ETIQUETTE: Kuwaitis are noted for their hospitality and welcoming attitude towards foreigners. Greetings are exchanged with enthusiasm, but when introducing yourself to members of the opposite sex, allow them to extend their hand to initiate a handshake. Although Kuwaiti women play a visible role in society, they rarely socialise with men in public. Men often greet one another with kisses on both cheeks. In business meetings, it is important to dress conservatively, allow for patient deliberation and to give business cards to everyone you meet.
LANGUAGE: Although Arabic is the official language, English is widely used and understood, especially in business settings. It is recommended that correspondence with government offices be conducted in Arabic, however, as English speakers are not always available to address queries. Among Kuwait’s large expatriate population, Hindi, Farsi and Filipino are widely spoken.
DRESS: It is recommended that both men and women wear conservative attire. Tight-fitting clothing or outfits that reveal skin above the knees or arms are not encouraged. Though some women wear Western-style clothing, often with a headscarf, many wear the abaya – a long black cloak that covers the entire body except the hands, feet and face. Most Kuwaiti men wear the traditional dishdasha, an ankle-length garment similar to a robe, in both formal and social settings.
TRANSPORT: Kuwait has a modern and efficient transportation system, and public buses run along most major thoroughfares. To drive on the country’s roads, visitors must purchase insurance and have an international driver’s licence. Hailing a taxi is relatively easy, though drivers do not always use the metre. From the airport, the average fare to the downtown area is KD4-5 ($14.50-18). Located in the south of the capital, Kuwait International Airport has scheduled flights from more than 50 international carriers. The country has three main airlines: state-run Kuwait Airways, Jazeera Airways and Wataniya Airways, the latter of which operates out of the Sheikh Saad General Aviation Terminal.
BUSINESS HOURS: The weekend in Kuwait falls on Friday and Saturday. During the work week (Sunday to Thursday) business hours vary depending on the sector. Whereas government offices are typically open from 7.30am to 2.30pm, banks and financial institutions work longer hours. Retail banks tend to open from 8am until 1pm, and then reopen from 5pm to 7pm. Large malls generally remain open all day from 9am to 10pm, but smaller shops usually close between 1pm and 4pm.
VISAS: Residents of other GCC nations do not require visas. Citizens of several countries, including the US, the members of the EU, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, can obtain a 90-tourist visa for KD6 ($21.60). Citizens of other countries must acquire visas before arrival and obtain a Kuwaiti business sponsorship.
CURRENCY: The Kuwaiti dinar (KD) is the official currency, and is divided into coins of 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 fils, and bills of 1, 5, 10, 20, 250 and 500 dinars. The exchange rate hovers around KD1:$3.65, and Kuwaiti dinars are accepted worldwide. Kuwait is the only country in the GCC that does not peg its currency to the dollar. Foreign exchange offices can be found throughout the city, and currency exchanges are also available at most banks and hotels.
TIPPING: Tipping in Kuwait is largely discretionary. Restaurants and hotels often add a service charge of 15%. If no service charge is included, a 10% tip is considered appropriate. Petrol station attendants, baggage handlers, and drivers taking you on long journeys appreciate small tips of KD0.25-0.50 ($0.90-1.80).
ELECTRICITY: The electricity system is 220 V, 50 Hz. Outlets require standard three-pronged British plugs.
COMMUNICATIONS: There are three mobile operators in Kuwait’s communications sector: Wataniya, Zain and Viva. Prepaid SIM cards for these carriers can be purchased at mobile phone shops with a valid photo ID. Top-ups are available at kiosks and other vendors throughout the city. Most hotels have Wi-Fi access, and internet cafes are scattered across Kuwait City. The international dialling code for the country is +965.
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