Useful tips for business and leisure travellers

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Etiquette

It is customary to exchange handshakes 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 or drink in public during the day.

Language

Arabic is the official language of Kuwait, although English is widely used and understood. It is relatively easy to get around using just English and most business meetings are conducted in it. Business correspondence can be sent in English as well; however, any correspondence with government offices should be sent in Arabic. Other widely spoken languages include Hindi, Farsi and Filipino.

Dress

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, while men frequently 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 also common, but it is best to dress conservatively. Short skirts or revealing clothing are not recommended in public areas.

Currency

The Kuwaiti dinar (KD) is the official currency, which comes in denominations of 0.25, 0.5, 1, 5, 10, 20, 250 and 500. Coins come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 fils. The exchange rate is around 1KD:$3.50. Kuwait is the only GCC state that does not peg its currency directly to the dollar. Exchange kiosks can be found at the airport and around town. ATMs are widely available and accept most major bank cards. As of June 2014, Kuwait introduced new banknotes made from plastic polymer, which are designed to be more durable and resistant to heat, dust and humidity.

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 driving licence and purchase insurance. Getting around by taxi is generally fast and efficient, but taxis rarely use meters.

Kuwait International Airport is located 15 km outside of town and is served by over 50 international carriers. Getting to the airport from town 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. Sheikh Saad General Aviation Terminal is a temporary terminal to handle the increasing amount of passengers, and is reserved for flydubai flights and some private jets. It is 16 km from Kuwait City and about 5 km from Kuwait International Airport.

Business Hours

The workweek in Kuwait 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 2pm and from 9am to 1pm during Ramadan. Private sector offices tend to keep the traditional hours of 9am to 5pm and 9am to 1pm during Ramadan. Retail outlets open from 8am to 1pm, and again from 5pm to 7pm. Larger malls are open from 9am to 10pm.

Visas

Visa conditions vary country to country. Residents of the US, the EU, Australia, and Japan can get a 90-day tourist visa on arrival. Residents of the GCC do not require visas. Other nationalities must acquire visas before arrival and be sponsored by a Kuwaiti firm.

Tipping

Tipping in Kuwait is left to the discretion of the patron. Small tips are always appreciated by baggage handlers and petrol station and valet attendants. A 15% service charge is included for large dinners or at hotels. If no service charge is applied, 10% is considered appropriate. Tipping is not required with taxis.

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.

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