport hub, like other cities in the region, and there’s not all that much marketing about tourism to the country!

But, my partner and I are trying to visit 100 countries, so on the way back from Nepal, we decided to spend a couple of days in Bahrain. 

So, is Bahrain worth visiting? Here are our thoughts! 

Reasons to visit Bahrain

From history to a range of luxury hotels, here are the top reasons to visit Bahrain!

Interesting and unique history 

A museum display with text titled "The assault of the Medieval fortresses" accompanied by artifacts, including a collection of ancient pottery.

Bahrain’s history is quite distinct from its neighbours.

Unlike the relatively recent histories of surrounding countries, Bahrain’s story stretches all the way back to the Dilmun civilization. The Dilmuns inhabited the area around 3000 BC – making them one of the world’s oldest civilisations.

Dive into Bahrain’s history at the Qal’at al-Bahrain (Bahrain Fort). This UNESCO World Heritage site showcases layers of settlements from different eras.

The Bahrain National Museum is another essential stop, housing artifacts from the Dilmun era to the Islamic period. It’s a great place to start if you want to get a sense of Bahrain’s historical depth!

Then there’s the Pearling Trail, another UNESCO-listed site which we didn’t quite have enough time for on our trip. This trail takes you through the heart of Bahrain’s pearling industry, which was once central to its economy. 

Walking along the trail, you’ll see old merchants’ houses and historic buildings that tell the story of Bahrain’s pearling heritage.

Not very touristy

A street view of jewelry stores, including "Mashalla Jewellery" and "Dar Al Tawheed Jewellery Co W.L.L," with people walking by

Bahrain is much more relaxed and authentic compared to bustling tourist hubs like Dubai!

So, if you want to experience Gulf culture and way of life without the masses of tourists, choose Bahrain over the UAE!

One of the main differences here is the pace of life. 

In Bahrain, you can wander through markets, visit historic sites and enjoy the local culture at ease.

The streets are less crowded, and there’s a local vibe that lets you see Bahrain as it really is.

The Manama Souq is a great example. This traditional market is a more laid-back shopping experience where you can browse local spices, textiles, and crafts. There is a bit of tourist tat here, but much less than in other souqs in the region. 

Then there’s the lush Al Dar Islands. Unlike the highly commercialized beaches in Dubai, these islands are a peaceful retreat where you can enjoy crystal-clear waters and sandy beaches without the crowds. 

Even in popular spots like Bahrain Fort and the Pearling Trail, you’ll find fewer tourists!

Incredible food from all over the Middle East

An assortment of Middle Eastern appetizers served in clay dishes on a woven table. The spread includes stuffed grape leaves, baba ghanoush, hummus, a rich tomato-based dip, tabbouleh salad, and crispy pita bread pieces. A plate with a fork and spoon is set to the side.

While food from the gulf isn’t usually my favourite (as a vegetarian) I had some excellent meals in Bahrain! 

On the first night, we went to Palestine Nights. Of course, this serves Palestinian food rather than Bahrainian food, but we ordered lots of plates to share and it was one of the best dinners I had in a while. 

We also really enjoyed the falafel wraps in the cafe of the Museum of Bahrain. For some reason, Bahraini museums all have incredible cafes attached to them, and this falafel wrap was one of the best I’ve ever tasted!

We were also recommended to try the gastronomical scene at Bab Al Bahrain Souk. Here, you can find an array of street food stalls and small eateries serving up traditional Bahraini dishes like machboos (a spiced rice dish with meat) and samosas.

Another recommendation was Block 338 in Adliya. This trendy area is packed with restaurants offering cuisines from Lebanon, Iran, Turkey and beyond. 

If you like fish, don’t miss trying the local seafood. Being an island nation, Bahrain boasts fresh and delicious seafood dishes. Grilled hammour (a type of grouper fish) is a popular choice, often served with traditional Bahraini spices and sides.

For dessert, we were recommended halwa. This sweet, gelatinous treat is a local specialty, often flavored with rosewater, saffron, and nuts.

Desert is easily accessible and includes landmarks like the Tree of Life

Bahrain’s desert is very easily accessible (as most of the country is just a short distance from Manama!). 

It’s also home to iconic sites like the Tree of Life. Located in the heart of the desert, this lone tree has thrived for over 400 years without any apparent water source!

Also don’t miss the stunning Al-Areen Wildlife Park, which contrasts the arid surroundings with its diverse range of flora and fauna. It’s a great spot to see some of the local wildlife and enjoy a break from the desert heat.

Getting to the desert is straightforward

Bahrain’s compact size means you can reach the desert areas quickly, even from the capital, Manama. You can drive or join a guided tour – some of which include quad biking or dune bashing. 

There are plenty of modern parts

While it’s definitely not as glitzy as Dubai or the like, Bahrain still blends history with modernity, with both traditional and contemporary ready to explore. 

The country has rapidly developed over the past few decades, and this modernity is evident in its skyline, infrastructure and lifestyle.

In the capital city, Manama, you’ll find sleek skyscrapers like the Bahrain World Trade Center and the Bahrain Financial Harbour, which dominate the skyline. 

The shopping scene in Bahrain is another testament to its modernity. Bahrain City Centre and The Avenues Bahrain are two of the largest shopping malls – here, you’ll find a wide range of international brands, entertainment options, and gourmet dining. 

Transport in Bahrain is also highly developed, with modern highways and an efficient network of taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber

The upcoming Bahrain Metro project is set to further enhance connectivity across the island.

Interested in contemporary arts and culture? The Bahrain National Theatre and the Art Centre regularly host international performances, exhibitions, and cultural events

Bahrain’s modern amenities extend to its hospitality sector as well. 

A woman smiling at the camera while taking a selfie at an outdoor swimming pool, with palm trees and a person swimming in the background.

The country boasts a range of luxury hotels and resorts, such as the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay and The Ritz-Carlton.

It’s easy to get around the whole island

One of the great advantages of visiting Bahrain is how easy it is to get around. 

The country’s compact size and well-developed infrastructure make travelling between attractions straightforward and convenient.

Bahrain’s road network is modern and efficient, with major highways connecting key areas. Driving is a popular way to explore the island, and car rentals are readily available. 

Public transport options aren’t as extensive as in some larger cities, but they are improving. 

Taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber and Careem are widely available. 

These services are particularly useful for short trips within Manama and to popular tourist spots.

The visa system is easy

One of the great things about visiting Bahrain is how straightforward the visa process is – even though it doesn’t seem so online

When we visited, we just paid a small fee of 5 Bahraini Dinars each, which is roughly £10 GBP, to the border control for the visa on arrival. 

We didn’t even need to fill any forms out, just paid the border control and we were good to go! 

Considerations for visiting Bahrain

A person standing in front of a grand mosque with two tall minarets, looking at their phone under a cloudy sky.

Here are a few things to consider if you’re visiting Bahrain! 

It’s expensive 

One thing to keep in mind when planning your trip to Bahrain is the cost. 

The country can be quite expensive, particularly when it comes to dining and everyday expenses. At one cafe we visited, we paid £10 GBP for a bottle of water! 

This high cost of living extends to other areas as well – including accommodation and transport!

Luxury hotels and high-end restaurants are plentiful, but they come with a price tag to match. 

Even mid-range options can be costly!

So, Bahrain’s probably not the best destination to visit if you’re travelling on a budget. 

Weather extremes

Bahrain can have weather extremes! 

When we visited in late April, it was very warm one day – although the next it was cloudy and even rained a bit (which was unseasonable!). 

Generally, Bahrain experiences extremely hot summers, with temperatures often exceeding 40°C (104°F) from June to September. 

This intense heat can make outdoor activities challenging, so stay hydrated and take frequent breaks in air-conditioned places – luckily, there are a lot of these in Bahrain! Most tourists avoid the country (and others surrounding it) in the hottest months, as the daytime temperatures are simply too uncomfortable. 

The winter months, from December to February, are much milder and more comfortable, with temperatures ranging from 14°C to 24°C (57°F to 75°F). 

Limited public transport

Bahrain unfortunately doesn’t have the best public transport! 

While taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber and Careem are widely available and reliable, the public transportat system is not as extensive or convenient as in other countries.

During our visit, we found that getting around required a bit more planning – and was pricier. 

Buses do exist, but routes and schedules can be less frequent and harder to navigate for tourists. 

This means you might rely more on taxis or renting a car to get around efficiently!

Renting a car is a good option if you plan to explore beyond Manama and visit more remote areas like the desert or coastal sites. 

The roads are well-maintained, and driving is relatively straightforward, but do read up on local driving customs.

Conservative culture 

A woman standing in front of a large mosque with intricate architecture and multiple arches, under a cloudy sky.

When visiting Bahrain, do be aware of and respect the conservative cultural norms. As a predominantly Muslim country, Bahrain has certain customs and practices that you should follow to ensure a respectful and enjoyable visit.

Dress codes are more conservative than in many Western countries. It’s best to dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites or rural areas. Women should consider covering their shoulders and knees, and men should avoid wearing shorts in public. It’s not necessary for women to cover their head. 

Public behavior is also more reserved. Displays of affection, such as kissing or hugging, are generally frowned upon in public places. It’s important to be mindful of these customs to avoid offending local sensibilities.

During Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, eating, drinking, and smoking in public during daylight hours are prohibited – many restaurants and cafes may be closed or have limited hours. However, hotels often accommodate non-fasting guests with designated areas for meals.

Bahrain is known for its hospitality, and by respecting local customs and traditions, you’ll have a more enriching and positive experience!

Not the best nightlife 

If you’re looking for a vibrant nightlife scene, Bahrain might not meet your expectations. Compared to neighboring destinations like Dubai, Bahrain’s nightlife is more subdued and less varied.

While there are bars, clubs, and lounges, the options are relatively limited. 

Most of the nightlife is concentrated in upscale hotels and a few popular areas like Adliya, where you can find some trendy bars and restaurants. 

Alcohol is available in select licensed establishments, such as hotel bars and certain restaurants, but public drunkenness is frowned upon, and alcohol laws are strictly enforced. You won’t find alcohol at most restuarants.  

The nightlife here tends to be more relaxed and low-key, often focusing on socialising over drinks rather than dancing and large parties.

For those who enjoy a quieter evening out, Bahrain does offer some charming options. You can enjoy a nice dinner at a rooftop restaurant with views of the city, or relax at a cozy lounge. 

Cultural events and performances are also part of the evening entertainment!

Are you ready to visit Bahrain?

While Bahrain doesn’t have quite as much to offer as other countries, it has plenty of charms that make it a destination worth visiting!

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