Overall Crime and Safety Situation
Bahrain is composed of a group of small desert islands with a total land area of 665 square kilometers and a population of approximately 1,250,000, including approximately 235,000 non-nationals. The country is located off the east coast of Saudi Arabia, and the two countries are connected by a 24-kilometer causeway. English is widely spoken. The country has well-established finance and regional tourism industries.
The overall rate of street crime is considered low, and the targeting of Westerners is uncommon. Robbery and burglary can be prevented with common sense precautions. Over the last year, Westerners have reported being victims of crime in commercial districts. However, much of the crime occurs within the large South Asian population of guest workers. Violent crime is rare. Firearms are prohibited.
Overall Road Safety Situation
Although the roads are generally very good, driving can be hazardous. Aggressive driving coupled with a high-speed road network creates a dangerous driving environment. Alcohol-related traffic accidents increase over weekends (Wednesday evening through Saturday) when many visitors from neighboring countries visit Manama. Wearing seat belts is required by law, but compliance is irregular, and traffic enforcement is minimal. Visitors should drive defensively by anticipating other drivers cutting in front without warning, rapid multiple lane changes, tailgating, and sudden, unexpected stops.
One in five vehicles is involved in an accident each year, often with deadly results. If a visitor is involved in an accident, he/she should not move the vehicle and contact the traffic police by calling 119 if there are no injuries or 999 (the general emergency number) if the accident involves injuries. Drivers should wait until the police arrive or direct them to one of several traffic police stations to file an accident report. The driver should obtain a copy of the accident report for later use. Car rental and auto repair companies require a police accident report prior to making repairs.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy governed by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa. The constitution, ratified in 2000, established an elected lower house of parliament, the Council of Representatives, and an appointed upper house, the Shura Council. Elections for the Council of Representatives were held in 2006 and in 2010.
The U.S. designated Bahrain as a Major Non-NATO Ally in 2002, and Bahrain hosts the Headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, and the U.S. Marine Central Command (FWD).
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
Bahrain is a “High” threat post for terrorism. Although there have been no terrorist attacks against Americans, the facts that Bahrain is joined by a causeway link to Saudi Arabia, has a large U.S. Department of Defense presence, and is in very close proximity to neighboring state sponsors of terrorism demands constant security awareness. Bahrain’s police and security forces are competent and capable counter-terrorist partners.
In January 2010, two Bahraini citizens affiliated with al-Qa’ida (AQ) were convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for plotting a terrorist attack against U.S. diplomatic and naval interests.
In November 2011, five alleged terrorists were arrested in Qatar at the Saudi Arabia border and turned over to Bahrain authorities. The suspects allegedly planned to attack the Ministry of the Interior Headquarters, the causeway link to Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi Embassy in Bahrain. In May 2012, the five suspects were found guilty and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.
Anti-government demonstrations are common place and frequently become violent. These demonstrations include the throwing of rocks, burning of trash receptacles, blocking of major highways, vigilante-type checkpoints, and the use of Molotov cocktails and various other homemade weapons. The demonstrations are primarily located in and around Shia villages and do not target Westerners; however, a burgeoning anti-Western sentiment remains fairly isolated. Police typically respond to violent protests with tear gas, sound grenades, and riot control measures. The U.S. Embassy issues frequent Warden Messages alerting American citizens to the location of planned demonstrations.
In December 2011, the U.S. Embassy noted a persistent increase in demonstrations along the Budaiya corridor. These demonstrations lead to severe traffic disruption, restricting travel for those living in the area and posing a significant safety and security concern. By the end of January 2012, U.S. Embassy personnel were relocated away from the Budaiya Highway corridor.
Beginning on the evening of February 13, 2011, opposition groups began organizing anti-government demonstrations, some of which resulted in violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces. For the remainder of 2011 and throughout 2012 opposition groups rallied and demonstrated against the government and held spontaneous demonstrations in response to world, regional, and local developments. On the first anniversary of the February uprising, protestors took the streets and attempted to assemble at the site of the former Pearl Monument. Security forces contained the protestors with the use of tear gas and stun grenades.
Other significant security events of 2012 were as follows:
On March 9, over 100,000 anti-government protestors rallied along Budaiya Highway in one of the biggest protests in Bahrain’s history.
On June 14, police discovered a bomb making factory in Salmabad. In the raid, police seized several tons of explosive material and bomb making equipment. An exhaustive investigation led to 100 individuals summoned for questioning, more than a dozen sites searched, and four suspects arrested.
On August 16, protestors attempted to block a major highway near the U.S. Embassy by pouring oil on tires and setting them on fire. A small pipe bomb, placed to the side of the road, detonated, likely once the fire engulfed it. Since traffic during this hour was light, the backup was not considerable, and the MOI response extinguished the blaze and removed the debris before any major problems could occur.
On September 14, in reaction to regional events, protestors took to the streets in Manama and surrounding villages to protest a controversial film. The U.S. Embassy remained on high alert while security forces provided additional support and security. Several demonstrators gathered at a mosque near the U.S. Embassy to protest and display anti-U.S. propaganda.
On October 18, an improvised explosive device killed a police officer and injured several others during an unauthorized, violent demonstration. This was the first time a police officer had been killed since martial law ended in June 2011.
On October 23, police uncovered a weapons cache of locally-made bombs inside an unlicensed mosque. Authorities seized electronic detonators, stopwatches, and other materials.
On October 29, MOI issued a halt on all demonstrations until the security situation stabilized. Approximately two months later, MOI lifted the halt.
Beginning on November 5, the opposition signaled an alarming violent change in tactics by placing several pipe bombs in Manama districts frequented by foreigners. With these deadly attacks, the opposition has shifted from targeting government security forces to the civilian population. Two foreign workers have been killed and one injured by these explosive devices.
Religious or Ethnic Violence
Almost all citizens are Muslim. Though estimates vary, observers believe Shia comprise a majority of the citizen population while Sunni’s comprise most of the remainder, with a small population of other religious denominations.
Bahrain’s low elevation and proximity to water put it at risk for floods or tsunamis. Bahrain’s low desert plain and arid climate also put it at risk for periodic droughts and dust storms.
Regional Travel Concerns and Restricted Travel Areas/Zones
A majority of the area around the Budaiya Highway corridor was designated as off-limit travel areas for U.S. citizen Embassy employees and their family members.
In February 2012, the U.S. Embassy indentified geographic boundaries known as red zones, which were designated as off-limit travel areas. In April 2012, additional off-limit areas were added and continue to remain in effect. Off-limit red zones can be found on the U.S. Embassy Manama’s website at http://bahrain.usembassy.gov
There is a growing illegal drug market, and the government regularly interdicts illegal drugs entering the country.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
Bahraini police are professional and competent. If an American citizen is detained, he should make his citizenship known immediately to the officers. The authorities will notify the Embassy. Consular officers will visit and assist.
Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime
Police, ambulance, and fire services can be reached by dialing 999.
Various Police/Security Agencies
The Ministry of Interior (MOI) is responsible for law enforcement and public safety. The Public Security Forces are the principal law enforcement arm of the MOI and are responsible for maintaining order and security.
The Special Security Forces are the paramilitary law enforcement arm and include the riot police, swat, explosive team, and VIP protection.
Basic modern medical care and medicine are available in several hospitals and clinics. Two government hospitals and several private hospitals offer a wide range of medical services. Cardiac care, general surgery, ENT, internal medicine, obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, orthopedics and dentistry services are readily available, as are x-rays, CT-scans and MRI testing. The government hospitals house both trauma and ICU units. In an emergency, call 999 or go to the emergency department of a nearby hospital.
Pharmacies are common and carry a wide range of medications.
Payment at all medical facilities is due at the time of service. Some hospitals have limited direct billing capability for certain insurance carriers. Billing and insurance practices vary among the medical facilities.
Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics
If experiencing chest pain, go directly to the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital’s Chest Pain clinic located in the Emergency Department. The Chest Pain Clinic numbers are 1776 6637 or 1776 6626. If an ambulance is required, contact 999 and state it is cardiac emergency. They will contact BDF who will send out a BDF ambulance & care team.
Local medical facilities include, but are not limited to, the following:
American Mission Hospital (AMH): +973 17 253-447; Saar Medical and Dental Center: +973 17 790-025 - Bahrain’s oldest hospital is located on Shaikh Isa al Kabeer Road in central Manama. The urgent care unit has a doctor on 24-hour duty. It provides general practitioner services and specialty services in internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, and general surgery including physiotherapy and dietitian services. Medical and dental care (including pharmacy) is available at both AMH in central Manama and at Saar Medical and Dental Center located in the Saar area. AMH and Saar Medical Clinic are not staffed or equipped for cardiac, trauma, or emergency care. AMH is a private not-for-profit hospital.
Awali Hospital: +973 17 753 333 - Awali hospital is a private hospital primarily staffed by Western doctors, nurses, and midwives. It provides general practitioner services and specialty services in internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, and general surgery including physiotherapy and dietitian services. Awali Hospital is not staffed or equipped for cardiac, trauma, or emergency care.
Bahrain Defense Force Hospital (BDF): +973 17 766 555 - This is the private practice appointment (for all non-Bahrainis/expats) number. The main switchboard is 1766 3366, which will refer to all departments. BDF Hospital is one of the government hospitals. It is located in Riffa and has a modern, state-of-the-art Coronary Care Unit. The Al-Khalifa Cardiac Care Center is in a separate building that is joined to the main hospital by a walkway. Various specialist services are available, as well as full service emergency department and intensive care unit.
Bahrain Specialist Hospital (BSH): +973 17 812 000 - BSH is a private hospital located in Juffair. It has several specialties including cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, internal medicine, general surgery, pediatrics, and orthopedics. Bahrain Specialist Hospital has a full-service emergency room and intensive care unit.
Ibn Al-Nafees Hospital: +973 17 828 282 - Ibn Al-Nafees Hospital is a private hospital that has several specialties including general surgery, gynecology, pediatrics, sports medicine, gastroenterology, and a specialized eye center, including laser surgery. Al-Nafees Hospital is not staffed or equipped for cardiac, trauma, or emergency care.
International Hospital of Bahrain (IHB): +973 17 598 222 - IHB is a private hospital located on Budaiya highway and has several specialties to include general surgery, obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, and a full service emergency room and intensive care unit.
Salmaniya Medical Center (SMC): SMC main switch is 1728 8888. It is the SMC number but may answer as Ministry Of Health. This number will direct you to any Department in SMC required - SMC is the main Bahrain government hospital with over 1,000 beds and provides many specialist medical services. SMC has full emergency and ambulance services as well as an intensive care unit.
Gulf Dental Hospital: +973 17 741 444 - Gulf Dental Hospital provides all types of specialized dental treatments.
Seef Dental Centre: +973 1758 7991 - Provides all types of specialized dental treatments.
Recommended Air Ambulance Services
International SOS: +971 4 601 8777 – International SOS maintains a dedicated fleet of air ambulances that provide evacuation services worldwide. http://www.internationalsos.com
CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Current vaccination and health information is posted on the CDC’s website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/bahrain.htm
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
Areas to be Avoided and Best Security Practices
Bahrain is very livable and generally safe, but in view of the possibility of terrorism and political violence, visitors should take active personal security measures, including remaining aware of their surroundings at all times and keeping current with local events and embassy Warden Messages. This includes remaining aware of the current areas Embassy Manama recommends as off-limits due to ongoing political violence. Visitors should vary their routes and times, maintain a low profile, and avoid confrontations. Any suspicious activity should be reported to the police immediately.
To avoid becoming a target of opportunity for criminals, visitors should lock doors and windows, conceal valuables, and secure purses and bags. Common sense precautions necessary in any major metropolitan area are appropriate. Visitors should be aware that the use of profane language and gestures in public can result in fines and arrests.
The Embassy has not advised U.S. citizens or Embassy staff to take any special precautions, other than those already listed in Demonstration Notices and the current Travel Alert for Bahrain.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
Building No. 979
Road 3119, Block 331
Manama - Kingdom of Bahrain
The American Embassy Consular office offers American Citizen Services for routine matters on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm, and Thursday 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. Consular Report of Birth Abroad service is Sunday, Monday, Wednesday 1:00 pm to 1:30 pm.
Embassy Contact Numbers
Working Hours - (+973) 1724-2700
After Hours - (+973) 1727-5126
Emergency requests after-hours will be handled by the embassy duty officer. In case of an emergency after hours, call the Embassy switchboard and follow the recorded instructions to speak to the U.S. Marine Security Guard on duty.
Fax Number (+973) 1727-2594
Vonage Lines from U.S. (202)-536-4783; (202)-536-3053; (202)-536-2354; (202)-448-5131
Visitors to Bahrain should check the American Embassy Manama website at http://bahrain.usembassy.gov
for travel and safety information. American citizens arriving in Bahrain for an extended stay should enroll with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/
OSAC Country Council Information
The Bahrain OSAC Country Council meets monthly and includes more than 500 members. Prospective members may contact the Council at: email@example.com