|An expat's complete guide to Bahrain|
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My first trip? To a coffee shop around the corner, all of 300 metres away. I was euphoric: I’d negotiated several U-turns, driven on the “wrong side” of the road and had my car washed while I relaxed in the café. (If you’re a chocoholic, Le Chocolat in the Seef District is highly recommended. Call 1758 2259 for directions. Café La Ventana in Adliya, tel. 1771 6771 is another delightful place to “chill”).
Using the Gulf Daily News as my source of places of interest and things to do, I ventured further afield, setting myself the challenge of finding one new thing a day.
Before I knew it, I’d been to just about every corner of the island and had well and truly got my bearings. (While maps are available most are struggling to keep pace with new developments or are tourist maps and don’t provide the detail you’ll need. Your best bet is to ring and ask for directions or visit www.bahrainexplorer.com where you’ll find the location of the majority of restaurants, places of interest etc). The alternative is to take a guided tour for a general overview of the island.
Knowing where key things are helped enormously when the next task loomed: Finding somewhere to live. Narrowing down the area was the first challenge. Adliya, Budaiya, Juffair, Manama, Muharraq, Saar or Seef? Exotic sounding names each with a different character and ambience. And, as there are properties of every shape and size to suit all tastes and budgets, I created a list of priorities before setting out: Compound or stand alone? Apartment or villa? With or without a pool? Near work or entertainment?
In the height of the summer four to six viewings at a time was all I could cope with. Coryn, our real estate agent at Cluttons, was a star [See the panel on Real Estate Agents]. Endlessly patient, a font of local knowledge, and never doubting that she’d find me “just what I was looking for”, quite a challenge as I didn’t have a clue really. Once we’d chosen our home, Coryn negotiated with the owner and finalised the lease: All we had to do was sign on the dotted line.
As a child-free family, I had the luxury of plenty of time to look for a place and we were quite happy to live in a serviced apartment for as long as necessary. That said, friends of mine with children had no problem just looking for housing during their weeklong “look see”, although they did need to stay in a furnished apartment for a short time while waiting for their villa to be finished and shipment to clear customs.
And the same friends told me that finding suitable schools for your children is relatively easy but you’ll need to act fast – lists for the new school year fill up remarkably quickly and there is usually quite an extensive application process to go through [see Useful Info: Schools].
Working on that telephone description “the houses are big”, I packed up in London keeping my fingers crossed that our things would be suitable for our new home. Electricity in Bahrain is 230 Volts, 50 Hertz with UK style plugs, so for once I didn’t have to have an electrical goods sale before leaving. (Bahrain Customs Authorities enforce strict regulations concerning the import of certain items so check www.bahraincustoms.gov.bh before you pack).