Living and working in Bahrain

If you’re thinking about relocating to Bahrain to work with RCSI, there are a number of services provided to ensure the relocation process is as smooth and stress-free as possible.

The following is useful information to be aware of, but more detailed, specific information and advice on all aspects of the relocation process can be provided by RCSI’s HR department. 

Bahrain has excellent healthcare facilities. There is no shortage of hospitals (both public and private) and doctors are highly qualified and the majority of these professionals speak English.

Expatriates make up a very high percentage of Bahrain’s population. Business days are generally Sunday to Thursday and, although Arabic is the official language, English is commonly spoken in business. The entry of foreigners into Bahrain is tightly controlled and work authorisation and visas are required. Once an expatriate arrives in Bahrain with a work permit, they will need to apply for a Central Population Registry (CPR) card. This card is required for setting up a bank account, completing official transactions, buying a car, etc.

Bahrain is regarded as a hotspot for wealth among expatriate professionals and most people report experiencing a higher standard of living with a larger disposable income than they had in the their home country.

The tax structure represents a significant benefit of working in Bahrain. There are essentially no deductions from monthly salaries for expatriates due to the absence of personal income tax, capital gains and withholding tax. Expatriates working in Bahrain find the salaries with no personal taxes an extremely attractive incentive.

Foreign nationals may open bank accounts with local and international banks in Bahrain, however, the process can be lengthy and involves significant paperwork. Applicants must typically provide the following:

  • Residents visa (demonstrating the right to be in the country)
  • Letter of no objection/no objection certificate (NOC) from employer
  • Tenancy agreement (proof of residential address)
  • Passport photocopy

When opening an account, applicants are given a choice of language for transactions (Arabic or English). 

Tenancy agreements are for a minimum period of one year. It is common practice for landlords to request advance payment of rent which varies in amount, but three months’ rent is often requested. Deposits can be requested by landlords – this figure is usually equivalent to one month’s rent and, subject to a final inspection of the property, is refundable at the end of the lease. It is common for rental properties to be on the market inclusive of utilities.

Newly arrived expatriates may have the option of living in serviced apartments on apartment hotels while trying to source long-term accommodation.

From December to the end of March, the weather is pleasantly mild, while from May to October becomes exceedingly hot and damp. The hottest months are July, August and September when midday temperatures can reach  44°C on the coast with 90% humidity. Annual rainfall is low and usually concentrated in a few storms in February or March. 

The official language of Bahrain is Arabic. However, Bahrain is bilingual and English is very widely spoken and used for business communication. 

Roads in Bahrain are in good condition with minimal traffic. Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road and all traffic signs are printed in both Arabic and English.

The unit of currency is the Bahrain dinar (BHD), divided in to 100 fils. The following denominations are in circulation:

  • Notes: ½, 1, 5, 10 and 20 BHD
  • Coins: 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 fils 

Islam is the official religion of Bahrain. Whilst Bahrain is a Muslim country, it is tolerant of other faiths. Despite this, respect should be shown towards Muslim practices, particularly during Ramadan. Non-Muslims do not need to wear Bahraini national dress, but should dress respectfully.

When Muslims are fasting during Ramadan, non-Muslims are expected to refrain from eating, drinking and smoking in public places where they may be visible to any Muslim.

Bahrain has a wide variety of restaurants and cuisine available, ranging from Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Arabic traditional food to European dishes, and prices are quite reasonable. A number of restaurants offer a buffet lunch and a-la-carte for dinner. Many of the larger restaurants have a liquor licence, while the majority of smaller ones are not permitted to sell alcoholic beverages.

You will find many of the same department stores available in Europe and the US in Bahrain, with a wide range of shopping available. In the markets, souq area and in some stores you can bargain for the 'best price'. Tailoring is also relativity inexpensive in Bahrain.

There are a great number of sports and social clubs in Bahrain for sports fans including tennis, squash, football, swimming, sailing, diving, riding and golf.

For night-time entertainment, in addition to cinemas and and the Bahrain National Theatre, there are numerous bars and nightclubs in the city. Several times during the year, some of the larger hotels arrange cultural evenings when international entertainers perform in plays, classical music performances, opera and even ballet.