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15/11/2010
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Travel & living abroad

Middle East and North Africa

Kuwait

Flag of Kuwait
Still current at: 15 November 2010
Updated: 15 September 2010

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Summary and to the Local Laws and Customs section (removal of reference to Ramadan) and to the Entry Requirements - Visas section (price of Kuwaiti visa). The overall level of the advice has not changed; there are currently no travel restrictions in place in Kuwait.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

Travel advice for this country

Travel Summary

  • On 24 August 2009, one of the main pumping stations in Kuwait City broke down and untreated sewage was released into the sea. The problem has largely been dealt with, but it is advisable to avoid swimming in the sea off public beaches near Kuwait City.

  • There remains a general threat from terrorism. Terrorists continue to issue statements threatening to carry out attacks in the Gulf region. These include references to attacks on Western interests, including residential compounds, military, oil, transport and aviation interests. See the Safety and Security - Terrorism section.

  • In August 2009, Kuwaiti security forces disrupted a Kuwaiti terrorist cell and arrested six Kuwaiti nationals who were in the final stages of planning a major attack against a US military base in Kuwait. In January and February 2005, Kuwaiti security forces mounted operations against suspected militants and discovered bomb-making equipment and material linked with planned kidnaps.

  • You should review your security arrangements carefully and maintain a high level of security awareness, particularly in public places.  Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations.  Exercise caution if you intend to travel through or to conservative areas such as Jahra, where there have been incidents involving firearms, and Jleeb As Shuyoukh where there have been riots by migrant workers protesting about their conditions in the past.

  • Most visits are trouble-free. 27 British nationals required consular assistance in Kuwait in the period 1 April 2009 – 31 March 2010 for the following types of incident; deaths (6 cases); hospitalisations (2 cases); and arrests, for a variety of offences (13 cases). During this period assistance was also requested with regard to lost or stolen passports (14 cases). Labour disputes are common; the Embassy cannot usually intervene in these, so if you are considering coming to work in Kuwait you are advised to check the details of your contract thoroughly in advance .

  • Penalties for trafficking, dealing and using illegal drugs are severe.  Penalties for drug trafficking include the death sentence. See the Local Laws and Customs section.

  • We recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. See the General - Insurance section of this Travel Advice.

Safety and security

Safety and Security - Terrorism
There remains a general threat from terrorism. Attacks cannot be ruled out and could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. Attacks could be directed against Western, including British, interests. 

Terrorists continue to issue statements threatening to carry out attacks in the Gulf region. These include references to attacks on Western interests, including residential compounds, military, oil, transport and aviation interests. In August 2009, Kuwaiti security forces disrupted a Kuwaiti terrorist cell and arrested six Kuwaiti nationals who were in the final stages of planning a major attack against a US military base in Kuwait. In January and February 2005, Kuwaiti security forces arrested nearly 40 suspected militants in a series of operations, some involving shooting. Bomb-making equipment and material linked with planned kidnaps were discovered. Most of those arrested have since been sentenced to death or to imprisonment. You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners. For more general information see terrorism abroad. Please also check the British Embassy website

Safety and Security - Crime
Incidents of violent crime against foreigners are rare.  Some 6,000 British nationals live in Kuwait, and we estimate over 40,000 visit each year.  Most visits to Kuwait are trouble-free.  However, you should exercise caution if you intend to travel through or to conservative areas such as Jahra, where there have been incidents involving firearms, and Jleeb As Shuyoukh where there have been riots by migrant workers protesting about their conditions in the past.

See victims of crime abroad.
 
Developments in Iraq, Iran and on the Middle East Peace Process continue to have an impact on local public opinion in the region. You should be aware of local sensitivities on these issues and follow news reports about regional developments. Take sensible precautions for your personal safety and avoid public gatherings and demonstrations.

Safety and Security - Local Travel
Only authorised road border crossing points into Iraq and Saudi Arabia should be used. Any other unauthorised movement in the vicinity of borders is illegal and dangerous: armed guards patrol the border area. If you are planning to cross the border from Kuwait into Iraq you, should ensure that you have the correct paperwork. The British Embassy can offer advice on this. Landmines and other hazardous ordnance are still present in Kuwait. Off-road driving is therefore discouraged. However, if you do travel off-road, confine your movements – whether by bicycle or on foot - to clearly identifiable tracks, and exercise great care, because even if an area has been officially cleared, there is still a danger of unexploded ordnance. Do not pick up any strange metal, plastic or other objects lying around or souvenir-hunt for war memorabilia. 

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road Travel
You can drive on an International Driving Licence. Third party insurance is compulsory. Anyone applying for residence in Kuwait can also drive on an International Driving Licence until such time as the residency permit is issued. Thereafter, a Kuwaiti driving licence is required. Driving is hazardous. Many drivers pay scant attention to other road users; driving in excess of speed limits, switching lanes without warning, frequently ignoring traffic lights and using mobile phones while driving. You should remain vigilant at all times. If you have an accident you must stay with the vehicle and not attempt to move it. Call the police. It is an offence to leave the scene of an accident before the police arrive. Hailing a taxi from the road is not advisable in Kuwait, particularly if you are female. There have been a few incidents of passengers being harassed while doing so. We recommend that you book a taxi in advance by telephone, from a known and reputable taxi company.

See driving abroad

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Sea Travel
On 24 August 2009, one of the main pumping stations in Kuwait City broke down and untreated sewage was released into the sea. The problem has largely been dealt with, but it is advisable to avoid swimming in the sea off Kuwait City.

Many areas of the Gulf are highly sensitive, including near maritime boundaries and the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in the southern Gulf. The area in the northern Gulf, between Iran, Iraq and Kuwait has not been demarcated and vessels entering these areas have been detained and inspected; and there have been occasional arrests. Mariners should make careful enquiries before entering these waters or considering visiting ports.

In March 2006, a Dhow capsized in Bahrain. There were 58 fatalities, including 12 British nationals. Exercise care when travelling by Dhow, as the safety of these vessels may not be up to UK standards. You should also ensure that life jackets are available.

See river and sea safety.

Safety and Security - Political Situation
Kuwait country profile

Local laws and customs

Kuwait is a Muslim country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.

See travelling during ramadan

In public, general modesty of behaviour and dress is expected. Women who wear shorts or tight-fitting clothes, in particular in downtown areas, are likely to attract unwelcome attention. You should carry your passport or a Kuwait civil identification card, if you have one, at all times. The importation of narcotics, alcohol, pork products and obscene material is forbidden and can lead to imprisonment. Convictions of possession and abuse of drugs can lead to a prison sentence of between five years and ten years and a heavy fine. Bail is usually not given for drug offences and even if found not guilty you can expect to spend several months detained in prison while the case progresses through the judicial system. Penalties for drug trafficking include the death sentence. Drunken behaviour in public or driving under the influence of alcohol is punishable by a fine or imprisonment and/or deportation and the withdrawal of the driving licence. Photography near government, military and industrial sites, particularly oil fields, is forbidden. 'Bouncing' cheques is illegal and the law does not provide for offenders to be released from custody on bail. 'Post dated' cheques can be banked immediately. Homosexual behaviour is illegal, and so is any public display of affection between men and women.

Co-habiting of unmarried partners in Kuwait is illegal. If you wish to live with your partner in the same house, you need to be married.

See our your trip page.

Entry requirements

Entry Requirements - Visas

British nationals travelling by air can obtain a 90-day visit/business visas on arrival in Kuwait. You will be charged ten Kuwaiti Dinars for the visa. Further information can be obtained from the Kuwait Embassy in London. Exchange facilities are available at Kuwait International Airport 24 hours a day, every day. You should have a ticket for travel out of Kuwait. It may speed the processing of the visa if the traveller is able to show a sponsor's letter or confirmation of a hotel reservation. If you have an Israeli stamp in your passport you may be refused visas/entry to Kuwait. Travellers arriving by land or sea should obtain visas in advance from the Kuwaiti Embassy in London.

Entry Requirements - Passport Validity
Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond the end of your intended stay.

Entry Requirements - Entering from Iraq
If you are planning to enter Kuwait overland from Iraq, it is best to obtain a visa in advance. Take careful and up-to-date advice (including from the FCO travel advice) about travel in Southern Iraq, which remains very dangerous.

Entry Requirements - Applying to work or live in Kuwait
For work or residency visas you should apply to the Kuwaiti Embassy in London.

British nationals intending to apply for a residence visa for their dependants in Kuwait must make sure that they have their original marriage certificates legalised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK or by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the country in which they got married. The same procedure applies to their children’s original birth certificates. These documents are a must for processing a residence visa in Kuwait.

Entry Requirements - Travelling with children
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration please contact the Kuwaiti Embassy in London.

Health

There is a state medical service with local clinics and several good hospitals. There are also a number of doctors and dentists in private practice/hospitals. Fees are controlled by the State and are expensive.

You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. See our HIV and AIDS page.

You should seek medical advice before travelling to Kuwait and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general diseases protection and prevention you should visit the websites of NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct 0845 46 47.

See our travel health page.

General

General - Insurance
We recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. If things go wrong when you are overseas, see When Things Go Wrong.

General - Commercial dispute
Anyone involved in a commercial dispute with a Kuwaiti company or individual may be prevented from leaving the country pending resolution of the dispute.

General - Retention of passports
It is common practice for the passports of foreign nationals resident in Kuwait to be retained by sponsors. You should keep a copy of your passport.

General - Registration
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.

General - Kuwait Airways
Kuwait Airways require flights to be reconfirmed at least 48 hours before departure.

General - Money
ATMs are widespread and credit cards are accepted almost everywhere.

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Contacts

Kuwait, British Embassy

Address:

British Embassy
Arabian Gulf Street
Dasman

Postal Address
British Embassy
P O Box 2
Safat 13001
Kuwait

Visa application centre:
UK visa application Centre 4B
1st Floor, Al Banwan Building, Al Qibla Area Ali
Al Salem Street , Opposite the Central Bank of Kuwait,
Kuwait City
VAC website
Telephone:
2297 1170 and 2247 7490

Trade and Investment:
P O Box 300
Safat 13003
Kuwait

Telephone:

(+965) 2259 4320

Fax:

Political & Defence:     (+965) 2259 4339
Consular:                   (+965) 2259 4359
Trade & Investment:   (+965) 2259 4368
Management:             (+965) 2259 4352

Office hours:

Local Time:
Sunday-Thursday: 0730-1430

GMT:
Sun-Thur: 0430-1130
The weekend in Kuwait is Fri-Sat

Public access:

Consular, Emergency Travel Document & Notarial Services are available to British Passport Holders at the Embassy: Sun - Thu  0900 - 1200

Access to other Embassy Sections: By appointment only

Visa Applications must be lodged at the: Visa Application Centre (VAC).

Website: http://ukinkuwait.fco.gov.uk

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