While Kuwait isn't on many tourist itineraries, it is a very pleasant and unusual country to visit. The country is centered around Kuwait City and its varying neighborhoods, though many of the places you'll want to visit will be on the waterfront. Kuwait has some of the cleanest and well-kept up city landscapes in all of the Gulf. Because there really isn't much of a tourist industry in the country, you may feel like everyone is keeping to themselves in their buildings and villas, and you'd be right.
Kuwait has one of the richest local populations in the world and this is reflected in the massive villas you'll see and all of the most expensive cars you'll ever get a glimpse of. There are several interesting museums and some of the best restaurants in the world, however, and you should definitely not miss those, and the Kuwait Towers as well.
Hot! Kuwait is one of the hottest countries in the world. You should avoid visiting between June - August because it is so hot and humid that you can't really stand to be outside, even at night, unless you are going from air conditioned building to air conditioned car, very quickly! Keep hydrated and always take a bottle of mineral water with you wherever you go.
Rainfall averages about 2 days a year, but when it does rain in Kuwait, it's pretty spectacular, and can consist of large hail, incredible lightening, and strong downpours.
Kuwait has several massive sandstorms each year. During a sandstorm the sun is blotted out of the sky and visibility is greatly impaired, sometimes you can only see a few feet. During a sandstorm you'll want to stay out of doors if possible, if you are caught outside cover your mouth, nose, and eyes with a scarf.
Kuwait is a very religious, conservative Sunni-Muslim dominated country. The government's official stance is that Islam is the official religion of the state of Kuwait and Sharia law is to govern the country. There is a guarantee of religious freedom in Kuwait, however, and there are many different religious institutions in the country. Kuwait protects the right of people to practice their religion, as long as it does not conflict with general public policy or morality.
During Ramadan, most restaurants and businesses are closed during the day and you can get in trouble for eating, drinking, or even smoking outside during the day. Most people will just tell you not to, and that will be that, however, unless you are doing it deliberately or maliciously.
The work week is usually Sunday-Thursday.
If you are outside during prayer time, and the call to prayer, it is wise to be respectful, to not use a cell phone or be loud in public or act as if you are disregarding the prayer time.
The official language of Kuwait is Arabic. Most people in Kuwait speak some English and you won't have a problem if you don't speak Arabic. Most road signs are in Arabic and English, as are most business and restaurant signs. The locals are very enthusiastic Arabic language teachers, however, and you should learn some at our Learning Arabic Page.
Kuwait has an interesting mix of old world and new when it comes to clothing, though overall the country is very conservative in its dress. You shouldn't wear either short pants, skirts, or tank tops anywhere. You'll see traditional dress, including dishdashas and abayas, throughout the country, alongside some of the highest costing fashions in the world, and some uniquely designed versions as well. Yves St. Laurant trousers covered in YSL insignias, for example, and lots of gold, everywhere.
Until recently Kuwait was a very difficult place to get a visa or visit for non-work purposes.
Now all GCC (Gulf Cooperative Council) countries can enter without a visa (it has been like this for some time).
Citizens who have valid passports from the following countries can now get a visit visa upon arrival at the Kuwait airport:
USA, Australia, Ireland, UK, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, the Vatican
If you have a passport from any other country you must contact the Kuwaiti embassy or consulate in your country if you think you will be traveling to Kuwait to set up the visa process, it can take a very long time. You can also have your travel agent help you in the process, or your sponsoring hotel.
You might want to contact a Kuwait Airlines office in your country for further information as well as they can issue a visa also.
If you have an Israeli passport or a stamp signaling you've traveled to Israel you will be denied entrance into Kuwait.
International Driving Permit is accepted. Application and info for US drivers on AAA's website here: http://www.csaa.com/.
Rental cars can be had for about $20-30 a day.
The highways and road systems in Kuwait are top of the line, some of the best in the world. Most highways are more than four lanes wide and outside Kuwait City, there is rarely any traffic to speak of. The only dangers might be the sometimes frightening way some of the aforementioned high-priced sports cars drive, usually very very fast. Flashing one's bright-lights is a common practice in the country and is not seen as a rude way to say "hey, please step aside so I can drive past you, thanks..."
If you don't step aside, you might get some rude stares, however.
If you have to deal with anything bureaucratic, you will come into contact with a test of patience that you have never experienced before. This means anything dealing with getting your visa, driving license, passport renewal, or any governmental paper or decree. Not to say that it's bad, just allow plenty of time to deal with any of these issues.
Drugs & Alcohol
Alcohol is illegal in Kuwait. You cannot bring in any alcohol to the country, nor can you buy or sell alcohol in Kuwait. There is, however, a black market for alcohol in Kuwait, though the penalties for trafficking are severe and can include death.
Any illegal drugs are dealt with very harshly and can include the death penalty even for minor possession. Do not use, buy, or sell illegal drugs anywhere, let alone in Kuwait.
Pornographic materials are illegal in Kuwait and will get you into trouble if found in your luggage upon arrival. Even "safe" seeming items can be confiscated at Kuwaiti customs.
Pork is also illegal in Kuwait and may be confiscated upon arrival.
Money in Kuwait is the Dinar, abbreviated in writing and speech by "KD." The Dinar is broken into 1000 fils.
The KD is pretty stable, and is worth about $3.74 US. The US dollar is worth about 375 fils.
Kuwait is an expensive place to stay, $200+ a day is a minimal amount to keep in mind.
ATMS and banks are everywhere and most places accept all major credit cards.
None required unless you are traveling from a Yellow Fever infected area within the past 5 days.
Kuwait is a safe country to visit, there aren't any tourist traps, touts, scam artists, or even petty thieves to speak of.
There are several neighborhoods that you shouldn't wander through, however.
Women have reported incidences of harassment, especially around the Salmiya area, though this is pretty rare, and most shopkeepers are more than willing to help out if someone is especially persist ant. The best course of action is to ignore the harassment, that usually stops it.
The visitor to Kuwait should have all accommodations and tours set up beforehand as independent travel is fairly new to the country.
Women traveling alone may have some problems entering and leaving the country, as well as have problems getting around the country or staying in a hotel by themselves. Please check with your local Kuwaiti consulate before traveling to make sure everything is ok, and get a contact name and number.
Kuwait also has a general policy of looking down on public displays of affection, especially between men and women. It is best to avoid problems by not engaging in any affectionate behavior when outside or in public.
Gay and Lesbian Travel
Homosexuality and Lesbianity is against the law in Kuwait and is punishable by jail time and more. Exercise caution, particularly in public.
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