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Bahrain Car Rental
Although the public infrastructure continues to grow and improve on the tiny island nation of Bahrain, private automobiles are still the most popular mode of transportation. Renting a car here is fairly easy, however there are a number of things to consider before starting your engine.
Car rental counters are found at three different locations on the island, the Bahrain International Airport, Manama Center and Manai Plaza. All of the major car rental companies, including Hertz, Avis, Thrifty, Europcar, Budget, etc. are represented here, as well as several other smaller outfits. Car rental costs are in line with those of other major cities. In order to rent a car in Bahrain, one of the following is required: an International Drivers License, a UK or EC Drivers License or a Drivers License from a Gulf Cooperation Council Country. The license must be endorsed by the General Directorate of Traffic, and this is easily done at the rental counter.
Driving in Bahrain is relatively safe, however, the roads are growing more congested as of late. Taking to the road here does offer challenges for some drivers not accustomed to manuevering in the Middle East, and motorists should take time to become knowledgeable about the distinctions. First off, driving takes place on the right side of the road, as in Europe and the U.S. Signs are prominently displayed, and they are posted in both Arabic and English. Roads are monitored by traffic police, identifiable by their white vehicles with red stripes, and laws are expected to be obeyed. There is widespread use of modern traffic equipment, including speed cameras and light sensors. Motorists must wear seatbelts at all times and are fined for their lack of use.
The presence of roundabouts is confusing to many drivers who have not experienced them before. Although they are presently being phased out by the government in favor of merging lanes, they are still prevalent. In Bahrain, right of way is given to vehicles already in the roundabout, and signs dictate such. Some roundabouts have stoplights, and vehicles are prevented from entering the roundabout when the light is red, even if there are no vechicles currently in the roundabout. Vehicles exiting soon should stay in the right lane of the roundabout and those exiting later should maintain the left lane. Drivers should remain vigilant and courteous while in the roundabout, ready to give way to other vehicles when necessary.
Drinking and driving is strongly prohibited in Bahrain. Simply the smell of alcohol on a driver's breath is sufficient for arrest. Penalties for drunk driving include imprisonment and large fines. Although Bahrain is home to the International Circuit, the top speed limit on the roads here is 120 km/h and the speeds are dilligently monitored by the traffic police and their speed guns.
The use of the car horn is an art form in Bahrain, similar to its usage in Europe. A long horn sound denotes a stern warning and should receive full consideration. A shorter horn sound is used for a slight warning, or even as a thank you. Repeated horn blasts are considered a directive to other drivers to get moving, and are often blared at roundabouts to tentative motorists.
Similarly, the use of headlights serves multiple purposes in Bahrain. Drivers may flash their low beams to signify their willingness to let another vehicle pass. In other circumstances, it may be a request to give right of way. Motorists should be aware of these distinctions and make an effort to understand the nuances of driving here.
Drivers should pay careful attention to roads on weekends, when Bahrain is especially crowded with vacationers from other countries, who are not well versed in driving on the island. Likewise, pedestrian traffic is significantly increased on weekends.
All of that being said, driving in Bahrain is a fairly easy endeavor, especially compared with travel in other Middle Eastern cities. A car is necessary for visiting most locations on the island, as well as for travel across the causeway bridge into Saudi Arabia. The fact that the price of gasoline is quite inexpensive and taxis are quite unreliable makes travel by car the simplest and most affordable option.
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