Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy Kuwait City does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED KUWAIT CITY AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Kuwait-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
Media reporting indicates there was a significant increase in criminal activity compared to 2015; however, Kuwaiti authorities had not posted official crime statistics for 2016 at the time of publication. Third-country nationals (TCNs), in addition to around 42,000 U.S. citizens, comprise approximately two-thirds of the population. It is probable, particularly among TCN victims of lower income/status, that a high percentage of crimes go unreported. Violent crime occurs between Kuwaitis and/or by Kuwaitis against foreign workers (domestic staff) but often goes unreported or is not fully investigated. Crime does not affect most travelers who practice personal security measures to mitigate the possibility of becoming a victim.
On March 10, 2016, a Kuwaiti national stabbed a U.S. citizen in Fintas. The media reported that the suspect, a male in his twenties, stabbed the victim five times as he was jogging on a walking path. The police arrested a suspect who claimed that he and the victim exchanged blows, but evidence showed that was not true. The suspect was released by Kuwaiti authorities.
Petty theft has been reported in the popular outdoor markets and shopping malls frequented by tourists and Westerners. Property crimes (pickpocketing, purse snatching) are more likely to take place in shopping areas and other high-traffic locations where foreign visitors congregate.
Crime victims have also reported various types of immigration and residency fraud, ATM/credit card theft, white-collar fraud, embezzlement, and property theft.
Spear phishing for information and spoofing business leaders’ email addresses with the intent of moving money is an area of concern.
Individuals with limited computer skills have been able to purchase sophisticated state-sponsored malware kits and use them to cause significant damage to private companies and governmental institutions.
Social media continues to be an information target rich environment for criminals and other actors to gain information about individuals. RSO encourages individuals to exercise caution when using social media.
Other Areas of Concern
Although several districts in Kuwait City have high incidences of crime, only the Jeleeba al-Shuyoukh area near the airport is of sufficient concern that Embassy personnel are asked to exercise particular caution when visiting it, especially at night.
Further, Embassy policy places the Kuwait/Iraq border north of Mutla’a Ridge and Jahra off-limits for official U.S. government personnel without special permission.
Unexploded ordnance (UXO) from the 1991 Gulf War remains primarily a problem in the desert areas; however, mines have recently washed up on the beaches of Kuwait City. The Embassy urges caution if traveling off paved surfaces outside of Kuwait City. Workers have discovered UXO in piles of sand used at construction sites. A contributing factor to the local population's exposure to UXO is a tradition of desert camping. The majority of these campgrounds are very close to the major roadways, but some Kuwaitis travel long distances from built-up areas to camp in relative isolation. Camping in well-used areas mitigates some risk of contact with UXO, but camping in areas far from population centers increases the chances of coming into contact with hazardous items. In addition, heavy rains can wash away sand, exposing UXO.
Apart from periodic sandstorms and rain, road conditions and weather are favorable for driving most of the year.
The most dangerous daily threat residents face is aggressive driving. Drivers must remain on the defensive. Locals often drive aggressively, pass on shoulders and emergency lanes, and operate without headlights at night. Speed is the primary cause of traffic fatalities. Kuwait has an excellent highway system, but many people drive in excess of posted speed limits and weave through traffic. Many of the reported accidents were due to negligent driving.
According to media reports, nearly 500 people a year die traffic accidents. The main cause of fatal traffic accidents is lack of attention while driving. The Ministry of Interior has stated that cellular phone use while driving is of particular concern.
Avoid driving in the far left lane on highways due to the prevalence of aggressive drivers, who may flash their headlights rapidly, tailgate in order to get the slower drivers to move to the right, or pass on the left shoulder if blocked. Driving in the shoulder is not illegal; there is a set speed limit of 45 kilometers per hour for driving on a shoulder; however, drivers using the shoulder routinely drive much faster than the speed limit.
Road rage, aggressive driving, and competitiveness often end in disaster. It is quite common to see remnants of traffic accidents alongside the highway. It is advisable to avoid confrontations, refrain from making hand gestures/eye contact with drivers, and to move away from anyone acting aggressively. Never lead such persons back to your home or to a secluded area.
Kuwaiti authorities treat public intoxication and driving while under the influence of alcohol as serious offenses; any trace of alcohol is illegal. Authorities will arrest and prosecute offenders. Offenders may face a travel ban during the investigation and court proceedings, which can take months to conclude. Offenders may be sentenced to prison, required to pay a fine, and/or be deported if found guilty.
Kuwaiti law mandates that individuals involved in traffic accidents immediately notify the police and file a report. There are no Good Samaritan laws; assisting in an accident may expose the responder to liability. Expatriates perceive that the police afford Kuwaiti nationals preferential treatment when investigating accidents.
The Ministry of Interior (MOI) has taken steps toward increasing traffic law enforcement, implementing traffic safety measures (camera/radar systems), and delivering public awareness campaigns. The use of seat belts is mandatory, and the use of handheld electronic devices while driving is illegal, but drivers frequently ignore these laws. Non-payment of traffic and parking fines may result in travel bans for expatriates. Vehicle break-ins occasionally occur when drivers leave valuables in plain view.
Randomly-placed police checkpoints are frequent. Uniformed and plainclothes police have the authority to make traffic stops but must identify themselves with police identification credentials printed in Arabic and English. The RSO advises individuals to remain in their own vehicles with the doors locked and to lower the window only enough to receive the person's police identification. While checking the credentials as well as possible, individuals should use their mobile phone to alert their sponsor/trusted person of the situation and ask the sponsor/trusted person to meet them. U.S. citizens should inform the officer of their nationality. Do not ride in a police vehicle. If possible, drive your own car to the police station. Before going to the police station, individuals should request the officer to specify the name of the police station, and keep the mobile phone connected so the sponsor/trusted person can know and hear the destination. Lastly, anyone stopped by the police should relay the license plate number, the make, model, and color of the officer's vehicle to his/her sponsor/trusted person on the phone, if possible.
Public Transportation Conditions
The government-owned Kuwait Public Transportation Company operates a bus service used mostly by the low-income TCN labor force.
Marked taxis are widely available at major hotels and Kuwait International Airport (KWI), and the RSO encourages visitors to use only metered and marked taxis. Marked taxis have the driver’s name and ID number posted on the back of the front seat. Note that information and call the police at 112 to report an incident. Establish the fare before entering the vehicle. Do not enter a taxi that already has other passengers. Do not permit taxi drivers to pick up other passengers. U.S. citizen passengers should always sit in the back seat and avoid making eye contact or engaging in needless conversation.
Other Travel Conditions
Exercise care and caution before chartering any local watercraft (dhows, motor boats) for recreational excursions, particularly when operating close to shore in congested waterways. There may not be accessibility/availability of life jackets on vessels. Commercial and military vessels traverse Kuwait's coastline. The Kuwaiti Coast Guard routinely stops vessels passing through.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED KUWAIT CITY AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
The U.S. Embassy continues to receive threat information indicating possible targeting of official and private U.S. citizens for terrorist attacks. Soft targets are vulnerable to terrorist attack, although many are making improvements to their perimeters and internal security.
- In October 2016, three U.S. soldiers, in uniform, were driving from one military base to another in a government-owned vehicle. An Egyptian national operating a 10-wheel truck intentionally rammed the soldiers’ vehicle, coming to a stop in a drainage ditch. The truck caught fire and the three soldiers pulled the driver out of the vehicle, potentially saving his life. During the course of the investigation, it was revealed that the Egyptian national purposefully hit the U.S. government vehicle in an attempt to kill the soldiers. The Egyptian national stated he was an ISIL supporter and independently decided to attack American soldiers.
- In February 2016, a Saudi Arabian national and admitted Taliban supporter drove his vehicle into a group of police officers during the Kuwaiti Liberation Day celebration. The driver killed one police officer and injured five others. Police arrested the suspect near the scene. Media reported the suspect planned the attack and was urged by his brothers to carry it out.
- In August 2015, Kuwaiti authorities seized a large cache of weapons and explosives on a rural farm in Kuwait.
- In June 2015, a terrorist suicide bombing occurred at the Imam al-Sadiq mosque in Kuwait City, killing 27 and injuring hundreds more. The attack was perceived as an attempt to exacerbate Sunni-Shiite tension.
Kuwait is a close partner and major non-NATO ally of the U.S., a relationship that has been close since the U.S.-led liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation in 1991. Kuwaitis occasionally disagree with U.S. policy, manifested through the local media and private social gatherings (diwaniyas). The close partnership between the U.S. and Kuwait yields excellent cooperation on matters of mutual interest.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED KUWAIT CITY AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Kuwaiti law permits freedom of assembly as long as organizers of public gatherings of more than 20 people obtain advance approval from the MOI. There were a small number of demonstrations and marches in 2016 related to political and social issues. In December 2016, a protest occurred in front of the Embassy of Russia regarding Russia’s role in the Syrian civil war. Media reported that approximately 2,400 Kuwaitis attended the protest.
Bidoons (stateless Arab residents) also hold unlicensed demonstrations demanding citizenship rights in Kuwait.
The majority of the Kuwaiti population is Muslim. Unofficial estimates are that over 60% are Sunni and 30% are Shia. There is also estimated to be a Christian population of up to 700,000, made up mostly of expatriate and migrant workers. There are several officially recognized Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic faith churches, but there are also dozens of churches that are not officially sanctioned by the government. Kuwaiti society is tolerant of the religious diversity of its population and counts several hundred Christians among its citizens. Incidents of religious or ethnic violence are extremely rare.
The summers can be stressful due to extreme heat; the summertime average daily high temperatures range from 42-48C (107.6-118.4F). Kuwaiti winters are cool and dry.
Occasional dust storms reduce visibility. Air quality is frequently poor due to dust, poorly regulated vehicle emissions, and uncontained contaminants from the petrochemical industry.
Kuwait has vast oil fields, refineries, water desalination plants, ammonia plants, and other industries. Health and safety standards are not to Western standards; thus, workplace accidents are common. The Embassy advises Americans to keep apprised of local media coverage and government announcements. The Embassy advises its employees to keep shelter-in-place supplies in their residences with sufficient food and water to last several days.
Kuwait is a low-threat environment for economic espionage. There have been reports of American disk-mounted software illegally reproduced and used by individuals. There have been no reports of any organization or country targeting American software; however, the possibility exists.
Pirated movies and music and the selling of counterfeit goods is rampant. Kuwait does have copyright and trademark laws; however, they are rarely enforced.
The government generally respects privacy of the individual, but it does monitor social media and Internet websites. Topics critical of the Amir and religion are off-limits in the media and on social media, and the government prosecutes individuals who violate local media laws. Websites with morally offensive content are banned.
Personal Identity Concerns
While Kuwait is in many ways a tolerant country, conservative customs and dress are the norm. Kuwaitis may consider it offensive to photograph women. U.S. citizens should keep in mind the cultural differences among the nationalities that coexist and should be cognizant that certain actions may invite unwanted attention. There are reports of harassment and sexual assault of expatriate women. There is a perception in the expatriate community that authorities do not fully investigate or prosecute crimes of rape. Women have reported suffering incidents of harassment while traveling alone, in public, and while shopping. There has been verbal and occasionally physical harassment of women. This generally occurs while shopping and sometimes driving, especially at night. Women can mitigate the potential of harassment by being cautious and conservative in dress and behavior. Ignore any taunting and do not to respond to individuals involved. If you feel harassment is imminent, remain in a public place until you can contact local security or police.
Trafficking in persons does occur, but the government is taking measures to reduce trafficking within its massive expatriate and migrant worker community. An overwhelmed judicial system and large black market labor pool contributed to worker abuses by Kuwaiti sponsors and other expatriate workers. Domestic workers are particularly vulnerable due to their isolated work locations, and several cases of severe abuse are reported each year.
In 2015, media outlets reported several seizures of large quantities of illegal narcotics by local authorities at the maritime ports, Kuwaiti International Airport, and residences due to enhanced monitoring and enforcement measures. Possessing and using alcohol in a public place or a place where others are present is illegal. Distributing, providing, or selling alcohol to others is also illegal.
There have been no public reports of kidnapped American or Westerners. However, parental kidnapping is a problem. Kuwait is not party to the Hague Abduction Convention or a U.S. Treaty Partner on International Abduction. This can prove problematic if a Kuwaiti brings an American child from the U.S. without permission of the other parent. Once in Kuwait, American citizens are subject to the jurisdiction of the Kuwaiti legal system.
Kuwait’s MOI maintains a visible police profile with uniformed and plainclothes officers deployed in key locations for response and deterrence.
U.S. citizens are subject to the country’s laws and regulations, which can differ significantly from those in the U.S. Violating Kuwaiti law can result in detention, arrest, a prison sentence, fines, and/or deportation. Examples of common crimes include possession, use, or trafficking of illegal narcotics, pork, firearms, counterfeit goods, and alcohol. Photographing government and public buildings, military installations, and economic infrastructure is against the law. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.” Humiliating or insulting a person is considered a crime, as is insulting members of the ruling family. The former is similar to disorderly conduct or harassment in the U.S.; the latter is treated much more seriously. Proselytizing is illegal, unless it is based on Sunni interpretations of Islam. Non-payment of traffic violations or other outstanding debts owed to Kuwaitis may result in travel bans preventing individuals from exiting Kuwait.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
If arrested or detained, Americans should request to speak with the duty officer at the U.S. Embassy through the switchboard operator at (965) 2259-1001. Do not assume the Kuwaiti authorities have reported your arrest to the Embassy. A consular officer will visit the citizen within 24-72 hours of the initial notification.
A local attorney will be required to assist in any civil or criminal proceeding. The Embassy maintains a list of attorneys who have worked with U.S. citizens.
Crime Victim Assistance
Dial 112 to contact police, fire, and ambulance emergency services. Police response to requests for assistance to Americans is generally good. American citizens who do not speak Arabic should request assistance from a bilingual Arabic/English switchboard operator. Be mindful that emergency switchboard operators do receive prank calls and may hang up if they do not understand the caller. The Embassy advises callers to call again in such cases.
The police accept crime reports at the police station with jurisdiction over the area where the crime occurred. If filing a crime report, it is advisable that a person who speaks Arabic and/or a local attorney accompanies the U.S. citizen, as the victim must render all testimony in Arabic. Filing a crime report can take several hours, as a police investigator will take the victim’s statement orally while composing his investigative report. Although many police investigators are fluent in English, it is advisable for those who do not speak Arabic to have an Arabic interpreter present. In all cases of abuse, the victim must obtain a medical report from a Kuwaiti hospital in order to file a police report.
Each district and governorate has police stations operating under the direction of the MOI Directorate of Public Safety.
There are many government and private medical facilities available. Medical treatment costs are comparable to or more expensive than in the U.S. Most hospitals and doctors accept major credit cards and cash. Patients will need to contact their insurance companies for reimbursement.
Local ambulance service is available by dialing 112. Most ambulances do not carry life-saving equipment. It is advisable to have an understanding of where you are located in case an emergency arises. Without addresses or street names, places are difficult to find. You may cite the number on the nearest streetlamp post to the switchboard operator to assist the ambulance in locating you.
Al Amiri Hospital
2245-0005, 2245-1442, 2245-0080
25, Kuwait City, Kuwait
Al Seef Hospital
#3 Al Belajat St. Salmiya Kuwait
Al Salam International Hospital
Port Said St, Dasma 35151, Kuwait
Mubarak Al Kabir Hospital
2531-2700 / 2709
Street 103, Kuwait
Dar Al Shifa Hospital
Beirut St, Hawally, Kuwait
New Mowasat Hospital
Salem Al Mubarak St, Salmiya, Kuwait
Balsam Dental Care Center
2575-5737 – 25755747
Salem Al Mubarak St, Salmiya, Kuwait
Americans are urged to consult with their health insurance companies prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policies apply overseas and whether they will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. citizens residing in Kuwait must possess a health insurance policy with the Kuwaiti Ministry of Health to remain in legal status in Kuwait and may choose to purchase additional private insurance.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Water is generally potable.
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Kuwait.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Kuwait Country Council currently meets monthly at pre-arranged locations and has approximately 50 members. Please contact OSAC’s Middle East and North Africa team with any questions or to join.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
The U.S. Embassy is located in Bayan on Masjid al-Aqsa Street.
Hours of Operation: Sun-Thurs, 0800-1630pm
Embassy Contact Numbers
The Embassy Switchboard is (965) 2259-1001. U.S. citizens requiring emergency services should contact the Embassy Switchboard and request American Citizen Services in the Consular Section for immediate assistance during business hours.
In case of an emergency after business hours, also call 2259-1001 and ask for the Embassy duty officer.
Consular services, including services for U.S. citizens as well as visa applicants, are available by appointment only. Appointments for routine services such as passports, notarials, and citizenship documentation may be booked online via the Embassy’s website at the U.S. Citizens Services Appointment System. If you have any questions, please contact the Consular Section at KuwaitACS@state.gov
All American travelers and expatriates are strongly encouraged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to receive consular messages. Refer to the Country Specific Information for Kuwait on this website for further guidance. Travelers should read the latest Country Specific Information for Kuwait prior to travel.
Kuwait Country Information Sheet