Kuwait (Arabic: الكويت) is a monarchy at the Persian Gulf, bordering Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
As many of its neighbours, Kuwait has achieved wealth from its oil reserves. While it was the scene of the Gulf War in 1990, Kuwait is today an island of stability and emancipation in the Middle East.
Map of Kuwait
There are 6 governorates in Kuwait, each of which has several areas in it. Most of Jahra, Ahmadi and Mubarak al-Kabeer are residential with no tourists attractions.
- 1 Kuwait City– the capital
- 2 Jahra – (Al Jahra) 30 minutes northwest of Kuwait City by car
- 3 Ahmadi– (Al Ahmadi) 30 minutes
- 4 Hawalli – the closest southern suburb, about 10 minutes by car
- 5 Farwaniya – 20 minutes
- 6 Mubarak al-Kabeer – 25 minutes
- Shuwaikh – 15 minutes south west of Kuwait city by car. Industrial area with a vast amount of shops, mostly specialising in household goods.
- Dajeej – 20 minutes south of Kuwait city by car. Industrial area with a wide range of both modern and traditional shops (e.g. carpets, fabrics, household goods).
- Salmiya – 10 minutes from Kuwait city. Commercial and residential area with a wide selection of malls, restaurants, entertainment areas, and the beach.
- Rai – where the Avenues, the second biggest shopping mall in the Middle East, is located.
- Population: 3,806,616 (June 2012 census), including about 2 million non-Kuwaitis
- Ethnic groups consist of Kuwaiti 45%; other Arabs, 35%, among which Egyptians predominate; South Asian, 9%; Iranian, 4%; others, 7%
- Religions: Kuwait ranks among the most liberal Gulf nations in terms of religion. While Islam is the official religion with fully 85% of the population practicing the Muslim faith (and those divided into Sunni 70%, Shia 30%), others including Christians, Hindu, Parsi, make up 15% of the population
- Electrical current: 220 Volts a/c, plugs are either standard British, Europlugs (2 prong diamond-shaped) or German Schuko variety. Adapters are readily available
- Emergency telephone number (police, fire, ambulance) 112
- Airports: Kuwait International Airport (KWI IATA), Latitude/Longitude: 29.240116 / 47.971252
- The country is divided to governorates, which are divided to areas, which are divided to blocks. Knowing the area and block is necessary, as the street numbers may be repeated across different blocks of the same areas. Area names are not repeated across the country, so it would be unusual if you mention the governorate after the area. See the Get around section.
The Kuwaitis trace their roots to the Al-Anisa and Al-Utub tribes from Nejd province, which is now in Saudi Arabia. They moved to Qatar and then to Al-Qurain, now in Kuwait, by around 1710. By 1752, the long term residents of Al-Qurain decided that they needed a central authority to tamp down tribal warfare in the area. The Al-Sabah tribe was chosen to rule, and the first sheikh, Sabah ibn Jaber, reigned as Sabah I from 1752 to 1756. The Sabahs mediated religious and tribal disputes with diplomacy. They also played the Ottomans, Egyptians and European powers against each other while maintaining their autonomy. In 1899, Mubarak I signed an agreement making Kuwait a British Protectorate, with the sheikhs maintaining local control while putting their foreign policy in the hands of the British, in exchange for military protection from other powers. The British had already had a presence in Kuwait for some time: in the 1770s, Abdullah I already had a contract with the British to deliver mail for them up to Aleppo, Syria.
In the 1920s and the 1930s, Kuwait’s main product was pearls. However, income from the precious stones took a hit shortly thereafter, when the Japanese flooded the market with cultured pearls. In 1938, oil was first struck at the Burgan oil field in Kuwait, and by 1946, oil exports began. In 1961, Kuwait nullified the treaty of 1899, and became an independent nation.
Kuwait was attacked and overrun by Iraq on 2 August 1990. Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a US-led international coalition began a ground assault on 23 February 1991 that completely liberated Kuwait in four days; February 26 is celebrated as Liberation Day. Kuwait spent more than US$5 billion to repair oil infrastructure damaged during 1990-91. It has been ruled by Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah since the death of Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in January 2006.
Dry desert; intensely hot summers; short, cool winters. Natural hazards : sudden cloudbursts are common from October to April; they occasionally bring heavy rain which can, in some rare cases, damage roads and houses; sandstorms and dust storms occur throughout the year, but are most common between March and August. Common temperatures range from 5°C in Dec/Jan to over 50°C from Jun to Aug.
Flat to slightly undulating desert plain. Highest point: 306 meters above sea level, in the al Jahrah desert.
The nationals of 54 countries are eligible of visas on arrival at Kuwait’s airport and land borders. The on-arrival visa is valid for a single entry of up to 3 months and costs KD 3, plus KD 3 for a “stamping” fee (visa and stamping fee not required for nationals Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States of America). Those 54 nations are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bhutan, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Eswatini, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Laos, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States of America, Vatican City and Vietnam.
All other nationals need advance visas, which require an invitation from a sponsor in Kuwait. Kuwait Airways offices and major hotels can provide invitations, but the process can take up to a week and may require a fee. The Embassy of Kuwait in Japan has some information.
Import restrictions: Alcohol and pork are not legal and may not be imported into the country. If you bring either in, it will be confiscated at the airport and you may be subjected to fines for attempting to import these banned goods. Your bags will be X-rayed and/or hand-searched on arrival.
1 Kuwait International Airport (KWI IATA) (16 km (9.9 mi) south of Kuwait City). Kuwait’s only airport and is served by many international airlines, connecting to the Middle East and to Europe, Africa and North America directly. It has four terminals, and one under construction to open in 2022.
The national airline, Kuwait Airways, serves Frankfurt, Geneva, Rome, Kuala Lumpur, London, New York City, Paris and several other European, Asian, African and Middle Eastern destinations, but is best avoided: it is a flag carrier with a poor reputation, its planes are old (although some long haul routes have gotten new planes), delays are frequent and customer service weak. You will have to use Kuwait Airways if you are travelling directly from New York’s JFK Airport, however. Almost all its flights are served at Terminal 4. Flights to and from JFK still go to the old terminal, Terminal 1, due to the increased security requirements for US flights.
Semi-low-cost carrier Jazeera Airways provides a popular alternative for regional flights. It is the only user of Terminal 5.
International airlines serving Kuwait include British Airways from London, Lufthansa from Frankfurt, KLM from Amsterdam, Singapore Airlines from Singapore, and Turkish Airlines from Istanbul, plus connections through other large Gulf hubs (Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi, etc.) are accessible through Emirates Airlines, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airlines, and Gulf Air. Airlines that operate seasonal flights to Kuwait include Malaysia Airlines, Ukraine International Airlines, Bulgaria Air and Czech Airlines. Code shares with other members of international airline alliances often offer cheaper air fares than the carrier servicing the route to and from Kuwait. All of these other airlines use Terminal 1 as well, except for Aegean, which uses Terminal 3, a small building meant for private planes at first.
If you need a visa on arrival at the airport, do not head down to Arrivals; instead, look for the “Visa Issuing” desks next to gate 2, opposite the Dasman Lounge. Join the mob (no queuing is possible) to have your passport copied and pick up a queue ticket, fill out a visa entry form, and wait for your number to be called. (Be careful, you will only have 2 or 3 seconds to respond before you are skipped.) Payment for the visa stamp is accepted only in Kuwaiti dinars, and have the exact change (KD 3) ready; there are a number of bureaux de change in the arrivals area, where the best rates appear to be for U.S. dollars, Australian dollars and euros. Purchase the visa payment stamp from the machine before you head to the visa issuing desk .You’ll also get an A4-sized sheet entirely in Arabic, which you must keep — this is your visa! You can now proceed straight through immigration without queuing, just show your visa form at any desk and they’ll let you through. Generally, you can pass through the open gate for flight crew and show your visa to the guard just past passport control.
Airport taxis can be found outside arrivals, with the fare to most points in the city being no more than KD 5. Most hotels can arrange a transfer for the same price if not free of charge, which may be safer – especially for single females – and a more comfortable option. When in operation, you can also use the “limousine” service which is located to the right of the outside exit for KD 6-10 depending on destination. These generally have a reputation as having much safer drivers than the airport taxis (driven by Kuwaiti nationals who usually do not observe posted speed limits and will even drive on the verge/shoulder at 140 km/h). It is illegal for a regular taxi to pick up arrivals passengers at the airport so most will refuse to do so because of the fear of hefty fines and possible imprisonment or deportation. Regular taxis are a worse choice in most cases anyway, being driven by chronically underpaid expats from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and usually poorly maintained. Drivers of regular cabs are often totally unaware of how to get anywhere, often speak little or no English and frequently have poor or no concept of personal hygiene.
Kuwait shares its borders with only 2 nations – Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The political situation in Iraq is volatile, so it’s advisable not to use that route. There are long-distance bus services to Dammam and other points in Saudi Arabia, but you will of course need to have a valid Saudi visa.
There are 3 bus lines in Kuwait: KPTC, City Bus, and KGL. KPTC, the Kuwait Public Transportation Company, operates only within Kuwait and is used mainly by the poorer expats in menial jobs. Buses are frequently poorly maintained, usually un-airconditioned (and thus hazardous in summer) and best avoided.
KGL is the only one of the three that provides routes to other GCC countries, but visas will probably be an issue for non-GCC citizens.
Scheduled ferries to and from Iran are handled by Kuwait-Iran Shipping Company, phone +965 2410498, fax +965 2429508. The ferries go three times a week from Ash Shuwayk in Kuwait to Bushehr in Iran. One-way tickets from KD 37.
Speedboats also go between Ash Shuwayk and Manama in Bahrain. A ticket is KD 45.
Ports and harbors:
- Ash Shu’aybah
- Ash Shuwaykh
- Kuwait City
- Mina’ ‘Abd Allah
- Mina’ al Ahmadi
- Mina’ Su’ud
Kuwait has a good road system. All signs are in English and Arabic. The major north-south roads are effectively freeways numbered Expressway 30, 40, etc. These are traversed by increasingly widely spaced ring roads named First, Second, etc., making navigation fairly easy.
Using Google Maps for navigation is a good option, as it offers traffic and roads, and all major destinations. However, if you need to find a location using its address (which you probably won’t need to). Google Maps will even give you wrong address for your current location and places. This is due to how Kuwait addresses work mixed with lack of proper support of Kuwait subdivisions in Google Maps platform. Areas are labelled as neighbourhoods and blocks as sub-neighbourhoods. For example, if you are in Street 1, block 1, Jabriya, your address will appear as Street 1, Kuwait City (since it is the only city in Kuwait, and neighbourhoods aren’t supposed to be included in addresses). So if you intend to go/find a place using its address, make sure you install the free and easy-to-use official Kuwait Finder GIS system on your phone from its apps market.
By public transport
Kuwait’s public transport is adequate with three companies (KPTC, City Bus and KGL) running dozens of routes in every major city. Waiting times for buses range from one minute for most frequent routes to 1 hour minutes for less used routes. All buses are equipped with air-conditioners and usually one can find a seat without much trouble. Although, during peak hours (7-9AM, 2-4PM, 8-9PM) most routes are packed and public transport should be avoided for those seeking comfortable travelling. Although areas with expatriates majority are covered with many routes, Kuwaiti residence areas are scarcely connected with public transport buses and are reachable mostly by taxis only.
Bus nr 500 runs to Abdaly – a village in the north on the border with Iraq. It departs every 3 hours (6AM, 9AM, etc.) from KPTC bust station in Hassawi.
These are recognisable by orange licence plates and may be hired by the day, in which case fares should be agreed beforehand. Although most taxis have meters these are rarely used as in practice, meters are always “broken”, covered, missing or just ignored, and you’ll need to agree on fares in advance. Beware that cabbies will often ask for ridiculous prices. Share-taxis are also available. Hailing taxis from the road is the most practical approach. However some sources have reported it was not advisable, particularly for females, and they recommend that taxis are booked in advance by telephone from a reputable taxi company. The cream-colored taxis are the cheapest, but also likely to be poorly maintained and possibly dangerously so, considering the general speed and size of the rest of the vehicles on Kuwaiti roads.
A standard rate is applicable in most taxis, but those at hotel ranks are more expensive. Naive westerners routinely pay 2 to 5 times more than the standard rates which are typically KD 0.500 for up to a 5 minute ride plus about KD 0.100 per minute thereafter. The only exception being airport departures which are approximately KD 3. Tipping is not expected, however you should negotiate fares before boarding the taxi. It is customary to collect all baggage and exit the taxi before offering payment to avoid conflicts or loss of personal property should a taxi driver demand more than the agreed price after arriving at the destination. This way, the passenger can drop the money in the seat and walk away if necessary.
It is common to share a taxi (which is often an unofficial taxi or a private car) from bus stations to more remote destinations such as Abdaly on Iraq border. Taxi drivers often wait until the car fills up with passengers and this may take an hour. Expect to pay KD 2-3 for the shared taxi with 3-4 other passengers. Do not agree to pay more. If the driver refuses, just wait a couple of minutes for another driver.
By hire car
Self-drive is available. If you produce an International Driving Permit, the rental company will, at the customer’s expense, be able to arrange the statutory temporary insurance, which is drawn on the driver’s visa. If you arrive at Kuwait International Airport, you will find the car hiring companies located at your left after you exit from the baggage claiming area. You can find international companies such as Avis and Budget among others.
However, driving in Kuwait, especially for those new to driving in the country, can be extremely chaotic and frightening. Turn signals and lane divisions are effectively optional, speeding and aggressive driving is commonplace, and there is little active enforcement of traffic laws. This is especially true for Kuwait city. Driving outside the city, you may have three lanes almost to yourself as there is little traffic.
A law has been passed to disallow the use of cell phones while driving (including voice calls and text messaging or SMS.) If driving, ensure you keep out of the left hand “fast” lane unless you are very relaxed about large 4-wheel drive vehicles tailgating you.
If involved in a car accident, do not attempt to move your car until police arrive and have made a report or you will be arrested.
Hiring a car may be a good (the only?) opportunity to experience the desert, the coast and the oilfields.
Prices are comparable to hiring a car in European countries, e.g. KD 10 for a small two door japanese made car, 4WD and american made sports cars may cost around KD 25. Petrol costs KD 0.1 per litre, gas stations are plenty.
Arabic is the official language. Although in schools the classical version of Arabic is taught, just like everywhere in the Arab world, Kuwaitis use the Kuwaiti dialect in everyday conversation. English is widely used and spoken. Most of the traffic signs in Kuwait are bilingual. English is taught as a second language in schools in Kuwait beginning at the first grade. Many Kuwaitis speak English fluently as there are lots of private English and American schools and universities where all subjects are taught in English and Arabic is taken as a subject. A lot of Kuwaitis enroll their children in these schools.
See Kuwait City for listings of attractions in the city.
Kuwait is not the ideal vacation spot in the region, but if on a business trip, there are some sites worth seeing:
- 1 Failaka Island, [email protected] (take KPTC ferry from Ras Al Salmiya (Ras al Ardh) near scientific center or private speedboat near Marina Mall), ☏ . A port with many old dhows, Failaka Island can be reached by regular ferry services. There are also some Bronze Age and Greek archaeological sites well worth viewing, including the island’s Greek temple. Failaka Island was named Ikarus by the Greeks who, under Alexander the Great, established an outpost in the island. Failaka was heavily damaged during the Iraqi invasion. Plans are underway to develop the island into a large-scale tourist attraction. KD 3.
- Al Jahra city. Traditional-style boums and sambuks (boats) are still built in Al Jahrah, although, nowadays, vessels are destined to work as pleasure boats rather than pearl fishing or trading vessels.
- Mina Al Ahmadi. Mina Al Ahmadi, lying 19 km (12 miles) south of Kuwait City, is an oil port with immense jetties for supertanker traffic. The Oil Display Center pays homage to the work of the Kuwait Oil Company (reservations needed).
- 2 Kazmah desert cliffs (go on Road 80, turn right to Road 801 to Bubiyan, take first exit and turn left). Being one of the few elevations in the Kuwaiti desert these cliffs allow a good view on the bay if the visibility is good. A lot of young Kuwaitis come here on weekends to challenge their Jeeps and quads uphill.
- Desert, anywhere (go north on Road 801, west on Road 70 or south on road 306). Although the city keeps growing, Kuwait is still largely a vast and uninhabited desert. Going away from the city many roads will take you to places where there is nothing but sand, sand and more sand. While this may be a form of excitement you’d look for every weekend in the winter as the locals do, it’s also a nice experience once if you are visiting during the extremely hot summer.
See Kuwait City for more activities in the city.
- Sea Clubs & spas. Many of Kuwait’s sea clubs offer a wide variety of facilities and activities such as indoor and outdoor swimming pools, beaches, tennis courts, gymnasiums, bowling and even karate.
- Riding. Horse-riding clubs flourish in the winter. The Hunting and Equestrian Club is on the 6th ring road near Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah Armed Forces Hospital.
- Golf. The golf course “Sahara Club” is located near the Hunting and Equestrian Club beside 6th ring road. It features a five-star restaurant and a spa.
- Swimming and diving. Swimming is allowed on various public beaches along the Gulf Street. Women in swimwear are rare and might offend locals. The beach resorts as Radisson SAS and Palms offer beaches to both genders but will charge. However, since most beach areas are also the dump sites for raw, untreated sewage, swimming near the mainland is not recommended. Few homes have swimming pools and those that do are generally indoors, below ground. Many of the big hotels and spas have reasonably sized pools, but again can be quite expensive for those who are not guests.
- Boating. Sailing and scuba diving are available. Powerboating is a Kuwaiti passion. Contact any of the hotels on the beach and they can arrange a trip for you. The best beach front hotels are the Hilton Resort, Movenpick Resort, Marina Hotel and the Radisson SAS. Hiring a boat should be done with caution and the boat should be inspected carefully for signs of neglect before agreeing on a rental. Many unwary tourists have been stranded at sea for hours while the coastguard ineptly attempts a rescue because like automobiles in Kuwait, mechanical maintenance is generally not a high priority for most boat owners.
- Shopping in Malls. The largest mall in Kuwait is The Avenues on 5th ring road behind road 60. It is one of the largest malls in whole middle-east and features a lot of clothing and electronics stores as well as a Carrefour and an Ikea. Furthermore it offers the best cinematic experience in Kuwait with VIP theatres with massaging reclining seats and a personal butler. Other popular malls include Marina Mall (Salmiya), Souq Sharq (Sharq), 360 Mall (includes a 3D Imax cinema, located in Jinoob al Surra between 6th ring road and road 50) and Al-Kout Mall (Fahaheel) which is famous for its orchestra musical fountains.
- Shopping on Markets. Regardless of the growing amount of malls Kuwait still hosts a lot of small markets. See the buy section in the Kuwait City article.
- Drive to the Iraqi border (“Highway of death”). Rent yourself a car and drive north along highway 80. This six-lane road has almost no traffic and is almost straight, but gained some history during the war. You may get as far as the border control towards Iraq (around 1½ km before the border), but it’s unlikely that you will get in (read: forget about it). Caution: check the current situation beforehand, be aware and know what you are doing! The border may be dangerous and border police is very alerted by cars approaching them! There is a gas station and a small supermarket right before the border control.
- Drive through oil fields. There might be tours but you can easily drive through oil fields yourself. The areas are rather spread out so you will only see a glimpse. Also, fields are heavily protected (do not approach the fences!). Every entrance gate is also protected (there will be police). Do not take pictures. But all this adds to the overall impression and shows the status if the black gold. The unnamed road behind Al Abdaliyah might be a good point to start with, then driving south of Al Jaber Air Base towards Wafra.
Exchange rates for Kuwaiti dinar
As of January 2020:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
The national currency is the Kuwaiti dinar, denoted by the symbol “ د.ك” or “KD” (ISO code: KWD).
The dinar is divided into 1000 fils. Notes are available in denominations of KD 20, 10, 5, 1, ½ and ¼, while 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 fils coins are also available. Notes are Arabic in the front and English in the back, with Arabic numerals (the numerals used in English) on both sides.
The Kuwaiti dinar is the world’s highest-valued unit of currency. It is pegged to an undisclosed basket of currencies and the exchange rate hovers around US$3.30 for KD 1.
Notes issued before 1994, many of which were stolen during the Iraqi occupation, are not considered legal tender. You’re unlikely to see these in Kuwait (the designs are clearly different), but unscrupulous dealers elsewhere have been known to try to pass them off. See the Central Bank of Kuwait for pictures.
Exchanging money can be difficult and exchanging travelers cheques even more so. Stick to ATMs, which are ubiquitous and work fine. Higher-end establishments accept credit cards.
Although Kuwait is a tax haven 0% VAT and 0% income tax It would be hard to manage on under US$100 per day, and you can very easily spend US$250 or more just on an ordinary hotel room.
Tipping is generally not necessary. Taking a service charge is illegal in Kuwait.
Prices on common expenses (August 2015):
- Medium burger combo meal: KD 1.800 (McDonald’s)
- Meal for 2, mid-range restaurant, three-course: KD 10 – 12
- Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant: KD 1 (Shawarma & Fatayir restaurants)
- Oranges (1 kg): 400 – 450 fils
- Milk (1 litre): 300 fils
- Single medium latte with an add-shot at Starbucks: KD 2
- Falafel sandwiches: 100 fils (includes chips (fries), salad and tahina, law doesn’t permit restaurant to increase that price)
- Khubiz Irani (flat bread), fresh from the baker: 20 fils
Petrol prices are among the cheapest in the world and most of the time are less than water, literally, which explains the Kuwaiti penchant for huge fuel-guzzling U.S. import vehicles.
Kuwait is a tax-free country. Custom-made items, imported items, and shipping out of the country can be expensive, so shop wisely. Businesses are required by law to allow exchanges on credit cards purchases, and returns or exchanges on non-credit cards purchases for a period of a fortnight. If in a rare case you think a store isn’t obeying the laws, don’t hesitate to call Consumer Protection Department at 135.
There is a huge array of restaurants in Kuwait. Because nightlife is virtually non-existent, most people go out to restaurants and malls. A wide variety of international cuisines is available in high-end restaurants, although some heavily pork-based cuisines (German, e.g.) are conspicuously absent. Kuwait is known for its culinary specialties and catering services.
Restaurants can be found in food courts in malls, and alternatively many international restaurants are grouped together in certain areas in Kuwait, namely:
- Behind the Roman Catholic Church in Kuwait City
- Outside the Mövenpick Resort in Salmiya
- In the Marina Crescent
Just ask any local where the “Restaurants Road” is and they will guide you to a road in Salmiya packed end-to-end with local restaurants serving a wide array of specialty sandwiches, juices and snacks.
Alternatively, head to any of the major shopping malls which are also crowded with restaurants ranging from fast to gourmet food. Every conceivable U.S. chain is represented in Kuwait.
While rare, there are still some restaurants that serve traditional Kuwaiti food. Al-Marsa restaurant in Le Meridien Hotel (Bneid Al Gar location) has some traditional Kuwaiti seafood but with a relatively high price tag. A cheaper option is the quaint Shati Alwatia restaurant at the Behbehani Villa compound in the Qibla area of Kuwait City (behind the Mosques) and another Kuwaiti restaurant is Ferij Suwailih in salmiya area.
If you don’t feel like going out to eat, just about every restaurant and eatery in the country delivers food anywhere. Order online from a number of sites and enjoy the same selections as at the restaurant for a tiny delivery fee (usually 200 to 400 fils) tacked onto the order total itself.
For general grocery shopping, each district has its own ‘Co-operative Society’ (Jumayya) which anyone can use, and they usually consist of a supermarket and a general do-it-yourself store. When paying for your grocery shopping the cashier will usually ask if you have a number (which is given to local customers as a way to build up credits). It is also normal that somebody will pack your grocery bags for you and will carry the bags to your car, unless you insist otherwise. It is customary to tip them about KD 0.500 if they do go to your car, although they do not normally wait around for it. Kuwait also offers a wide variety of other supermarkets ranging from local chains of excellent quality (The Sultan Company) to hypermarkets operated by international heavy hitters such as Carrefour, Geant and an Indian chain, LuLu. All of them offer selections of truly international range and usually at competitive prices.
Alcohol is illegal in Kuwait: it may not be imported, manufactured or served, and newspapers regularly report busts of illegal distilleries.
Hotels in Kuwait are expensive, but major Western chains are well represented (see Kuwait City for hotel listings). Light sleepers should bring ear plugs as public announced prayers are broadcast before twilight and several times during the day.
Chalets and other weekend accommodation can be rented in many places along the southern part of the coast.
- Khiran Resort. Chalets and studio flats, a yacht club and a 240-berth fully serviced marina, swimming pools, playgrounds, sports and health facilities, shops, a supermarket and coffee shops.
There are many full service office providers available to businesses within Kuwait such as IO Centers. Most of the large companies have high-quality office facilities, but expect to see a great portion of Kuwaiti businesses operating out of small 3- to 4-person offices. These businesses are normally owned by a Kuwaiti and staffed by Middle Easterners or Asians and don’t normally hire nationals of western descent. If you plan to work in Kuwait, be sure to check the academic requirements of desired positions as in most cases, the Kuwaiti government insists on degrees from accredited universities.
Expect to be paid anywhere from KD 400-800 for average middle range positions to KD 1000-1500 for higher positions such as teaching or consulting. However, domestic maids can earn as little as KD 50 per month, although food and accommodation are usually included with the job. Kuwait is heavily saturated with IT workers (mostly from India) and so wages in the IT industry are very low. If you are looking at accepting a job offer before coming to Kuwait be sure to check carefully how much you will be paid and if your employer will assist you with accommodation. It is commonplace for workers of Asian nationality to fall victim to promises of good pay and provision of accommodation only to find themselves having their passport confiscated and falling under the control of their sponsor. Be sure to check the reputation and creditability of any potential employer before accepting a position.
Any foreign national wishing to work in Kuwait must have a working visa under a Kuwaiti sponsor. There is no provision for freelance work and foreign nationals found working without a working visa will be promptly apprehended and asked to leave resulting in a possible ban from returning.
The crime threat in Kuwait is assessed as low. Violent crimes against foreigners are rare, but do occur. Physical and verbal harassment of women are continuing problems. Kuwaiti drivers can also be quite reckless.
Public health is entirely supported by the government at local clinics and hospitals, with a KD 5 fee paid by foreigners visiting Kuwait and KD 1 for expats with a resident visa, or a visitor’s visa. Private non-governmental clinics are available as well, but charge much more at KD 30 and upwards. You will be entitled to free treatment in case of an accident or an emergency. In case of an emergency, call 112.
Tap water is drinkable, although most of it is desalinated and not particularly tasty, and in summertime, you may have a hard time telling apart the hot and cold taps. Bottled water is available everywhere for a few hundred fils.
Ramadan is the 9th and holiest month in the Islamic calendar and lasts 29–30 days. Muslims fast every day for its duration and most restaurants will be closed until the fast breaks at dusk. Nothing (including water and cigarettes) is supposed to pass through the lips from dawn to sunset. Non-Muslims are exempt from this, but should still refrain from eating or drinking in public as this is considered very impolite. Working hours are decreased as well in the corporate world.
If you’re planning to travel to Kuwait during Ramadan, consider reading Travelling during Ramadan.
Kuwait adopts a live-and-let-live policy for clothing, and you’ll see a wide range of styles: women wear anything ranging from daring designer fashions to head-to-toe black abayas with headscarves, while men can be seen both in T-shirts and shorts or the traditional dazzling white dishdashah. To avoid unnecessary attention, though, women will want to steer clear of showing midriffs. Ironically, low necklines are less offensive. Bikinis are fine at the hotel pool, but not on public beaches. Public nudity is prohibited everywhere and not tolerated.
Do not eat, drink or smoke in public during the holy month of Ramadan or you may be fined or even go to jail. The fine is KD 100. Also, during Ramadan working hours may be shorter and restaurants will be closed during the day, even at the international airport. However, most supermarkets will remain open so food can still be purchased from there. Also, major hotels will offer breakfast (some start before dawn) and food during the day. Almost all restaurants offer Ramadan meals after dusk with set meals. If you are working, many employers will provide a space where Westerners may eat during Ramadan, but if not, it is inadvisable to consume anything in the presence of Muslim coworkers during Ramadan.
Avoid these breaches of etiquette in Kuwait from which tourists and those visiting or expats working here are not exempt or excused:
- Although Kuwait is a relatively democratic country, the topic of the Emir is sensitive.
- Do not take pictures of governmental buildings or areas near the border fence.
- Homosexuality is illegal, although you will frequently observe local men kissing when greeting and also holding hands when walking together, as this is not considered homosexual behavior in Kuwait.
- Public display of affection between men and women is illegal.
The country code for Kuwait is 965. Local phone numbers are 8 digits long. Numbers starting with 2 are landline telephones, while numbers starting with 5,6 or 9 are mobile telephones numbers and numbers starting with 1 are service numbers. there are no area code and dialing within Kuwait will never require an additional 0 in the beginning.
Kuwait uses GSM and mobile phones are widely available. The operators are Zain, Wataniya Telecom (Ooredoo), and Viva. As roaming charges can be very steep, it makes sense to get a local SIM card. a new SIM can be obtained from any of the official branches. A SIM can be bought from most telephone stores, and doesn’t require registration. Registration requires the passport of the one who’s applying. The prices for a new SIM card are very low:
- Viva: KD 2 with 1 KD 1 balance + KD 1 local talking time.
|talking fee, one minute, local||KD 0.045||?||KD 0.038|
|talking fee, one minute, local, same network||KD 0.037||?|
|SMS, local||KD 0.020|
|SMS, international||KD 0.050|
The charges apply on the caller only.
Kuwait is a small country. The whole country is covered, so don’t worry about each operator coverage. However, since Viva is arelatively new company, you’ll get lower signal and even lower LTE signal.
There are several internet and telecom service providers in Kuwait. The media in Kuwait is among the most outspoken in the Gulf states, journalists self-censor on issues related to royal family. Kuwait is one of the fastest growing ICT markets in the region. Majority of the Kuwaiti population can afford to have Internet services at home, the reason the country has fewer Internet cafes than other Gulf countries.
Major Internet service providers in Kuwait.
- FASTtelco Tel: +965 22256688 Email: [email protected] Website: www.fasttelco.net
- Gulfnet Tel: +965 1816666 Website: www.gulfnet.com.kw
- Mada Tel: +965 1822888 Website: www.mada.com.kw
- Qualitynet Tel: +965 1804444 Website: www.qualitynet.net
- Zajil Telecom (KEMS) Tel: +965 1820820 Email: [email protected] Website: www.zajil.com
Fixed (Landline) line telephony services are provided by the Ministry of Communications (MoC). To subscribe you need to apply at your local branch of the MoC. Typical documents required are Tenancy contract, employer letter and civil id. Most expats don’t tend to bother however and choose one of the 3 mobile operators.
LTE is available nearly everywhere. if there’s no LTE, the connection will be changed to HSPA+, which is very fast. VIVA offers LTE for the same price as 3G. However, their network is relatively slow. Zain’s and Wataniya’s LTE prices are different from the 3G prices, but their network is fast.
- Shopping malls: Fastelco, one of the ISPs provide you with one hour of free high speed Wi-Fi each day. KEMS [dead link], another ISP have a lot of access points, but their internet isn’t free.
- Starbucks: Starbucks’ Wi-Fi is free for an hour but requires a Starbucks card. However, connection speed in Starbucks is limited to less than 512 Kbps, so it’s not recommended. Also electricity sockets aren’t available if you plan to charge your device while using it.
If you already subscribed to mobile phone internet, you can always turn on the portable hotspot in you phone and then connect to the internet in you computer/laptop, tablet or any other device.
Internet is available via different ways, the most stable and popular way is via ADSL subscription. Subscribing to ADSL service requires a landline.
Internet access starts at KD 39 a year at 1Mbit/s. ADSL connection are mainly available via annual subscription. However, 1 month, 3-month and 6-month subscriptions are also available.
Some people may choose to use an LTE mini routers or CPEs (fixed routers) and use mobile internet services from Zain, Wataniya (Ooredoo) and Viva, this is a good option if you’re planing on staying for a little time. However, connecting this way is capped.
Another recommendation is to try a relatively new service – “Mada”. This service is Wimax and up to 10 Mbit/s download speed (although the speed never reaches this rate, and in some areas it will not even reach 1 Mbps). the cost is KD 40 for the main router and KD 25 per month.
Websites containing adult content are censored by all of the internet providers by direction of the Minister of Communications. Skype is legal in Kuwait. All other VoIP clients like Line, Tango and Viber and Skype can easily be download from phones’ applications’ markets (e.g. Appstore or Google Play).
Kuwait has high international call rates. Although calling overseas is also very cheap It’s recommended to use apps and services like Line or Skype to call overseas. For home usage, Phoneserve cards are available (mostly in Hawally) that can be used for cheap calls worldwide. Users with credit cards use Skype and Yahoo Voice for communication as well, but skype website is banned now (However, the app can be used).
Some traditional corner-shops called “Baqqalat” (singular. Baqqala) sell an international calling card called Big Boss which offers good rates to Europe but only when calling landlines. For the rest of continents the rates are decent even when calling mobile phones.
Like when entering Kuwait, most people leaving will probably do so by plane. Thus, you can choose among several interesting small Gulf states including the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain reachable by plane in just one hour or so. Iran and Oman are also close by.
Going elsewhere overland can be a bit tricky. Saudi-Arabia requires virtually all foreigners to obtain a visa and doesn’t issue them for just “tourism”. In the same way practically everyone needs a visa to enter Iraq, and while you probably could get a tourist visa, consider that Iraq is one of the world’s most dangerous countries. By boat, you can reportedly travel to Iran and Bahrain.