Adam’s Travel Report – 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix

Adam Rosales tells us about his positive experience attending the first race of the 2024 Formula 1 season, the Bahrain Grand Prix.

This year, Bahrain International Circuit celebrated 20 years of hosting the Bahrain Grand Prix. Despite communication around scheduling and logistics being somewhat lacking, it’s a well organized event. You could even say that it’s a well-oiled machine at this point. The fan experience reminded me of Circuit of The Americas back in the day, before Drive to Survive brought much bigger crowds.

Bahrain’s race day attendance is less than 40,000, which compares to around 140,000 at COTA for the United States Grand Prix. This makes it pleasant to walk around most spectator areas, with virtually none of the shoulder-to-shoulder experiences you get at bigger races on the calendar now. 

Most of the spectator areas are clustered around the pit straight with grandstands at the last corner (Victory grandstands), across the pits, Turn 1 and behind the paddock at the Balteco grandstand. Behind the main grandstand you’ll find the fan zone, with food and drink concessions, ferris wheel, go karting and several activations to keep the crowd entertained through the weekend. 

Bahrain International Circuit has a great layout that lends itself to some solid racing and you can get views of multiple corners if you are sitting in one of the popular grandstands like Turn 1 or Balteco. The covered grandstands provide some shade during the daytime. I watched the action this year from the Turn 1 grandstand, so I got to see the cars under hard braking and then taking the tricky hairpin which highlighted the differences in the way cars navigate the corner. The Red Bull drivers tended to turn in early, while the Mercedes drivers were battling with the rear stepping out at mid-exit. It was really special to see these differences in person, before they have been highlighted on the technical coverage through various blogs and tv slow-motion shots.

Being in the Middle East, I was a bit hesitant about going to this race at first. It was never really on my “list” of races I wanted to attend. It’s very far from my home in Austin, but the more I read about Bahrain, the prices, track capacity, free hotel shuttles, plus the solid history of on-track action helped me keep an open mind. I also had enough points to cover a hotel for my stay, flight prices were reasonable and the ticket I wanted (Turn 1) only cost $270 USD for three days. It was enough to convince me to book my trip to the opening round of the 2024 Formula 1 season.

And I’m glad I went because I had an incredible weekend, both at the circuit as well as exploring Manama. The people of Bahrain are incredibly nice and welcoming to tourists. Everyone I spoke to was very friendly and English seemed to be the primary language alongside Arabic. 

It’s easy to get around with services like Uber and taxis. The circuit also organizes shuttles to get people (and teams) from the airport to select hotels as well as to and from the circuit. These shuttles are free and open to anybody with a race ticket, and can get you to or from the circuit back to specific hotels. (Learn more here)

Prices in Bahrain are fairly reasonable, and comparable to most major cities in Europe or America. The pricing of alcohol is definitely on the higher end of the scale but not anything unreasonable. Beers at the circuit were $12.70 USD, which is about the same as at COTA. 

Turn 1 Grandstand

Turn 1 was an easy choice for me since it’s where the majority of the overtaking happens, along with the chaos of a race start that goes straight into a hairpin and a great view through the exit of Turn 3 as the cars disappear down the straight towards Turn 4. The apex of Turn 3 was also quite special, the sounds the cars made under full aero load over the kerbs was freakishly loud and not something you would notice right away. The skid blocks reverberate like a weird droning siren but the speed of the cars and distance from your seat creates an audio/visual delay. Since most of the sessions happen at night, there is a ton of glowing carbon and sparks from the underside of the cars. It’s really a spectacular sight and really gives you a “wow” factor when you see the cars brake so late into Turn 1 at full speed.

I paid 102 BHD ($270 USD) for a 3-day ticket direct from the circuit. I purchased during the discounted early-bird phase last summer. When buying direct from the circuit, you get to choose your exact seat in the grandstand. I went with Section R towards the end of the stand and chose the top row, T. I was also able to select a seat at the top of the stairs for a bit more leg room since I didn’t have anybody directly in front of me. My section was a bit far from the TV screen, making it hard to see the positions but I was able to use F1 timing app and even the F1 TV app on my phone since the cell signal was solid in the grandstand. 

If I went back, I would probably select a top row around the center of the stand. The grandstand is about a 10-minute walk from the fan zone, you have to cross under a bridge (two flights of stairs) before you get to the area behind the stand which featured plenty of indoor temporary bathrooms and a couple of food stalls.There were a bunch of tables with umbrellas and chairs to sit down between sessions.You are not allowed to enter the grandstand with cans or bottles. If you buy a drink, they will pour it into a paper cup for you. 

Trackside

Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) is quite spacious and easy to navigate. There are plenty of signs (in both English and Arabic) to point you in the right direction, as well as full maps of the circuit grandstands and amenities. The fan zone was quite busy and the large stage for the driver talks had an incredible sound system and screens to follow along if you couldn’t get right up front to see your favorite drivers up close. There were plenty of lounge areas with carpet and cushions under some shaded areas to relax and have a sit (or lie) down. 

The kart track was open during race weekend, although this fact was not very well communicated. Bookings in advance are not possible; you just arrive and check in. It’s located behind the Main Grandstand, between the final corner and pit entry, and a full race suit, helmet and gloves were provided. At 31 BHD($83 USD) for 2x 15 minute sessions it was definitely not cheap, but it was hands down the best kart circuit I’ve ever driven. It’s fast and flowing but can also be a bit dangerous if there are some people driving the 13hp karts without some experience. I almost got taken out a couple of times by people losing grip then suddenly re-gaining grip and shooting off into the gravel traps. Several people  got stuck in the gravel each session and required assistance to rejoin and some even had their sessions ended. 

There are several activations around the fan zone with live music, dancers parading and a kid-friendly nickelodeon circus happening at a large indoor tent. The line for that was usually busy though the weekend.

Food & Beer

The food offered at the circuit had a solid mix of burgers, chicken, sweet treats and some vegan options as well. I paid around $15 USD for some chicken tenders with fries and a cup of water. The stand behind Turn 1 had sandwiches at $3 USD and water at $1.50 USD, and also sold items like throat lozenges and painkillers. 

They do sell alcohol at the circuit but only in specific areas. The two places I know of were behind the Turn 1 grandstand and near the ferris wheel behind the main grandstand. These areas were fenced in and you could not take alcohol out of these areas (security guards were checking). 

Pints of Heineken cost 4.8 BHD ($12.70 USD) and a cup of wine was 4 BD ($11 USD). Pints were served as draught pours into white paper cups. Service was generally fast and efficient. By the end of the night on Saturday, two guys were doing “shoeys” out of each other’s shoes. Everyone was friendly for the most part, and I didn’t see any hostility or belligerent drunken shenanigans that can happen at some other races. 

Getting Around in Bahrain

Getting around in Bahrain is fairly straightforward. There isn’t much public transit so I relied on Uber and some pre-booked airport drivers. It cost me approx. $28 USD to get from my hotel in Manama to the Circuit on Friday (40 minute ride). I ended up riding a hotel shuttle for the return that night, which was free but took me to another hotel that was about 15 minutes’ walk from mine. 

The hotel shuttles leaving the track were not that well organized and communication was poor. They were in a specific lot that was not communicated in advance, but was near the taxi waiting area. The shuttles did not have signage to indicate which hotels they were going to, and it wasn’t until I had asked four drivers that I found the one going closest to my hotel. It took about 90 minutes to get back to Manama due to heavy traffic for a comedy event near the circuit and some road accidents, which definitely made the trip longer than normal. 

On Saturday, a friend I met during the trip offered to drive us to the Tree of Life before Free Practice 3, which I immediately agreed to. Bahrain is not very big, it was about a 30-40 minute drive to see the Tree of Life and about a 15 minute drive to the circuit from there. Leaving after qualifying, it took about an hour to drive back to Manama.

Sunday, we drove again and parked at the circuit in the same pre-paid lot, right outside the gate. Traffic was not much worse on Sunday, it took about 30 minutes to get to the circuit from Manama. They had to leave as soon as the race ended, so I coordinated with my airport driver to pick a few of us up. When I was picked up from the airport on arrival, he offered to drive me to/from the circuit and gave me his phone number. He was very friendly and was originally booked through a driver service via Emirates, so it was an easy decision to ask him for a lift. We paid 20 BHD ($53 USD), which was very reasonable for a post-race ride. There was some traffic but we arrived in Manama in around 30-40 minutes.

Renting a car is fairly easy and straightforward, according to my friend. If your driver’s license is in English, an International Driving Permit (IDP) does not seem to be required but that may vary by rental car company or employee. Fuel was around $1 USD a gallon or $0.40 USD a liter, so it was very cheap. Driving is easy, roads are well signed and traffic was not too hectic. A majority of the traffic seemed to drive well below the speed limit. 

Bahrain felt very safe and modern. It was clean and although lacking green spaces, the surrounding waters of Manama provided some pleasant views. Manama feels very safe walking around at any hour. I stayed at the Hilton Bahrain near Juffair Beach, which had a bunch of food trucks and a strip of restaurants, coffee and a market across the street. I had some great Thai food at a truck one night called Thailand Gate and also had some really great Indian food at Lanterns, which we kept going back to for food and drinks. For lunch on race day, we had some amazing Italian food at L’Orto near the Gulf Hotel. If your body clock is awake late at night, most bars and restaurants that are open late close at around 02:30. It’s still easy to find an Uber or taxi at this time and with empty roads, you can get back to your hotel fairly quickly. 

The Hilton Bahrain is in a great location. It was a decent standard and was easy to get to by car. The nearest hotels with circuit shuttles were the K Hotel and the Olive Hotel, which were around 15 minutes walk away ($10 USD in an Uber). The hotel itself did have some surprisingly great food. I enjoyed breakfast and lunch at the main restaurant Origin Kitchen, which is open to the public as well. There are also two night clubs on site. I was a bit worried there would be noise late at night but I didn’t hear anything. All of my Uber and Taxi drivers were very friendly and made it very easy to get around Bahrain. 

I was able to explore Manama Souq before I left, which had a lot of shops and things to see. There is an indoor building with some food and shops but the things to explore are the surrounding streets which are lined with shops and food. I wish I had more time to explore a bit more and eat at some of the recommended restaurants here, but I was short on time.

Final Thoughts

If I was based in Europe, the Bahrain Grand Prix would almost certainly be on my list of races to attend every year, given the 6-8 hour flight time. Sadly, my journey there took 36 hours and required three connections and a separate ticket since KLM canceled their direct flights from Amsterdam to Bahrain a few months ago. It was only slightly better on the way home, taking around 30 hours with only two connections. The distance and journey time was really the only downside. The jetlag was really bad when I returned home. If this race was easier for me to get to, I would easily go back. Even with the long journey, I would go back if the prices remained so reasonable. I just may give myself a few more days there or add some time in Europe. Luckily on this trip, I was able to get some decent upgrade options to fly business class for most of my flights.

I definitely needed some rest on the flights home after several late nights (and drinks) with some really fun and friendly people that all decided to fly into Bahrain from around the world to see some cars drive around in circles. Organizing some meetups through my subreddit /r/GrandPrixTravel and FanAmp was definitely a highlight. We had some great times at the track, dinner and bars. It’s easy to talk to strangers when you already have a few things in common. It’s quite surprising sometimes how easy it is to make friends on the other side of the world. I can’t wait to go back some day and easily recommend Bahrain as a destination for those with easier access to the Middle East.

Cost Breakdown

  • Delta Airlines flight (AUS-DXB) = $987 USD
  • Emirates Flight (DXB-BAH-DXB) = $431
  • Hilton Bahrain = 200,000 Hilton Honors Points

READ MORE: 2025 Bahrain Grand Prix Travel Guide

2 thoughts on “Adam’s Travel Report – 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix”

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the Bahrain GP.

    I am debating whether to attend the Bahrain or Saudi GP next year – Bahrain does appear cheaper, but Saudi falls on a more convenient weekend (Easter weekend, so I already have the Friday and Monday off). Will be traveling from South Africa, so getting to either will be via Qatar or Dubai.

    Will definitely look at factoring in your tips should I opt for Bahrain.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Post

Trackside at Silverstone – 2024 British Grand Prix

Record Montreal Attendance at 2024 Canadian Grand Prix

2024 Spanish Grand Prix: Everything You Need to Know Before Attending

Trackside at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya – 2024 Spanish Grand Prix

2024 British Grand Prix: Everything You Need to Know Before Attending

Trackside at Spa-Francorchamps – 2024 Belgian Grand Prix

Race Facts – Canadian Grand Prix