Bahrain – Day 1 Part 1

Bahrain may be small but that doesn’t mean the tourism and attractions are. Find out what we have done within the two days of our visit to Bahrain, 19-21 December 2010.

Bahrain, Mamlakat al-Bahrayn, literally means “Kingdom of the Two Seas”, is the smallest state in the Gulf, comprises of a main island and other 32 islands. The main island is only 55km by 18km.

 

Bahrain (Source: Lonelyplanet)

 

My guide to Doha-Bahrain by road will take you from Qatar to Kingdom of Bahrain.

After 4 hours driving from Qatar border, we arrived at Passport Island – a manmade island located at equal distance from both Bahrain and Saudi on King Fahad Causeway. We initially planned to visit Saudi Tower on Saudi border area in the island. But we missed the direction so that we changed our plan to go directly to Manama, the capital of Bahrain. Finished with all immigration processes in Causeway we headed eastward to Al Juffair, East Manama, where our booked 2-bedroom apartment is located at.

Al Jaberiya Suites 1 we booked through booking.com is good enough; it is spacious, full furnished, and in excellent location – few hundred meters from Al Fateh Grand Mosque.

Day 1 – Afternoon/Evening – Southern Bahrain & Bahrain Tower

We used to travel in a crash mode; sweeping all must-see attractions in limited time. It may not be your mode but we just love it. So wasted no time we started our tour in Bahrain just couple minutes after check-in. We had our takeaway fast-food lunch as we headed to southern Bahrain; the other half of Bahrain where you can really feel away from the city.

1.       Bahrain International Circuit

“Welcome to the home of motorsports in the Middle East” says a welcome board in the circuit entrance. Bahrain has now become part of the annual Formula 1 agenda, inviting thousands of motor-race fans visiting Bahrain on March each year. Even if there is no race, you can still enjoy the thrilling experience by enrolling to a tour or testing one of the go-karts.

Bahrain International Circuit is located at Gulf of Bahrain Avenue, Sakhir; only 2 km from Al Areen Wildlife Park.

Coordinate: 26 02’13.60”N 50 30’18.29”E (Entrance where welcome board located at)

http://www.bahraingp.com

At Bahrain International Circuit

2.       Al Areen Wildlife Park

Al Areen Wildlife Park is the only Nature Reserve in Bahrain. The park covers more than 8 square kilometres and has an impressive collection of birds and mammals, many of which are native to the Arabian Gulf Region.

Tickets cost 1 BD adult and 500 fills children. This includes a bus tour at indicated time on the ticket. When we arrived at a quarter to 2 pm, time slot for 2pm and 3pm were used up already and we ended up with 4pm tour. With 2 hours on hand we decided to go to nearby tree of life, and oil museum (see below).

Back to the park, while waiting for the bus tour to start we wandered around the area around the reception buildings that beautifully landscaped with trees, flower, ponds (and its water fowls such as ducks, pelicans and flamingos) and decorative water features. Near bus stop, there was an Arabian tent that also provided with photo opportunities with Falcon (at a cost of 500 fills each).

The bus tour took 45 minutes in an air-conditioned bus with driver and guide that gave us commentary in Arabic and English. The tour snaked around open areas that mimic native habitat for exotic birds, gazelles, Oryx, wild sheep, ostriches and more. We stopped at water pond complex for 15 minutes before ending the tour at wild animal complex building. From here, we walked back to reception building. The wild animal complex houses several wild animals in glass-protected cages.

Al Areen Wildlife Park - near Reception Building

 

Oryx in Al Areen Wildlife Park

Though Al Areen Wildlife a really wonderful place for families and animal lovers to explore and enjoy don’t expect this park to be on par with  Taman Safari. May be my expectation was too high but seeing only few rare animals, not-so-interesting wild animal complex  it is worth the rating.

Coordinate: 26 00’54.8”N 50 29’41.1”E (Al Areen Reception Building – Ticketing Office)

3.       Tree of Life

The route to Tree of Life is not easy to explain as we need to twist and turn around oil field’s narrow streets and direction signs are rare making it a little tricky to get to. So it’s best to go with GPS.

The Tree of Life in Bahrain is a 400 year-old mesquite tree which lives in the middle of desert. The mystery of the survival of the tree has made it a legend. A legend is also attached to the place where the tree is located. The local inhabitants believe with heart and soul that this was the actual location of the Garden of Eden.

Tree of Life

The Tree of Life or Sharajat-al-Hayat, as the Arabs call it, is located 1.2 miles or 2 kilometers away from Jebel Dukhan. The tree stands solitary splendour in the heart of desert, on top of a 25-foot-high sandy hill with nothing else but desert for miles around. The tree has continued growing-despite the extremities of the climate. At present it is 32 feet in height.

The tree’s source of water is mystery. Plant scientist may say that its roots go very deep and wide to get water from the reserves of sweet springs kilometers away. (Wikipedia).  It is also thought the tree is being supplied by an underground stream, but that doesn’t explain the total lack of plants around it.

The tree is covered with graffiti from its fans unfortunately.

Coordinate Tree of Life: 25 59’38.9”N 50 34’58.5”E

Tree of Life

4.       First Oil Well, Oil Museum and Jebel Dukhan, and those spaghetti oil pipelines

Five to six kilometers from Tree of Life, below Jebel Dukhan situated the first oil well. As its name suggests, it is the first oil well in the Persian Gulf.  It was operated by Bahrain Petroleum Company. Oil first spurted from this well on 16 October 1931, and the well finally began to blow heads of oil on the morning of 2 June 1932. The initial oil flow rate was 400 barrels per day; by the 1970s the well produced 70,000 bpd, and after that it stabilized at circa 35,000 bpd.

Bahrain was the first place on the Arabian side of the Persian Gulf where oil was discovered, and it coincided with the collapse of the world pearl market (Wikipedia).

First Oil Well and Oil Museum (on the background)

The nearby oil museum – Dar An Naft – (unfortunately closed while we were there; theoretically open from 10-17 on Thurs and Fri) allows you to trace the discovery of what’s become the region’s best-known export. It is said that exhibits at the museum include drilling equipment, photographic history of the oil industry in Bahrain and a working model of an oil rig.

Jabal Dukhan is the highest point in the country. It stands at 134m above mean sea level. It is named The Mountain of Smoke as such because of the haze which often surrounds it on humid days.

An interesting scene in southern Bahrain is to see how oil pipelines laid out like spaghetti ; from the wells that located just few meters beside public roads. These pipelines are also spanned side-by-side with allocated winter camp sites!

Coordinates:

–          First Oil Well & Oil Museum: 26 01’38.8”N 50 33’05.5”E

–          Jabal Dukhan: 26 02’20.00”N 50 32’34.8”E

5.       Al Jazayer Beach

The sun has just  set and dark fallen when we finished our tour in Al Areen. Out of curiosity we decided to head southwest to Al Jazayer Beach. Nothing special in this beach; in fact parking lots were without lighting at all although playground and seating areas were provided with flood lightings. Some peoples do jogging and walking and some were barbecuing. Kids played in the playground while I took couple of shots of them, then we enjoyed some snacks and drinks. Good enough to recover after quite a long trip from Qatar.

Visit this beach only if you have much time.

Coordinate: 25 59’37.2”N 50 27’54.6”E (one of the parking lots in Al Jazayer Beach)

Al Jazayer Beach

6.       Bahrain Tower in Causeway

From Al Jazayer Beach I drove my Outlander to Causeway. Go home? No, no, no.  As we missed the Saudi Tower during our arrival we determined to not miss Bahrain Tower. These two towers are high tower restaurants in the border station (commonly known as Passport Island). Well they’re not restaurant per se. It’s just a small counter selling hot tea/coffee and burger like food. So it’s easy to be missed.

To go to Bahrain Tower we need to pay causeway toll 2BD before entering causeway and driving west to Saudi. Please make sure that you know how to go back to Bahrain not to departure gates. The key is to trace back your arriving route until you find traffic light and then left to go back to Bahrain.

The Bahrain Tower is 65m high. After paying 200fills per person we transferred to viewing platform through an elevator. Hampered by stained and cloudy glass window, you’ll get the view to bustling activities in the border. That evening we saw traffic rush from Saudi side going to Bahrain. I am thinking that 6-7pm is probably not good arrival hours.

Coordinate Bahrain Tower: 26 11’06.9”N 50 19’43.0”E

Bahrain Tower on the Causeway

7.       Restaurants: Cypres Garden and Iskenderun

The first dinner in Bahrain was planned to spend in Cypress Garden, on Budaiya Highway, Jannusan (north-west Bahrain). Cypress Garden is a complex housing several restaurants and nursery. In here you can find Turkish, Thai, Chinese, Spanish, Italian restaurant, café and pastry shops, and more. It seems a good location to dine in until we found that there were only minimal numbers of diners. So we made U-turn.

We elected then to pick any restaurant on the way back to hotel. From Budaiya Highway on the north west of Bahrain we drove eastwardly until we met Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Highway and followed this highway all the way to Manama center passing several malls on the right and left, then financial harbor on King Faisal Highway. With desperate hunger we made the right decision, probably the best during our stay; to turn right from Al Fateh Highway to Tarafa bin Alabd Avenue and then you go: a small Turkish restaurant thronged by food enthusiast who come and go uninterruptedly. Good sign.

This Iskenderun Grills Turkish restaurant has a slightly different taste of spices. It’s more Indonesian than original Turkish like we tried few months back in Istanbul. Never did I find Turkish grills taste like this! Recommended! While waiting for your order to prepare you can lively watch your chefs make fresh Turkish bread and grills name-the-meat on long barbecue grill. For one mix grill, one chicken grill, one portion of rice and one big mango juice it costs us only about 70 QR.

….and we slept like a rock afterward for exhausted and satiated

Coordinate Cypress Garden:  26°13’3″N   50°29’8″E

Coordinate Iskenderun Grills:  26°14’3″N   50°35’48″E

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Here comes the rain

For the last three days since Sunday, 16 Jan, Qatar showered by increasingly intense rain. Like today, 18 Jan, rain started from morning and lasted up to 8-9pm although not in consistent intensity. Rain is however unusual in this desert country, generally very sparse. In one year, mean number of rain day is about 8.8 days (day when rain is more than 1mm). Not surprising that many people so excited about it. Inevitable conseuences of rain in January is that it brings the mercury down to lowest level during this year winter. Temperature is recorded at as low as 13 C and even 8 C reported in the deep desert.

I wish I have many more rain days in Qatar. I just like the smell of soil firstly touched by pour of rain water, sound of drips of water from roof, and the mood it brings: romantic, giving, musical, slowdown, and relax (unless you’re not at home 🙂 )

And now I remember Indonesian song of my childhood:

Tik.. Tik.. Tik, bunyi hujan di atas genteng
Airnya turun tidak terkira
Cobalah tengok dahan dan ranting
Pohon dan kebun basah semua

literally translated:

Tik Tik Tik, the sound of the rain on the roof
The water pouring down heavily
Take a look, branches and twigs
Trees and gardens, all dripping wet

L’wzaar Seafood Market

“Good modern seafood restaurant with fish market style”

As you enter the foyer a projection of pool (with its swimming fishes) to the floor where you step onto welcomes you.  What makes it so  interesting is that it is interactive. The projection will respond to your step as if you step onto the real pool. Stomping your feet to the floor will see ripples on the projection. And it follows your stomping. Kids sure will love it!

Interactive pool projection in the restaurant foyer will easily catch kid's attention
L'wzaar Fish Market (Source: Lwzaar.com)

Passing the foyer you will be in the corridor that connects two wings. In front of you is a ‘fish market’; a display of fresh fishes, crabs, squids, mussels and prawns which you will select later on for main courses. In either wing there are tables for two, for four and for six. The dining room will offer you modern atmosphere through its blue mosaic tiles on the walls, minimalist furniture, and settled ambience lightings. A display of miniature fishing dhow and fishing tools complements the theme this restaurant want to deliver: modern seafood restaurant.

L'wzaar dining area is dominated by blue mosaic tiles, red minimalist seats and settled lighting

As soon as we sit at our preferred table, a waitress rushes in and presents us with side and drink menu book. He then explains what we need to do to order main course and what available in the menu book. For main course we need to go to the fish market at the corridor, select seafood we like, tell the attendant how much do you like and what type of cooking do we like to. Another attendant will paste barcode from the weighing on his paper and note down our table number.

Next to fish market is salad corner where you can pick any salads type you want. Back to the table we found that there were fresh veggies and breads as compliments.

It requires about 10 minutes for our drink to come and another 10-30 minutes for our side menu and main courses to be ready. It’s probably because we come with large groups (20 people) that they come late. I saw across the table that they ordered after us but theirs come earlier.

Now, let’s see how they are up to.

Black Pepper Crabs - L'wzaar Style

My order is black pepper crabs. It is well spiced, not salty. Just about right. No, may be little more black pepper will do. Then my wife’s order: sherry fish grilled. This one is also good. We can see it is well grilled not overcooked nor under cooked. Come with this is a small three-nook tray condiments.

Green Mussels

Another order we have is fried breaded prawns. For this one, the cook may over-salt the prawn although it is tasted fresh. We also ordered a bowl of seafood fried rice. Although the serving is less (compared to Noodle House), its taste is comparable.

This one is mouthwatering order!

I also happened to try my friend’s order and found that mixed seafood and tepanyaki prawns were good also. I think I should try these next time.

Apart from small incident where my friend’s order of red snapper was not as per his order, the service given by its waitress is top notch: they are responsive, attentive, and personal.

L’Wzaar needs to be commended for its service, its food, and its environment. Though it is located on Katara Beach promenade L’wzaar doesn’t provide outdoor dining seating, unfortunately.

Will come back next time? Sure! As my friend put it: “….Bandar Djakarta* discovered in Doha”

*Bandar is a seaside seafood restaurant in Ancol Bay City, a resosrt destination located along North Jakarta’s waterfront

Final Verdicts:

– Food      4/5

– Service    4/5

– Environment    4/5

Sample of total damages (in QAR):

Tom Yam Kung                  28

Corn & Crab Soup            29

Mixed Seafood                 75

Seafood Fried Rice          28

Steamed Rice                    12

Tepanyaki Prawn             62

1.81kg FM Red Snap       99.3

0.53kg FM Green Mussel              40.45

0.94kg FM Sherry             36

1.72kg FM Shrimps          181.8

0.54kg Lagoon Crab         81

Evian 750ml        20

Juices    12

Teas       8

Information:

 

L'wzaar is located at the new hotspot in Doha: Katara

 

L’Wzaar Seafood Market

Building 27 Katara Cultural Village, Doha

Telp: +Tel : +974 4408 0710 / +974 4408 0711  |  Fax : +974 4408 0722 

Website: http://www.lwzaar.com (soon online as of 13 Jan 2011)

Email: Info@lwzaar.com

Coordinate: 25 21’31.51″N 51 31’35.44″E

Opening Time:

Sun-Wed: Lunch 12.00-15.00 Dinner 19.00 – 23.00

Thurs-Sat: Lunch 12.00 – 16.00 Dinner 19.00 – 00.00

AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011

Football is in the air; in the conversation bubbles among Qatar residents. Not for nothing; but Qatar is hosting AFC Asian Cup from 7-29 January 2011. 16 teams divided into 4 groups participated in this cup.

Rodent and Color Attacks

Never did I see rodents invade Doha in such presence. They are everywhere even on the road, on the roundabout, near stadium. In here these rodents are called Sabooq. In English, they are called Jerboa. You may see these roaming Jerboa on the street present in various colors: green, purple, pink, blue and yellow. Colorful rodent?

They are in fact the mascots of AFC Asian Cup: Zkriti (Green), Tranaa (purple), Freha (pink), Saboog (blue), and Tmbki (yellow). Their names are derived from name of places in Qatar.

Color is the asian cup theme. All stadiums used for the match is assigned a unique color and big sticker in color associated with stadium are pasted on the road where it is leading to the stadium. The message is simple follow your color.

…but the football madness is not there (yet)

The ticket prices are considered very cheap, where the cheapest is 5QR (children) to 15QR (adult, category 3) . Though you can still see many seat sections are empty yet online ticket booking shows many matches are fully booked. What happened? Among other is because many corporation books a large number of ticket, committee also reserves many more for free distributions. People receive free tickets for the shake of I have it. But when it comes to come to stadium and sit to watch, then there is another issue.

For matches before final, AFC Asian Cup Committee has been in coordination with expat communities here for free ticket distribution. There is a gentle agreement that committee is committed to give Indonesian hundreds of tickets for agreed matches. The second match sfor example saw 850 free tickets + 250 additional ticket at the last minutes given to Indonesian. All done in just few hours. Then I sat on Category 3 seat (behind goal post) in China vs Kuwait match in Al Gharafa Stadium and I saw myself drowning with many other Indonesian. Many came with family and kids.

Unfortunately Committee then made u-turn decision. They stopped giving free tickets because they were disappointed with other community who were given thousands of tickets but only a few shown up. Why are we impacted? asked our reps. Indonesian fans thought that it was wrong to give a large number of free tickets to community whose football is not the country’s most favorite sports list and who doesn’t have football madness to make the cup colorful event.

We can only hope that committee change their mind. Finger crossed.

The fact that Qatar is a country which its citizens are less than 19% of total populations, and major expatriate communities here are not known for their football madness also contribute to less uproarious thundering football atmosphere. May be it is not there yet. But it will.

Nevertheless, I had watched one match, got free ticket from Qatargas to watch Korea vs Bahrain, and had bought ticket for a big match: Korea vs Australia.

Who will grab the champion title? Interesting to see. So far Saudi, Iran, Japan and Korea are the most successful nations in AFC Asian Cup.

Guide to Doha – Bahrain by Road: Part 2 – Route and Immigration Processes

Read previous post  Guide to Doha – Bahrain by Road: Part 1 – Pre-departure

Updated based on feedback from reader:

After driving for 122 – 123 km from saudi checkpoint take right exit. THis is 55 km strech is bypass road to hofuf/alhasa, ends near saudi cement factory. Accordingly route mention in 4 to 7 above will not be there in route to bahrain.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Doha-Bahrain Route. Numbers correspond to the steps below. Flag A is Qatar border. Flag B is Saudi-Bahrain borders (Source of map: Bing Maps)

Qatar-Saudi Border

Qatar border can be reached by driving along Salwa Road heading southwest to (A)Bu Samra. Speed cameras are installed in every few kms. This approximately 100km road can be reached within an hour in normal speed. In Qatar border area there are good and clean rest rooms, a mosque, ATMs, and small restaurant.

Coordinate Qatar Border:24 44’46.85″N 50 50’52.83″E

Qatar Border Process:

  1. First booth: Present istimarah (car registration). Get vehicle exit paper. Keep it.
  2. Second booth: Produce exit paper and passport for stamps
  3. Third booth: Recheck exit paper and passport

It is suggested that you zero your trip meter once you pass Qatar border.

Saudi Border:
1. First Booth: Present exit paper and passport
2. Second Booth: Park the car and go for finger scan and photo, on your left. Woman goes into a separate room.
3. Third Booth: Present exit paper and passport
4. Fourth: Custom check, open car baggage, exit paper stamped
5.Fifth Booth:  Insurance. Present exit paper and car registration
6. Sixth Booth: Recheck. Present all. Insurance, passport, exit paper. Exit paper collected by staff.

Qatar Exit Vehicle Registration Paper

Border to Hofuf

Note that woman is not allowed to drive in Saudi. Speed limit in highway is 120km/h. Although I saw Radar Ahead warning boards, I failed to identify any cameras. Be aware of vehicles making U-turn or crossing the lanes to go to the other direction.

  1.  Leaving  Saudi border, drive away until you reach intersection, in which turn left will lead you to UAE. GO STRAIGHT. Now you are on Road 85. Road 85 is a 2-lane dual carriageway each bound separated by barren land, no barrier post.
  2. After 20km from Qatar border you will see Petrol Station that is right after a left curve bend road. MAKE FIRST FUEL STOP HERE. A small restaurant, small shop selling cassette/CD, and traditional crafts available here. Qatari riyal accepted. Coordinate Petrol Station: N 24 49’17.4″ E 50 43’59.2″
  3. Drive another  126 km until you see an interchange. Ignore any suggestion to go to Hofuf Center. GO STRAIGHT. (Note: As of Dec 2010, GoogleEarth still shows it as an oval roundabout). Coordinate:  Via Point 1 (go straight after interchange): N 25 16.330′ E 49 38.062′ – to make sure that GPS doesn’t take you to Hofuf Center. 

See updated above on alternate route bypassing Hofuf via East Hofuf:

After driving for 122 – 123 km from saudi checkpoint take right exit. THis is 55 km strech is bypass road to hofuf/alhasa, ends near saudi cement factory. Accordingly route mention in 4 to 7 above will not be there in route to bahrain

4. Drive 20 km and you’ll find roundabout-being-turned-into-interchange close to Al Ahsaa Domestic airport on your left. TURN RIGHT. (Note: You can go straight and later can join with Road 85 again – See#5 below, but it is not advised at the moment due to shared lane and construction). Coordinate: Via Point 2: N 25 19.337′ E 49 30.663′ – to make sure that GPS takes you turn right

5. After making right turn, follow the road 6.5km until you are on an overbridge and then TURN LEFT to go to a petrol station 300m down the bridge. MAKE SECOND FUEL STOP HERE. There is a handful shops available here including small Krispy Crème counter selling limited donuts, tea and coffee. Now you join Road 85 again. Coordinate Petrol Station here: N 25 21’11.7″ E 49 31’15.9″

The first petrol station in Road 85 Hofuf, 20km from Qatar border
Long way to go….[this sign is located between Saudi border and the first petrol station
Road 85 to Hofuf prones to sand encroachment from sand dune on the road side
The first interchange in Hofuf. Go straight and avoid suggestion to Hofuf center
Second roundabout/interchange near Airport. Turn right here.
After right turn in airport roundabout and driving 6.5km you will see this overbridge. Turn left to follow Riyadh sign.
Make next fuel stop here. This is located 300m down after making left turn on overbridge on Road 85

HOFUF-ABQAIQ-DAMMAM AREA

6.   Continue driving the road, passing underneath an overbridge (that originated from the same (airport) interchange that you made a right turn before) approximately 6.7km from the previous overbridge. After 13.7km you’ll see an interchange and shall be ready to transfer from Road 85 to Road 10. TURN RIGHT to Road 10 leading to Dammam. Coordinate Turn to Road 10: N 25 21’52.5″ E 49 23’20.1″ – to make sure that you turn right to Road 10.

7.   Now you are on Road 10 already. Continue driving 34km on Road 10 to see North Hofuf/Cement Company Interchange (this is how I call it; not the official name). Keep right to follow sign to Baqiq/Dammam/Bahrain. After the interchange you will see Saudi Cement Company on your right. Coordinate: Road 10 after Hofuf/Cement Interchange Via Point: N 25 40.308′ E 49 30.484′

8.   About 68km and 75km from turnoff to Road 10 (from Road 85) you’ll see the first and second Abqaiq interchange respectively. KEEP STRAIGHT IN ANY INTERCHANGE. Coordinate Via Point Road 10 after First Abqaiq Interchange: N 25 55.952′ E 49 37.409′

9.  Continue driving 62.7km until you find an interchange to Road 95 that leads to Causeway. TURN RIGHT TO ROAD 95. Coordinate slip road to transfer from Road 10 to Road 95: N 26 18.139′ E 50 02.757′

10.  Driving Road 95 for about 22km to find a Causeway Toll Gate. Pay 20 SAR to enter King Fahad Causeway.

Coordinate: Saudi Tower at Causeway: N 26 11.031′ E 50 19.288′. Coordinate: Saudi Immigration at Causeway: N 26 11.101′ E 50 19.331′

Interchange to transfer from Road 85 to Road 10. Make right turn here.
Approaching interchange before Saudi Cement Company. Turn right. Go straight will lead you to Riyadh
Road 10 varies from 2 to 3 to 4 lanes. Some undergoing maintenance work. Expect detours. Seen here Saudi Cement Company on right.
Interchange to transfer from Road 10 to Road 95. Turn right
Road 95 to Causeway. Keep left to go to Bahrain
Toll Gate Ahead information board on Road 95
King Fahad Causeway. Approaching Passport Island where Saudi-Bahrain immigration/borders located at.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
On Passport Island approaching Saudi border side. Turn right to go to Saudi Tower or left to go directly to Saudi immigration

DAMMAM – BAHRAIN

Saudi-Bahrain Causeway Immigration Process (outbound)

Saudi Border:
1. Police/Vehicle Clearance. Get exit paper.
2. Passport check

Bahrain Border:
1. Visa on arrival. Stay in the car. Produce passports. Pay 6 BD for 3 days or 12 BD for 7 days.
2. Customs Inspection. (Note: In my case, they didn’t even bother to check my car but I saw some undergone thorough inspection tough; travelling with kids/family will normally ease the inspection).
3. Pay Insurance. 3 days for 2 BD

BAHRAIN-DAMMAM

Back to Causeway, you need to pay 2 BD at the toll gate. No ticket/receipt is given so don’t wait.

Bahrain-Saudi Causeway Immigration Process (inbound)

Bahrain Border:
1. Traffic booth: Exit vehicle registration. Keep the paper.

2. Passport check and stamp

3. There are custom gate but no body attended so we just pass by.

Saudi Border:
1. Passport check

2. Customs check. Exit paper stamped. I went to the custom officer after called as no one came up to check.

3. Exit paper taken.

Dammam Back to Qatar

  •  Road back to Qatar from Causeway is basically following the same departing route. From Causeway driving up to Dammam on Road 95 then turn left in Road 95 – Road 10 Interchange, follow Road 10 direction Hofuf passing Abqaiq.
  • It is recommended that you fill your fuel tank up before entering Road 10, although there are petrol stations in Abqaiq, but you need to detour from Road 10 to Abqaiq city center.
  • Driving Road 10, approaching Saudi Cement Interchange or North Hofuf Interchange, keep right to follow sign to Qatar/UAE (Batha). Then you will find Road 10 to Road 85 Interchange. Turn into Road 85 and follow the same departing route from Qatar.
  • The idea is to only take Hofuf ring road route and avoid any attempt to enter Hofuf Center. Once you enter Hofuf city center you may easily end up losing 1-2 hours due to construction work, road closing or change of traffic way.
  • I myself detoured to Hofuf City Center , purposely to visit Jabal Qara, east of Hofuf. And it’s not easy to find it due to above. (read more in other post)

Saudi-Qatar Immigration Process

Saudi Border:
1. First Booth: Exit Vehicle Registration. Keep the exit paper.
2. Second Booth: Passport stamped
3. Third Booth: Present exit paper and passport

Qatar Border Process:

  1. First booth: Passport stamped
  2. Second booth: Produce exit paper.
  3. Insurance Booth. Ignore it if you have Qatari vehicle.
  4. Third Booth:  Passport check. [I’m sorry but I can’t remember where the exit paper from Saudi was taken in Qatar border booths L. I assume at the last booth as it is normally the case in any country border ]

Welcome back to Qatar!

Guide to Doha – Bahrain by Road: Part 1 – Pre-Departure

Bahrain’s main island is separated by about 30 km of Arabian Gulf sea to Qatar, although however, the closest Bahrain territory is only 1 km (Hawar Island, near Qatar’s Dukhan). Until a 40-km Friendship Causeway that link west Qatar to east Bahrain is in operation, Qatar’s residents shall drive down Eastern Saudi to go to Bahrain. For Qatar expatriates, this means they need to secure a Saudi Transit Visa prior to hit the pedal gas. Although Qatar’s residents can opt to go by air (only 25 minutes flight), eliminating the hassle of transit visa and causeway immigration processes, many still prefer to drive to Bahrain.

The followings are what you need to know to driving from Doha to Bahrain. These are mainly based on my personal experiences in driving Doha-Bahrain on 19-22 December 2010. As there may be changes in any of the journey elements (i.e. road, route, immigration process), I assume no responsibility or liability for any inconveniences, losses, damages and injuries caused by use of the following information.

In general, Qatar residents need to go through Qatar-Saudi immigration process, then via Road 85 passing Hofuf city, then right to Road 10 to Abqaiq town before reaching Dammam area (seamless area comprises of 3 cities: Dammam, Al Khobar and Dhahran). From Dammam area (Al Khobar precisely), Saudi is linked to Bahrain via a 25-km two lanes dual carriageway King Fahad Causeway. The Saudi-Bahrain immigration processes take place in a man-made island in the middle of Causeway, commonly called Passport Island, at equal distance from both sides, approximately 10km from Saudi onshore.

Regional Map showing Qatar, Hofuf, Abqaiq, Dammam and Bahrain (Source: Bing Maps)

Summary of distances:

For a 4-day trip, the distance I travelled was 1509 km. This includes Doha-Bahrain, all trips inside Bahrain,  Bahrain to Al Khobar (& Half Moon Bay), Al Khobar – Dammam, Dammam –Abqaiq City Center –  Hofuf City Center (Jabal Qara) , and Hofuf – Doha.

–          Qatar Border – Saudi Border in Causeway: 352km

–          Doha – Qatar Border: approximately 97km

–          Qatar border – Saudi border: 10km

–          Qatar border – First Petrol Station (Sasco): 20km

–          Qatar border – First Hofuf Interchange: 146km

–          First Hofuf Interchange – Airport Roundabout/Interchange: 20km

–          Airport Roundabout/Interchange to Overbridge Road 85: 6.5km

–          Overbridge – Turnoff Road 10: 13.7km

–          Turnoff Road 10 – Interchange Cement: 34km

–          Turnoff Road 10 – Abqaiq: 68km (first Abqaiq interchange) 75km (second Abqaiq interchange)

–          Abqaiq – Turnoff Road 95: 62.7km – Cuaseway toll gate: next 22km

Timing Estimates (based on my real experience):

5:53am: left home in Al Gharafa

6:54am: arrived in Qatar border. Brief natural breaks.

7:02am: entered Qatar border.

7:09am: finished Qatar border

7:17am: entered Saudi border, first booth

7:39am: finished Saudi border

07:54am: first petrol station

09:30am: second petrol station on Road 85 (see step#5) after overbridge from road originated from a right turn of airport interchange (including 20 minutes stop at the first station and 2 photo stops)

10:06am: Abqaiq

11:02am: Saudi – Bahrain border

11:29am: finished Saudi-Bahrain borders

11:52am: arrived at the apartment in Al Juffair.

Cost Estimates (for a family of 2 adults and 2 small children). For quick calculation you may assume 1 BD = 10 QR, and 1 QR = 1 SAR:

  • Saudi Transit Visa: 540 QR (or 135QR per passport)
  • Saudi Insurance: 70 SAR
  • Bahrain Visa: 24 BD (6 BD per 3-day stay)
  • Bahrain Insurance (2 day): 20 QR (appx. 2 BD)
  • Toll Gate: 60 SAR (20 SAR per pass)
  • Fuel: 107 QR
  • 2-night stay in 2-bedroom apartment without breakfast in Bahrain: 64 BD
  • 1-night stay in 1-bedroom apartment with breakfast in Al Khobar: 350 SAR
  • Meals: the price is almost the same as in Qatar if not slightly cheaper.
  • Recreation:
    • Wahoo Indoor Water Park: 24 BD (6 BD per children 12 BD per adult; I got promotion rate where adult rate = children rate)
    • Al Areen Wildlife Park: 2 BD (2 adults and 2 small children)
    • Arad Fort: 200 fills per person (1 BD = 1000 fills)
    • Museum: 500 fills (children free)
    • Bahrain Border Tower: 1.5 BD (2 adults and 2 small children)
    • Bait Al Quran: donation as you wish
    • Al Khamis Mosque: tips for nice gesture to guardian
    • All others: free

Pre-Departure

1. Secure Saudi Transit Visa

a. Saudi Transit Visa can be obtained through Saudi Embassy-appointed agencies (not an exhaustive list):

  • Al Kanz Co. (Tel: 4883713, Mobile: 5724414). Abdullah Bin Thani Street, Al Gharraffa. 100m from Qatar Airways branch, 200m from Hot Chicken. Coordinate: 25°19’36”N   51°27’47”E
  •  Al Ihsan Khaleej Services (Tel: 4434535, Mobile: 5513959 – Ismail). Souk Asiri, 2nd Floor. Opposite Dana Center/Philipine markets. Coordinate: 25°17’16”N   51°32’14”E
  •  Al Asayel Co. (Tel.: 4372784, Mobile: 5680914). Near Sana/VW Roundabout. Next to Mercedez Showroom. Driving B-Ring Road passing Oasis Signal, continue until Sana Roundabout, make U-turn.

b. Saudi Transit Visa Requirements:

  • Original passport, and copies of identification page and RP
  • Two passport size photographs with white background
  • No Objection Letter (NOC) from company for sponsored persons to obtain visa to Saudi. Dependants do not require a letter if travelling with the sponsor (head of the family)
  • Copies of vehicle registration card (istimarah) – if vehicle not in the name of the driver then NOC to be sought from either bank or company 

c. Fee: 135QR per passport

d. Process time: between 3-5 working days.

2. Check your Bahrain Causeway visa on arrival eligibility (if you go by air you can apply e-visa online, not the case for Causeway)

  1. Check your eligibility in here: http://www.evisa.gov.bh/  by entering visa selection criteria (if applicant has GCC RP, country of resident, purpose of visit and nationality)
  2. Causeway Visa on arrival Conditions:
  • Grant conditions:    
  1. Applicant must be entering the Kingdom of Bahrain via the Causeway when applying for this visa.
  2. The visa is issued at the Causeway in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
  3. The visa fee is paid at the Causeway in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
  4. Applicant must have had a current resident permit of a GCC state for at least 6 months.
  5. Applicant’s resident permit for a GCC state must be valid for at least another 6 months.
  6. Your entry must not violate the security and national welfare of Bahrain.
  • Entry conditions:    
  1. Applicant must enter the Kingdom of Bahrain via the Causeway.
  2. You must not take up paid employment during your visit to Bahrain.
  3. You must be able to support yourself (and any dependents) during the visit.
  4. Passport must be valid for length of time you will be in Bahrain, or the length of the visa, whichever is longer.
    If your passport validity is in doubt, you may be denied entry to Bahrain.
  •  Stay conditions:    
  1. Length of stay allowed is 3 days or 7 days
  2. The visa can be used only once, for a single entry.
  • Extension conditions:    
  1. This visa may be extended at GDNPR in Bahrain on payment of a fee.
  • Other conditions:    
  1. Applicant must show evidence of current residence in a GCC country.
  2. Causeway Visa Fee: 6 BD for 3-day visa, and 12 BD for 7-day visa.
  3. Although not asked, you may prepare yourself with a company letter addressed to Bahrain immigration stated your employment, vehicle information, and your intention to enter the country.

3. Finalize your itinerary in Bahrain (can refer to travelogues on Bahrain that I wrote separately; including point of interests and their coordinates), understand your route (including inputting coordinates below to your GPS) and clear any logistical issues (i.e. hotel). Do I need to exchange my money? Qatari riyal is accepted although it is advised that travelers carry small amount of Saudi riyals for fuel cost and Bahrain dinars for expenses.

4. Prepare your car to be fit for long driving (serviced, fluids, spare tire, emergency equipment, etc.)

 Departure Day

Is everything ready?

  • Passport, visa, exit permit, istimarah (car registration), Qatar ID, driving license, booking documents?
  • Money, credit cards?
  • Car ready? Fuel tank full?
  • House safe to be left?
  • Mobile phone has enough credit (for HALA)? Camera ready?
  • Emergency number known?
  • All luggages loaded?

Continue to Guide to Doha – Bahrain by Road: Part 2 – Route and Immigration Processes