As the weekend rolls in and my trip to the Philippines quickly approaching, I think it’s a good time to talk about traveling through the Kuwait airport. I typically prefer to fly early in the morning, but no matter what time I go there always seems to be a crowd at the Kuwait airport. It almost seems as people go there just to hangout. That does make a little sense though, with there not being much to do in a small country like Kuwait with a lot of restricted recreational options. Depending on what airline you choose to book your flight through the lines to the check-in counter can be significantly long.
Get There EARLY!
With that being said, it’s highly recommended to arrive as early as possible before your boarding time. For anyone that travels frequently that’s basically airport travel 101. I generally like to be at the airport 3 hours before boarding time. You never know what to expect at the airport. Residents of Kuwait love to travel so don’t be surprised if you’re greeted at the airport with long lines at check-in.
Now for getting to the airport, most people take a taxi. Taxis will generally charge anywhere from 5-10KD to take you to the airport from where you live. The parking at Kuwait International Airport is very limited with a 3 story parking garage for short term parking and a very small parking area for long term parking. When I decided to park at the airport for one of my trips I ended up having to park in the short term area leaving my car there for 3 weeks. I can’t remember how much the fee was when I returned. I think it was in the range of 10-20KD, which really isn’t too bad for how long I was gone in the short term parking. Check this article from Kuwait Times for information on parking rates.
They also have recently integrated a bus system, called Airport Express – City Bus, that runs specifically for taking passengers to the airport. I read an article doing a Google search that states the bus has 5 stops in Fintas, Mahboula, Abu Halifa, Mangaf, and Fahaheel (in that order). After further research I found out that other buses will also take passengers to the airport at a more affordable rate than taking a taxi. Check this article from Arab Times for route details. I haven’t tried this option yet but I would say expect at least an hour ride. Of course your ride will vary depending on where you board the bus. Keep in mind all public transportation buses in Kuwait are amongst the slowest traffic on the roads. Also, I can’t imagine how this would work out if you have a lot of luggage with you. There does seem to be under-carry storage where you can put your luggage. Airport Express – City Bus has a flat rate fee of 500Fills. If you have taken the bus to the airport, share your experience below in the comments.
Boarding and Check-In
When you arrive at the airport expect to be bombarded by staff with carts to assist you carrying your luggage into the airport. Now, unless you have a ton of luggage, the airport is so small that there’s really not much of need for the cart. The fee for the cart is 500Fils and the guy assisting you will expect an additional tip.
After check-in, you will proceed to the terminal, passing terminal security and immigration where they will check your passport and boarding pass. The immigration area has designated counters for GCC nationals. In the terminal you will wait near your gate, limited seating available, until they are ready to open the gate area pre-boarding. Entering the gate area you will have your passport and boarding pass checked again as well as your carry-on items scanned. Then you will wait again with a little more seating available until they are ready to begin boarding the plane.
Beyond check-in and boarding there’s pretty much everything else you would expect to find at any other airport. There are places to shop for merchandise and refreshments, restaurants, coffee shops and ATMs from each bank. Also, on the arrival floor is where the rental car agencies are located.
Speaking of the arrival floor, this is where most of the crowd is congregated, full of people waiting to welcome in their loved ones from their flights. One thing I found very interesting, uncommon to the states, is it seems families will go to the airport in large groups to greet their loved ones. Where I’m from usually only 1 person will pick you up at the airport and take you to meet the rest of family and friends at home. In Kuwait it’s common for that reunion to happen right there at the airport.
If you are arriving at the airport and you don’t have your own transportation or someone picking you up, your only option is to take an airport taxi. As soon as you exit the arrival area, these airport taxis will be lined up to the left. It’s first come, first serve and you will need to be a little assertive with getting one of these taxis as people are not shy to cut in front of you to get the next available taxi. Every time I’ve taken an airport taxi they charged 8KD.
Aside from the International airport in Kuwait, there’s also a smaller airport, Fly Dubai, near Ahmadi with direct flights to and from Dubai. I haven’t traveled using Fly Dubai yet, but I know several friends and colleagues who have chosen this option with little complaints. I have dropped a friend off at this airport and it seems much less congested than the international airport. I believe it’s much less hassle if you’re just traveling to Dubai, not to mention the much shorter commute compared to Kuwait International Airport. Recently, it’s been reported that Kuwait is building a new airport to replace the current international airport which should be finished sometime in 2017. Inshallah.
As you can see, traveling to and from Kuwait is definitely a unique experience. The key things to remember is always arrive at the airport as early as possible and be patient. Happy and safe travels to you all!