Kuwait has a good road system. All signs are in English and Arabic. The major north-south roads are effectively freeways numbered Expressway 30, 40, etc. These are traversed by increasingly widely spaced ring roads named First, Second, etc., making navigation fairly easy.
Using Google Maps for navigation is a good option, as it offers traffic and roads, and all major destinations. However, if you need to find a location using its address (which you probably won’t need to). Google Maps will even give you wrong address for your current location and places. This is due to how Kuwait addresses work mixed with lack of proper support of Kuwait subdivisions in Google Maps platform. Areas are labelled as neighbourhoods and blocks as sub-neighbourhoods. For example, if you are in Street 1, block 1, Jabriya, your address will appear as Street 1, Kuwait City (since it is the only city in Kuwait, and neighbourhoods aren’t supposed to be included in addresses). So if you intend to go/find a place using its address, make sure you install the free and easy-to-use official Kuwait Finder GIS system on your phone from its apps market.
BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT:
Kuwait’s public transport is adequate with three companies (KPTC, City Bus and KGL) running dozens of routes in every major city. Waiting times for buses range from one minute for most frequent routes to 1 hour minutes for less used routes. All buses are equipped with air-conditioners and usually one can find a seat without much trouble. Although, during peak hours (7-9AM, 2-4PM, 8-9PM) most routes are packed and public transport should be avoided for those seeking comfortable travelling. Although areas with expatriates majority are covered with many routes, Kuwaiti residence areas are scarcely connected with public transport buses and are reachable mostly by taxis only.
Bus nr 500 runs to Abdaly – a village in the north on the border with Iraq. It departs every 3 hours (6AM, 9AM, etc.) from KPTC bust station in Hassawi.
These are recognisable by orange licence plates and may be hired by the day, in which case fares should be agreed beforehand. Although most taxis have meters these are rarely used as in practice, meters are always “broken”, covered, missing or just ignored, and you’ll need to agree on fares in advance. Beware that cabbies will often ask for ridiculous prices. Share-taxis are also available. Hailing taxis from the road is the most practical approach. However some sources have reported it was not advisable, particularly for females, and they recommend that taxis are booked in advance by telephone from a reputable taxi company. The cream-colored taxis are the cheapest, but also likely to be poorly maintained and possibly dangerously so, considering the general speed and size of the rest of the vehicles on Kuwaiti roads.
A standard rate is applicable in most taxis, but those at hotel ranks are more expensive. Naive westerners routinely pay 2 to 5 times more than the standard rates which are typically KD 0.500 for up to a 5 minute ride plus about KD 0.100 per minute thereafter. The only exception being airport departures which are approximately KD 3. Tipping is not expected, however you should negotiate fares before boarding the taxi. It is customary to collect all baggage and exit the taxi before offering payment to avoid conflicts or loss of personal property should a taxi driver demand more than the agreed price after arriving at the destination. This way, the passenger can drop the money in the seat and walk away if necessary.
It is common to share a taxi (which is often an unofficial taxi or a private car) from bus stations to more remote destinations such as Abdaly on Iraq border. Taxi drivers often wait until the car fills up with passengers and this may take an hour. Expect to pay KD 2-3 for the shared taxi with 3-4 other passengers. Do not agree to pay more. If the driver refuses, just wait a couple of minutes for another driver.
BY HIRE CAR:
Self-drive is available. If you produce an International Driving Permit, the rental company will, at the customer’s expense, be able to arrange the statutory temporary insurance, which is drawn on the driver’s visa. If you arrive at Kuwait International Airport, you will find the car hiring companies located at your left after you exit from the baggage claiming area. You can find international companies such as Avis and Budget among others.
However, driving in Kuwait, especially for those new to driving in the country, can be extremely chaotic and frightening. Turn signals and lane divisions are effectively optional, speeding and aggressive driving is commonplace, and there is little active enforcement of traffic laws. This is especially true for Kuwait city. Driving outside the city, you may have three lanes almost to yourself as there is little traffic.
A law has been passed to disallow the use of cell phones while driving (including voice calls and text messaging or SMS.) If driving, ensure you keep out of the left hand “fast” lane unless you are very relaxed about large 4-wheel drive vehicles tailgating you.
If involved in a car accident, do not attempt to move your car until police arrive and have made a report or you will be arrested.
Hiring a car may be a good (the only?) opportunity to experience the desert, the coast and the oilfields.
Prices are comparable to hiring a car in European countries, e.g. KD 10 for a small two door japanese made car, 4WD and american made sports cars may cost around KD 25. Petrol costs KD 0.1 per litre, gas stations are plenty.