The third race of the 2017 Formula 1 season takes place this weekend in Bahrain. Ahead of the event, ClICKON Motorsport put together a destination guide. You’ll find everything you need – places to go and tips help you out – if you’re lucky enough be travelling to F1’s desert race.
At a glance
Bahrain is a nation made up of 84 islands, located in the Middle East. In 1971, Bahrain declared independence from the UK and in 2002 Bahrain was declared a kingdom. With average temperatures in April expected to soar above 25 degrees, be sure to be prepared for the blazing desert sunshine.
Bahrain may not typically have the most polished exterior, especially since the uncertain outcome of the Arab Spring. Nonetheless, it is known to be a diamond emerging from the rough. The race track, Bahrain International Circuit, is situated 40 minutes South-West of the shopper’s paradise and capital Manama.
Seeing the sights
Bahrain Fort, known locally as Qal’at al-Bahrain, is said to be the must see of Bahrain. Located on the Arabian Peninsula, it is just a stone’s throw away from the decorated skyline of Manama.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to 5,000 years ago, providing an insight to the Copper and Bronze Ages of Bahrain. With free admission, you are at liberty to walk around and soak up the culture. Walking shoes have been recommended for climbing the towers, but do not let that put you off visiting this spectacular piece of history which has many stories to tell.
Bahrain National Museum has also been thoroughly commended. Described as the ‘crowning achievement of the Kingdom of Bahrain’s ongoing efforts to preserve the nation’s heritage and history,’ the museum was inaugurated in 1988 by the late Emir Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa. Open daily from 8 am to 8 pm, do definitely try and squeeze this into your itinerary.
Finally, Al Faith Mosque is somewhere to pay a visit. Built entirely on reclaimed land in 1884, it is the largest mosque in Bahrain and is capable of holding up to staggering seven-thousand worshipers. The mosque is constructed of Italian marble, Austrian glass and teak from India, providing nothing short of stunning design and architecture. Visitors will begin their guided tour at the small library immediately to the right inside the main entrance, where women will be given a black cloak and headscarf to wear while visiting the prayer hall. It must be pointed out that wearing shorts is prohibited. After the tour, visitors are welcome to free booklets in the Discover Islam series (published by the Muslim Educational Society of Bahrain), which help to dispel some of the commonly held misconceptions of Islam.
Cafe Lilou, specialising in French Cuisine, tops the Trip Advisor ratings for restaurants in Manama. Located in Adliya area and Seef District of the capital, there’s an extensive menu to choose off with very reasonable prices. Breakfast is said to be the meal to have there, boasting the best coffee in town. Be sure to visit for great service and a great atmosphere.
Bushido Restaurant, also situated in Manama, specialises in Japanese cuisine (yet offers many other varieties) with traditional Arabic music. A modernistic insight of ancient Japan, Bushido is an abode of pure charm. The entrance-way is dimly lit, imposing exhibits of Samurai coats of armour suspended in glass reaching all the way to the high wooden ceiling. Grand chandeliers provide lighting in the restaurant, showering the space in crimson light. Stylish, tick. Excellent food, double tick.
Another eatery famed for its ambience is ‘David’s Stir Fry Crazy’. Located in the capital, the duck dishes are well-renowned for being some of the best in the city. With a great selection of dishes to choose from, be sure to book in advance as tables fill up quickly. You’d be crazy not to visit this bustling hub for stir-fry goodness!
Whilst there is no public transport as such for getting to the race track, some hotels will have a shuttle going to Sakhir, so it is worth checking with them before booking. Other options include taxis and hire cars with a chauffeur. As a result, taxis are considered the best way to get around.
Below is a rough guide of what you’d expect to pay, plus the 10 percent expected service charge:
From the airport to Central Manama: £11 / €13
From Central Manama to the airport: £8 / €9
From Central Manama to the circuit: £18 / €21
These prices are for one-way journeys unless, of course, your hotel offers a complimentary shuttle service which the vast majority often do. Or, if they don’t, fees are often subsidised as part of your package.
In the capital itself, the best way to get around is by bus. The recently introduced public transport network runs 141 buses across 32 routes – effectively covering most of Bahrain. Tickets are paid for to the bus driver at the start of each journey. Operating on a ‘one-way’ payment system, tickets seldom cost over 50 pence – a very reasonable way of seeing the sights.
Things you need to know
Money: Bahrain’s currency is the Bahraini dinar (BD). One dinar is divided into 1,000 fils. There are 500-fil and one, five, ten and twenty dinar notes. Coins come in denominations of five, 10, 25, 50, 100 and 500 fils. The Bahraini dinar is a convertible currency and there are no restrictions on its import or export. It can be picked up relatively easily from local travel exchange bureaus.
Tipping: A service charge is added to the vast majority of bills in restaurants and hotels in Bahrain, so tipping is at your discretion. An appropriate tip for what is deemed ‘good service’ would be around 10%. Airport porters expect 200 fils per bag despite their services being covered by the airport tax. Taxi drivers do not expect a tip for short journeys but for longer journeys, 10% would be too be considered appropriate.
Safety: Via the Gov.UK website. Demonstrations and protests take place regularly and can, unfortunately, turn violent. You should be vigilant, avoid large crowds and demonstrations and be alert to local and regional developments. However, events like the grand prix are well marshalled, and security is tightened considerably for the duration.
The carrying of photographic ID for all residents of and visitors to Bahrain is compulsory. Under Bahraini law, it is an offence not to be able to present photographic ID, if asked to do so by a member of the Bahraini authorities, and you may be subject to a fine of up to 300 BHD.
Also, do not bring video cassettes or DVDs into the country. They may be withheld on arrival at the airport.
Regardless of its past, Bahrain has vast amounts to offer. Beneath the surface there is a hidden gem in the desert, showcasing diverse culture and realms of history. It is definitely somewhere which is worth exploring!