With a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-denominational society, along with a low cost of living, excellent education facilities offering curricula from around the world and high-quality healthcare, Bahrain is an attractive destination for expat families.
The Kingdom provides a holiday destination on your doorstep boasting an archipelago of 33 islands, a cosmopolitan capital city, an attractive liberal lifestyle and a rich history and culture: from historic monuments such as the Al Khamis Mosque, dating back to 692 A.D, to one of the most modern Formula One racetracks in the world at the Bahrain International Circuit.
By sea, you can sail, dolphin watch, fish, scuba dive or kite surf. On land, there are gyms, horse riding stables and sports clubs, including rugby, tennis, soccer, cricket and basketball. Furthermore, our Royal Golf Club, designed by international champion Colin Montgomerie, is a unique attraction.
In sport, our facilities are world-class. We are the home of Formula One in the Gulf, becoming the first Middle Eastern country to host a Grand Prix in 2004, and hosting the season’s opening race in 2010.
Do I need to speak Arabic?
Not really, although learning a few Arabic words would be helpful. English is our main business language, and it is commonly spoken outside work, in all retail stores and services.
Is there much crime?
No. The crime rate is low and violent crime is rare.
Do women have to follow a dress code?
No. Women can dress as they wish, although it is polite to dress modestly in public.
Is Bahrain a conservative place?
Bahrain is known in the Gulf for being open and tolerant. Bahraini men and women socialize and congregate at local cafe's and restaurants. Expatriates mix with Bahraini nationals across all social settings. And people from all over the Gulf come here to relax.
Should I be aware of any food and beverage restrictions?
Although Muslim Bahrainis generally do not eat pork or drink alcohol, supermarkets sell pork and you can buy alcohol from licensed stores, hotels and restaurants.
Just how hot does it get?
The average temperature during summer is 37- 40°C — however most outdoor locations have shade and buildings are climate controlled. Temperatures are milder between October and May.
Can I play sport?
Sport is a major cultural pastime in Bahrain, with facilities including driving, golf, horse riding, rugby, tennis, sailing, soccer, cricket and basketball. Private resorts and clubs have beaches and pools for men and women to swim.
Cost of Living
The overall cost of living in Bahrain is similar to that in most European countries, if you’re living in the style of the average western expatriate.
But the general lack of taxation has a significant impact on the cost of certain items, e.g. cars. On the other hand, the cost of accommodation is sometimes high, as is that of certain food items, particularly imported foods. If you buy internationally recognised branded foods and household goods, you might pay higher prices than in your home country, but there are usually plenty of cheaper locally and regionally produced alternatives that are of excellent quality. Clothing can also be expensive if you favour designer labels – this isn’t peculiar to Bahrain – although there’s little need for winter clothing.
The price of wines and spirits, where these are permitted, is slightly lower than in the UK but higher than average European prices. Electronic goods, such as televisions, hi-fis, DVD players, photographic equipment and computer hardware and software, are generally less expensive than in Europe, mainly because of lower import duties.
Utilities, such as electricity, water and gas, are subsidised to some extent by the region’s governments, which own the services (except for bottled gas supplies) in order to provide inexpensive electricity and water, mainly for the benefit of the local population. Utilities are therefore cheaper than in most European countries. However, at the height of summer, air-conditioning costs will escalate, rather as the cost of heating increases in winter in colder climates. Newcomers sometimes make the expensive mistake of keeping their air-conditioning on even when they’re out, but this is unnecessary, as air-conditioning systems reduce the temperature in your accommodation quickly when activated on your return home.
You should also allow for the cost of international telephone calls, although these are kept low by Bahrain’s government, who wants to encourage international business and investment in the region.
Your cost of living will obviously depend on your lifestyle. When you’re negotiating a work contract, it’s usual for your prospective employer to produce detailed cost of living figures for his country, which are useful in helping you to decide whether the proposed job is financially attractive or not. Average monthly major expenses for a single person, couple and family with two children are shown below (numbers in brackets relate to the notes following the table).
NOTE : - Conversion Rate of 1 BHD=2.65654 USD taken. Assumption for the above as follows:
- Rental costs for a one-bedroom apartment in a modern block, probably unfurnished, a two-bedroom apartment in a similar block and a two or three-bedroom apartment or a modest villa. Apartments might have air-conditioning included in the rent. Satellite television is probably provided but is unlikely to include all channels. A swimming pool and/or gym are usually provided.
- Doesn’t include luxury food items or alcohol.
- Includes electricity (and air-conditioning), water (and usually sewage if charged in conjunction with the water, as is normal) and an allowance for telephone charges.
- Includes entertainment, dining out, sports, newspapers and magazines but not holidays (air fares are often included in work contract terms).
- Includes running costs for an average family car plus third party insurance, petrol, servicing and repairs, but excludes depreciation and credit purchase costs.
- Includes private health, travel, car and contents insurance. Note that property is rented, so building insurance is usually unnecessary.
- Lots of clothing is unnecessary in the region’s hot climate. Office wear for men is a shirt and tie, except for formal occasions.
Note that the cost of living is based on a moderate standard of living with basic amenities in Bahrain and is much higher than Saudi Arabia wherein the cost of living is comparatively lower. The cost of living could be more based on one's expectations and standards of living. For Example: You can get a Villa on rent for 25000 USD Per Annum which is 2083 USD per month. In Bahrain a single bedroom flat would cost 575 BHD=1529 USD /Month and Two Bedroom for 2100 USD/Month. So a Villa in Bahrain would cost approximately 3000 to 4000 USD or more. On the bottom line the cost of living in Bahrain would be 45-70% higher compared to Saudi based on moderate to high standard of living.
Work & Employment
In 2006, Baharain introduced Labour Market reforms and has been continously tackling issues related to this sector by drafting a strategy and policy of employment of nationals and expatriate employees. The Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) is responsible for regulating and controlling work permits for expatriate employees and self-employed, in addition to issuing licences for manpower and recruitment agencies. Bahrain spares no effort to raise awareness of the expatriate employees and their families coming to the Kingdom of Bahrain, in order to guarantee their rights and to establish social partnership based on equal rights and obligations.
WORKING IN BAHRAIN
Expats working in Bahrain will fast find the high salaries and no personal taxes an easy incentive for putting in the hours the daily grind demands.
Bahrain is regarded as a wealth hotspot among expat professionals and most people report experiencing a higher standard of living with a larger disposable income than they had in the their home country.
Salaries are usually higher in this Middle Eastern state when compared with similar positions in the West. It follows that the majority of the workforce is actually made of foreign nationals. Around 70 percent of those working in Bahrain are expats.
To legally work in Bahrain, expats need a sponsoring employer who can file an application on their behalf. The company is required to justify why they were unable to source the particular candidate's skills from the existing Bahraini workforce.
Expats hired on a contract basis are privy to an 'indemnity', a legally required 'thank you' of sorts awarded to foreigners at the end of the year. The amount allocated varies according to the length of the contract, but generally, 15-20 days of basic pay is given to those employed for three years or less and thereafter a month’s salary is given.
Bahrain's working world
Oil was discovered in Bahrain in 1932, and while the industry is largely responsible for the country's initial rapid modernization, the Bahraini government has taken large leaps towards diversifying the economy. The archipelago is still a petroleum player – more than half of export receipts and government revenue is derived from the oil sector, but Bahrain is also a banking and financial capital in the region.
As a result of Bahrain's economic growth, many multinational companies have established their regional headquarters in Manama, its capital and commercial centre.
Besides oil and banking, other sectors that are major employers in Bahrain include:
- Metal smelting and ship repairing
Bahrain is credited with having the most liberal economy in the Middle East, so expat women moving to Bahrain will find that it is common for them to participate in the working world. However, both businessmen and women should dress conservatively for the business environment.
Expats should have no difficulty in communicating with their Bahraini colleagues as English is the dominant language in the work place. However, many will notice that the way in which work is conducted can differ from practices in the West. Small talk is common and expats will benefit from getting to know their colleagues on a personal as well as professional level.
Punctuality is highly valued in Bahraini society so expats should make sure they arrive on time for appointments. Arriving late or being unprepared can easily ruin a reputation.
Working hours in Bahrain are generally from 7am to 2pm. Many people opt to take a break during the hottest hours of the day and they work later in the afternoon and evening. Business hours are slightly shorter during Ramadan.
While it is possible to arrive in Bahrain on a tourist visa and attempt to find work, it is difficult to find a job in the limited amount of time allotted. Most expats working in Bahrain are hired from abroad by recruitment agencies, or are head-hunted by individual firms.