ANYBODY IN SAUDI ARABIA who’s ever craved for a drink, a night life, a movie date and most importantly (for most Filipinos) a plate of pork, knows there’s only one place to go to and find all of that. It’s in Bahrain.
Unfortunate as it may sound, it is the sweeping generalization of what Bahrain is for most of the locals here in KSA. It’s an open country and there are a lot of things you can do there that you can’t do in Saudi Arabia, much less in Riyadh. But I hope that by writing this, we can all come to see beyond what Bahrain has to offer.
Bahrain is the friendly neighbor of Saudi Arabia, situated almost a stone’s throw away from the city of Al Khobar. The two countries are connected by a giant causeway — a gift from the late King Fahad bin Abdulaziz bin Al Saud (rightly named as the King Fahad Causeway). Coming from Riyadh, it’s a six-hour bus ride via the SAPTCO V.I.P. Bus Service, which is what I rode when I went over there last weekend. You can also go by car or by plane (if you want), but since I was on a “budget” then I opted to go with the bus service, along with two of my friends, K and Doc D. 🙂
How to get there:
|What the ticket looks like. Make sure you don’t lose it. If you do, it’s going to cost you another 150 SAR.|
Of course, you have to get an exit/re-entry visa first. And, if you’d like to travel by bus like me and my friends did, you can go to the SAPTCO V.I.P. Office by Olaya St. (Contact No: +966-1-462-9939) and present your Passport along with your exit-re-entry visa to purchase the ticket. It’s 225SAR for a round trip ticket and 150SAR for one-way. Advanced booking is advised. The usual trips leaves Riyadh during Wednesday afternoons and returns on Friday evenings. So it’s a total weekender if you want it to be.
|The end of the Causeway where you officially “land” in Bahrain.|
What Can You See:
In the heart of Manama (Bahrain’s capital) are many notable buildings. The premium hotels are located in this area and it’s quite easy to navigate around it since essentially, the entirety of Bahrain is significantly smaller than the whole of Saudi Arabia. Here are some spots you wouldn’t want to miss.
|The beautiful mosque right along Bab Al Bahrain.|
|An old-feel of souks in Bab Al Bahrain (but they do have new buildings now.)|
|Behind K and I is the prominent Bahrain Financial Harbour Building.|
|This is Bahrain’s World Trade Center. The propellers in the middle are responsible for producing 15% of the building’s energy. 🙂|
|By the Corniche, where you can enjoy a great view of the city’s skyline.|
Beyond the city proper are also must-see sights like the mystical Tree of Life, which is an hour ride away from Manama and the Bahrain International F1 Circuit – where Formula 1 fans can gather and cheer on their favorites. Bahrain dubs itself as the Home of Motorsport in the Middle East, harboring major car companies within the country, like Toyota.
|The Tree of Life, Sakhir Desert|
According to the locals, this Tree of Life is mystical because it happens to survive in the middle of the desert – whether in the chill of winter or the heat of summer. And it is the ONLY tree that you can find in that entire vast land and it will really make you wonder why it has come to survive through all these years. Others advice the visitors to make a wish, or rub their hands over the bark to be blessed by it’s “powers”. Other write their names on the tree trunks. It was a very serene place and it kind of reminded me of a scene from “My Sassy Girl”. I think it’s a perfect place to meditate and/or get married. Char! That’s a different story….moving on!
|Formula 1 Race Track|
|A view of where the seats are.|
We arrived at the Bahrain International F1 Circuit and it wasn’t open for any race day or anything but we were allowed to roam the Welcome Center, which gives us an idea of what to expect should a real race be ongoing. They have particular dates set for visitors who wants to experience the whole F1 thrill and you can view that schedule on their website.
So after a little look and see, we went into their gift store and purchased some much-deserved memorabilia:
|F1 shirts go for as low as 15BD each.|
|Are there any fridge magnet collectors out there? This is a good buy at 4BD.|
We also wanted to visit the renowned Arad Fort, which is an old castle in the opposite side of these two locations, unfortunately, it was also closed at our time of visit, so I can only leave you with a photo of it from the outside.
|There will concerts held here come March and April. 🙂|
Okay so by now, you hopefully have an idea of the sights to see around Bahrain apart from the scantily-clad band girls inside the corner bars of the city. In that light, don’t forget to get souvenirs as well for the friends you left back in Saudi Arabia. The souks in Bab Al Bahrain will give you a good price with their items:
|Head bands and bookmarks for 1BD each.|
|It looks like Riyadh isn’t the only one using the Kikay Camels. ;P|
I debated with myself on whether I should still put photos of the rest of the “contraband” that’s available in Bahrain (since here I was trying to put a different spin on the place). But, I figured, if it will help convince you to take a trip there, then why not right? The important thing is that I’ve shed a different light to what can be done in Bahrain (nagmamalinis much? :P) and there is a lot to enjoy in that neighboring country, six hours away. So, here it is:
|Movie lovers will enjoy their state-of-the-art cinemas at Bahrain City Center Mall.|
|Who loves BreadTalk in the Phils? They have it there at BCC too!|
|The obligatory “pork overload” at Hot Pot. From L-R clockwise: Sinigang na Baboy, Crispy Pata, Sisig and Inihaw na Liempo.|
And there you have it! Oh and before I forget, yes, there are a lot of “reports” on current unrest in Bahrain and that it may not be safe to go (at the time of writing) but when I went there (which was Feb 15-17), everything looked normal except for some road closures and visible police presence. In my own experience, I didn’t feel afraid or anything like that since everyone else seemed to carry on quite normally. Just to lessen your risk, I would suggest to ask someone who actually lives in Bahrain, regarding possible unrests. Other than that, I think you’d be just fine.
Enjoy the city and what it has to offer. It’s a good place to unwind and relax in a not-so-distant manner from Saudi Arabia. 🙂
|I’ll see you again Bahrain!|
Until my next travel,
Special thanks to Ms. Virgie and her husband, Mohammad for being our gracious hosts during this trip! 🙂
Very informative! We plan to visit khobar and bahrain at the end of this month. We think of taking the VIP Bus from Riyadh to Khobar. Can you give us info on where to buy the tickets and ride the bus as well?thanks in advance…
Hi i came acrosss your website as i was looking for infos on how i can enter bahrain from riyadh. Is it thw same as dubai, that i can get my visa upon my arrival? And do you have any idea how much is bahrain entry visa? Thanks ! 🙂
Yes you can get a visa on arrival at the border but depends on your occupation stated in your iqama too. It’s around SR 200.
I have one question. Is it advisable to go with your (female friend) via BUS from Riyadh to Manama ?
Or if any female want to go alone is it okay? or would they ask for any guardian etc.?
Anyone (male or female) can ride the bus coming from Riyadh going to Bahrain as long as he/she has a valid passport and exit/re-entry visa required. The bus is segragated anyway, from single males and families/single females so it’s safe for single women to travel on their own.
I hope that helps!