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.