People of most nationalities need a visa, which can be conveniently obtained at Bahrain International Airport or at the border with Saudi Arabia. A two-week visa on arrival costs BD5 for citizens of Australia, Canada, the EU, New Zealand, USA and 29 other nations. There is a foreign-exchange office next to the immigration counter at the airport and at the border with Saudi Arabia.
Multiple-entry business visas are available for citizens of the above nationalities and are valid for 6 months. They cost BD42. This visa does not entitle you to work.
If you’re transiting through Bahrain and travelling on to Saudi Arabia by land (and can prove it), the visa fee on arrival for all nationalities is BD2.
Visa extensions of up to a month are available in Manama from the General Directorate of Immigration & Passports (17 535 111; Sheikh Hamad Causeway). You must first find a sponsor (a Bahraini friend or your hotel may oblige for a small fee). Extensions cost BD15 for one week and BD25 for more than one week up to one month; they will take up to a week to process. Foreigners overstaying their visas are rigorously fined.
Relationships and Communication
Bahrainis do not require as much personal space as most western cultures.
Since Bahrainis prefer to do business with those with whom they have a personal relationship, a letter of introduction from someone they know allows them to trust you.
They will spend a great deal of time on the getting-to-know-you part of relationship building.
You must be patient. Impatience is considered bad manners and may deleteriously affect future business dealings.
The Bahrain business community is relatively small and your behaviour will quickly become public knowledge.
Relationships take time to grow and must be nurtured. This may require several visits.
Bahrainis tend to be indirect communicators who tell people what they think they want to hear if to do otherwise would make the other person uncomfortable.
It is a good idea, therefore, to privately confirm agreements given in public so you may determine if the person was merely trying to save face.
Communication is also quite formal and follows a hierarchical structure.
Always demonstrate deference to the most senior person in the group
Bahrainis are non- confrontational
If displeased with your behaviour, Bahraini business people may prefer to have an intermediary discuss the situation with you rather than confront you themselves.
Bahrainis often touch others while conversing to enhance communication.
Under no circumstances should you slap a Bahraini on the back or point at them with your finger.
Avoid looking at your watch when speaking with Bahraini businesspeople, as it is a sign of disrespect.
Business Meeting Etiquette
Appointments are necessary
Morning meetings are generally preferred. Do not try to schedule meetings in July and August as many Bahrainis leave the country during the worst of the summer heat.
Arrive at meetings promptly.
Meetings are generally not private until a relationship has developed or there is a need to discuss matters confidentially.
In general, Bahrainis have an open-door policy, even when they are in a meeting. This means you may expect frequent interruptions. Others may wander into the room and start a different discussion.
Meetings are often interrupted. You will have to repeatedly refocus people back to the topic.
Business meetings start after prolonged inquiries about health, family, etc.
Business Negotiation Etiquette
Good personal relationships are important since trust is required in order to conduct business.
Bahrainis are event rather than time-driven. The actual meeting is more important than the timeliness or outcome.
Companies are hierarchical. The highest-ranking person reaches decisions.
Decisions are reached slowly. If you try to rush things, you will give offense and risk your business relationship.
Do not use high-pressure sales tactics.
There is a tendency to avoid giving bad news and to give flowery acceptances, which may only mean "perhaps". . If you change the lead negotiator, negotiations will start over.
Proposals and contracts should be kept simple.
What to Wear?
Business attire is conservative.
Men should wear lightweight, good quality, conservative suits, at least to the initial meeting.
Dressing well gives a good impression.
Women should avoid giving offense by wearing extremely conservative clothing.
Titles are important. Use the honorific Mister and any academic or political title and the first name. 'Sheikh' is a good title to use for old men, or 'Hajji' for those who have undertaken the religious obligation.
Do not use only the first name until expressly invited to drop the titles.
Business cards are given to everyone you meet.
Have one side of your card translated into Arabic.
Present your card so the Arabic side is readable to the recipient.
Present and receive business cards with two hands.
Make a point of studying any business card you receive before putting it into a business card holder.
General Business Hours
The weekend in Bahrain has recently changed from Thursday and Friday to Friday and Saturday for most commercial and government organisations. Business hours are as follows:
Banks 7.30am to 3pm Sunday to Thursday
Government offices 7am to 2pm Sunday to Thursday
Internet cafés 8am to 1pm and 4pm to 10pm
Post offices 7am to 2pm (and 4pm to 6pm at alternating offices)
Restaurants 11am to 3pm and 6pm to 1am
Shopping centres 9am to 10pm Saturday to Thursday, 10am to 10pm Friday
Shops 8am to noon and 3.30 to 7.30pm Saturday to Thursday