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*This article is out of date, and we are working on updates.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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  • Nawaf Basheer pv said

    I am planning to visit Bahrain but I am taking medicines to control my health issues since 15 years medicines are Leviteracetam 500 mg and Clonazepam 1 mg . is there any control for these medicines baharain , if there any control what are the procedures to bring such medicines

    Please reply soon

  • 7man said

    Bro Half of your Info on Bahrain is Wrong.. there is no Public lashing and no death penalty for Drugs... you get a Fine or a 6 months sentence at Worse if it was for Personal use and if its your first time.

    And no, hotels Do not Deny non married couple..

    I can't believe that this Report was Written in 2015 and yet its ill Researched.

    and by the way the Picture on top is for Indian Expats, not Bahraini's.

    A Bahraini , Peace.

  • Joe said

    I have a lot of book like novel and non fiction can i bring it with me?im about to travel to bahrain this week tnx

  • Leonie said

    Ummmmm.... I live in Bahrain and have for 6 years now, and I can assure you that there is NO public lashing OR death penalty.

    Please don’t just set out so many false accusations about Bahrain because they really are not true. This is also not biased because I’m not Bahraini I’m German and Iranian

    You can bring whatever book or bible or certified legal medication ( no alcohol, drugs or weapons)

    Bahrain is a great place with lots of rich history and artefacts, I totally recommend you to come and visit it one day! (And the people are just SO kind and understanding, I’ve never met a local that judged me or wasn’t very kind, helpful and understanding)

  • lakshmi said

    DO NOT BELIEVE THIS ARTICLE!! I'm an Indian and I've lived in Bahrain for eighteen years. Ignore this entire article because half of this false - especially about flogging, hotels, import of religious material. Cross-check with Wikipedia once, readers. Author - Please remove this article or make the necessary corrections. I find this insulting and is defaming a country I love and adore. I agree with Leonie people are non-judgemental, kind and understanding.

  • chetan said

    I am planning to visit baharin in next month so any other rules there to be follow please tell me.

  • Sami said

    I'm a Bahraini, grew up there but now live in London. This article is not accurate yet is the on of the top ones when I was just searching Bahraini laws on google.

    - I bring alcohol to the country just fine, and it's cheap in duty free when you first arrive and you leave.
    - Lots of places to visit but I'd suggest travelling to other places in the region too if you're thinking of a holiday in the Gulf.
    - Also the death penalty is banned in Bahrain, and I found out abortion is legal given a physician's assessment.
    - Lots of places to party and drink like Juffair or Adliya, but don't drink drive like most of the locals do, I'd get a taxi or an uber (apparently there is uber there now).
    - If you feel confident enough and have a little Arabic, I'd go somewhere the locals go, like a cheap place for shisha and tea, cheap shawarma and mixed grills, hire a car and go to the dessert (gets chilly at night).

    As for clothing in public, I'm not the best example as I am comfortable wearing whatever (short shorts, edgy clothes that I would wear in London) but all you get is stares - people in the Gulf love staring at something different.

    Otherwise I'd say Bahrainis are pretty chill compared to other Gulf states, Oman is a beautiful country worth visiting, and if you want to see the diversity of Arabs, check out the pan-Arab countries like Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon and Jordan.

    So just like when you're travelling to any country, don't be stupid, try and talk to the locals if you're somewhere sociable and they can give you suggestions, and finally, explore.

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