If you have at least a 4-hour stopover in Bahrain, this post is for you. I’ll tell you how you can spend 4,5,7 or more hours in Manama, Bahrain, whether you need a visa for getting out of the airport in Bahrain and what to see in the capital of Bahrain, Manama.
Why visit Bahrain? Stopover in Bahrain
If you haven’t been to this blog before, hi, I’m Liza and I’m obsessed with travelling. I want to visit 100 countries before I turn 30 and I still have 33 to go (and less than 4 years left). Together with my husband Pepe, we were invited to a friend’s wedding in India (flying to India as well? You might be interested in my post about the most common Indian tourist scams and how to avoid them) and the cheapest tickets were actually with Gulf Air. There was a 7-hour interchange involved and I thought ‘why not explore Bahrain in the meantime’? I didn’t hear much about Bahrain before, I just thought it’s one of these rich tiny countries who have access to oil. Nonetheless, it was very interesting to see how does Bahrain actually look like and how do people live in the capital of Bahrain, Manama.
Visa for Bahrain (Bahrain eVisa and transit visa)
Unfortunately, if you want to go out and see Bahrain during your interchange or a layover, you will have to get a Bahrain transit visa. We applied for our visas in advance on this website. The visa cost was $77 per person. You can check if you’re are eligible for an eVisa for Bahrain (that’s the one we got) on the website I mentioned before.
The passport control at Manama airport was super fast, we weren’t asked pretty much anything and in 10 minutes, we were already getting inside a taxi in the airport to go to Manama, the capital. There weren’t many people, who wanted to go out in Manama and explore the city during the stopover in Bahrain.
What to see in Bahrain?
Most of the landmarks of Bahrain are actually located in Manama, so your best bet is just taking a taxi to Manama. We paid around $15 for a 25-minute journey, which isn’t very expensive. However, it was complicated to grab a taxi from the Manama Fort, as there were no taxis. Nonetheless, we managed to ask the Archaeological Museum staff (big thanks to them) to ask for a taxi for us, so we could go explore other parts of Manama. However, if you have internet in Bahrain, you can use this website for ordering your taxi.
Things to do in Manama, Bahrain during a stopover with Gulf Air (or anyone else really)
1. The Fortress of Manama (Qal’at al-Bahrain)
Our first stop was the archaeological museum of Manama and the old fort, where this photo below was taken. The museum didn’t impress us much, so you can totally skip it, but the fortress was worth walking around. The fortress is a meeting point for many women in Bahrain, who are meeting, walking and talking together in their black abayas and hijabs. In Bahrain, however, you can see quite a few western-looking women wearing their regular outfits. For example, I’ve seen a woman going for a run in the fort. She was wearing regular jogging pants and a top and nobody was paying any attention to her.
So if you’re a female and you’re worried about what to wear in Bahrain – don’t worry at all. I wouldn’t still recommend wearing short skirts or dresses, but you’d be totally fine in a knee-long skirt or jeans and a T-shirt.
2. The Gold Souq
Our second stop was actually the Gold Souq. We expected something lavish, like the Gold markets in Dubai, but it was actually just a normal building with small outlets selling gold. We walked around a couple of streets nearby and looked at the local market stalls. Many of the outlets sell the pashmina scarves for just $5, but they aren’t real pashmina, just synthetic. But they look pretty, in case you’d like to buy one.
3. Traditional Breakfast near the Gold Souq
The third thing we did during our interchange in Bahrain, was having a traditional breakfast in Bahrain. The breakfast wasn’t expensive at all, but it was huge and really interesting. I would totally recommend you trying local dishes in Bahrain. The breakfast took longer than expected and also it started raining in Bahrain (totally unexpected, as Bahrain is basically a desert), so we skipped the last point of our itinerary, the Mosque.
4. Al Fateh Grand Mosque
If you have more than 7 hours in Bahrain, you can totally make it to the Al Fatih Grand Mosque. It was only built in 1988 (very recently), but it’s one of the most important landmarks in the city.
5. Bahrain National Museum
If you still have enough time left, you can head to Bahrain National Museum that was also opened in 1988 (seems like 1988 was a very important year for Bahrain). The museum has a lot of archaeological artefacts and even a Natural History hall. If you’re having a stopover in Bahrain with children, you can definitely head there, as it would be interesting for the children.
Impressions from Bahrain
Bahrain really surprised us. We both thought that it’s more luxurious and lavish, but we haven’t seen a single golden car (like the ones driving the streets of London – however, these ones are from Kuwait. Bahrain left a nice impression of the country, where people live a quiet life. However, there are not many things you can do in Bahrain besides walking in the Fortress, the city centre, the promenade and shopping. Also, Bahrain isn’t a very walkable city, so you’ll have to find a taxi all the time you need to go somewhere. Thus, I wouldn’t spend more than 7 hours in Bahrain, so the layover in Manama was a perfect opportunity to explore Bahrain without going there on a separate trip.
Finally, our opinion of Gulf Air
If you expect Gulf Air to be like Etihad or Emirates, you’ll be very disappointed. Gulf Air operates quite dated planes: our screen was broken, the food was very disappointing, but the worst part is really the customer service. After the incident on the plane, where I was harassed by a psychologically unstable passenger on the New Delhi – Manama flight, who started threatening me, insulting me and shaking my seat and absolutely no adequate assistance from the crew, we wrote a formal complaint to the airline, just to get an impersonal reply saying that the crew behaved as instructed. There was no apology from the airline or anything at all. For sure, we will never ever use Gulf Air again, but if you’re planning to see Bahrain during a stopover, this terrible airline is pretty much your only option.
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