Local Laws and Customs in Bahrain: What You Should Know

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Bahrain has a number of laws and customs that apply to visitors. Some of these laws might be overlooked by travelers, and could leave you with a Bahraini custodial sentence.

Muharraq, Manama, Bahrain Photo © Photo by Charles-Adrien Fournier on Unsplash

*This article is out of date, and we are working on updates. For now, please share your tips and advice for travelers in the comments below.

Ensure you are aware of these laws and customs to protect your own personal safety.

Cultural Sensitivity

Bahrain is an Islamic country and a number of laws are based around the teachings of the Quran. One of the laws of the country is that it is forbidden to try and convert a Muslim to another religion. Visitors who are non-Muslim should be aware that open displays of religious beliefs that are non-Muslim can be seen as offensive in the eyes of Bahrainis and therefore should be avoided.

The import of religious material can also be questioned and seen as potentially suspicious.

Photography is another area where cultural sensitivities mean that visitors need to exercise caution. In particular people do not like to be photographed, especially women.

It is best to ask before taking photos as there have been reports of local people becoming angry with visitors who try and take a photograph without permission. In Islamic culture the human form is not displayed in art as it is the concept that God is everywhere.

Photographing sensitive buildings such as military installations is forbidden in Bahrain.

In Bahrain some hotels will refuse entry to couples who do not appear to be married, and public displays of affection such as hugging and kissing are likely to offend local people. Homosexuality is considered an offence in Bahrain.

Laws in Bahrain

There are very strict penalties for drug offences such as possession which can result in a custodial sentence at best and the death penalty at worst.

There is also a zero tolerance attitude to drink driving which is punished severely. Alcohol is available in some outlets including Bahrain Airport, however airline staff deal with passengers who appear intoxicated very strictly and do not allow them to fly at all.

Stealing is considered a major crime in Bahrain.

In Bahrain the laws around debt have been a major challenge for expatriates during the recession as jobs have been lost and can lead to a loss of personal security.

Those in debt are forbidden to leave the country, and under Bahraini law someone with a travel ban cannot get a work permit renewed and therefore cannot secure employment. This results in a vicious circle of being unable to repay any money. Unpaid debt is punishable with a prison sentence.

Bahrain and many other Gulf States have very strict laws and customs. Knowing a little about the area can help in preventing problems whilst in the country.

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