Travel guide to Kuwait

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Kuwait has been rebuilt since the war with Iraq, and - as can be seen in the cities - the country is adjusting ever more to Western culture. Some of the more visited tourist attractions in the country are Failaka Island and the National Museum.

Facts

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Local name
Dowlat al-Kuwait
Capital
Al Kuwayt, former Qurein (Kuwait City)
Size
17.818 km2
Principal Languages
Arabic
Principal Religion
Islam
Inhabitants
2.200.000
Government
Emirate
Geography
"Flat and dry desert" is a terse description of Kuwaiti geography. This gives ample opportunity for the dust-storms which Kuwait is sometimes troubled with to billow up.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

The winter months or autumn is by far the best time to visit Kuwait. The summers are often hot and dry and at times plagued by sand-storms. In principle these storms can occur all year around, but during winter the temperature drops to around 20 degrees centigrade - a much more pleasant temperature.

Literature

Lonely Planet Bahrain, Kuwait & Qatar

Local conditions

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Currency

Kuwaiti dinar

Net cafes

The first Internet cafés have opened in Kuwait City, and more are yet to come.

Tipping

Tipping is not a custom in Kuwait. Normally, it is neither necessary nor expected. However, in some of the most expensive restaurant the waiters expect a little extra.

Timezone

When it is 12 o'clock in England it is 3 o'clock in Kuwait.

Weight and Measures

In Kuwait the metric system is used.

Photography

In principle, you should ask for permission just to take your camera out of your bag, but reality is somewhat different and you should be able to photograph without permission and still survive. Photographing rarely causes trouble unless it is clearly indicated. However, you should keep from photographing militarily sensitive areas and areas near the northern Iraqi border.

Drinking water

All water for drinking; brushing your teeth or ice cubes should be boiled.

Electricity

In Kuwait the following power source is used: 220 volts AC, 50 Hz

Behaviour

In general Kuwaitis are quite unpretentious about their religion in contrast to many of their more 'fundamentalist' neighbours. Therefore you can actually dress as you please, as long as women's skirts do not show their knees! You can even enter mosques during prayer, which would normally not be allowed in Muslim countries.

Business Hours

Banks are open from 8 am to 12 (Saturday-Thursday) Shops are open from 8 am to 1 pm and from 4 pm to 7 pm (Saturday-Thursday). However, many shops close at lunch Thursday. Offices are open from 8 am to 5 pm (Saturday-Thursday).

Food and drink

Kuwaiti culinary artistry is greatly influenced by the many foreigners living in the countryb - especially the Indian immigrants. But restaurants inspired by the Western world are also becoming quite common. However traditional Middle Eastern cuisine has not entirely disappeared, and can be found readily.

Holidays

New Year's Day, January 1st. National day, February 25th. Liberation day, February 26th.

Accommodation / Hotel

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Hotels

There are many hotels in Kuwait in a wide range of deluxe, 1st and 2nd class. Many hotels have attached sports facilities and are often located near big shopping malls. Most hotels are very comfortable and in a good condition.

Other Accommodation

In the bigger towns it is possible to rent a flat in a block run almost like a hotel - with room-service amongst other options.

Local transport

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Bus

Kuwaiti buses are cheap, fast and run at regular intervals. Therefore they are the best means of transport if you wish to travel around the country. The buses begin very early in the morning, and usually finish as early as 10 pm.

Taxi

Taking a taxi in Kuwait could end up a pretty expensive experience as they drive without a taxi-meter. You should therefore settle on a price before the trip begins.

Car rental

Despite the notorious interest the oil state has in people driving cars, Kuwait has some of the highest prices for renting them. For most tourists it will be a waste of time even looking at the international companies - the local companies are usually much cheaper.

Special conditions

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Spontaneous trips to Kuwait are out of the question solely because of the bureaucracy concerning visas. To enter the country you must have a sponsor. This could very well be your hotel - they will gladly handle all the formalities for a great deal of money, at least as soon as you have stated the required amount of information (including the reason) for your trip. This process could take some time, and should therefore be dealt with well in advance. Your chosen hotel will very likely be able to answer all of your relevant questions concerning the application for a visa.

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