By Rebecca Torr » Just days after first arriving in Bahrain a friend presented me with a map, a set of keys and a hired car and with a grin told me to “go and explore!” As you can imagine it was a bit daunting at first, especially because I had only ever driven in the UK and I didn’t have a clue where anything was, or where to begin.
Anyway I accepted the challenge and before long I was whizzing around the island and discovering its attractions.
In fact, I know the place so well now that, to the annoyance of my husband, who has lived here several years longer than I have, it’s usually me who does the navigating!
Of course being thrown in the deep end like I was wouldn’t appeal to all tourists, but thankfully there are other options.
Visitors can travel around the island reasonably cheaply and easily on private tourist buses, or by taxi, and for the more adventurous, walking is another alternative.
Unfortunately the public transport system is not very advanced in Bahrain. There are no trains, or trams, but there is a bus service that has routes in most of the major towns and villages and the standard fare is very cheap at just 50 fils (13 cents).
To help you decide which mode of transport is for you, here are some of your options:
Rent A Car. f you are able to drive and like exploring, then hiring a car would be my top recommendation. Car rental charges are pretty reasonable and almost always include unlimited mileage and insurance, in many cases they even include whatever fuel is left in the vehicle.
To drive in Bahrain you will need an International Driving Permit (IDP), or a driving license from any Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country. Your license will also need to be endorsed by the General Directorate of Traffic, which can be done at any car rental company.
A small car such as a Toyoto Echo could set you back as little as BD10 ($26) a day, BD60 ($160) for a week, or BD170 ($450) per month.
A medium sized car such as a Nissan Sunny is a little more expensive at approximately BD13 ($34) a day, BD80 ($212) for a week, or BD190 ($504) per month. For those who want to hire a sports utility vehicle such as a Ford Explorer, the price is about BD30 ($80) a day, BD170 ($450) per week or BD350 ($928) a month.
The peak time on the roads is between 7.30am and 8.30am, 1.30pm to 2.30pm and 5pm to 7pm and on Wednesdays and Thursday evenings from 8pm to 11pm.
Taxis. You will rarely be stuck for a taxi in Bahrain and can easily flag one down on the street, or pick one up from stands outside hotels and major tourist attractions. They can be identified by their orange side markings and yellow number plates and they also carry a ‘Taxi’ sign on the roof.
All taxis should operate with a meter by law and the minimum fare is 800 fils, ($2.10) which covers the first three kilometres and 100 fils (26 cents) for every subsequent kilometre.
Between 2200 and 0600 the minimum fare is BD1.200 ($3.20) for the first three kilometres and 150 fils (40 cents) for every subsequent kilometre. If you are coming from the airport you will be charged an additionally BD1 ($2.65) on your metered fare.
Tips of a few hundred fils are always welcomed.
Shared Taxis. This mode of transport can accommodate up to five passengers and is about half the fare of a regular taxi. There are no meters and fares are usually agreed prior to the journey.
Shared taxis are often pick-up trucks, which can be identified by a yellow sticker with the licence number plate in black on the driver’s door. They can be boarded at several pick-up points along pre-determined routes.
Radio Taxis. There are very reliable metered taxis that can be ordered by phone 24 hours a day. They are a popular mode of transport and it is therefore advisable to book in advance.
Fares can be as little as 700 fils ($1.85) for the first two kilometres and 200 fils (53 cents) for every subsequent kilometre. Tips of a few hundred fils are welcomed, but not expected.
Tourist Buses. here are several companies that organise air-conditioned bus tours to popular sight-seeing destinations. They are a good way of seeing the sights without getting lost and provide an easy means to learning about the country’s history.
To decide which tour option is for you it is advisable to speak to the concierge at your hotel reception, or a local travel agency who can also help you with bookings.
Walking. In the cooler months (October to March) walking is a popular pastime for locals and expatriates alike.
Many areas on the island still lack adequate footpaths (sidewalks) and crossings, but places like Manama can easily be explored on foot. However, it is easy to get lost with the many small and twisting alleyways and you may therefore wish to stick to the main roads, or take a map.
During the hot season (April to September), you might want to keep walking ventures to a minimum.