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Weekend activities in Manama, Bahrain

Listed here are some interesting weekend activities that are worth trying in Bahrain.

Places to visit – Parks, museums or forts

Transportation in Bahraine

Bahrain has a basic public transport system, which is used by many. The Ministry of Transport (MOT) in Bahrain is responsible for development of the Kingdom’s transportation infrastructure and system, as they work to boost productivity and improve the quality of land, air and sea services. Transportation in Bahrain includes road transportation, air transportation and shipping. It has also been announced that a monorail network will be built.

Two popular forms of public transport used in Bahrain are bus and taxi. Although majority of expats drive their own vehicles, taxis are also highly popular in getting around, particularly when you are new to the place. Taxis have separate fares during day and night.

There are a few different fares on taxis. The fare is different during the day and at night. Airport taxis are also available in Bahrain. The taxis all have a sticker with the fares outlined in the rear windows.

Buses are cheap and still largely used by migrant workers and day labourers who cannot afford a car or taxi. The busses are air conditioned and comfortable for travel and the bus routes can be accessed on line.

Land Transport

Bus

The public bus system in Bahrain links most of the major towns and residential areas. Buses continue to remain the primary mode of public transport, which mainly operate from bus station on Government Avenue, Manama to urban destinations in Bahrain. Details on timing and routes will be available at the bus station, or can be understood on speaking to staff member.

Labourers can depend on their company transportation to take them to their camp sites, while children use bus transportation provided by their schools.

Visitors can reach Bahrain by bus from Saudi Arabia via King Fahad Causeway. Bus services in Bahrain are frequent and comparatively inexpensive. Buses are given a separate own lane at customs, which makes border crossing quick and easy.

Coaches by the Saudi-Bahrain Transport Company (SABTCO) will operate several times a day between Manama and Al-Khobar / Dammam in Saudi Arabia across the King Fahad Causeway. Further, there are services to Syria, Jordan, and various other Gulf destinations by SAPTCO (Saudi Arabian Public Transport Company). All the buses depart from International bus terminal in Manama’s Lulu Avenue.

Several companies organize air-conditioned bus tours to popular sight-seeing destinations. They are a good way to visit places without getting lost, and provide an easy means to learn about the country history. However, to know the best tour option for you, speak to the concierge at your hotel, or contact a local travel agency, who can take care of the bookings.

The Ministry of Transport in Bahrain plans to improve public bus transport system by introducing a new bus fleet with high-tech facilities and improvements, making public transport service accessible to a wide section of the society, including people with special needs.

The Ministry will also upgrade all supporting infrastructure including bus shelters and main bus stations as part of revamp.

Taxi

Taxis are reliable and plentiful in Bahrain, though not as cheap as in the UAE. But, they are still reasonable and advisable, particularly for commuting to and from the airport. Taxis in Bahrain are required to have a meter with specific rates. But, often taxis are found operating without meter, so it is best to check out the fare with someone beforehand, and always settle on an amount before getting into the taxi.

Taxis are easy to find and comparatively cheap and visitors use them a lot. They can easily be flagged down on the street, or pick one up from stands outside major hotels and tourist attractions. They can be identified by their orange side markings and yellow number plates, with the sign ‘Taxi’ on the roof.

‘Shared Taxis’ are also available, which can accommodate up to five passengers and is about half the fare of a regular taxi. Here too, fares are usually agreed prior to the journey. Shared taxis are often pick-up trucks, which are identified by yellow sticker with license number plate in black on the driver’s door. They can be boarded at various pick-up points at pre-determined hours.

The ‘Radio Taxis’ are reliable metered taxis, which can be ordered over phone 24 hours a day. They are also a popular mode of transport, and hence it is advisable to book in advance. Speedy Taxi (Tel: +973 1768 1999) and Bahrain Limo (+973 1726 6266) are two reliable metered cab companies which can be pre-booked on phone. Speedy Motor Service and Bahrain Taxis are the main taxi operators on the island.

For those looking to travel in luxury vehicles, use Bahrain Limo, who has a large fleet of limousines and luxury buses to transport people across the King Fahad Causeway. For airport taxi, the passenger has to pay taxi fare as it appears on the vehicle meter.

Car

Although, bus services are there to various points around Bahrain island, at times people prefer to rent a car, as buses may not be completely reliable, and do not go directly to points of interest for visitors sometimes.

Therefore, as a visitor, if you love driving, you can also rent a car and opt for self-driving, provided, you have a valid driving licence. There are several local car hire firms, so arrange a short-term hire and later check to find a cheaper long-term deal. When renting a car, insurance is for the car and not for the driver. However, if planning to drive to Saudi Arabia, a permit is required.

Car rental charges are quite reasonable and almost always unlimited mileage and insurance are included. In several cases, they also include whatever fuel is left in the vehicle.

To drive in Bahrain, you will require an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a driving license from any GCC country. Your license may also need to be endorsed by the General Directorate of Traffic, which can be done at any car rental company.

The peak time on the roads is between 7.30am and 8.30am, 1.30pm and 2.30pm and 5pm to 7pm, may go up to 11pm on Wednesday and Thursdays.

Driving around Bahrain is not too difficult, as roads are well signposted to main sites of tourist interest. However, speed limits, wearing seat belts and drink-driving laws are strictly enforced.

Car-hire companies have offices in Manama and at the airport, and the rates exclude petrol, but include unlimited mileage and insurance.

When travelling by land, the Kind Fahad Causeway offers a road link from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain.

Air Transport

Bahrain has three airports, with only one being of relevance to tourists. Gulf Air, the national carrier of Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and UAE is the primary air carrier operating into Bahrain.

Bahrain International Airport acts as Gulf base for several international airlines, including cargo carriers and charter flight operators. Several airline and air cargo companies carry out their operations through Bahrain International Airport.

Car Parking is available at the airport within walking distance of the terminal. Parking is also reasonably priced and meant for easy access. When dropping off or picking up passengers, you may pull up directly in front of the terminal entrance, although no parking is permitted here. Both short-term and long-term options and spaces for drivers with disabilities and for motorbikes are available.

Among the facilities within the airport are banks, bureaux de change, disabled access, prayer rooms for men and women, food and beverage facilities, and ofcourse the large duty-free outlet that offers everything from perfume to electronics, cosmetics and designer goods.

Taxis are available from the airport into the city, and they wait outside Arrivals to take you to hotels. Some accommodation establishments offer their own pick-up services too. There are also several reputable rental car firms at the airport.

Sea Transport

There are two main ports in Bahrain – Mina Salman and Sitrah. Passenger ferries cross the Persian Gulf in 16 hours linking Bahrain and Iran. The ferry departs Bahrain from Mina Salman port in Manama. There is a minimal port tax for passengers travelling along this route.