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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Kuwait

Kuwait - Consular Information Sheet
May 7, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy with a modern economy. Day-to-day life has returned to normal after the 1991 Gulf War, and facilities for travelers are widely available. The workweek in Kuwait is Saturday through Wednesday.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Passports and visas are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Kuwait. For further information on entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Kuwait at 2940 Tilden St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 966-0702, or the Kuwaiti Consulate in New York City, telephone (212) 973-4318. Information also may be obtained from the Consulate's Internet home page at http://www.undp.org/missions/kuwait.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of the relationship between the child and an accompanying adult and, when the child's parent(s) or legal guardian is not traveling with the child, permission from that adult for the child's travel. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

AREAS OF INSTABILITY: Travel to and near the Iraq-Kuwait border is very hazardous. U.S. citizens having legitimate work-related business near the border may receive updated information from the
U.S. Embassy, and may also wish to consult with their employer's security personnel. Unexploded bombs, mines, booby traps, and other items remain present in open areas and beaches throughout Kuwait. U.S. Embassy personnel are advised not to travel off paved surfaces outside Kuwait City.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Americans in Kuwait should exercise a high level of security awareness. The Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of terrorist attacks against United States citizens and interests throughout the world. Americans should maintain a low profile, vary routes and times for all required travel to the extent possible, and treat mail and packages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion. American citizens also are urged to avoid contact with any suspicious, unfamiliar objects, and to report the presence of such objects to local authorities. The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait urges all Americans to be wary of unexpected visitors or mail and to pay particular attention to suspicious vehicles. Any suspicious activity or vehicles should be reported to the Embassy's regional security office.

CRIME: The crime rate in Kuwait is low. Violent crimes against expatriates are rare. However, the U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens to take the same security precautions in Kuwait that one would practice in the United States. Both physical and verbal harassment of women is a continuing problem. Useful information on ways to promote a more trouble-free trip is available in the Department of State pamphlets, A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to the Middle East and North Africa. The pamphlets may be obtained by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402; via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su docs; or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/.

The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: The health care system continues to develop, with many medical facilities, both government and private, available in Kuwait. Medical care at government-run clinics and hospitals is provided at low cost to residents of Kuwait. Private physicians and hospitals charge fees for services, and some do not accept local health insurance. Many hospital and clinic services do not compare to U.S. standards, and staffs often have no U.S. experience or training. Laws and procedures governing health care can be complex.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical insurance have, when a medical emergency occurs, found it life-saving. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochur, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Kuwait is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair to Poor
Availability of Roadside/Ambulance Assistance: Poor

Driving in Kuwait can be hazardous. Although Kuwait has an extensive and modern system of well-lit roads, excessive speeding on both primary and secondary roads, coupled with lax enforcement of traffic regulations and a high density of vehicles (one vehicle for every 2.8 residents), leads to frequent and often fatal accidents. In 2000, there were 27,696 reported vehicular accidents, and 331 traffic accident-related deaths for a population of about 2.2 million.

The government-owned Kuwait Public Transportation Company operates bus service throughout the Kuwait City metropolitan area on 50 different routes and is widely used by the low-income expatriate labor force. Two types of taxi service are available: (1) orange taxis work a fixed route and pick up passengers anywhere along that route and may be shared, and (2) call taxis are available at major hotels and pick up passengers at other locations on telephonic request. Unaccompanied women should not use taxis after dark.

Visitors can use international driving permits issued by their respective countries within the time limit of their visas; however, the visitor must have liability insurance. It is illegal to drive in Kuwait without a license and car registration documents. If you are stopped and cannot produce them, you may be taken to a police station and held until they are presented on your behalf.

If you are in an accident, Kuwaiti law mandates that you must remain at the scene until the police arrive.

The use of seatbelts in the front seats is mandatory in Kuwait. Driving is on the right side of the road. Speed limits are posted. Making a right turn on a red light is not permitted unless there is a special lane to do so with a yield sign. Parking is not allowed where the curb is painted black and yellow. Digital cameras for registering traffic violations, including speeding, are in use on Kuwaiti roads.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol is a serious offense, which may result in fines, imprisonment, and/or deportation. Repeat traffic violations or violations of a serious nature may also result in the deportation of an expatriate offender.

When a driver flashes his/her high beams in Kuwait, it is meant as a request to move your car into a slower lane to allow the driver with the flashing beams to proceed ahead.

Kuwait has one of the highest rates of cellular telephone ownership per capita in the world. Although using a cellular telephone while driving is not yet illegal, a law requiring the use of a hands free accessory with the cellular telephone while driving is expected to be enacted.

Local emergency service organizations may be contacted by dialing 777. Ambulance crews do not respond as quickly as in the United States and are often not trained paramedics.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Kuwait's civil aviation authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Kuwait's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at telephone 1-618-229-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Kuwaiti customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Kuwait of items such as firearms, religious material, pornography, and alcohol. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Kuwait in Washington, D.C. or Kuwait's Consulate in New York for specific information regarding customs requirements.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United Sates and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Kuwait's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, manufacture, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Kuwait are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines.

LOCAL LAW AND PROHIBITED PRACTICES: Alcohol, pork products, and pornography are illegal in Kuwait. Religious proselytizing is not permitted. Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis, including Americans, charged with criminal offenses or placed under investigation, or involved in financial disputes with local business partners, are subject to travel bans. These bans, which are rigidly enforced, prevent the individual from leaving Kuwait for any reason until the matter is resolved. In purely financial disputes, it may be possible to depart the country if a local sponsor authorizes funds equal to the amount in dispute.

CURRENCY REGULATIONS: Travelers checks and credit cards are widely accepted. Kuwaiti currency is readily convertible to U.S. dollars.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: In Kuwait, child custody decisions are based on Islamic law. It is extremely difficult for an American woman, even a Muslim, to obtain custody of her children through a Kuwaiti court decision. Regardless of their parents' marital status, minor children of a Kuwaiti father may not leave Kuwait without the father's permission. For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

EMBASSY LOCATION AND REGISTRATION: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy and enroll in the Embassy's emergency alert network in order to obtain updated information on travel and security in Kuwait. Initial registration may be done on-line at http://www.usembassy.gov.kw/registration-main.htm. The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait is located at Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa Street, Plot 14, Block 14, Bayan, Kuwait. The mailing address is P.O. Box 77, Safat 13001, Kuwait. The primary telephone numbers are 965-539-5307 or 539-5308. The after-hours number is 965-538-2097. Additional information may also be obtained through the Embassy's Internet web site at http://www.usembassy.gov.kw.

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