I had planned on writing an article like this one sometime early last year, but having left a few days before and behind the protests in Bahrain, saving money hardly seemed relevant at the time. More than a year later, with tourism picking up, you might be considering a trip to what I consider the most personable Gulf state outside of Oman.
These tricks are old news if you’re already in Bahrain and won’t do you as much good because the first trick is one you need to know about right upon arrival.
1. Don’t Take A Taxi From The Airport To Anywhere
The rates for taxi rides between the airport and big hotels plus major sites are fixed, however a 2 dinar ($5.30) fee is added. If you happen to be going to a hotel, another dinar is added; making your ride about $7.96 more expensive. There are two ways to get around this fee: the first is to ask to be dropped off on the corner a block before your hotel or even better, take the (hardly advertised) free shuttle downtown.
2. Do Your Grocery Shopping Wisely
I was never able to determine the exact reasoning behind it, but there is a 1 dinar (~$2.65) fee upon checkout at any grocery store. That may not seem like much but if you’re forgetful or have a habit of buying snacks throughout the day, it can add up quickly in an already expensive country like Bahrain. It’s best to get your food in bulk; or at least in as few trips as reasonable to avoid paying for nothing that will provide you calories.
3. All National Tourist Sites Are Free Or Have Nominal Fees
Granted, this isn’t something I need to tell you once you’ve actually there but it’s certainly an enticing offer. Places as stunning as the Tree of Life are free and you can wander around the Bahrain F1 International Circuit without charge (provided there’s not a race going on). Other sites like Arad Fort (show up around sunset for great skyline views) cost about 53 US cents.
4. Hail Cabs From The Street, Don’t Call Ahead
Bahrain’s taxi cabs use fee structures that make airline baggage and booking fees seem simple in comparison. There are small added fees for calling a taxi so when possible (and not in the middle of the night) hail a cab directly off the street. Also, there are fees if you get in a taxi on hotel grounds, so walk a little bit down the block from any travel accommodations to avoid those extra costs as well.
5. Rent A Car And Avoid Organized Tours
I know this sounds like something that belongs on a travel list that won’t help you very much but in the case of Bahrain, renting a car has large budget advantages. I’ve written before how to save and see more by renting a car in Bahrain so I won’t go into all the details. But at 8-10 dinar per day ($21-26) and gas at 29 cents a liter ($1 per gallon) it’s a bargain on the tours that average a starting price of around $120. Plus you can drive around the entire country in a day, making it exceptionally accessible without a guide.
Most of these savings revolve around automobiles and to add one more, if you ever find yourself in a taxi without a working meter the ride is free. A shifty driver tried this on me by quickly turning the meter off before arrival. He then claimed I owed much more than what reality would suggest. Knowing this rule, I got out of the car and called over to two police across the street. Before they could make their way over, he swiftly drove off.
Well, since moving to Turkey, whenever we leave the country (we do, on occasion 😉 ) and arrive in our new destination at a bus station, train station, airport, the first question is always about free / nominal fee shuttle services. HATE the thought of taxis as a new arrival, although they are necessary sometimes. Always good to know these services are available elsewhere. LUCKILY, we’re yet to be fleeced by a taxi driver, although we have had a few good-humoured ‘discussions’ about our fare with the lovely taxi drivers of Istanbul in the past. 😉
Arriving at the airport and looking for a taxi, watching the eyeballs follow you is so uncomfortable. I love cities with shuttle services that are easy to find and use 🙂 Avoiding the taxis when possible is a good way to avoid their often “colorful” nature, though it makes for some interesting travel memories 🙂
Such great tips! I didn’t realize that gas is only .26 cents per gallon. Wow!! I love the fact that museums & many sights are also free. Everyone I know who has ever lived or visited Bahrain has adored the country and the people. Thanks!
Oil and gas are two things Bahrain has plenty of, too bad it’s not much bigger to drive around more 😉
That grocery fee sounds like a crock of you know what!
I wish I were able to get the reason behind it; probably one of the few non-business taxes in the country.
I tried hard but could not find much to like in Bahrain…I did rent a car and spent much of the time in exasperation, trying to find some obscure tourist sights and driving many kilometers for a chance to turn around around a wrong turn.
Sorry to hear you didn’t have a good time there. Did you make it to the Tree of Life by any chance?
Are there any hotels nearby Bahrain International Airport that I can stay for this New Year’s Eve Celebration?
I don’t unfortunately but the airport isn’t too far away from Manama if you’re worried about distance.