ETIQUETTE: Kuwait is a relatively conservative Muslim country. Islam is the official religion of Kuwait, with 57% of the population being Arab. The population is around 2.5m, including 1m non-nationals. It is customary to exchange handshakes when introducing yourself, but when introducing yourself to members of the opposite sex allow them to extend their hand to initiate the handshake. It is also not uncommon to see men greet each other with kisses on both cheeks.
If you are traveling to Kuwait during the Islamic month of fasting, Ramadan, it is prohibited to eat or drink in public during the day. Dress code during business meetings is professional and conservative, and exchange of business cards is customary.
LANGUAGE: Arabic is the official language, however, English is widely used and understood. It is relatively easy to get around using just English, and most business meetings are conducted in English.
Business correspondence can be sent in English; however, it is recommended that correspondence with government offices be sent in Arabic. Other widely-spoken languages are Hindi, Farsi, and Filipino.
DRESS: Many Kuwaitis wear traditional Gulf Arab clothing. Women wear the abaya, a long black cloak that covers the entire body except for the hands, feet and face. Men wear the dishdasha, an ankle-length garment similar to a robe. The abaya and dishdasha are worn in both formal and social settings. Western clothing is widely accepted but should be worn conservatively. Short skirts or revealing clothing is not recommended.
BUSINESS HOURS: The working week in Kuwait is Sunday to Thursday, with the weekend falling on Friday and Saturday. Working hours vary depending on the sector. Government offices are usually open from 7:30am to 2:30pm. Private sector offices tend to keep the traditional hours of 9am to 5pm. Retail outlets open from 8am to 1pm, and reopen from 5pm to 7pm. Larger malls are open all day, from 9am to 10pm.
ELECTRICITY: Outlets take the standard three-pronged British plugs. The electricity system is 220 V, 50 Hz.
TRANSPORT: Kuwait City is a relatively small place and easy to get around. Visitors who wish to drive must have an international driver’s licence and purchase insurance. Getting around by taxi is usually fast and efficient, but taxis rarely use meters. A taxi from the airport to Kuwait City averages KD5 ($17.50) and cab fares around town are rarely more than KD2 ($7).
Kuwait International Airport (KWI) is located just 15 km outside of town and is home to over 50 international carriers. Getting to the airport from town takes around 20 minutes, or 45 minutes in rush-hour traffic.
KWI serves as a hub for Kuwait Airways and Jazeera Airways, which offer daily international flights.
VISAS: Visa conditions vary from country to country. Residents of several countries, including the US, the EU, Australia and Japan, can acquire a 90-day tourist visa on arrival. Residents of the GCC do not require visas. Other nationalities must acquire visas before arrival and must be sponsored by a Kuwaiti company.
CURRENCY: The Kuwaiti dinar (KD) is the official currency which comes in denominations of 1/4, 1/2, 1, 5, 10, 20, 250 and 500. Coins, which are called fils, come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100.
The exchange rate is approximately KD1 to $3.5.
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. ATM machines are widely available and accept most major bank cards.
TIPPING: Tipping in Kuwait is left to the discretion of the patron. Small tips are always appreciated by baggage handlers, petrol station attendants, and valet attendants. A 15% service charge is included for large dinners or at hotels. If no service charge is applied, 10% is usually considered appropriate.
COMMUNICATIONS: The international dialling code for Kuwait is +965. SIM cards are available for purchase at the airport and around town. Purchase of a SIM card requires a valid photo ID and a copy of a current visa.
The major operators are Wataniya, Zain and Viva. Topups are available from local shops or mobile outlets.
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