Visas: Everyone except nationals of other Gulf States needs a visa to enter Kuwait. Kuwait does not issue tourist visas; large hotels can sponsor visas. If your passport contains an Israeli stamp, you will be refused entry to Kuwait.
Time: GMT/UTC plus 3 hours
Electricity: 220V and 240V, 50Hz
Events: Kuwait’s religious holidays follow the Muslim lunar calendar, so the corresponding dates of the western calendar vary each year. Major events include Ramadan; Eid Al-Fitr; Ghadir-ب Khom; and Rabi-ol-Avval. Liberation Day on February 26 is not an official holiday but everyone seems to treat it as one.
Budget: $5-7 ; Mid-range: $7-15; Top-end: $15 and upwards
Budget: $40-70; Mid-range: $70-150; Top-end: $150 and upwards
Sites to see
The home of Kuwait’s main archaeological site, Failaka is definitely worth a visit, though it requires a bit of extra caution. The Iraqis turned Failaka into a heavily fortified base and filled the area with mines.
Failaka’s history goes back to the Bronze Age Dilmun civilisation, which was centred in Bahrain. The Greeks arrived in the 4th century BC in the form of a garrison sent by Nearchus, one of Alexander the Great’s admirals. A small settlement existed on the island prior to this, but it was as the Greek town of Ikaros that the settlement became a real city. The Greeks lived on Failaka for two centuries. The centrepiece of the island is its temple.
Failaka is about 20km (12mi) north-east of Kuwait City’s centre and well served by ferries, which depart daily from Arabian Gulf St just south of the city centre.
Built to house Kuwait’s oil industry in the 1940s and ‘50s, Al-Ahmadi was named for the then emir, Shaikh Ahmed. It remains, to a great extent, the private preserve of the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC). The Oil Display Centre is a small, well-organised introduction to KOC and the oil business. Al-Ahmadi also has a small, pleasant public garden that’s worth a visit.
Al-Jahra, is 32km west of Kuwait City. The town’s only conventional site is the Red Fort, a low rectangular mud structure near the highway, that played a key role in the 1920 battle against Saudi Arabia. Al-Jahra is also the site of the Gulf War’s infamous ‘turkey shoot’ - the Allied destruction of a stalled Iraqi convoy as it attempted to retreat from Kuwait.
On an arm of land jutting out into Kuwait Bay, Doha Village is the site of several small dhow-building yards and a fishing village. Buses from Kuwait City make the trip to Doha, 20km to the north-west.
Kuwait has a very cheap and extensive system of both local and intercity buses. You can also use local taxis to get around, though these have no meters, so get a firm price before starting out.
Renting a car in Kuwait will cost about $20 a day. If you hold a driving licence and residence permit from another Gulf country, you can drive in Kuwait without any further paperwork. Otherwise you can drive on an International Driving Permit or a local licence from any western country, but you’ll also be required to purchase insurance for your licence, which will cost about $35.