We moved on relatively fast, heading to Bahrain after just one full day. We arrived in Manama early in the evening. Our visit got off to an annoying start when we caught our cab driver attempting to rip us off when we got to our hotel, The Diplomat Radisson Blu Hotel.
Luckily we knew some of the games the cabbies try to play in the country so we called him out on it, paying the correct fee while also exchanging some choice words…
We knew right away that finding a cab to drive us around wasn’t going to cut it.
With no clear plan of how we’d get around the following day, we headed to the concierge desk to get some info.
I mentioned that our cab had a price sticker which listed 25 Bahraini Dinars for up to 6 hours in the car. (25 dinars is around $66, so at $11 per hours it seemed pretty fair.) I was immediately told that no cabbie would agree to that price which didn’t surprise me!
We had two other options, I could rent a car (which I didn’t want to do since I was pretty tired) or hire a driver that the concierge found for us. The concierge first told us the driver would want 15 dinars per hour and then said the best price would be 10 dinars. With 10 dinars coming to almost $27 per hour, there was no way that this was a realistic option for us to consider.
So it looked like I’d probably just rent a car. This wasnt such a big deal since my friend Stefan from Rapid Travel Chai loaned me the Garmin Middle East Maps card to use in my GPS.
Our next mission was finding somewhere close by to grab dinner. The concierge told us of this area lined with restaurants but it was around a 10 dinar ($26.50) cab ride. Umm, no thanks!
We were then told to walk to the corner, turn left and walk for a couple of minutes. In this direction were also a bunch of dining options. It was disgustingly hot out (100+ degrees and humid at night!) and we walked for a solid 15 minutes, dripping in sweat before we saw some of our options…
We came upon an oasis of American fast food chains- Papa John’s and Burger King or was it McDonald’s?
I may have tried Papa John’s once or twice in my life, it wouldn’t be my first, second or tenth choice if I want pizza! However, Kim and I decided that we’d head in there and grab something to eat so we could get back to the hotel and figure out what to do for the following day.
The pizza was actually better than expected and got the job done.
After I paid the bill, a man who I figured was the manager asked how things were. I mentioned that it was good and thanked him.
I went back to our table to get Kim and Lucas and then the same man asked where we were from. We made some small talk and figured I’d ask him for ideas on how to get around Bahrain for the day.
We were told how cabs were pricey and public transportation wouldn’t really get us to all of the places we wanted to go. I then asked what driving was like in Bahrain and was told that it wasn’t too bad.
I then figured to ask if he knew of someone we could hire to drive us around for the following day.
To my surprise, he offered to take us around!
I asked how much money he would want but Fadhel (the Papa John’s manager) told me not to worry about it and I could give “whatever we want.” We agreed to meet at our hotel lobby at 9:30 the next morning.
Kim, Lucas and I left Papa John’s and wondered if he would really show up.
Sure enough, Fadhel was waiting for us when we got down to the lobby.
Fadhel took us around to a bunch of different sites that I had wanted to visit while also showing us an island made up of very nice homes. He also brought us to a delicious place for a late lunch, I was more than happy to pick up the tab.
Overall, we had an amazing time in Bahrain, more so due to our company- a local guy that was curious to show a traveling family around with no strings attached! I have to say that it felt like a friend that I’ve known for years was showing us around.
Talk about a chance encounter thanks to Papa John’s!
(FYI- I’ll be writing a recap about our day in Bahrain in a future post.)