With Bahrain gaining in popularity as a tourist destination, many tour operators have begun offering package deals with charter flights and hotel stay. Check with your travel agent, there are some real bargains to be had!
Hit the road!
FOR a visitor to Bahrain, there are essentially two ways to explore Bahrain on your own.
You could take a taxi, or rent a car.
Or then again, you could walk.
A lot of the islands more popular destinations - including, may we say, the shopping areas - are concentrated in a fairly small area, and walking around in the narrow alleyways and taking in the sights and sounds of Bahrain can be quite an enchanting experience.
Of course, a lot depends on the time of year you are in Bahrain. Being out and about on the roads on an afternoon in the peak of summer might bring you some very curious glances, and is certainly not recommended for anyone but the hardiest souls.
The weather does get better after sundown though, and walks can be quite pleasant.
For the most part, however, you will find you do need transport of the wheeled kind.
Public transport is limited to buses and taxis. The islands population is fairly small and there has never been seen any need for trains.
Moreover vehicles are fairly cheap in Bahrain, when compared to either the West or the Far East, and it is no surprise that a high percentage of residents have their own cars.
Taxis are plentiful, and apart from peak hours and weekends, flagging one down should not take long.
The orange-bodied taxis are clearly identifiable by the 'Taxi' sign on the roof. Fares are by meter and only vary when coming from the airport or when travelling at night.
The standard minimum fare is 800 fils ($2.10), charged for the first three kms, and 100 fils (25 cents) for every subsequent kilometre.
Between 2200 and 0600 hrs, the minimum fare is BD1.200 ($3.10) for the first three kms, and 150 fils (40 cents) per km thereafter.
In either case, the fare is displayed on the meter, and the taxi driver will give you a receipt printout should you need one.
While coming from the airport, there is an additional charge of BD1 ($2.60), which is in addition to the meter reading.
Tips are not expected, especially for short rides, but customers sometimes offer the change if the fare is 100 to 200 fils (25-50 cents) short of a round figure.
Every now and then, an empty cab may be hard to find. But there is an alternative with a large number of shared taxis on the roads.
These vehicles are almost always pick-ups, and can be recognised by a yellow circle with licence number in black painted on the drivers door. The vehicles have white and orange number plates.
The shared taxis have several designated pick-up points. The ones youre most likely to use are the ones near the main bus station a short distance from Bab Al Bahrain, Al Hadi Centre on Old Palace Avenue, the Central Market, and Salmaniya Hospital.
Shared taxis do not use meters. Fares vary depending on destination, but are far less than what you would pay for a cab.
On the negative side however, they also make for a very cramped journey with five passengers packed into the pick-up.
No tips are expected.
Certainly a more comfortable way to get around is by hiring a vehicle from a car rental company. To drive in Bahrain you will need a valid international driving licence (GCC visitors may use their own national licences). The licence has to be endorsed by the Traffic Directorate in Bahrain, but most car rental firms will do that for you.
A number of major car rental companies operate in Bahrain, including Hertz, Avis and Oscar. Prices can vary a great deal, so use the list of numbers in the panel before you make your choice.
If you do get caught out without transport and there is not a cab in sight, you could call for a taxi.
Speedy Motor Service (tel 682999) operates a round-the-clock service. Fares are naturally higher than normal taxis, but it is worth paying a little extra for the convenience and certainty of a ride. The taxis are metered, but a 10 per cent tip would not be out of place.
While a public bus network exists, the frequency of services and the very limited number of buses - 40 at last count - can often frustrate even the most patient.
The all-red buses are clearly distinguishable, and make up for poor frequency by low fares - 50 fils, or around 13 US cents, is the standard charge for all destinations.