One of the craziest bank holiday trips we’ve ever done. In fact, why to even think, it was the craziest with no equal. Visiting 2 countries in just 3 days, that is something very normal anywhere in our European city breaks, but not for going that far to the Middle East in such a short time. And actually in this case, that was not one of these low air fare offers, but instead an on-purpose Qatar Airways flight merely to boost the tier level of our Executive Club membership. Quite worth it knowing how many times we fly using any of the One World Alliance partners which means for us lots of air miles and other benefits.
So you might wonder how is it possible to visit 2 capitals in different countries in just 3 days. Well, let me tell you it is possible. Yes, it is very short time and definitely I would love to have been longer and enjoy visiting other places nearby and of course, more time by the beaches on the Gulf. In any case that was yet another well worth it trip back to a little piece of the Arab World. It was a day and a night in Kuwait City before flying the following morning to Doha for the next 2 days, then back to London.
As there is not really too much to see or do in the city, a day was definitely enough for us, of course bearing in mind that our peace for sightseeing is quite fast as we are very used to travelling, all extremely organised to the detail and specially with not much time to spare.
Landing in Kuwait City was already shocking. What appeared to be a small city on a Google map, or city map found over the internet, resulted to be a large and expanded city, with an incredible well developed road network based on rings and radial motorways. It was such the case that while we were still about to land we decided to get a rental car no matter what not the cost of it. A further reason to abruptly decide this was to hear from the captain saying that the temperature was already 43 (at 9.00am!). And that, let me tell you, was the best decision ever we could do. Distances were in fact too big to walk from sight to sight not to mention we would have only seen just half of the city.
Also it took us by good surprise how quick the city is evolving, with a brand new financial district still on the rise with shiny new towers everywhere. Over the internet while doing my research for this trip I did not find even a quarter of the reality, not even in images.
The overall costs for everything are higher than in Dubai for example, but still you will get really great value for money on nice food. You will find shawarma easily around the old city and by the souqs. No need to mention that almost any restaurant chain you can imagine is readily available.
Remember that this is a Muslim country therefore be respectful. Consumption of alcohol is reduced only to the large hotels as you won’t be able to find it anywhere else to buy. Be cautious and moderate as being drank is seen as really bad and penalties could apply.
For more information about Kuwait City check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Kuwait’s currency is the Dinar (KWD). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Kuwait City:
- Kuwait Towers Designed by Danish architect Malene Björn, since its opening in 1979 they are the most iconic landmark symbol of the city. Although as functionality is water storage tanks, a restaurant and viewing platforms are nowadays also part of the attraction. The closer you get to them you will appreciate the incredible cover of the spheres, made of coloured circular plates. Open from 09.00am to 23.00pm, KWD2 (4.20£). The best time to go is right before the sunset in order to get both day and night views.
- Liberation Tower Is one of the tallest telecommunications towers in the world. You will see it from almost anywhere in the city. Not really a tourist spot but visually from almost anywhere in the city, specially good views from the Marina and near Seif Palace.
- National Museum Area On the western areas of the city, it is where you will find most of the historical sights, governmental and religious sites.
-National Museum With some interesting exhibitions displaying ancient relics, a room being a designed copy of an old Kuwaiti souq and another as an old Kuwaiti boum.
-National Assembly The Majlis Al-Umma is the seat of the Kuwaiti parliament. Has a great architectural design.
-Sadu House It is a museum-cultural like building created with the purpose to protect the arts and crafts of Bedouin society.
-Bayt Al Bader It is one of the very few houses left in the city which was built in old Kuwaiti architecture. Reminder of how the city used to look before the discovery of oil.
-Seif Palace Built in 1896 but unfortunately you cannot access inside. Still you will get nice views around the palace gardens (fenced) and the main road. One of the buildings, the one which would seem nor pat of the Palace has a design you could easily find in Andalusia region in Spain. It is with regrets that photography is strictly forbidden, and this applies to any building from the palace complex. You can be lucky if you take some nice shots of the “Andalusian” style palace and don’t continue any near to the main walls and gates of the palace proper. Otherwise it is likely that they have seen you on camera taking pictures around and guards will come upon you asking to delete any taken. They will check deeply that no trace of any picture is there, and I can tell you this from experience. Thanks goodness I took some with my mobile phone which they did not check!
-Great Mosque Across the road from the Seif Palace. Built in 1986 it is the largest mosque in the city. Guided tours might be available to visit the inside. You will need to speak to the guard by the door and of course, dress appropriately. In any case if you have visited any mosque elsewhere (or if you have visited the Great Mosque of Abu Dhabi) then this is pointless to even ask or loose the time to enter.
- Marina Not far from the Great Mosque and in between the business district at one side, and the Souq Shareq on the opposite side, you will get the best views over the new rising city skyline.
-Souq Shareq Of modern construction in combination of traditional design, it’s a great place for shopping, eating or just chilling out in nice surroundings.
Sheikh Saad Al Abdallah ِAirport is located 16 kilometres to the south of the city. There are 3 different bus routes, 13, 99 and 501. Bus service 501 to Kuwait City departs from outside Arrivals every 45 minutes between 06:00 and 23:00. Travel time is around 30 minutes and cost KWD 0.25 (which is 250 fils).
Avoid City Limo taxis as those tend to always be more expensive. There is a taxi desk on the ground floor of the arrivals terminal where you will get the information and costs you need to know for your destination. Bear in mind you need to count that during rush hour (7.00 to 8.00am and 13.00 to 15.00pm), from 23.00pm or if you call a taxi to come to your hotel, an extra KWD 1.5 will be added to the total.
Very helpful information can be found in the official Kuwait Airport Website, click on the relevant section (traveller information for visa requirements or from to for transportation). And even as Europeans from the European Union we do not need any visa requirements, we do still need to get a Visa Stamp to enter the country. This is done straightforward at the visa centre on arrivals before passing through security control. Don’t worry on getting lost, they will directly you appropriately and they are very helpful and kind people. The cost for this is 3 KWD.
Within the city and as explained above in the introduction, you should get a rental car without hesitation. Distances are bigger than what you expect, and the heat will play against you therefore having the comfort of going point to point with air-conditioning is priceless in those countries.
Kuwait City was one of the rare exception of big cities we have ever visited where there is not such a great choice of hotels. There are not too many chains and big properties leaving space for smaller local ones. Also for what we are used to pay for a night in a 4 or 5* hotel, Kuwait City was really expensive, therefore we went for the more modest 3* Suite Home Hotel. Centrally located on Bnaid Al Gar, Blocks 2, Street No 77 (Behind Safir International Hotel), was a very nice place to be. Simple and functional, comfortable and clean. Anything we needed was absolutely achieved. With a nice indoor pool and included breakfast, another of the pluses as sometimes can be hard to find anything “western style” for breakfast in Arabic countries, saving you the need to be searching for what to eat from the start of the day.