Bahrain officially the Kingdom of Bahrain, is a small island state near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It’s situated close to Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The country consists of 30 islands, 52% of which are uninhabitable due to lack of drinking water, but Manama is one of its cities that can be found on an inhabited island with no nearby islands neighbouring it. This makes it a good choice for backpackers who want to steer clear from busy tourism destinations such as Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
Introduction to Manama – The Capital of Bahrain
Manama (the capital city) is located in the northwest corner of Bahrain Island and is known for its white paved beaches and beautiful corniche; perfect for biking. For those who prefer heading off somewhere else for some adventure, they can also visit the desert, which is only an hour away from Manama.
The city itself has been developed and improved in recent years due to hosting major events such as the Bahrain Grand Prix (a Formula One race) since 2004. The city urban planning is well structured and easy to navigate around for those who have difficulties in locating a specific location or landmark that catches their interest. If you’re hungry while walking around these beautiful destinations of Manama, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants waiting to receive you with amazing ambiance, great service and tasty food.
When to go: Best time to visit Manama, Bahrain
Although there are plenty of things to do in Manama year-round; the best season/time to visit is between September and April when it’s cooler, less humid and less crowded.
Navigating your way around Manama
There’s a couple ways to get around Manama; by foot, bike or car/taxi. For pedestrians, it’s commonly done by walking or biking. If city bikes are your forte, there’s a public bike station in the centre of town called Bikes For All; fees range between 0.150BD to 1BD depending on how long you choose to keep the bike.
Bahrain Skyline: Good places to view Manama city skyline
If you want good pictures of Manama’s skyline without having someone else in the photo with you; some points of interest that can get pretty good shots include Bahrain National Museum which is located on F Sheikh Abdullah Al Khalifa St or Hodh El Bey Fort which is located on Bani Hammad Fort Rd, just off Al Fateh Highway.
Remember to follow Sharia Law in Bahrain
One thing worth noting though, is that Bahrain has Sharia law and this forbids women from wearing mini skirts or shorts as they might reveal too much. It’s recommended to cover your legs while enjoying the Bahrain nightlife if you don’t want any trouble with police officers when caught in action (yes, it happened).
The Financial District and King Faisal Mosque
The big hotels such as Ritz Carlton Manama, Capitol Hotel, Golden Tulip are located near the financial district of town which is close by most attractions including Avenues Mall and King Faisal Mosque, making them ideal for travellers who want to go shopping or just want a nice walk around during lunchtime.
Shopping in Manama
Shopping malls in Manama are popular places for tourists to visit as they offer a diverse variety of shops, restaurants and cafes with an affordable price. If you have limited time, head over to Avenues Mall which is located right outside the financial district of town. It’s one of the largest shopping malls in Bahrain (located 13 km away from the airport) that has everything you could possibly imagine from fashion boutiques, jewellery stores, clothes to shoes and even souvenirs.
For those who want something different/more historical than your typical shopping mall setting; try heading over to Souq Waqif , which is an old souq/market where locals go to buy their daily needs like fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, meat and spices. The atmosphere is vibrant and as you walk around the market, you’ll notice that music from different countries are playing in the background.
Top Tips on Travelling in Bahrain
Bahrain is a relatively safe country; it does have some petty crimes like theft but they’re mostly limited to popular tourist attractions such as shopping malls or hotels so if traveling light and carrying/using an anti-theft bag/backpack , then there shouldn’t be any problems for those who are planning on just exploring the city of Manama.
If going out late at night, walking alone or using public transportation, never wear expensive looking jewellery (fake jewellery is fine), don’t flash cash and use common sense to avoid getting into trouble.
If you’re renting a car, always keep up-to-date maps and navigation apps on your phone before heading out because cell service isn’t always reliable in the city. It’s also recommended that you stay near hotels or restaurants if driving around at night so you can easily find your way back if lost.
Not everyone in Bahrain speaks English but most younger ones do, especially those who work at popular tourist attractions; just be sure to carry a simple pocket translator with basic phrases written in Arabic script .
Using Taxis in Manama
There are plenty of taxis/limousines waiting outside most hotels which cost 1BD for the first 3 km and 0.400BD per additional km when using their meters. However, tourists are usually advised to use the hotel’s shuttle service as they’re more reliable, cheaper, and will be able to take you to your desired location instead of dropping you off at any taxi stand. If using the transportation from your hotel, be sure to negotiate a rate ahead of time so that there won’t be any misunderstandings when arriving at your destination.
Bahrain Currency Exchange Rate and Banking hours: Know before you go!
There’s an ATM located right outside the airport that takes international cards so be sure to withdraw some cash (there’s no cash machine inside the airport, so don’t rely on it) before heading to your accommodation. For those who are traveling light and can’t find a place to exchange their money, there’s a couple places in town that will do it for you with an additional fee; it is still cheaper than changing it at the airport though so be sure to try.