Driving in Bahrain


Driving in Bahrain



Rule of the Road

Traffic in Bahrain drives on the right side of the road, in common with other Middle East countries.


Statistics (year 2007 figures)


UK comparison

Annual fatalities



Registered motor vehicles



Motorisation rate, (motor vehicles / 1,000 population)



Fatality rate, (deaths / 10,000 motor vehicles)



Fatality risk, (road deaths / 100,000 population)



Fatality quotient, (fatality rate x fatality risk)



Fatalities / 1,000 km



Road length, km



Paved roads, %



Road density, (road length km / land area km2)



Vehicle density, (motor vehicles / km)



Population density, (population / km2)





Statistics Summary

Bahrain is a small island in the Arabian Gulf. Although the population density is much higher than UK, much of the island is bare desert and the largest proportion of the island's inhabitants live in Manama city. In proportion to the size of Bahrain, many of its statistics i.e. the fatality rate, fatality risk, etc, whilst not as good as European countries, are significantly better than all the other Gulf and Arab countries. This is probably due to the effectiveness of the traffic police in Bahrain, as they keep a very tight rein on the driving population and maintain the highest driving standards in the Arab region.





Driving Environment

Bahrain is a small island approx 45 km long and 15 km wide in the Arabian Gulf, just off the coast of Saudi Arabia, and linked to Saudi Arabia by a 20 km causeway. The climate is hot dry desert, mostly very flat with a few small hills in the centre. Most of the road infrastructure is relatively new and well developed resulting in excellent driving conditions, although city traffic can become a little congested at times.





Driver Behaviour.

Bahraini drivers are without doubt the best in the region. The Arabic region generally includes the Middle East, North Africa, and West Asia as a single unit. Bahraini drivers are courteous, unhurried, and generally comply with traffic rules. If a car is seen speeding or driving erratically, etc, typically it will be wearing registration plates from another nearby country.




The vehicle stock is a mixture of old and new, comprising predominantly a mixture of Japanese and American models. Many cars are of larger models, and large 4x4 are common. However, most taxis tend to be older well-used models, as are some of the trucks. Although Bahrain is well developed, hand-carts remain in use in some of the older parts of Manama. Bicycles are moderately common used by some Asian workers here, but motorcycles are not.





Speed Limits.

Speed is measured in km/h. Signage conforms to the ISO (European) system, and signs are abundant and generally well placed. Speed limit signs are dual language, with Arabic numbers above European numbers separated by a red diagonal line. Speed limits are generally lower than in nearby countries, and similar to what may be found in European locations, e.g. some 4 lane roads have a limit of only 50 km/h.





Traffic Signals.

Traffic signals display the traditional 4 phase sequence, i.e. green > amber > red > red-amber > green. Some signals have a bypass lane with give way for traffic turning right.



Road signs.

Regulatory, prohibitory, obligatory, hazard, directional, and advice, all follow the standard ISO (European) system. Directional and advice signs are written dual language with Arabic above English text. Where numbers are displayed, Arabic are shown above European numbers.





Road markings.

White is the predominant marking, but yellow is also used for some markings, typically for boundary lines, ghost islands, and box junctions. Bott's dots - ceramic non-retroreflective raised road studs are common to assist delineation and channellisation.



Kerb markings.

Bahrain uses the standard Middle East system of black & yellow for no parking, and black & white for parking areas, although a few parking areas are painted in varying colour schemes, e.g. red & white.






Roundabouts are common throughout Manama city and in other towns across the island. Use is conventional, with entering traffic giving way to circulating traffic. Roundabouts have adequate signs and markings. Some busier roundabouts are now signalised.




Bahrain has a modern road network system, many larger junctions are now grade-separated with flyovers. Other busier junctions in the city are multi-lane signal controlled. Direction signs are generally good everywhere.



Pedestrian Crossings.

There are several types of pedestrian crossings, both controlled and un-controlled. All have zebra markings whether there are light signals or not. Many also have zigzag lines. Crossings are common both at major intersections and on lesser roads. As a pedestrian, Bahrain is probably the safest Arab country in which to cross the road, but don't relax too much, there are also some foreign drivers here.





Railway Crossings.

Bahrain does not presently have a rail system, although a future project is under discussion.




Bahrain has a good system of major highways, especially in the north of the island, where most of the population resides. Direction signage is generally good, and route finding is not a problem. All highways have street lighting for night travel.



City Driving.

Roads around Manama vary from narrow back streets to multilane highways. Safety is a priority, and safety mirrors are positioned for safe emerging at all blind corners. As anywhere, congestion occurs for several hours of the day, but is not as significant as in nearby countries.





Rural Roads.

There is a network of rural routes especially across the south of the island.  These roads are reasonably flat and straight across the desert with slight bends. All are to a good standard. There are a few graded roads, where the top surface is merely of crushed gravel without asphalt.





Night Driving.

Night driving is reasonably safe in Manama city and on main highways having street lighting, but watch for pedestrians who may be dressed in black and almost impossible to see, and watch for cyclists who typically have no lights whatsoever. Night driving on unlit roads is not recommended as animals including goats and camels wander onto the road.




Parking on the road is not permitted anywhere except in marked bays. Off-road parking places can be difficult to find in Manama city. However, outside the city centre there is typically ample space to get your vehicle fully off the road into a parking area. Almost everywhere else is hard flat stony desert, so it is easy to find somewhere off the road to park safely.






Something to watch out for … don't be surprised when the car in front stops to give way to others, or to let pedestrians cross the road, keep space, expect others to stop.


©Keith Lane 2009