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.
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)
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.
- 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
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)
- 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)
- Causeway Visa on arrival Conditions:
- Grant conditions:
- Applicant must be entering the Kingdom of Bahrain via the Causeway when applying for this visa.
- The visa is issued at the Causeway in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
- The visa fee is paid at the Causeway in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
- Applicant must have had a current resident permit of a GCC state for at least 6 months.
- Applicant’s resident permit for a GCC state must be valid for at least another 6 months.
- Your entry must not violate the security and national welfare of Bahrain.
- Entry conditions:
- Applicant must enter the Kingdom of Bahrain via the Causeway.
- You must not take up paid employment during your visit to Bahrain.
- You must be able to support yourself (and any dependents) during the visit.
- 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:
- Length of stay allowed is 3 days or 7 days
- The visa can be used only once, for a single entry.
- Extension conditions:
- This visa may be extended at GDNPR in Bahrain on payment of a fee.
- Other conditions:
- Applicant must show evidence of current residence in a GCC country.
- Causeway Visa Fee: 6 BD for 3-day visa, and 12 BD for 7-day visa.
- 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.)
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?