Right at the airport, I met two people who made me doubt my visit here. The driver, a very polite Egyptian, who used to work in the Gulf for the last 10 years. And an Indian, landing from Dubai, guest of the same hotel where I was about to stay and a passenger I was sharing the airport shuttle with.
We had a delightful chat and my hotel mate kindly asked me if it’s my first time in Kuwait. I confirmed and then found that it was his 12th one. He assumed I am coming for a business and was truly shocked when I replied that I am on a short vacation. “Who is coming to Kuwait on vacation?”, was his genuine reaction. Well…obviously I am. I managed to spot myself off the beaten track, as usual.
Then using his vast Kuwaiti experience I requested a favor – to recommend me what is worth to see and visit while in Kuwait. He confidently responded: “In Kuwait there are definitely two things to be visited – the Malls and …the Malls”. I had no idea Kuwait has so many malls, souks, trade centers and markets – more than 20 big ones. So, the hint of my co-riding companion was to use the time for shopping. Men!!! This was my primary thought. They consider all the women shopaholics and probably that’s why he gave me such advice.
I was already confused with the local currency – the Kuwaiti dinar. Withdrawing money from the airport ATM I received 20 KD, all of them by 1 banknote. My first reaction was disappointment and for some reason the ATM let me withdraw less than 30 KD only. Later on, I discovered that having even 1KD is already an accomplishment, because it’s quite strong currency and is equal to 3 Euro. By the way, do not belittle it as I did, because for 1KD you can properly fast fooded yourself – a King Burger 1 KD deal meal includes 1 hotdog, 1 coca cola and french fries.
3KD from those 20 I used to pay for my visa upon arrival. It’s a bit complicated procedure. Let me advise you, because it’s easy to get confused in there. Right at the airport, the arrivals looking for visa should follow the sign Visa Issuance.
It goes along with the Arrivals signage, so cannot be missed. Then you get in a large empty lodge and an administrator at the entrance offers you a registration form to fill. A copy of the main passport page will be immediately made, a registration number provided and you are invited to pay.
The visa could be paid only cash. The first step is to the ATM, withdrawing Kuwaiti dinars. Once you have it, need to move to the next machine, paying for the visa. The machine accepts only banknotes and spits out your visa ticket at the cost of 3 KD (9 euro). At the moment the visa is paid, you will hear a voice command, repeating your registration number and guiding you to a counter, where the passport copy, the visa ticket, the registration form should be submitted along with the original passport. After exchanging some information about the purpose of your stay, the address in Kuwait, the country of origin, the flight number and etc…, your finger prints will be required and the visa form will be stamped. No, that’s not all.
With the stamped visa form, you move to another counter, where you should smile for a camera photo shot, another finger prints procedure, this time all 10 fingers and then … you are free to go. The entire procedure takes about 30 minutes if there is no line of waiting foreigners.
Then you need to go to the Arrivals terminal and to the Passport control. What happened, actually made me feel proud and privileged of being a fresh Kuwaiti visa holder. Right before the Passport control, I asked an officer where should I go with the visa form now. His answer was so simple, that I thought he was joking: ” You can go out”. I went out, just passing by the Passport control, without any check up, almost running with the sense of being an intruder. Then found my suitcase and here I am, after my quiet first night in Kuwait .
Now, I am on my way to explore the city. It’s December 16th, 2018, 20 C outdoor temperature. I need to consider where and what to see first. Unfortunately, Kuwait is a pedestrian unfriendly place, everyone is driving here and obviously I won’t be able to explore it on foot, which is such a pity. Hopefully I’ll find something different than the Malls to be seen and visited. I’ll keep you updated. Cheers!