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Kuwait

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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution in Kuwait due to the threat of terrorist attack. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor the media and other sources about possible new security risks.
  • Extremist groups in the region have the ability to carry out terror attacks in Kuwait and other countries. Possible targets include locations where Westerners congregate. See Safety and security.
  • Political developments locally and in the region can prompt demonstrations in Kuwait. Avoid all protests and large public gatherings. Follow the advice of local authorities. See Safety and security.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visas

You'll need a visa to enter Kuwait.

You can get a visa on arrival that is valid for three months from the date of entry. Visa payments are accepted in cash (Kuwaiti Dinar).

Alternatively, you can get tourist, business and work visas online through the Kuwait e-Visa website. For employment or residency visas, contact an Embassy of Kuwait.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact an Embassy of Kuwait for up-to-date information.  

Visitors who overstay their visas face significant fines or travel bans. Carefully check the expiry date on your visa and comply with all your visa conditions.

Other formalities

You won't be able to exit Kuwait if you're placed under a travel ban. Travel bans are rigidly enforced and may take months to resolve. You could be issued with a travel ban if you're charged with a criminal offence or are under investigation, if you're involved in a financial dispute, of if you have unpaid debts or fines, including for traffic or parking offences.

If you're seeking employment or residency visas, you'll need to have all required documents authenticated before you arrive in Kuwait. See Laws.

Customs officials use strict screening procedures to detect illicit imports. See Laws.

You may experience difficulties as you enter Kuwait if your passport has evidence of travel to Israel, such as entry or exit stamps. 

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after the date you intend to return to Australia. Kuwait won't issue entry, transit or other visas in Australian emergency passports.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception. If you're forced to hand over your passport, contact the Australian Embassy for advice. If you provide your passport to your employer, obtain a written, date stamped and signed receipt.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The local currency is the Kuwait Dinar (KWD). Declare all local and foreign currency equivalent in excess of KWD3,000 on arrival. ATMs are plentiful and credit cards are widely accepted, though some banks and shops do not accept foreign-issues bank and credit cards. Check with your bank before you leave to make sure that your cards will work in Kuwait.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world.

Kuwait is in a region that faces a significant threat of terrorism. Statements by terrorist groups have called for attacks against Western interests in the Gulf region. These include references to residential compounds and military, oil, transport and aviation interests. Extremist groups in the region have transnational capabilities to carry out attacks.

Locations where Westerners congregate are prime targets. Possible targets may include symbols of western culture such as restaurants, hotels and shopping centres. Theatres, international schools, public transport, tourist areas, mosques, religious sites, outdoor recreation events and markets could also be targeted.

  • Be alert to possible threats.
  • Report any suspicious activity or items to police.
  • In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided.
  • Monitor the media for any new or emerging threats.
  • Take official warnings seriously.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so. 
  • Avoid the affected area in the aftermath of an attack because of the risk of secondary attacks.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Civil unrest and political tension

Demonstrations occasionally take place in Kuwait. There have been occasional clashes between protestors and security forces. The situation is currently stable, but internal or external political developments may prompt future demonstrations.

There have been protests by Bidoons (stateless persons) demanding Kuwaiti citizenship. Protests have generally take place on Fridays, centred on the Jahra area outside of Kuwait City. Security forces have used water cannons and tear-gas to break up these protests.

  • Avoid all protests, demonstrations and large public gatherings.
  • Monitor media and other sources for advice of possible unrest. Avoid affected areas.
  • Take particular care in the areas of Al-Qibla, Jahra and Sulaibaya, and in the period surrounding Friday prayers in all parts of Kuwait.
  • Plan your activities to avoid potential unrest on days of national or commemorative significance.
  • Follow the advice of local authorities.
  • Be prepared to change your travel plans in case of disruptions.
  • If you're affected by transport disruptions, contact your airline, travel agent or insurer for assistance.

Crime

The crime rate in Kuwait is low but on the rise. There have been reports of physical and verbal harassment of women.

  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables in a secure location.
  • Take care of your belongings, especially in crowded places.
  • Avoid walking alone at night, particularly in isolated areas.
  • If you're female, travel with a companion if possible.

Local travel

Unexploded ordnance

There are some unexploded munitions, including landmines, in desert areas and on certain beaches. People have been injured after picking up strange metal or plastic objects. Don't stray from well-travelled roads.

Border crossing

Unauthorised movement near the borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia is illegal and dangerous. Armed guards patrol border areas. All travel to Iraq is dangerous.

  • Do not travel to Iraq.
  • If you travel to Iraq despite our advice, make sure you have correct documentation authorising your movements.
  • Use only authorised road border crossing points into Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

More information: Travel advice for Iraq

Road travel

Driving can be hazardous in Kuwait. You are nearly three and a half times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Kuwait than in Australia. Roads are generally well-maintained but speeding, reckless driving, road rage and drivers ignoring traffic lights are common.

It's an offence to leave the scene of an accident before police arrive. If you don't pay traffic or parking fines on time, your vehicle may be seized and you could face a travel ban preventing you from leaving Kuwait.

  • Check you have adequate insurance cover before driving.
  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Drive defensively and legally.
  • Don't drink and drive.
  • If you have an accident, stay with the vehicle and don't move it. Call the police on (Kuwait telephone number) 112.
  • Pay any traffic or parking fines as soon as possible.

More information: Road safety and driving

Driver's licence

Kuwait has restrictions on eligibility requirements for driver's licences. If you drive without a valid licence, you could be imprisoned and/or deported.

If you're visiting Kuwait, a valid International Driver's Permit (IDP) can be used in place of a local driver's licence. You must get your IDP before departing Australia. However, if you're resident in Kuwait, you'll need to apply for a Kuwaiti driver's licence.

If you are planning to drive in Kuwait, get up-to-date advice on eligibility requirements from an Embassy or Consulate-General of Kuwait before you travel.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet. 

Taxis

Use only official taxis and limousines. Some taxis don't use meters, which can result in disputes over the fare.

  • Book transport from a reliable company.
  • Agree on the fare before setting off.

Public transport

Kuwait has a well-developed network of public and private buses, though these routes primarily cover residential areas rather than tourist locations. Consider

Sea travel

Many marine areas in the Gulf region are sensitive in relation to security and territorial claims. There are reports of vessel inspections, detentions and arrest.

Piracy occurs in the Gulf. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website.

More information: Piracy 

Air travel

The Australian Government doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Kuwait.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

The Australian Embassy is not normally notified of Australians who are arrested or detained by the Kuwaiti authorities. Ask your family, friend or colleague to inform the Embassy as soon as possible.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences (including possession) are severe and include the death penalty.

More information: Carrying or using drugs 

Commercial, civil, family and labour law

There are significant differences between Australia's and Kuwait's laws on commercial, civil, family and employment matters.  Example: writing a cheque without sufficient funds and non-payment of bills are usually civil or commercial matters in Australia but are regarded as extremely serious offences in Kuwait.

The Australian Government cannot interfere in commercial and family disputes. If you may engage in activities that involve local legal matters, particularly with regard to family law (divorce, child custody and child support):

  • seek professional advice
  • understand your rights and responsibilities under Kuwaiti law.

Kuwaiti authorities require that documents issued in Australia be authenticated in Australia before being further authenticated by the Australian Embassy in Kuwait. If you intend to use Australian documents such as an academic record, marriage certificate or driver's licence to get residency/employment permits and/or a driving licence for use in Kuwait, get all such documents authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade before you leave Australia.

More information: Legalising documents

Other laws

Carry identification (your passport or a Kuwaiti civil ID card) at all times. Authorities conduct regular checks for illegal workers.

Activities that are illegal in Kuwait include:

  • using social media to criticise regional political matters and figures, including the Emir
  • challenging the authority of the Emir or insulting him, including in speech, writing, drawing or any other means of expression
  • homosexuality - more information: LGBTI travellers
  • public displays of affection
  • living or staying in a hotel room with a heterosexual partner, unless you're married – a marriage certificate must be presented when couples rent accommodation or stay at a hotel together
  • importing alcohol, pork products or pornography
  • driving without a valid licence
  • driving under the influence of alcohol
  • taking photographs of or near government buildings or other infrastructure, including military installations and oil fields
  • photographing people, particularly local women, without permission.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Dual nationality isn't recognised in Kuwait. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to you if you're a dual national and you're arrested or detained.

Kuwaiti authorities have confiscated Australian passports of Australian-Kuwaiti dual nationals. This doesn't deprive you of Australian citizenship. If this happens to you, report the incident to the Australian Embassy. See Where to get help.

More information: Dual nationals

Local customs

In public, dress and behave modestly. Women wearing shorts or tight-fitting clothing are likely to attract unwanted attention. This is particularly common in conservative areas like Jahra and Jleeb As Shuyoukh.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to occur between early May and early June 2019. During Ramadan, take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting.

More information: Ramadan

Health

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're transiting or travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Take legal prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. For all medications you take to Kuwait, carry:

  • copies of your prescription
  • a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only, and
  • the original packaging.

More information:

Health risks

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

Cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) were recently reported in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Other countries outside the Middle East have also reported imported cases from returned travellers.

More information: MERS Information Card (Department of Health) 

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities in Kuwait varies. Some facilities offer high quality services while others are adequate for routine procedures only. Some hospitals may prevent expatriates from being admitted as patients.

Private health care facilities generally require payment at the time of treatment and some treatments may not be available for expatriates.

If you become seriously ill or injured, or for complex procedures, you may need to be evacuated to a destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.

Natural disasters

Sand and dust storms occur regularly.

Kuwait often experiences extremely high temperatures. During the hottest months of the year, the temperature regularly exceeds 50 degrees Celsius.

Flooding can occur, usually during December and January.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

More information: Severe weather

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: phone 112
  • Medical emergencies: phone 112 or go direct to the hospital
  • Criminal issues: phone 112 or visit the nearest police station

Always get a police report when reporting a crime. Few police officers speak English. If you don't speak Arabic and wish to contact local police, you may need the assistance of an Arabic speaker.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas. For consular assistance, contact the Australian Embassy in Kuwait City.

Australian Embassy, Kuwait City

Dar Al-Awadi Building (12th Floor),
Ahmed Al-Jaber Street,
Sharq, KUWAIT   
Phone: +965 2232 2422 (outside Kuwait) or 2232 2422 (within Kuwait)
Fax: +965 2232 2430 (outside Kuwait) or 2232 2430 (within Kuwait)
Website: kuwait.embassy.gov.au
Twitter: @AusAmbKuwait
Facebook: Australian Embassy, Kuwait
Instagram: @AusEmbKuwait

The working week is from Sunday to Thursday, in accordance with local practice. Check the Embassywebsite for more information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you're unable to contact the embassy in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources