Kuwait is a country located in Western Asia that shares its borders with Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Although bordered by infamous Iraq, Kuwait is very peaceful and a dream destination in the Arab world. And not only, but the country is also very small and the capital, Kuwait City has lots of attractions and lush beaches where you can relax after a long day walk.
Transport inside the capital city is quite slow because a metro system has not yet been implemented, although the project is present. However, to compensate for the lack of a metro system, Kuwaitis have an army of buses for public transportation. But this does not solve the traffic jams that occur on a daily basis in downtown Kuwait City.
Although being such a small country, arriving in Kuwait is simple and can be done by various methods, even by cruise ship. In Kuwait, there are a number of 7 airports, from which the only one is designed for civil use.
On the economic chapter, Kuwait is one of the wealthiest countries in all of Asia because of its oil reserves, occupying number 6 worldwide in oil reserves.
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Kuwait
Overall Risks in Kuwait: LOW
According to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Kuwait has a very low crime rate and only minor felonies are reported. But since 2017, all crimes have been rising in intensity and brutality. But also, thieves and pickpockets do not target Westerners especially, which makes it pretty safe for US citizens to call Kuwait their home. According to a statistic from 2017, almost two-thirds of all population in Kuwait City is US citizens and/or other Westerners.
Most thefts occur in malls and main Kuwaiti attractions, so a good knowledge of your environment will surely get you out of harm’s way and with your personal belongings safe.
Prior to the Gulf War of 1991, some mines remain unexploded. When away from the buzzing of Kuwait City, always stay on paved roads and marked tracks to avoid some unpleasant surprises. Sometimes, the rain washes away the sand and exposes the explosive devices. When encountering such device, call the police immediately.
To be reminded is that Kuwait is an Islamic country and drinking alcohol is strictly forbidden. Any trace of alcohol consumption will be fined and it could go up to imprisonment when faced with alcohol smuggling.
Traffic is very heavy in Kuwait City and it takes nerves of steel to drive on these roads. A hazard that most Kuwaiti drivers face is that of road rage and accidents are very often on the city streets. Best way to avoid road rage and you being a victim of road rage is to keep your calm and do not engage in a fight. Often, police will accord preferential treatment to conational people rather than to Westerners, so be careful when driving in Kuwait city. Accidents could end the stay in Kuwait prematurely for expatriates and tourists that use vehicles for traveling the country and also, travel bans could be instated.
With the traffic conditions being so harsh, the government has increased the number of traffic patrols and also the number of traffic cameras for a better safety.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in Kuwait: MEDIUM
As stated above, theft and pickpocketing are common in Kuwait, especially in crowded places such as shopping malls and other tourist attractions. Keeping your belongings safe in the hotel room is one thing how you can be sure that you won't get robbed. Also, address to the hotel staff in order to get a safe and store your valuables.
When going out in town, be sure to carry only things that you depend on. Carrying unnecessary amounts of money and displaying it is a ticket to being robbed. Walking around at night is not safe even in the city center as police patrols are scarce. Also, using public transportation can be a risk when you have valuables upon you.
The US embassy in Kuwait City states that the Jahra and J’leeb Al-Shiyoukh are hotspots for crimes and thefts and are best to be avoided at all costs. Although security and police patrols focus on these areas, in particular, some felonies do occur, so keeping an eye for weird activities and retreating safely is the right way to go.
- How to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Kuwait?
So, let's go over the things one has to do to protect himself/ herself from pickpocketing and theft - first of all, it is recommended that you don't carry large amounts of money with you. Take only the necessary for the day and leave the rest within your accommodation or, better, have them on a credit card that you can use within a bank in Kuwait.
Then, you'd like to display as little gadgets and jewelry as possible - for example, it is not recommended that you have your camera around your neck if you are not currently using it. Instead, store it in your backpack or such. Obviously, jewelry should be either left back at home or hidden under your clothes.
Naturally, you definitely want to avoid remote areas, neighborhoods with a bad reputation, or areas that are in a bad condition, economically speaking. If you follow these tips, you should really have no problems while visiting Kuwait.
Scam Risk in Kuwait: LOW
The most common type of scams are the ones that deal mainly with the online environment and scams are easy to spot, especially if you own an email address. The scam that works often is the one that uses a fake bank account and a fake sum of money that needs to be transferred to your bank account in exchange for 10% of the sum. It is basically an email that lands in the spam folder.
As some expatriates that live in Kuwait got the thing with the emails, scammers turned now to phone scams. Phone scams in Kuwait are classic with the caller stating that you have won a prize and you need to pay a small fee to get the prize. Other scammers tend to ask directly for the details of your bank account.
- How to avoid getting scammed in Kuwait?
Even though Kuwait's most common scams usually occur in the online environment, it is better if you come prepared against physical scams as well, so to say. In this respect, it is advised that you pay attention when getting inside cabs, check if they are official, and if their meter is running.
Then, when purchasing a certain item, make sure to double check your change, as some locals might try to take advantage of the fact that you are a tourist and not familiar with the currency. Other than that, you just have to apply a bit of common sense and caution to your surroundings and you should not come across any issues.
Kidnapping Risk in Kuwait: LOW
Parental kidnapping is a serious problem in Kuwait, as the country is not part of The Hague Abduction Convention or a U.S. Treaty Partner on International Abduction and this poses a serious problem for US citizens. If a Kuwaiti citizen brings a child US citizen, all US citizens are to respect and abide by the Kuwaiti laws.
- How to avoid getting kidnapped in Kuwait?
Even though parental kidnapping seems to be an issue in Kuwait, common kidnapping does not seem to be a serious issue - back in 2009, the kidnapping rate was at around 12.4 cases per 100,000 population, with a little bit of an increase compared to 2008.
Nowadays, there are little to no reports of such incidents throughout Kuwait and, thus, you should not be worried about this matter. Naturally, it is recommended that you take some precautionary measures in order to fully avoid such incidents happening.
In this respect, it is advised that you limit your travel within remote areas, bad-reputed neighborhoods, outskirts of the cities, and after dark. Moreover, you should not be traveling alone in the evening - the risks are low, but it is better to be cautious, in any case.
Terrorism Risk in Kuwait: MEDIUM
The US embassy receives various calls stating that attacks will come soon to Kuwait. However, the attacks did not happen. To be remembered, Kuwait shares its borders with Iraq and the border is heavily fortified and checkups are very often and on almost all vehicles.
Terrorist attacks do occur from time to time, but they don’t target Westerners and US citizens. A recent attack consisted of a vehicle ramming that belonged to the government and it was perpetrated by an ISIS sympathizing Egyptian man. In 2015, a suicide bombing took place at a mosque in central Kuwait City and it ended with 27 people losing their lives and injuring hundreds more.
The government is also taking extra measures with the local militia to combat these acts of terrorism. Also, the government keeps close relations with the US officials and this is a good thing. Sometimes, the Kuwaiti government disagrees with the politics of the US, sparking massive scandals in the local press.
- How to avoid terrorism in Kuwait?
Terrorism can be easily avoided, wherever you may be - as you know, terrorist usually target official and governmental buildings, places of prayer, and malls or large shops. Therefore, you should avoid visiting these or spending too much time inside them.
Markets are also to be taken care inside and around of, as there are risks of a bomb attack or even a bomb-armed car driving through it. Moreover, this kind of events is also quite easy to be spotted - as soon as you notice a commotion, take a look around, and identify the source of the problem.
For example, if people around you start to flee the area, you should not stick around and investigate, so to say - you should flee as well, get to a safe location, preferably your accommodation.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in Kuwait: LOW
Risks are minimal for women that travel alone in the country and there are no serious threats. The most that could happen to female solo travelers are being catcalled and nothing more. Sexual assault is uncommon, but keeping a low profile and blending in the environment is necessary.
- How to avoid crime as a solo woman traveler?
According to women travelers, best to avoid is walking alone in the night in remote neighborhoods. Keeping yourself safe at all times is by staying at night in the hotel room. If you are really going out at night, be sure to take some safety precautions like carrying a pepper spray in case of sexual assault.
Rape Risk in Kuwait: LOW
Statistics show that rapes are uncommon in all of Kuwait, so the risk of being sexually assaulted is very low. To be remembered that this is an Islamic country and certain dressing must be considered. Catcalling and stalking happen in shopping malls and public gatherings and staying away from those are recommended.
Attracting unwanted attention is the right way to go and law enforcement officers respond to these kinds of behaviors. Often, just ignoring the catcallers and harassment will do the job as they do not engage in physical relationships.
- How to avoid getting raped in Kuwait?
As mentioned before, in order to avoid such cases, it is recommended that you try to draw as little attention as possible to you - no flashy display of gadgets or jewelry, as well as a decent dress code, in short.
You might come across the usual verbal harassment and such, but these things shouldn't throw you off guard - just keep on walking and mind your own business, so to say, and you should be just fine.
Risks for People Traveling with Children in Kuwait: LOW
According to couples that travel with children in Kuwait, it is voted as being very safe for children. There are many safe attractions and secured where children can have fun. Baby changing facilities are located in malls and they are plenty. Usually, the baby changing rooms are linked to the women’s bathroom, so men will have a hard time trying to use the baby changing room. Breastfeeding is also legal and special rooms are located around shopping malls also.
A common piece of advice is to keep the children off the streets as often as possible due to the unbearable heat. The Gulf has a summer of blistering heat and keeping hydrated is a must especially if you have a child.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios?
Other than what was mentioned before, we recommend you, as always, to keep an eye on your children, especially if you are visiting Kuwait in its touristic season, so to say. The tourist crowds can get quite large and, if you happen to come across an event of sorts, locals may be out on the street in large numbers as well.
Therefore, you'd like to keep your children under surveillance so that they don't go too far away from you and get lost. But, overall, there are no real problems that you should be worried about.
Natural Disaster Risks in Kuwait: MEDIUM
There are a number of threats when speaking about natural hazards. The heat that comes from the Gulf is a killer and it can pose a serious health threat. People with heart diseases are recommended not to visit the country during the summer.
Dust storms usually occur and reduce visibility considerably. As stated above, the traffic is very heavy and if a dust storm comes in, then the entire city is locked down until the storm passes.
A serious hazard is earthquakes. As well as the neighboring countries, Kuwait is prone to having earthquakes with massive tolls following. In November 26th, 2018, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake shook Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait and the tremor has been felt even in Saudi Arabia. There were no reported human casualties, but several people were injured and in need of special care.
Transportation Risks in Kuwait: MEDIUM
In terms of transportation and road travel, you should be aware of the fact that some hazardous ordnance and landmines are present on the roads of Kuwait - of course, landmines are usually found off-road, which is why we recommend you to stick to the beaten path, so to say, if you are driving throughout the country.
Obviously, do not pick up any metals, plastic, or other suspicious objects from the ground.
When it comes to road travel, the driving is reported as being hazardous, with drivers usually breaking the most common driving laws - driving over the speed limit is something apparently normal inside Kuwait, as well as lane-switching with little to no warning. Moreover, Kuwait drivers are also known to blatantly ignore traffic lights and to commonly use phones while driving.
In this respect, you not safe if you are both a pedestrian or a driver - it is advised to always be caution while driving or walking on the street. Your awareness should be on point, especially if you are driving. Be careful of all the drivers around you as they might try maneuvers without warning the others which, in turn, may result into a road accident.
In case of a road accident, you must stay at the location and alert the authorities by dialing 112. If the accident can be classified as minor, it is recommended that you take pictures of the damages done do the vehicle and record the plate numbers of the vehicles involved in the accident. If you are not injured and the car can be driven, you have to move it off the road so that you don't block the traffic - there have been cases when drivers were fined for not moving the vehicle, in the case of minor accidents.
Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Kuwait: LOW
As most governmental websites state, violent crime or assault against foreigners/ tourists is rare. In this respect, you should only apply some basic precautionary measures while traveling through Kuwait.
When inside a night-club, pub, or bar, it is better if you stick with your own drink and keep an eye on it, as drink-spiking can't be entirely ruled out just because there are no reported cases of such incidents.
Naturally, you might come across the usual pub brawl and individuals that might turn violent after a couple of drinks - if something like this happens, it is better to leave the area or leave the night-club guards handle the situation.
Also, we advise you to call your taxi in advance when leaving the club/ bar after midnight or late in the evening - even though crime against foreigners is rare, some locals might try to take advantage of the fact that you are just a tourist. Therefore, you'd like to decrease the number of chances they have of assaulting/ mugging you and think your actions in advance.
Health Risks in Kuwait: LOW
Kuwait has very well trained medical staff that can handle almost every situation. If you feel sick or have a medical emergency, the number you should dial is 112. Be sure to check your surroundings at all time as you may not know the name of the streets in case of an emergency arises.
Before you engage in visiting or moving to Kuwait for a long time, be sure to check your medical insurance policy and have all documents up to date to get proper healthcare. Prices for medical services are almost the same as in the US of higher, so be prepared. Also, in case of an emergency, after the treatment has been done, contact your insurance company in how you can be reimbursed.
List of Vaccines You Need in Kuwait
Some vaccines and shots are to be made before you visit Kuwait and according to the CDC, the list is quite small, but vaccines are mandatory:
- Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine
- Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine
- Polio vaccine
- Hepatitis A and B vaccines
- Typhoid fever vaccine
- Anti-rabies vaccine
If you are thinking to move to Kuwait for a period, you must address to some insurance companies in Kuwait in order to get some proper treatment. The health insurance policy from the US could expire of it may not be available in Kuwait. Considering replacing your health insurance with a Kuwaiti one is mandatory.
Concluding Remarks: Is Kuwait Safe to Visit?
Kuwait is a country with lots of possibilities and it has been voted as safe by many travelers. They have not encountered any problems in their stay, even if it was short term or long term. Petty theft and bag snatching is a common type of felony that happens in almost all countries. However, crime is on the rise, so keeping a close eye on your wallet and personal belongings is a must.
When it comes to terrorism, the Kuwaiti government is taking some serious measures like fortifying the border to Iraq and keeping a close eye on what comes in the country.
Terrorism cases have been reported from 2012 to 2016, but they were scarce and did not target Westerners or US citizens.
Normal precautions are to be taken by women who choose to visit Kuwait alone and to be remembered, that the country is an Islamic one and certain dressing code is to be followed. The country is also safe for parents with children to visit. The unbearable heat can be a nuisance for everybody, so keeping hydrated at all times will ensure you won’t get a heatstroke.
In a couple of words, Kuwait is a country to be reckoned with and normal safety precautions are to be taken, as Kuwaiti people are peaceful.