Kingpin's Guide for a Professional Life in Bahrain
In 2018 Bahrain among other Middle Eastern countries will introduce VAT for the first time, leading to an increase in demand for tax professionals in the country. Although the introductory VAT rate is only 5%, there are suggestions that other taxes will follow in the future.
Why make a corporate move to Bahrain?
Bahrain has a population of 1.3 million and only 48% of the population are Bahraini nationals, the rest being expats. Therefore, the country is known as a melting pot of people from various nationalities and backgrounds. Expats account for almost 70% of the workforce and the main reason for internationals moving to the country is finance. Bahrain is number 5 in the top 10 locations for improving income and most expats have a higher standard of living while living and working here and tend to earn more money than what they would in their home country. The cost of living in the country is comparable to others and is dependent on your standard of living and requirements. However, grocery shopping is reasonable and is mainly cheaper than most home countries.
Bahrain came out on top in the Expat Insider 2017 and were winners across multiple categories. The survey had more than 12,500 respondents with 166 nationalities in 188 different countries or territories. The capital of Bahrain and its largest city, Manama, came out first in the expat city ranking. The capital attained second place in the getting settled index with 88% of respondents agreeing that it’s easy for expats to find accommodation. Furthermore, Bahrain has earned first place in ease for settling in and 2nd for work-life balance.
Did you know that Bahrain has only been independent for 46 years?
- The local currency is the Bahraini Dinar (abbreviated BD or BHD)
- The official language is Arabic
- Bahrain is a Muslim country with strict laws
- Women must be covered from shoulders to knees and tend to wear a traditional abaya
- Be prepared for a change in weather. Winters are mild but summers tend to reach over 40°C
- Public displays of affection (PDA) is considered offensive and it is only acceptable for a married couple to hold hands in public
- Alcohol is illegal in the country but expats can buy it at a specific store, where you have to register first, and some hotels and bars in the city
Life in the Middle East
If you are moving to work in the country then you will need a VISA, unless you already hold a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) passport. The immigration process starts with your employer, who acts as your sponsor and sends your invitation to stay. Family members and any dependants can also apply for a residency permit or “Family Visa” which will allow them to stay in Bahrain for the duration of the assignment but will not allow them the right to work.
In terms of public transportation, the two most popular means of transport are bus and taxi. Bahrain has a bus service which covers 32 routes and has 141 buses running daily. More information regarding this can be found on the Ministry of Transport website. There are over 1200 taxis operating in the country and they are used by many to get around. The taxis should all have a meter and specific rates, and ensure this is the case before using one in the country. Bahrain International Airport is a short car journey from Manama and is considered a major air traffic hub in the Middle East. The airport has frequent regional and international connections and destinations.
Bahrain’s healthcare system has improved over the last few years. Expats will have the choice of either public or private healthcare. There are numerous state-funded hospitals, maternity hospitals, as well as private medical facilities and clinics across the country.
Expats tend to stay in purpose-built compounds which are close to where they work or where their children go to school. These hold many benefits including on-site gyms, added security and receptions as well as easing the culture change for people coming from the West. Finding accommodation is rather straightforward, and expats tend to receive help and support from their employer.
The most popular expat areas to live are Manama, Adliya, Amwaj Islands and Saar. All of these areas are common with expats and have a wide variety of accommodation options on offer. Due to the population being 52% internationals, there are a lot of expat community groups where you can meet other people in a similar situation. Facebook groups such as Bahrain Expats Q&A and Bahrain Expat both offer the opportunity to get in touch with other expats before moving to the country. This would allow you to establish connections, gain valuable advice and get any answers to any questions you may have.
There are a number of International schools across Bahrain. A full list can be found on the Expat Arrivals website as well as the curriculums each school follows. The most popular international schools are the British School of Bahrain, St. Christopher’s School and the Naseem International School. Attending an international school allows children to gain international qualifications such as the Baccalaureate and makes the transition across countries slightly easier. Places in these schools fill up quickly, therefore it is recommended that organising schooling be a priority before arriving in Bahrain.
What to do in Bahrain
Bahrain, just like its Middle Eastern counterparts, is well known for shopping. There are numerous malls across the country, especially in the capital. The malls have stores from many world renown brands, both high street and designer. Besides from shopping, there is still a lot to see and do. The Bahrain National Museum is a must see and will allow you to fully appreciate your new home in the Kingdom. It has 4,000 years worth of history across 9 main halls. The Al-Fatih Mosque is popular amongst tourists and locals alike and is one of the biggest mosques in the country and displays beautiful architecture and art throughout. For adventure seekers, the Bahrain International Circuit is a great day out for a visit on a race day. Although not internationally recognised for its sporting stature or achievements, sport is growing ever more popular in Bahrain and across the Gulf Region. Bahrain is home to one championship standard Golf course, the ‘Royal Golf Club’, which also offers lessons and activities for children. Another spectacular attraction of Bahrain is Al Areen Wildlife Park. This nature reserve and zoo is home to a variety of birds, mammals and endangered animals. Aside from sports and tourist attractions, there are plenty of places to enjoy when the sun goes down. Bahrain’s cities have a wide range of restaurants and bars which include a variety of cuisines.
If you are interested in a move to Bahrain or anywhere else in the world then get in touch with a member of the Kingpin International team. Alternatively, please browse our current International tax vacancies.