It is customary to shake hands when introducing yourself. However, it is important to allow members of the opposite sex to extend their hand to initiate the handshake. It is also not uncommon to see men greet each other with kisses on both cheeks. The dress code during business meetings is professional and conservative, and exchange of business cards is customary. If you are travelling to Kuwait during Ramadan, be advised that it is prohibited to eat, drink or smoke in public during the day.
Arabic is the official language, although English is widely used and understood. It is relatively easy to get around using just English, and many business meetings are conducted in this language. Any correspondence with government offices should be sent in Arabic. Other widely spoken languages include Hindi, Farsi, Urdu and Filipino.
Conditions vary for visas from country to country. Residents of the US, the EU, Australia and Japan can get a tourist visa on arrival or may obtain an eVisa beforehand. Residents of the GCC do not require visas. Other nationalities must acquire visas before arrival and be sponsored by a Kuwaiti firm.
The Kuwaiti dinar (KD) is the official currency, and comes in denominations of 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 5, 10, 20, 250 and 500. Coins come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 fils. The exchange rate was KD1:$3.29 as of October 2019. Kuwait is the only GCC state that does not peg its currency to the dollar. Exchange kiosks can be found at the airport and around town. ATMs are widely available and accept most major international bank cards.
Outlets take a standard three-pronged UK plug. The electricity system is 220 V, 50 Hz.
The international dialling code for Kuwait is +965. SIM cards are widely available for purchase at the airport as well as at stores around town. In order to purchase a SIM card you will need to have a valid photo ID and a current visa with you.
Visitors who wish to drive must have an international driving licence and purchase insurance. Travelling by taxi is generally fast and efficient, but be advised that taxis rarely use meters and when they do the price can vary significantly and rarely correspond with the fair price. The Careem app is an alternative cab service similar to Uber. Kuwait International Airport is located 15 km outside of Kuwait City. Getting to the airport from the city takes approximately 20 minutes, or 45 minutes in rush-hour traffic. The airport serves as a hub for Kuwait Airways and Jazeera Airways, which offer daily international flights. Terminal 2 is currently under construction and is due for completion in 2022. It is expected to expand overall capacity at the airport by 13m passengers, adding gates, parking and a hotel. This project is part of a larger plan to expand the airport’s capacities, with Terminals 4 and 5 inaugurated in 2018.
The work week runs from Sunday to Thursday, with the weekend falling on Friday and Saturday. Working hours vary depending on the sector. Government offices tend to be open from 7.30am to 2.00pm, and from 10.00am to 2.00pm during Ramadan. Private sector offices tend to keep the traditional hours of 9.00am to 5.00pm, and 10.00am to 2.00pm during Ramadan. Retail outlets open from 8.00am to 1.00pm, and again from 5.00pm to 7.00pm. Larger malls are open from 9.00am to 10.00pm.
Many Kuwaitis wear traditional Gulf Arab attire. For women, this includes the abaya, a long, black cloak that covers the entire body except for the hands, feet and face. Men often wear a dishdasha, an ankle-length garment. Western clothing is common, but is best to dress conservatively.
Tipping is left to discretion. Small tips are appreciated by baggage handlers, and petrol station and valet attendants. A 15% service charge is included for large dinners or at hotels; otherwise, 10% is appropriate. Tipping is not required with taxis.
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