Welcome to your travel guide to Kuwait! Are you planning a trip to one of the smallest desert countries in the Middle East? No worries, I’m here to help. Here you’ll find everything you need to know about getting to Kuwait, getting around, what to eat, where to stay, what to do, and how to speak some basic Arabic. You’ll be ready to go in no time with this Kuwait travel guide.
A huge shout-out and thank you to my friend Abdullah for editing this post and being my tour guide around Kuwait City!
Getting to Kuwait
Kuwait isn’t necessarily the cheapest place to get to, but you can definitely find some good deals. Check my flight tips to help you out! Remember, you’ll always save money flying out of a major city in the US, and to get to Kuwait you’ll likely connect in a nearby country (Dubai is a common layover).
Once you get to Kuwait, you’ll need to wait in a very long line to get your Kuwait visitor’s visa. If you happen to have Kuwaiti dinar on you, you can use one of the kiosks to speed up the process. (I learned the hard way that everyone who uses the kiosks gets to skip ahead of those who don’t…)
Getting Around Kuwait
I was lucky enough to be visiting with a former student and friend in Kuwait City, so when I wan’t being transported by the hotel shuttle, he drove me around town. Nevertheless, here are your options for getting around Kuwait:
Just like the climate in UAE, Kuwait can be really, really, hot. So follow the same advice if you’re determined to walk – wear lightweight fabric and bring bottled water with you. But, unless you’re planning on staying right in the city center, things aren’t always easily walkable.
Taxis are an expensive option, but also the most popular for getting around Kuwait. You’ll find two types of taxis: white and orange. White taxis are what you’d typically find – you hail them and your rate is based on your distance and time of day. It is Kuwaiti law for taxi drivers to abide by the meters, but you may have to encourage them to do so. If they are hesitant, ask for a pre-arranged price before departing. Orange taxis drive along pre-determined routes and passengers may share the ride with others traveling along the same route. (Orange taxi rates will be cheaper.)
Female travelers who are alone are encouraged notto hail taxis on their own. In addition, not all taxis have seatbelts, so be sure that yours does before entering.
Uber is not available in Kuwait, but you can use Careem. If you’re feeling more luxurious, Draewil offers limo rides!
Public transportation is not as readily available as I would like, so stick with cars. While there is an extensive public bus system, it does not always coincide with tourist destinations.
Yet again I was surprised at the amount of people who spoke English. While not as common as the UAE, I found English to be enough to get by.
Either way, here are some useful phrases to know in Arabic: *When you see an apostrophe in the word, it sounds like a short pause. Also, these spellings are mostly phonetic, and are often different across different sources. Remember, Arabic uses a different writing system! Plus they read and write from right to left.
“merhaba” / “ahlan” – Hello “saba’a al-khayr” – Good Morning / Good Day “masaa’ al-khayr” – Good Afternoon / Good Evening “wada’an” – Goodbye “salam alaykum” – ‘Peace be upon you’ (A common greeting) “shukran” – Thank you “’afwan” – You’re welcome “min faDlik” – Please “na’am” – Yes “la’a” – No “arabiya” – Arabic (the language) “inglesi” – English “al’afw” – Excuse me “aasif” – Sorry “ismii…” – My name is… “kayfa haluk?” – How are you? “anta” (m) / “anti” (f) – You “ma’ay” – Water “qahua” – Coffee “cha’y” – Tea
The exchange rate as of this post, is roughly .3 dinar to one US dollar. So while things may same to be “cheap” in restaurants and stores, multiply the price by 3. And then some! Regardless, I still found Kuwait to be budget friendly for the most part. I never exchanged money in Kuwait, but was traveling with someone who had. The only problem I came across was not being able to get a cup of coffee from a little coffee cart, but I managed! That goes to say that it’s possible to get around with plastic only, but it’s always a good idea to have some dinar with you.
Do’s and Don’ts in Public
Since Kuwait is a predominantly muslim country, it’s wise to be as conservative as possible in your dress and behavior. Common practices include avoiding touch between members of the opposite sex (unless married to them). Homosexuality is illegal in Kuwait; so avoid overtly displaying your affections for people of the same gender.
It’s also best to dress more conservatively. That’s not to say that you need to be completely covered, but for women it’s best to cover up to your shoulders and down to your knees.
It is nearly (if not entirely) impossible to find alcohol in Kuwait, and it is illegal to be drunk in public. It’s best to avoid it completely and do not travel into Kuwait with alcohol. Also avoid bringing in any beef or pork products.
During the month of Ramadan, non-muslims are also expected to follow the religious fasting from sunrise to sunset. That means no eating, drinking, or smoking.
I discovered some of my new favorite foods in Kuwait! Everything was so delicious. If you learn nothing else from this Kuwait travel guide, learn this: try all the authentic Kuwaiti food. It’s amazing!
A few things to note when eating with others at Kuwaiti restaurants: It is very common for people to order several dishes for the table and share them (think tapas style). Kuwaiti people are also very hospitable, so if they offer to pay for your dinner or ask you to try something, oblige them. It’s also not unusual for people to eat with their hands. Lastly, and this one’s my favorite, Kuwaiti people will often take the leftovers from their meal and give it to someone on the street. It’s the most simple but thoughtful act of charity.
Quite possibly my favorite food from the region, and one of my favorites from anywhere. Majboos is the traditional dish of Kuwait. Often made with chicken or lamb, it’s made from basmati rice dish cooked in a seasoned broth and topped with meat. The meat is so tender and flavorful, you’ll find it hard to stop eating! Plus the added raisins add just a touch of sweetness to the dish.
Made from cracked wheat, this is a common Kuwaiti comfort food. Cooked in meat broth with spices and tomatoes, it has a mushy or soupy texture. Give it a try with some bread; it’s tasty!
Made from a potato like dough, kubbah is filled with ground meat, rolled into small balls, and fried. This is another dish that is very common in the region, with different countries taking different spins with the spices and flavors.
Stuffed grape leaves – one of my favorite Middle Eastern foods! I had to get some at the authentic Kuwaiti restaurant. When warak enab is fresh, you’ll find it full of fresh spices and covered in oil and lemon juice.
This sweet dessert is common to most countries in the region (and is often found at the Syracuse Greek and Middle Eastern festivals!). It’s soft on the inside, slightly hard on the outside, and slathered in a honey-like coating. Yum!
Where to Stay in Kuwait
Kuwait is a small country, and Kuwait City is where you’ll want to be. Hotels are very moderately priced. It is very easy to find lots of options under $100 USD. Of course there are some more high-end options available if that’s your thing.
What to See & Do
Kuwait Towers look like they are straight out of The Jetsons. They are incredible! Super futuristic looking, but smack dab in the middle of the desert. I recommend taking the elevator up to the top and eating at the buffet with a huge spread of food. When you’re done eating, you can go up one more floor to the observation deck to get some beautiful views of Kuwait. Fun fact: the deck rotates, so you can stay in one spot and see the whole 360° view!
Just like the Gold Souk in Dubai, here is where you’ll find the most authentic Kuwaiti goods. I was able to get some beautiful scarves and traditional candies to bring back home as gifts – for just a few dinar each! Don’t be afraid to barter, it’s expected. Never pay full price – haggle! Also, keep in mind that there is a café in the center of the market that is strictly for males (sorry, girls!).
The Avenues Mall
The exact opposite of the souk, The Avenues Mall is the most insane mall – in a good way! It’s easily one of the most luxurious malls I’ve ever visited. Plus it’s HUGE – the largest in Kuwait and second largest in the region. It’s clearly designed to be a destination for people to visit.
In the central parts of the mall you’ll find your typical shops like H&M and high-end brands, plus globally-known restaurants and cafés like Cheesecake Factory and Starbucks. But, if you travel to the side hallways, it turns into more traditional architecture and is reminiscent of old Kuwait roads. That is where you’ll find more authentic Kuwaiti shops and restaurants.
Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre
An impressive 22 galleries make up this cultural complex that has taken several years to design and build. You could easily spend days visiting all of the exhibits at Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre. From natural history, to science and technology, to Islam, there is so much to learn and experience here. Also, the exhibits are some of the most impressive that I’ve seen in the world. There are life-size replicas of extinct animals from around the globe, interactive displays of new technology, and a two-story aquarium and forest to walk through. If you have half a day free, make sure you visit at least some of the galleries at the cultural centre. The hardest part will be choosing which ones!
More Kuwait Attractions
Unfortunately, my trip to Kuwait was short and I didn’t have enough time to get to all of the things I wanted to see. My friend Abdullah recommends these other places if you have more time to explore:
Did you find this Kuwait travel guide helpful for planning your trip to Kuwait? Leave a comment to let me know! Then do me a favor and share it on your favorite social network. I can’t wait to hear about your trips to Kuwait!