- Download our Moving to Bahrain Guide (PDF)
Expats looking for accommodation in Bahrain will almost certainly find bigger and better property options available to them than back home. Regardless of whether expats prefer a modern apartment in a lofty high-rise, an expansive villa outside of the city centre, or a cookie-cutter home in a safe and secure expat compound, there are options to satisfy all tastes and budgets.
The first factor to consider is the location of a property. Expats will need to decide whether they want to be in the city centre of Manama or further out in the suburbs. Though the difference is a mere 10- to 30-minute commute, the type of accommodation available differs according to area.
Expats with families who want larger properties are more likely to find these outside the city centre. They will also need to consider proximity to good international schools.
Types of accommodation in Bahrain
Expat compounds are a popular option for foreigners. The insular community, added security, access to amenities and the spirit of camaraderie are all major drawcards for those who choose to live in these compounds.
Furnished vs unfurnished
Furnished, unfurnished and semi-furnished homes are all available in Bahrain. Semi-furnished accommodation generally includes the provision of kitchen appliances, air conditioners and curtains, while unfurnished often means completely bare. Fully furnished accommodation in Bahrain comes comprehensively equipped and, in many cases, stylishly decorated.
There's no shortage of good furniture stores in Bahrain, and artisans and craftsmen can also be commissioned to make some truly unique fittings and innovative household goods. As a result, many expats choose the semi-furnished or unfurnished route.
To give themselves time to get to know Bahrain before selecting an area to live in, many expats opt to stay in short-term accommodation initially. Serviced apartments and other temporary accommodation are more expensive than long-term rentals, but give expats more flexibility. This type of accommodation also comes fully equipped with everything guests may need from day to day, making it convenient and easy to set up a temporary base.
Finding accommodation in Bahrain
Renting accommodation in Bahrain is a fairly simple process, and there are numerous resources available to help expats find the perfect home.
Many expats relocating to Bahrain have accommodation arranged through their employer. Those who are left to find a home in Bahrain on their own usually enlist the services of a real estate agent. These individuals are incredibly helpful and often go so far as to negotiate the lease once a property has been selected. In Bahrain, estate agents are paid by landlords, so expats need not worry about agency fees should they choose to go this route.
Other resources include Bahrain expat groups on social media and property portals online.
Renting accommodation in Bahrain
Deposits and fees
Tenants will generally need to pay a security deposit, typically equating to one month's rent. The amount is fully refundable depending on the state of the property at the end of the contract. The landlord may also request up to three months of rent upfront. Subsequent rent payments are usually monthly or quarterly. Expats should consult their lease to ensure that they understand when and how much rent is to be paid throughout their stay.
Signing a lease
Rental contracts are available for various lengths of time, although most leases are signed for one or two years with the option to renew. Expats need to ensure that they are committed to living in the property for the complete period specified on the rental agreement as getting out of a contract prior to it expiring can be difficult.
Termination of the lease
If expats think there is a possibility that they may need to leave the island before the end of their lease, they should request a diplomatic clause to be included in the lease. This will mean that if they are required to leave the island, with the relevant paperwork, they can give one month's notice at any time during the lease.
Utilities in Bahrain
The rent for fully furnished accommodation or an apartment often already includes utilities such as electricity, water and municipal tax. In some cases, rent can also include luxuries like internet, satellite television and housekeeping. On the other hand, semi-furnished or unfurnished accommodation, as well as villas, usually exclude utility bills.
Expats will need to make sure of what their rent includes before signing their lease as this can have a significant effect on monthly costs. If utilities are included, there's often a cap based on reasonable usage. This will be specified in the lease. Any usage over and above the cap must be paid by the tenant.
Electricity, water and municipal tax
In Bahrain, the Electricity and Water Authority (EWA) manages the provision of water and electricity. The EAW is also responsible for collecting municipal tax, which is charged at a rate of 10 percent of the rent. These three expenses are billed together monthly.
When renting fully furnished accommodation or apartments, these costs are usually included in the rent and the EWA account remains in the landlord's name. For freestanding homes such as villas, as well as semi-furnished or unfurnished homes, the tenant is generally required to pay these utilities. In this case, prior to moving in, expats will need to contact the EWA to have the bill put into their name and pay the EWA a security deposit.
In older accommodation, cookers may run on gas. As there is no mains gas in Bahrain, gas cylinders are used. Once empty, they can be refilled. It's best to keep a spare full canister to hand in case the one in use runs out. Some apartment blocks have a communal gas tank, in which case gas is typically included in the rent. Bahrain Gas sells and refills gas canisters.
Telephone and internet
Batelco is the national telecommunications provider and can provide landline telephone and internet. Other popular internet providers include Zain and STC.
What are the recommended areas for expats in Bahrain?
"Juffair in the northeast of the main island is popular with Americans as it is close to the US Navy base. It’s mostly modern apartment blocks so also popular with other expats and Saudi visitors.
"Adlyia is where many of the restaurants are, this area and the adjoining suburbs of Mahooz and Umm Al Hassam are also popular with those who prefer to be in close proximity to nightlife.
"West of the city centre is Budaiya where many expat families live, usually in compound villas. I believe the schools in the area are good, and the Dilmun Club and the Bahrain Rugby club are both located here.
"Finally, there is Amwaj Islands in the Floating City. The villas here are very pretty and situated around a series of canals, so it’s trendy and popular; but there are few amenities other than the beach."
Read Susie's Expat Arrivals interview to learn more about living in Bahrain.
►For information on how to get around the Kingdom, see Transport and Driving in Bahrain
Are you an expat living in Bahrain?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Bahrain. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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