It was time for Hajj holiday. My friend & I decided to venture out to some unfamiliar place. We made up our mind to see the little neighbor of Saudi that was Bahrain.
With more than a week to prepare and a limited budget, I researched on the cheapest possible way to travel to Bahrain. It’s a good thing that my friend’s friend was also interested to join us, meaning there were three of us to share the expenses like accommodation, food, transportation, etc. We were all excited to see Bahrain.
But the thrill vanished when we learned that my friend’s employer did not issue visa for her which made her backed out on the last minute. Even her friend decided not to continue anymore. I felt frustrated and was having second thought whether I will still continue or not. But in the end my adventurous soul prevailed. With an enthusiastic and eager spirit, I embarked on this journey all by myself.
I preferred to travel with SAPTCO from Riyadh to Manama, the capital of Bahrain, since it’s the most economical way that I can have during that time although it’s not the most convenient because of long travel time.
SAPTCO Bus Station is located in Azizia near Nesto Hypermarket. For this trip, I went there without prior reservations. I had to buy a ticket going to Dammam first since there’s no direct bus to Manama. Ticket cost SR 70. Bus leaves every hour. I took the 8pm trip. There was a 30 minutes stopover on the journey. It was a 6-hour drive from Riyadh to Dammam. Bus arrived at 2 am. Since it was holiday, bus going to Manama was fully-booked and the next available trip was at 2pm that day. I just slept on the female’s lounge while waiting for my 2pm bus schedule.
The bus going to Manama came on time. Ticket cost SR 70. After waiting for less than 30 minutes we finally left the bus station and started our journey to Bahrain. Crossing King Fahad Causeway was such a fun experience. This 25 km-long series of bridges and causeways connects Saudi and Bahrain. The agonizing traffic on the causeway was expected since it was the start of holiday. The usual 2 hours border crossing became 4 hours.
The immigration process was quick and simple. The bus driver together with his 9-year old Saudi boy buddy acted as our guide. This witty, little boy seemed to memorize the process and was very attentive to all the passengers.
As for the immigration process, make sure to have your passport, original iqama and exit re-entry visa ready. We went through 3 stops. First stop, passport check on the Saudi side. We walked to the immigration building and presented our passport and left it to the officer. The bus driver later brought all the passports and distributed it to its passengers. The second stop was the passport check on Bahrain side. Same process, but this time they asked for iqama. I got a little nervous as I wasn’t so sure if I can get a visa on arrival because of my profession on iqama. I felt relieved when the officer asked SR 50 for visa fee and stamped my passport. I was overwhelmed getting a visa that I forgot to ask its validity (Anyway, I won’t stay long). The third stop was the customs check. Here, we had to bring all our things and baggage and passed it through the scanning machine then went back to the bus. And the journey continued. From the border, it took another hour to reach Manama city center.
The moment the bus arrived at the terminal, I immediately called the cheapest hotel I found on Booking.com to check if there’s still an available room. Luckily, they’re not fully-booked. The hotel is in Um Al Hassam surrounded with shops and restaurants. After I checked-in, I decided to check the area to look for a restaurant wherein I will buy dinner then return to my hotel room to fix my things and take rest.
The first thing I did the next morning was to visit my friend who is working in a hotel nearby. He had work that day so he couldn’t tour me around the city. He just treated me breakfast and after an hour of chit chatting I finally decided to say goodbye and return to the hotel.
Once i checked-out of the hotel, I started to explore the beauty of Bahrain. The good thing is I only had a backpack where i put all my things so it’s easier and more comfortable to go from one place to another.
Bahrain is a tiny island nation in the Middle East. Being the most liberal of the GCC countries, this little Arab country is known as the weekend getaway of Saudis and expats who want to escape from the strict rules of the conservative kingdom.
Bahrain is a relatively small country so you might think that it’s easy to explore its famous landmarks. But tourist spots in Bahrain are from each other. It would be more convenient if you have your own car since taxi fare is also expensive. By the way, taxi drivers in Bahrain are locals. There are also privately owned cars that operate for a cheaper fare. Although Bahrain has also a good public bus system which is really cheap, its route is some kind of out of the way from its tourist landmarks. Saudi riyals can be used anywhere with the conversion 1 BHD=10 SAR, there’s no need to go to money changer.
My first stop was Al Fateh Grand Mosque. As I was waiting for a taxi to come, I saw a fellow kabayan passing by and asked him where the mosque is. He said it’s almost 20 minutes away. He also asked if i want, we can go together since he was also heading that way which I didn’t refuse. Kuya knew some short cuts and after a few minutes of walking and talking, we finally parted our ways. I could already see the huge building of Al Fateh Mosque.
Al Fateh Grand Mosque is not only the largest mosque in Bahrain but also one of the largest in the world. Built in 1987, it can accommodate more than 7,000 worshippers. It was named after Ahmed Al Fateh, the founder of Bahrain.
Unfortunately, it was closed for visitors due to Eid holiday so I just took pictures of its outside structures before going to my next destination.
While heading to the gate, a car stopped beside me and offered me a ride. They were the couple whom I also saw taking photos on the mosque hallway. At first, I thought they will only drop me to the nearest bus stop but this lovely couple brought me straight to the National Museum.
Bahrain National Museum is the right place to be if you want to know its rich history and heritage that dates back to thousand years ago. I wasn’t really expecting too much history from Bahrain that’s why I was taken aback to discover how rich its history is. The museum has a vast collection of artifacts starting from its ancient Dilmun civilization, traditional life of Bahrainis, its pearl industry and Pre-Islamic era among others. Ticket cost BHD 1.
After more than an hour of exploring the museum, I set off to my next destination, Bahrain Fort.
Bahrain Fort or Qal’at Bahrain is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to UNESCO, Qal’at al-Bahrain is a typical tell, an archaeological mound created by human occupation and abandonment of a geographical site over many centuries. It was once the capital of Dilmun civilization which explained why many archeological findings were discovered here.
There is also a museum nearby but I chose to skip this one to provide more time for my next stop, the Bab Al Bahrain.
Bab al Bahrain or Gateway of Bahrain is a historical building that marks the main entrance to Manama Souk. It has a great selection of souvenir shops and restaurants. It’s a typical market wherein you will see the daily lives of its locals.
After buying some souvenirs and a quick snack, I decided to go out of the souk and explore its nearby establishments. One thing that caught my attention was the presence of lady police. I was also surprised to learn that some of their police are Pakistanis.
There are some interesting buildings near the gateway. I could also see Bahrain’s famous landmark from a short distance. So I did not miss the chance to get a little closer to it and take a selfie of Bahrain World Trade Center.
For my last stop, I headed to BCC Mall (City Center Bahrain) which is the largest mall in Bahrain where I had my dinner before going to terminal to catch the last bus going to Saudi.
At exactly 11 pm, the bust left the terminal and it was time for me to bid Bahrain goodbye. It was an exhausting yet fulfilling trip. I will definitely come back next time to see more of what Bahrain has to offer.