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Expats moving to Bahrain will experience a busy and engaging city life and a blend of modernity with traditional Islamic culture on this archipelago.
There is a sizeable expat community in Bahrain, but those relocating to this Gulf state will still have to contend with elements of culture shock and make some adjustments to their lifestyle. Often referred to as 'Middle East lite', Bahrain is considerably more liberal than its neighbours, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but is still rooted in an Islamic belief system.
Living in Bahrain as an expat
Most expats moving to Bahrain do so for the lucrative employment opportunities. The earning potential for expats is high in Bahrain and many report enjoying a higher standard of living than they had in their home country.
As a financial centre of the Middle East, highly skilled foreigners will find plenty of positions available in the banking and construction sectors. And, as Bahrain had made efforts to diversify its economy beyond the petroleum industry, there are many jobs to be had in several multinational firms as well.
Moving to Bahrain also means bigger houses for many. A huge variety of accommodation designed to suit all budgets and tastes awaits new tenants. Expats can choose between towering high-rises, standalone villas or even homes enclaved in a secure compound.
Cost of living in Bahrain
Although the cost of living in Bahrain is increasing annually, it is still reasonable in comparison to its neighbours. Accommodation will certainly be an expat's biggest expense, and they will also have to shoulder the cost of a car due to the island's limited public transport network. That said, some companies may include these benefits in an expat's employment package.
Groceries in Bahrain are reasonable, but western products are incredibly pricey due to import costs. Eating out is also costly, and those wanting to save money should buy local produce and cook at home.
Expat families and children
While expats with children are unlikely to enrol their little ones in any of Bahrain's public schools, plenty of excellent private and international school options exist. Spots disappear quickly, though, so it's important to make registration a priority upon relocation.
Although Bahrain is not necessarily the most child-friendly, the island certainly has much on offer to entertain the little ones. Water parks, wildlife sanctuaries, museums, malls and an abundance of beaches for a day spent out in the sunshine are just some of the many things families in Bahrain can enjoy in their spare time.
Climate in Bahrain
Bahrain has an arid climate. The weather is marked by extreme heat and an uncomfortable humidity is present throughout the year. This may be quite a shock for expats when they first move to Bahrain and adjusting to this could be difficult. Irregular, short and heavy bursts of rainfall occur throughout winter, and summer and spring bring occasional sandstorms.
As far as Middle Eastern destinations are concerned, Bahrain is increasingly becoming an expat favourite. It's a fantastic alternative location for those based in neighbouring countries looking to situate their families in a more liberal environment.
Population: About 1.7 million
Capital city: Manama (also largest city)
Neighbouring countries: Bahrain is a small set of islands in the Persian Gulf. The King Fahd Causeway is a series of bridges to the west of Bahrain, connecting it to its closest neighbour, Saudi Arabia. Across the Gulf, a short distance to the southeast, is Qatar, while Iran is further away on the northeastern side of the Gulf.
Geography: Bahrain is an archipelago, with a primarily flat and arid desert landscape. The smallest country in Asia, the total length of the coastline of the Kingdom's main island is approximately 100 miles (161km).
Political system: Constitutional monarchy
Major religions: Islam, with a small Christian minority
Main languages: Arabic is Bahrain's official language, but English is widely spoken
Money: The Bahraini Dinar (BHD), divided into 1,000 fils. Expats will be able to open a local bank account, but the process is stringent and requires extensive documentation and paperwork. ATMs are widely available in most parts of Bahrain.
Tipping: Restaurants in Bahrain generally include service charges in the bill. Additional tipping is not expected but will nonetheless be appreciated. Ten percent is usually appropriate.
Time: GMT +3
Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. UK-style plugs with three flat blades are used.
International dialling code: +973
Emergency contacts: 999 for police, ambulance and fire services
Internet domain: .bh
Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road in Bahrain. Public transport is limited to buses and taxis as there are currently no rail services available.
►Healthcare in Bahrain provides information about the countries health system
►For information about crime in the country, see Safety in Bahrain
"Life in Bahrain is laid back and good, fairly typical of island life anywhere. I enjoy the friendliness of everyone and the opportunities to meet people from many cultures." Susie, an expat from the UK, shares her experiences of life as an expat in Bahrain.
Are you an expat living in Bahrain?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Bahrain. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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