MT Business Travel: Frequent Flyer Asim Zafar's Guide to Bahrain

Where to go, what to drive, how to get there, where to stay, what to do, how much to spend.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

HOW TO GET THERE Gulf Air and BA fly from London to Bahrain International Airport, on Muharraq island. Both have a morning flight, and Gulf Air an overnight flight too. Incoming passengers usually have to pay a fee at the airport, so have some spare US dollars with you.

AIRPORT TO TOWN Don't take a local taxi: you may end up taking a long route. It's best to book a taxi through your hotel. If you haven't done this, order a Bahrain Limo on arrival (+973 17 266266). The journey to Bahrain island and most of its hotels takes about 20 minutes, but allow half an hour when returning to the airport.

BEST HOTELS Manama city, Bahrain's capital, is small, so there aren't many hotels to choose from. The Ritz-Carlton 1 (Seef Road, tel +973 17 580000, is good and has its own beach. Within Manama's central business district, known as the diplomatic centre, you will find the Sheraton 2 (6 Palace Avenue, +973 17 533533, and the Hilton 3 (Old Palace Road, +973 17 535000,, which are both good.

BEST ROOM The views from rooms at the Ritz-Carlton 1 (formerly the Royal Meridien) are good, as the hotel is on Manama Bay.

BEST BUSINESS RESTAURANT There are some great restaurants in Bahrain. The Gulf Hotel 4 (Bani Otbah Avenue) has the best Chinese restaurants, and there is a good Iranian restaurant at the Sheraton 2. Trader Vics at the Ritz-Carlton 1 has a good Italian restaurant; the Blue Elephant nearby 5 (Seef Road, +973 17 583555, is excellent for Thai food. For local cuisine, I like the Al Sawani 6 (on the seafront, off Al Fatih Highway, +973 17 290797). The Paradise Cafe & Restaurant 7 (Palace Avenue +973 17 535306, opposite the Sheraton) isn't fancy but has great Indian food. For a quick bite, there is a local Burgerland chain, with outlets around Manama.

A FEW HOURS TO KILL? The Al A'ali shopping complex 8 (Shaikh Kalifa Bin Salman Highway) is great for jewellery and rugs. Whatever price you are told for something, 50% of that should be your starting position.

Even at these nice shopping centres, don't be duped into thinking it's a fixed-price scenario. For more adventurous shopping, head down Bab-al Bahrain Avenue to the Manama bazaar 9, a series of souks lining the side streets. It's very traditional, and my wife and I like walking around it. At the top of the avenue is the Bab-al Bahrain, (gateway to Bahrain), once the main entrance to Manama. Other attractions include the Bahrain National Museum 10 (at intersection of Muharraq Causeway and Al Fatih Highway, +973 17 292977, which provides a good introduction to Bahrain and its history.

The Beit al Qur'an 11 (off Shaikh Hamad Causeway, +973 17 290101, is dedicated to the history of the Holy Koran. If you have a bit longer, visit Muharraq island, for a good sense of what a Bahraini neighbourhood is like.

BUSINESS ETIQUETTE The banks and legal firms in Bahrain have an international style and approach. As a general rule, don't be in a rush in meetings; try to adopt an unhurried style. Be prepared for some small talk at the start of meetings, and don't be afraid to talk about London or the UK, as many Bahrainis will have visited and find it interesting to hear about it. Women should dress conservatively and men should wear suits. Don't pack meetings in, and allow for them to start late and to over-run.

SECRETS OF THE JET SET It may be worth hiring a car and driver to transport you to meetings, and to and from your hotel. This costs about $25-$30 per hour.

Asim Zafar is an executive director of Crescent Capital, London.

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