Say hi to Magdalena, a blogger and expatriate who now calls Bahrain home.
Czech born Magdalena has lived in Manama for two years. After moving here from the UK with her husband, she gave birth to their son Max and is now happily settled (for now) in the island of pearls.
Here she shares a slice of her expat life in Bahrain.
What’s life in Bahrain like? Tell me about the culture.
The culture in Bahrain is very open minded and liberal.
As it is a Muslim country, people always ask me how strict it is and what local people are like towards expats. The locals are mostly friendly and liberal people allowing us expats to wear what we like and socialise how we like.
Culture is very rich and is influenced by many expats living here – as well as Western expats there are also lots of Indians and Filipinos.
The Arabic culture is rich and welcoming.
And how about the Bahraini lifestyle. Any tips?
Bahrain is a very liberal and friendly country but of course I would advice anyone visiting to be respectful of the culture.
Drinking alcohol is only allowed in certain restaurants and bars (mostly in hotels) and drinking in public is illegal.
Also do not visit in the summer months – from around June until September the weather is so hot it is simply unbearable to be able to do anything outside.
Is Bahrain a good place to live as a family? Is life in Bahrain child friendly?
Family life in Bahrain is simply great.
The culture is very kid friendly and people love children here so much you can really feel it. There are always events for kids being held and even events for adults (such as the annual Grand Prix) have entertainment for children.
Given the great weather you can spend most of the year on the beach or by the pool which is right up my street.
Tell me about healthcare
Healthcare for expats is private. It is only free for Bahraini nationals. But expats do get looked after pretty well here and I would say the quality is good.
It is a small country however and there is a lack of specialists of course and from my own experience – a lack of anything alternative.
I gave birth to my son last year and having a home birth is just not allowed. None of the hospitals provide conditions for water birth either.
Is Bahrain safe for tourists?
Bahrain is one of the safest countries I have ever visited. The penalties are simply so high that the crime rate is really low. I get very relaxed about watching my belongings when I’m out in a coffee shop or a public place. Then I have to constantly remind myself to be careful when I’m back in Europe!
Is it expensive to live in Bahrain? What’s the cost of living like?
Cost of living in Bahrain is not cheap. Coming from the UK the cost of living and a food shop is double of what it is in the UK! So it takes some getting used to.
Eating out varies so much because you can eat with the locals or small corner shops and it will cost you peanuts. But if you venture out to a trendy restaurant or a hotel it will be triple the price. For a nice dinner for two in a trendy place you would pay about 50 BD (£100).
Traveling around on the other hand is cheap. The public transport is not very good nor reliable. The cost of petrol is so cheap (200 fills a litre which equals to £0.45p!) that you are better off hiring a car and driving around yourself.
You will be able to find a decent hotel for £50 a night. If you fancy staying in one of the luxurious hotels on the island and go all out you are looking at around £200-300 a night.
Any recommendations for restaurants, hotels and cafes?
There are tons of trendy coffee shops around Bahrain – Dose, Innovations Theme cafe, Coffea or Grind to name a few.
I have always loved Arabic food but I fell in love with it in Bahrain – Lumee restaurant is a must for Bahraini street food. And Hajis in the souk is a must for a traditional Bahraini breakfast – the food and the vibe there are just so authentic.
There are so many hotels around the island to suit all budgets but if you really want to splurge then I would recommend the Jumeirah Royal Saray it just has the most beautiful setting.
Manama souk is a must to visit to get a proper authentic feel of the place.
And if you want to waste the day on the beach and feel like you are in a paradise then I would head to Al Dar islands and enjoy the beautiful warm waters.
Any disadvantageous of living in Bahrain?
Getting an organic and good quality produce that I don’t have to pay a fortune for is tricky. Finding eco and natural products is tough.
Did anything surprise you about life in Bahrain?
The way they drive in Bahrain! It’s a jungle with people breaking the rules on daily basis. The locals do not use car seats for kids or babies! You will often see kids moving around freely in the vehicle or hanging out of the windows.
Also the lack of beach culture – in Europe if there is a bit of beach people will be on it. In Bahrain, most of the good beaches are private.
Also I was so surprised to find out that it actually rains here during winter despite it being in a desert and having to pull out some of my winter clothes in winter!
Follow Magdalena’s expat journey in Bahrain at theexpatess.com
Are you an expat or migrant? To share a slice of your local life, contact me here.
I have loved reading your blog, I lived in Bahrain as a 16yr old and Studied at the Polyglot secretarial college in Manama, Im not sure if it is still there, I adored living in Bahrain and have wonderful memories , in 1980-1981 i met and fell in love with a Bahraini Hassan his father worked at the bank and so did he, He was 19 now 59, I’ve tried to find him but can’t find any info if there is any register i can look at online. We used to dance at The Tylos Hotel happy days, I would love to find out how his life turned out and if he has been happy, one day id love to go back to Bahrain it gave me a good life there, sadly i had to come back to the Uk with my parents and leave it and my sweetheart behind.
How fascinating! Your story reads like a movie! Keep me posted if you do ever return (and find your sweetheart!) x
I was in Manama, Bahrain as the first building administrator of Shehab Centre in 1980 to early 1982. My boss was a beautiful modern woman-Goli. I love the safe nightlife and the soukh. Locals are very friendly and I party a lot with them. I was a young man then. I’m planning to visit after this pandemic. I have just retired. I’m in California, USA.
Such an interesting post. Bahrain is one of the best place to stay.
Amo Barehin su gente y forma de vivir, los respetuosos que son. Vuelvo pronto!
Did you have any concerns with the air quality while you were there?
Hey Emily, Let me check with Magdalena who wrote this. I sent her a message and I’ll reply, or ask her to reply soonest. x