Kuwait

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Wednesday, 25 September 2013.   It contains new information under Laws (Australians are reminded to abide by all local laws, and to be aware that expatriates have recently been deported for violating local laws, including traffic infringements). We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Kuwait due to the on-going threat of terrorist attack and the presence of unexploded ordnance and landmines.

Kuwait overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Kuwait due to the on-going threat of terrorist attack and the presence of unexploded ordnance and landmines.
  • Attacks could occur at anytime, anywhere in Kuwait. Terrorists continue to issue statements threatening to carry out attacks on the Arabian Peninsula and have demonstrated intent to conduct attacks in Kuwait against a range of targets. These include US military and identifiably Western targets such as hotels and restaurants, as well as symbols and buildings associated with the Kuwaiti Government.
  • Political developments locally and in the region may prompt demonstrations in Kuwait. You should avoid all protests and follow the advice of local authorities.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. You may experience difficulties as you enter Kuwait if your passport has evidence of travel to Israel, such as entry or exit stamps. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Kuwait for the most up-to-date information.

Make sure your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Kuwaiti authorities have advised that visas will not be issued in Australian emergency passports. This includes for entering or transiting Kuwait.

Visitors who overstay their visas face significant fines.

Safety and security

Terrorism

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Kuwait due to the on-going threat of terrorist attack. Attacks could occur anytime and anywhere in Kuwait. Terrorists may seek to attack a range of targets in Kuwait, including US military and identifiably Western targets such as hotels and restaurants as well as symbols and buildings associated with the Kuwaiti Government.

In August 2009, security forces arrested members of a terrorist cell planning to attack a number of targets in Kuwait, including an oil refinery, a US military base and government buildings. The US Government later warned that terrorists may be conducting surveillance on Westerners, particularly at hotels, housing areas and rental car facilities, and that contractors, especially those with links to the military, could be targeted.

Terrorists continue to issue statements threatening to carry out attacks on the Arabian Peninsula. Potential targets could include residential compounds and military facilities, as well as oil, transport and aviation interests.

In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. In addition to the places mentioned above possible targets may include clubs, theatres, schools, public transport, outdoor recreation events, markets and shopping areas. Tourist areas, hotels, religious sites as well as other places frequented by foreigners, including international schools, are also potential terrorist targets.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Civil unrest/political tension

Since late 2011, there have been regular anti-government demonstrations in Kuwait. While the protests have been generally peaceful, there have been occasional clashes between protestors and security forces. The situation is currently stable, however internal or external political developments may prompt future demonstrations.

There have also been on-going protests by Bidoons (stateless persons), demanding Kuwaiti citizenship. These protests are likely to continue. The protests generally take place on Fridays and are centred on the Jahra area outside of Kuwait City. Security forces have used water cannons and tear-gas to break up these protests.

Australians in Kuwait should avoid all large gatherings and demonstrations and follow the advice of local authorities. You should take particular care in the areas of Al-Qibla, Jahra and Sulaibaya and in the period surrounding Friday prayers in all parts of Kuwait.

You should monitor local and international media for information that may affect your safety and security.

Crime

The crime rate in Kuwait is not high. Women should avoid walking alone in isolated areas at night, and travel with a companion if possible.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work in Kuwait.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Driving can be hazardous in Kuwait. While the roads are generally well-maintained, speeding, reckless driving, road rage and ignoring traffic lights are common. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Kuwait has restrictions on eligibility requirements for drivers’ licences. You should confirm eligibility requirements with the nearest Kuwaiti Embassy if you are planning to drive or obtain a licence in Kuwait.

You should book taxis from a well-known, reputable company. Fares should be agreed before setting off.

Travellers entering the Gulf area by sea should be aware that many areas are sensitive in relation to security and territory. There are reports of vessel inspections, detentions and arrest.

There are still unexploded munitions, including landmines, from the Gulf War remaining in rural areas, at beaches and at picnic sites. People have been injured after picking up strange metal or plastic objects. You should not stray from well-travelled roads.

Piracy occurs in the Gulf. See our piracy bulletin for more information. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website.

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Kuwait, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. Currently Kuwaiti authorities are actively pursuing all violations of local laws. Expatriates have recently been deported for violations such as using mobile phones when driving, not carrying proper identification documents or driving without a licence. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians overseas is set out in the Consular Services Charter.

You should carry identification (passport or civil identification) at all times as authorities conduct regular checks for illegal workers.

Penalties for drug offences (including possession) are severe and include the death penalty.

Australians who might engage in activities involving local legal matters, particularly with regard to family law (divorce, child custody and child support), are strongly advised to seek professional advice and ensure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities. Child custody decisions are based on Islamic law and it is difficult for a woman to be granted custody of her children in local courts.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Kuwait and may attract terms of imprisonment of up to ten years. See our LGBTI travellers page.

It is illegal for unmarried heterosexual couples to live together. Public displays of affection can lead to arrest.

The importation and use of alcohol, pork products and pornography is illegal in Kuwait. Customs officials use strict screening procedures to detect illicit imports.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence and offenders may be fined, imprisoned and/or deported.

Anyone involved in a commercial or any other dispute with a Kuwaiti company or individual may be prevented from leaving the country or placed in custody, pending resolution of the dispute.

Taking photographs of or near government buildings or other infrastructure, including oil fields, can lead to detention. It is forbidden to take photographs at some shopping centres.

Prison terms of up to seven years can be imposed for challenging the authority of the Emir or insulting him – whether by speech, writing, drawing or any other means of expression.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Authentication of documents Kuwaiti authorities have advised that documents issued in Australia must be authenticated in Australia before being further authenticated by the Australian Embassy in Kuwait. If you intend to use Australian documents such as an academic record, marriage certificate or drivers licence to obtain residency/employment permits and/or a driving licence for use in Kuwait, you should have all such documents authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade at the relevant state or territory office before leaving Australia. See our Legalising documents page for important information about this process.

Local customs

During Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims.

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Kuwait and you should take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Information for dual nationals

Dual nationality is not recognised in Kuwait. This may limit our ability to provide consular assistance to Australian/Kuwaiti dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities in Kuwait varies: some facilities offer high quality services while others are adequate for routine procedures only. Private health care facilities generally require payment at the time of treatment. In the event of a serious illness or accident, or for complex procedures, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities could be necessary. Medical evacuation costs would be considerable.

In January 2012, there was a localised outbreak of meningitis in Kuwait City, however the outbreak was contained by local authorities.

Where to get help

In Kuwait, you can obtain consular assistance from the:

Australian Embassy
Dar Al-Awadi Building (12th Floor)
Ahmed Al-Jaber Street
Sharq KUWAIT
Tel: (965) 232 2422 (outside Kuwait) or 2232 2422 (within Kuwait)
Fax: (965) 232 2430 (outside Kuwait) or 2232 2430 (within Kuwait)
Website: www.kuwait.embassy.gov.au

The working week is from Sunday to Thursday, in accordance with local practice.

If you are travelling to Kuwait, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the above mission, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Sand and dust storms occur regularly.

Kuwait often experiences extremely high temperatures. During the hottest months of the year, the temperature regularly exceeds 50˚C.

Flooding can occur during December and January.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.