Bahrain at a Glance
Moving to Bahrain
- Known for its oil industry, falling prices have seen Bahrain re-focus on the service and tourism sectors, and take steps to limit the number of expats in an attempt to curb local youth unemployment.
- Almost all visitors, whether for tourism or business, will need a visa. Recent improvements to the system mean many nationalities can now apply for an eVisa online.
- Capital city, Manama, is an expat hub, and the country’s largest city. Well connected and home to many multinationals, it’s the financial heart of Bahrain.
- The aftermath of the Arab Spring continues to impact day-to-day life with trials of key protesters ongoing. Expats are advised to exercise caution in public places, follow the news, and adhere to any government security measures.
- Taking prescription medication to Bahrain can be difficult. For sleeping pills or anti-depressant drugs, you’ll need advance permission from the Ministry of Health, and to carry your prescription.
Bahrain once prided itself on being the most liberal country in the Persian Gulf region. While this may be true to some extent, your move to Bahrain will still require you to make some major adjustments. From the culture to the climate, for most expats Bahrain will be a big change from their previous home! If you’re ready to take on the challenge, this is what you need to know.
A History of Expats
The Kingdom of Bahrain, as it has been known since 2002, established itself as the preeminent trading center in the Gulf by the mid-19th century. Booming trade with India brought merchant families and their cultural traditions to the country, and wealthy Persian merchants also played their part in driving forward Bahrain’s socio-economic development.
The discovery of oil in 1932 resulted in growing numbers of foreign investors moving to the country, spurring a rapid modernization process overseen by British colonial advisors. In 1971, Bahrain asserted its independence from both the United Kingdom and Iran with a referendum.
Its history as a trading nation and former British colony means that expats from all corners of the world have been moving to Bahrain for centuries. However, growing youth unemployment combined with a large expat population has led to tougher measures being proposed to limit jobs and increase taxation for expats.
Though the oil industry still drives many expats to Bahrain, limited reserves have encouraged a shift towards petroleum-processing and oil-refining based on crude oil imports. Bahrain has also developed a reputation as one of the financial hubs of the Middle East, having replaced Beirut during the 1970s. While this initially opened up new opportunities in the financial services industries and attracted new business to Bahrain, the country’s commercial reputation has suffered since the Bahraini uprising started in 2011.
Manama: Financial Hub and Home Away from Home
Most expats moving to Bahrain make their home in Manama, the nation’s capital, situated in the north of the main island. According to the 2015 census, it has a population of approximately 157,000 people, making it the country’s largest city. Home to over 200 financial institutions as well as the International Islamic Financial Market and International Islamic Ratings Agency (IIRA), the capital earns its reputation as the Persian Gulf’s financial hub.
Several multinational companies run operations in or from Manama, and are major employers for expats in Bahrain. As the nation’s capital, Manama is not only the home of the national government offices but also accommodates all foreign diplomatic staff stationed in the country. High living standards, a multi-cultural environment, and a good transportation network are among the benefits of living in Manama.
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