Driving in Bahrain

Learn to drive, rent a car or simply hop around on our brand new bus network Discuss this article

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Whether you’re a first time GCC expat, or a seasoned island dweller, getting around in Bahrain can be a little nerve-wracking sometimes, especially if you’re driving. However, these days, with stricter road rules and a brand new public transport system, the rides are getting smoother. As long as you’re up-to-date with all the ins and outs then nothing should stop you from getting from A to B.

Getting your licence
Never driven before? No matter what nationality you are, and as long as you’re 18 and above, if you’re a resident then you can become a bona fide Bahrain driver. What you need are copies of your passport, CPR, residence permit and two passport photos. As long as you have no suspected disability, you’ll have an eye test, a compulsory theory lecture, complete 22 driving lessons (one hour each), and then you need to pass the practical driving test.

With regards to renewals, Bahrainis under 60 years old can renew their licence online via an e-government portal, using their smart cards, three months before expiry. Contact the General Directorate of Traffic on 1787 2222 / 1787 2287.

Transferring your licence
If you already have an international licence it might be possible for you to simply transfer it to a Bahraini licence, depending on your nationality. For instance, those with UK or US driving licences can transfer without needing to retake a test. Any driver over 18 needs a Bahrain licence to legally drive here but you can only apply for one if you’ve been a resident for three months. You do this at the Traffic and Licensing Directorate and you’ll need your CPR, residence permit and passport photographs. You then need to pass an eye test, which will be done there and then.

If your driving licence is not on the approved list of accepted countries, then you may need to apply for a new licence and take the test again. To find out, contact the General Directorate of Traffic on 1787 2222 / 1787 2287.

Car rental
The most hassle-free way to ensure you have a daily ride, without having to commit to buying, is to rent a car from one of the many service providers in Bahrain. As long as you’re 25 and above, then this is a relatively simple process. You’ll need a valid driving license (this can be international or local, as long as it’s approved; your rental company can tell you if it is), identification, and a credit card or cash deposit (some companies don’t accept a deposit so you’ll need to check).

Car finance
If you’d rather buy but don’t have the capital, then you can apply for a car loan. Bahrain’s banks offer varying terms and conditions with regards to interest rates, maximum repayment period and down payments (some banks don’t require one). However, for the most part, you’ll need at least: a salary certificate, passport and CPR, Bahrain driving licence, and three to six months’ worth of bank statements. In some cases, you’ll also need a document to prove your postal address (i.e. municipality bill).

Be aware that there is a big difference in the monthly payment amount if you choose to have a shorter pay-back term. However, the longer the paying period the more the interest, so make sure it’s suitable.

Also, don’t miss your repayments. Missing payments could mean a travel ban and court action for expatriates, or the car could be repossessed, depending on which bank you’re with.

Traffic violations
Make sure you’re aware of the various traffic violations and what kind of fines you could incur. Within the past year, Bahrain’s government has tightened up the laws and steepened the fees under a recent national campaign to address the growing number of serious traffic accidents. The new traffic law is governed by a point system.

Violations such as using your mobile phone in the car, ‘dazzling’ people with your lights, blocking roads, speeding, no seatbelts, parking in disabled spots, and many more, could incur fines ranging anywhere from BD20 to BD3,000 with potential jail sentences. A full list of the new rules is available on www.bna.bh.

Public transport
Since August, the brand new bus network is completed. A fleet of over 140 red buses, featuring air-conditioning, comfy seating, disabled facilities, and more, provide services across an expanded route. The fares work on a zonal system and smartcards (the GO card) have launched to make travel easier and more eco-friendly.
Visit bahrainbus.bh for routes and timetables.

Alternatively, we have radio taxi companies. Call up Speedy Motors (1768 2999) or Arabian Taxi (1746 1746) to schedule a pick-up, or grab a local cab at designated areas. However, be aware that prices can be steep, even for short journeys.
Californian company Uber (www.uber.com) also launched here, offering access to the handy app which allows you to book and pay for taxis as and when you need them. Easy Taxi is another version that is available on the island (www.easytaxi.com).

Cool rider

We speak to Harley-Davidson driver Dr Brinda Rajeesh about riding bikes on the Bahrain roads

How did you get your licence to ride a motorbike in Bahrain?
I went through the Bahrain driving school. The system is so meticulous that I didn’t face any trouble in acquiring a time slot and instructors for training. The police officers were so professional and dedicated that I graduated in five days’ time. They gave me the exact training and safety measures for being a responsible driver. In fact, they taught me how to even lift the bike in case an accident occurs. This I wouldn’t find even in my home country. A big salute to the officers and their dedication!

How do you feel when you’re on the roads around Bahrain?
I have felt that these roads were more inviting than any other for me. The drivers in Bahrain are so friendly to bikers that they give space for you while riding. I wish there was more area to tour!

What do you love about riding?
Anytime, anywhere… the control and being close to nature.

What was your very first bike?
A gearless kinetic Honda.

What do you have now?
The Harley-Davidson Sportster. It’s awesome! I guess this word includes all the words that I want to shout out.

What would you say to someone thinking of getting their motorbike licence?
Don’t think twice… give wings to your dream!

By Time Out Bahrain staff
Time Out Bahrain,

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