To the east of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain is a small country connected to Saudi by a 15-mile (24 km) long bridge (The King Fahd Causeway) that spans the Arabian Gulf. With so many incredible things to see and do in Saudi Arabia, you might be wondering what would cause one to visit such a small country to the east? Being one of the more liberal countries in the Middle East, you can drink alcohol in Bahrain, dress more liberally, and you’ll have unlimited access to the pools and beaches. It’s the perfect weekend escape if you want to stay close to the Kingdom and you’re on a time crunch.
If you’re looking for other regions of Saudi Arabia to explore, don’t miss the Asir Province
From Riyadh: A Weekend Trip to Manama, Bahrain
In my opinion, the biggest draw to visiting Bahrain is the Friday brunch that is held all over the country. (Trust me when I say, this isn’t your typical brunch). In Bahrain, you usually pay a flat fee for an all you can eat, all you can drink party. So if you’re visiting Bahrain, I highly suggest arriving Thursday night or Friday morning to partake in the festivities.
Getting to Manama from Riyadh
Because of Bahrain’s proximity to Saudi Arabia, there are many easy ways to get to Manama from Riyadh. Below you’ll find the different options…
You can hire a private driver to take you to Bahrain and back for a total of around $600-$700. If you do hire a private driver make sure that there is going to be a driver waiting for you at the Bahrain border to take you to where you’re staying and that it is included in the price.
The drive from Riyadh to Manama is about 5 hours. In my opinion, this is the best option if there’s a group of people going and you can split the cost.
There’s a train – Saudi Arabia Railways – that runs from Riyadh to Dammam (a Saudi city on the border of the the country near Bahrain), that takes about 4 hours and costs less than $100 one-way. The train runs five times/day giving you plenty of options to choose from. Once you get to Dammam, you’ll need to hire a taxi to take you over the bridge to Bahrain. This part of the trip will take about an hour and a half. This is easily the cheapest option (if you’re traveling alone), but the most inconvenient.
The easiest way to arrive to Manama is by plane. The main airline that flies from Riyadh to Manama is Gulf Air, a Bahraini airline; although there are other airlines you can fly that may not be as timely. I prefer to use Kayak when comparing choices. You’ll want to fly out of RUH and into BAH. The flight is quick at just about an hour.
A Weekend Guide to Manama
Where to Stay in Manama
Manama is pretty small and it’s easy to get around, so it doesn’t so much matter where you’re staying as everything is within a 10-15 minute drive. If you’re looking for a “cool” area where you can walk around and be near a lot of bars/restaurants I suggest staying near Al Juffair. If you’re wanting to be near the beach, there are wonderful hotels north of Juffair on Bahrain’s northeast coast.
For a boutique stay, I really enjoyed The Merchant House near the Bab Al Bahrain souq.
If you arrive to Manama early enough and you’re looking for breakfast before brunch starts, head to Haji’s Traditional Cafe. Haji’s is cheap, quick service, and serves amazing Arabic food. When you’re done, walk the Bab Al Bahrain souq for a taste of local life in Bahrain. (If you don’t arrive to Manama early enough on Friday to do this, make sure you make time to do it Saturday before leaving).
I highly recommend spending your Friday afternoon at an epic bottomless brunch. You can find all you can eat, all you can eat brunches all over Manama for a flat rate, and they will last for at least a few hours. You can’t drink alcohol in Bahrain until noon, so nothing starts before noon. (I participated in bottomless brunch at ElChapo but wouldn’t recommend it).
For breakfast on Saturday, head to Indigo Terrace on top of The Merchant’s House for a beautiful and delicious breakfast spread. Once you’re done make sure to visit the Bahrain National Museum and Al Fateh Grand Mosque before hitting the pool/beach.
For dinner, I highly recommend eating at Mirai Restaurant & Lounge. Mirai is an award-winning Japanese and sushi restaurant that has been on the island since 2003.
Bahrain is a fun country to get “away” and feel more “normal” (if you will). Would I prioritize it over other countries in the Middle East or surrounding area? No. But it’s a great choice if you’re looking for something quick, easy, fun, and relaxing.
For more on Bahrain, including how to dress, how to get around, and general safety tips; don’t miss The Ultimate Bahrain Travel Guide