What driver's license do I need to drive in Bahrain?
To drive in Bahrain, you must hold an international driving license. This document is actually a translation into several languages of your local DL. Note that the people coming to visit you in Bahrain who would like to drive your car or a rental car will also need this document.
The international license is suitable for tourists or expats on arrival, but as a resident, you must convert it into local DL. Depending on your country of origin, as soon as you get your CPR (Bahraini identity document), you can convert your international driving license into a local one without taking any driving tests. For some countries, tests are required.
I want to convert my driving license
To do so, go to the Traffic Department. This is where you deal with all what’s related with driving and vehicles. You will pass some tests with an eye doctor: eyesight and colors differentiation tests. You must then submit the application form duly completed, the original and the copy of your passport with your resident visa, the original and the copy of your CPR, your original license (national & international), two passport photos and a few dinars (26.500BHD at the moment). A few minutes later, you'll be having a genuine Bahraini driving license in good and due form, credit card size, like most identity documents here.
Note that this conversion is mandatory. A resident isn’t supposed to circulate indefinitely with its international license, although I couldn’t find the text indicating a specific time frame.
Just remember that caught in an incident or worse, an accident, you could get into trouble by not being in a comfortable position.
You can find useful information on the website of the Traffic Department: http://www.traffic.gov.bh/index.asp
And my car should I buy or rent?
Eternal and agonizing issue of expatriates! Is it better to live in temporary bounds, even if it lasts or is it better to grow some roots even if it means slashing it at the end?
Without a doubt what matters is the duration of your stay, your income level too, but most of all, the way you see life! Some "serial expats' jump from country to country, carrying a few suitcases while others lug a full life every time they relocate!
So rather than push for a solution or another, I'll try to outline the advantages and disadvantages of each as far as Bahrain is concerned.
For a midsize sedan (Toyota Cressida) expect about 180 to 200 BHD (360-400 €) per month for rent. Car rental, especially those offering very low prices, will usually provide cars in an average condition.
In France we are used as rental car companies change their vehicles every six months / one year which is far from being the case here. Do not expect a brand new car. International rental agencies (Avis, Citer, Europcar etc ....) are present here but are rarely the cheapest. However, the level of service is fairly standard. Small local agencies are often less expensive but it is sometimes a bit more complicated. Make sure that insurance be included in the price and planned maintenance which should not be your responsibility.
The choice of vehicle is not overly large for hire and with the exception of car brands agents who happen to do some leasing, rental companies will offer you 95% of entry-level models of Toyota and Nissan, extremely popular brands here.
There are opportunities for leasing new vehicles with certain agents for periods longer than one or two years. You can request a quotation depending on the vehicle type and duration of rental.
Benefits of leasing:
- No registration formalities
- No need to worry for vehicle maintenance
- No hidden costs (repairs, breakdowns etc ...)
- No need to sell the vehicle at the departure
Disadvantages of location:
- Lost investment
- Choice of models very limited
- Low flexibility from car rental agents
- Expensive solution
- The vehicle is not yours
The used cars market is extremely dynamic in Bahrain. Whether you seek a powerful SUV, a family sedan, a small city car or a luxury sports coupe, there is everything and at all prices. The rates are slightly lower than in France (there is no VAT here). The seriousness of the agents varies greatly from one brand to another and you might feel it through the maintenance!
If you buy, you must always think about resale. So take care with “exotic” models or colors of a very particular taste! Some brands are more popular than others, such as a Toyota or Nissan and if offered at the market price you will sell them in less than a week.
- Recovery of part of the investment when leaving the country
- Very large selection of new and used vehicles
- Attractive prices
- The vehicle is your property
Cons of buying:
- Risk lying in reselling
- Registration procedures (these are, however, often supported by the seller if you buy from a professional)
- Insurance cost
- Maintenance of the vehicle at your expense
In summary, from my point of view, the location is ideal for short stays, especially if you don’t have the cash to buy cash. However, beyond 18-24 months, this solution seems not economically justifiable, unless you want a solution without constraints.
What about insurance?
As in Europe, the insurance is mandatory and you can be fully or third part only insured. As in Europe, prices vary widely from a company to another and should carefully compare the offers before signing. It is often a good idea to rely on the local rumor, as for many things in fact: D
Even if a company's reputation is not necessarily an accurate reflection of its performance, as the saying goes "where there is smoke, there is fire" and the assurance from which you hear a lot of bad feedbacks might not have a lot of customer service awards to its credit! Insurance is to be renewed every year and a sticker of a different color for each year is sent to you for display on the windshield. As in France, the lack of insurance is a serious offense.
I hope this article was useful, feel free to ask any further question on the forum.