The State of Kuwait is a very small, oil-rich country nestled at the north-western tip of the Arabian Gulf, on the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Kuwait is flanked by two powerful neighbours, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Kuwait has a rich cultural heritage with a history dating back to the 1700s. Kuwaitis are well known for their hospitality and generosity, placing high importance on honour, reputation and respect.
Kuwait’s population is estimated at around 4.2 million. A large component of the population are expatriates from around the world. Living in Kuwait provides a unique opportunity to work with and meet people from various ethnic groups with diverse backgrounds.
Kuwait’s official language is Arabic. English is widely spoken and understood.
The main religion in Kuwait is Islam. Over 80 percent of the total population is Muslim. Kuwait also has a large community of expatriate Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs. Kuwait is the only GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) country, besides Bahrain, to have a local Christian population that holds citizenship.
The economy of Kuwait is dependent on the oil industry, petroleum being the main export product. According to the World Bank, Kuwait is the fourth richest country in the world per capita. Kuwait is also the second richest GCC country per capita (after Qatar).
Currency: Kuwaiti Dinar (highest-valued currency unit in the world).
Kuwait is a constitutional emirate with a semi-democratic political system and, in terms of civil liberties and political rights, is ranked as one of the freest countries in the Middle East. The Emir is the head of state and exercises his power through a prime minister and a council of ministers. The hybrid political system is divided between an elected parliament and appointed government. The first constitution of Kuwait was adopted in 1962.
The weather in Kuwait is characterised by long, hot and dry summers, and short, warm and rainy winters. Sand storms can be quite frequent in the springtime and may occur with a rise in humidity during summer. There is a wide variation of temperature, ranging from an average of 45°C in summer to an average of 4°C in winter. Such climate fluctuation is often accompanied by a change in the annual rainfall. On a positive note, the levels of humidity tend to be much lower than those found in other Gulf countries. Below is a graph showing annual minimum and maximum temperatures.
Healthcare in Kuwait is of a high standard and both public and private facilities are accessible to Kuwaiti nationals as well as expatriates. All Kuwaitis are entitled to free medical treatment at government facilities, while expats are expected to pay an annual fee to access public healthcare facilities. Additional services, such as X-rays or specialised tests, are usually additional costs over and above this annual payment.
Although housing in Kuwait has become increasingly expensive, there is a wide variety of suitable accommodation to fit one’s budget. The majority of housing in Kuwait comes in the form of apartments, villas (large houses) and floors (which occupy a single floor of a villa). Homes are generally quite spacious, and some housing complexes often have facilities such as swimming pools, gyms and tennis courts.
Employment opportunities are most prevalent in the oil and gas sector, followed by the construction industry. Kuwait also has well-established banking, telecommunications, education, hospitality, and retail industries offering employment to those with strong finance and professional services backgrounds.
Working hours in Kuwait
Working days in Kuwait start on Sundays and end on Thursdays. Weekends are Fridays and Saturdays although certain businesses remain open on Saturdays, and operate half-day (until 1pm or 2pm) on Thursdays. Mushrif Head Office follows a 5-day working week from Sunday to Thursday and Projects is 6-days, Saturday thru Thursday.
The standard of education in Kuwait is high. Kuwaiti nationals are entitled to free education at public schools although the majority of Kuwaitis choose to send their children to private schools, which offer better facilities and are also well-subsidised by the government. The majority of expats in Kuwait choose to send their children to private international schools, which usually follow the curriculum of their home country, although they are required to incorporate Kuwaiti cultural and language studies. One can expect to spend a considerable amount of money on private education in Kuwait as one needs to budget for school uniforms, text books and extra-curricular activities too.
Kuwait has an extensive and modern network of highways. There are more than 2 million passenger cars, and 500,000 commercial taxis, buses, and trucks in use. The state owned Kuwait Public Transportation Company runs local bus routes across Kuwait as well as longer distance services to other Gulf states. The main private bus company is City Bus, which operates about 20 routes across the country. There are two airports in Kuwait. Kuwait International Airport serves as the principal hub for international air travel.
Driving in Kuwait
Expatriates may apply for a drivers licence in Kuwait dependent on the type of work visa they are granted, and subject to the submission of various documents as well as successful completion of an eye-sight test. Applying for a drivers licence does not require taking a driving test but does require an attested copy of the applicant’s existing licence obtained in the country of origin.
Shipping goods to Kuwait
It is recommended that more than one quote be obtained before selecting a company to ship your household goods to Kuwait. Some of the better known relocation companies include: Move One Relocations, Agility, Kuwait Transcontinental Shipping Company, Paragon Relocation, GFS Relocations and EER.
Banking in Kuwait
Most banks in Kuwait provide standard banking facilities like direct debits, credit card repayments, cheque clearance and standing orders. Opening an account in Kuwait involves a lot of paperwork. It is mandatory to have a residence visa and a ‘letter of no objection’ or a ‘no objection certificate’ (NOC) from your employer stating your salary. Additionally, copies of your tenancy agreement and passport will be required. Bank charges vary between banks so shop around before opening an account with a particular bank.
Local mobile operators in Kuwait
Kuwait has one of the highest mobile penetrations in the Middle East, the three major operators being Zain, VIVA and Ooredoo. They all offer competitive packages that can be viewed on their respective websites.
Greetings – Kuwaitis usually greet one another with a hand shake and a kiss on the cheek. Men and women who are not related are usually segregated and in such circumstances it is culturally unacceptable for a kiss on the cheek. When greeting, it is considered polite to ask questions about the wellbeing of the family.
Food – Food plays an important role in the Kuwaiti culture and there are a variety of restaurants and cuisines from which to choose. The consumption of alcohol is not allowed in Kuwait.
Arts – Kuwaiti arts flourish in the form of fine arts, poetry, film, theatre, radio, television soap operas and music. Kuwait has the oldest modern arts movement in the Arabian Peninsula and has more than 20 galleries around the country.
Dress – Many Kuwaitis choose to wear traditional dress, which, for men, is a full-length robe with a centre opening called a dishdasha. For Kuwaiti women, the traditional dress is called an abaya and is a full-length long-sleeved black dress which covers the clothing underneath. The hair and neck is also covered with a hijab and some choose to wear a black veil or burqa, which covers the entire face.
Whilst expat men and women are not required to follow the traditional dress code, sensitivity and respect should be considered so as not to attract unwarranted attention or to cause offence. Generally, covering the knees and shoulders (for both) when out in public is a must.
Kuwait has succeeded in turning much of its harsh desert land into lush green parks, amusement playgrounds, museums and many shopping malls. Kuwait City offers gardens and parks, along with landmarks such as the Kuwait Towers and Seif Palace, which was built in 1896 and boasts original Islamic mosaic tilework.
Kuwait also has a number of public and private beaches around the country. The most beautiful beaches can be found at the Julai’a SeaShell Hotel & Resort, and Khiran Resort; both with white sandy beaches and enchanting Mediterranean style villas and chalets.
There are many recreational activities available on the beaches, including fishing, boating, swimming and jet skiing, and just as many in the desert, such as camping, riding buggies or hiking.
Visiting the exquisitely decorated malls is also a common pastime and is often a group activity for family and friends where they shop, dine or watch a movie.
Kuwaitis take pride of their country being one of the very few countries to ban the consumption and sale of alcohol.
Entry and Visit Visas
Citizens of GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries are permitted to enter Kuwait without visa.
Citizens from its member countries are not required to obtain a Kuwait visa and undergo formalities when they visit Kuwait. The member countries of GCC are: Kingdom of Bahrain (Bahrain), United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sultanate of Oman (Oman), Qatar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the State of Kuwait.
Countries permitted for entry visas in Kuwait upon arrival
Citizens from the following countries can obtain an entry visa at the Kuwait Airport upon arrival.
The United States of America – The United Kingdom – France – Italy – Germany – Canada – Australia – New Zealand – Japan – Netherlands – Belgium – Luxembourg – Switzerland – Austria – Sweden – Norway – Denmark – Portugal – Greece – Ireland – Finland – Spain – Monaco – Vatican – Iceland – Andorra – San Marino – Liechtenstein – Brunei – Singapore – Malaysia – Hong Kong – South Korea – Bhutan – Poland – Georgia – Vietnam – Slovenia – Estonia – Czech – Turkey – Bulgaria – Romania – Cyprus – Swaziland – Slovakia – Cambodia – Latvia – Laos – Lithuania – Malta – Hungary.
Countries not listed above are required to undergo formalities and are subject to entry rules as per Kuwait regulations.
Visit visas are valid for entry within 90 days of issue and for a maximum period of up to 30 days post entry. With regard to the sponsorship of visit visas, visitors to Kuwait will have to be sponsored by either a Kuwaiti national, a company in Kuwait, or a resident foreigner who is a relative of the visitor.