Bargaining is de rigueur in Kuwait’s souqs but also in many Western-style shops and some hotels. It is always acceptable to ask for a discount on the original price offered, particularly as discounts have generally already been factored into the quoted price.
Dangers & Annoyances
- Traffic accidents The many spectacularly twisted bits of metal left by the roadside are testament to the fact that Kuwait has one of the highest road-accident rates in the world. Indeed, one third of all deaths in Kuwait are driving-related. The horrifying scenes on TV have not deterred Kuwait’s drivers, despite government efforts to slow the pace down with radar surveillance – the mixture of high speed and drivers talking on their phones is an awful combination. As such, it’s hard to recommend driving in Kuwait unless you’re confident of holding your own in the face of sheer lunacy. A police sign at traffic lights speaks volumes: ‘Crossing the red signal leads to death or prison’.
- Discarded ordnance Although the country has now been cleared of mines after the Gulf War, you should still remember not to pick up any unfamiliar object in the desert and to stick to established tracks.
- Terrorism In June 2015, a suicide bomber attacked a Shiite mosque in a suburb of Kuwait City, killing 27 people and injuring more than 220. Although such attacks are rare, it did prompt warnings from foreign governments that more attacks could take place, although the warning applied to the broader Gulf region rather than Kuwait in particular. Check government-travel-advisory websites for updates before committing to a visit.
Embassies & Consulates
Many embassies are in the Diplomatic Area, southeast of the centre in Da'iya.
Canadian Embassy Adjacent to the Third Ring Rd.
Omani Embassy By the Fourth Ring Rd.
Qatari Embassy Off Arabian Gulf St.
UAE Embassy Off Arabian Gulf St.
UK Embassy West of Kuwait Towers.
US Embassy About 17km south of the city centre.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Ambulance, Fire & Police||112|
Entry & Exit Formalities
- No alcohol or pork-related products are permitted in the country.
- Up to 500 cigarettes and 500g of tobacco are permitted.
- Duty-free items are for sale at the duty-free shop in the arrivals and departures section of the airport.
Available on arrival for many nationalities.
Visas on arrival Available at Kuwait International Airport for nationals of 52 countries, including Australia, Canada, the EU, New Zealand and the USA (KD3; valid for 90 days; 30-day maximum stay). Take a number from the Fast Service Desk and buy stamps worth KD3 from the neighbouring machine (free for British, Italian, Norwegian and US passport holders). There's no need to wait again at the immigration desk downstairs, where you'll be waved through. Keep the piece of paper that you're given with the visa – you'll need to present it upon departure.
Israeli or Iraqi connections Anyone holding a passport containing an Israeli or Iraqi stamp may be refused entry to Kuwait.
Multiple-entry visas Only available for business requirements (valid for 12 months; apply in advance).
Most hotels and many cafes offer free wi-fi.
Breaking the law can have severe consequences. For more information, consult your embassy.
GEO Projects publishes a good country map on the reverse of two useful maps of Kuwait City in its Arab World Map Library, available from car-rental offices, hotels and bookshops.
- Magazines International glossy magazines, complete with large tracts of blackened text courtesy of the government censor, or even with pages torn out, are sometimes available from hotels, but they're not as common as elsewhere in the Gulf.
- Newspapers The Arab Times, Kuwait Times and Daily Star are Kuwait’s three English-language newspapers. They include useful 'what’s on' listings. International newspapers are available (usually a day or two late) at major hotels.
- Radio Radio Kuwait – also known locally as the Superstation – broadcasts on 99.7FM; it plays mostly rock and roll, with some local news and features. The US military's Armed Forces Radio & TV Service (AFRTS) can be heard on 107.9FM; it broadcasts a mixture of music, news and chat shows.
- TV Kuwait TV’s Channel 2 broadcasts programs in English each evening from around 2pm to midnight. Many hotels, even the smaller ones, have satellite TV.
ATMs widespread; credit cards widely accepted.
ATMs & Credit Cards
Visa and Amex are widely accepted in Kuwait, and all major banks accept most credit cards and are linked to the major networks. Most banks accept Visa (Electron and Plus), MasterCard and Cirrus.
The currency used in Kuwait is the Kuwaiti dinar (KD). The dinar is divided into 1000 fils. Coins are worth five, 10, 20, 50 or 100 fils. Notes come in denominations of 250 fils, 500 fils, KD1, KD5, KD10 and KD20. The Kuwaiti dinar is a hard currency and there are no restrictions on taking it into or out of the country.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Moneychangers are dotted around the city centre and main souqs, and change all major and regional currencies. Only banks and the larger money-exchange facilities will change travellers cheques, which are rapidly becoming obsolete.
The dinar is no longer pegged to the US dollar, but this has made little difference to exchange rates, which remain consistent from one moneychanger to the next.
A tip is only expected in upmarket restaurants, where 10% for service is often already added to the bill. For longer journeys, 10% is a suitable tip for a taxi driver.
These opening hours prevail throughout Kuwait.
Banks 8am to 1pm and 5pm to 7.30pm Sunday to Thursday.
Government offices 7am to 2pm (summer), 7.30am to 2.30pm (winter) Sunday to Thursday.
Internet cafes 8am to 10pm.
Post offices 8am to 1pm Sunday to Thursday.
Restaurants 11am to 3pm and 7pm to 11pm.
Shopping centres 10am to 10pm.
Shops 8.30am to 12.30pm and 4pm to 7pm or 8pm Saturday to Thursday.
Feel free to photograph obvious ‘tourist’ sites, such as the Kuwait Towers or the Red Fort in Al Jahra, but avoid aiming a camera at military installations, embassies or palaces.
Avoid taking pictures of people without seeking their permission first. Refrain from taking photographs of local women – this is considered haram (forbidden).
The postal rate for aerograms and for letters or postcards weighing up to 20g is 150 fils to any destination outside the Arab world.
Postage for cards or letters weighing 20g to 50g is 280 fils. Ask at the post office for parcel rates as these vary significantly from country to country.
There is no poste restante service in Kuwait. Large hotels will usually hold mail, but only for their guests.
In addition to the main Islamic holidays, Kuwait celebrates three public holidays:
New Year’s Day 1 January
National Day 25 February
Liberation Day 26 February
- Smoking Much more prevalent than in neighbouring Gulf countries on buses, in taxis, at the airport, and in restaurants and hotel rooms.
Some useful telephone information:
- Country code: 965 plus local eight-digit number.
- No area codes.
- International access code (to call abroad from Kuwait): 00.
- Local calls are free.
SIM cards widely available.
Users of mobile phones can link into the GSM services of Wataniya or Zain. Prepaid SIM cards are widely available in malls and from Zain (there’s a booth at the airport).
Weights & Measures
- Weights and measures Kuwait uses the metric system.
Women travellers may find the increased attention from men in Kuwait a nuisance. From being tailgated while driving to being followed around shopping centres, expat women are frequently the target of harassment. Even if you dress conservatively, and refuse to respond to approaches from and avoid eye contact with men, it’s still hard to avoid attracting unwanted attention.
Generally, if the situation becomes uncomfortable, the best way to defuse it is to stop being an object and become a person: this can be accomplished by turning towards the men in question and addressing them frostily (all the better in Arabic). Ask the offending parties where they come from and to which family they belong. This is usually so unexpected and traumatising for these men that the threat disappears.