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Digital Bahrain: My GCC Contactless challenge completes with just one tiny exception

I tell you what, I really enjoyed visiting Bahrain. Really enjoyed it.

I liked everything.

I liked the small but very modern airport. I really enjoyed meeting local Bahrainis who were all incredibly positive and friendly.

And I really appreciated how I was able to use contactless – Apple Pay in my case – everywhere.

There was one bump in my GCC Contactless Challenge that I’d set myself and it happened on Day 1, hour 1 of my visit: I walked out of the airport to the taxi rank and was directed to the first taxi on the rank.

The chap was very friendly.

“Do you take cards?” I asked – as I always do.

“Oh, no, cash,” the chap replied.

“Whaaaaat?” I replied, recognising the chap was friendly and I could have a little joke with him, “But this is Bahrain, come on, how come you don’t accept cards?”

He smiled, apologised and then suggested I try the next taxi.

Aaaand the next taxi accepted cards. Great! Problem solved – for me, anyway.

I used Careem during the rest of my stay so the actual taxi transactions took place somewhere in the Uber/Careem ether instead.

I didn’t get a chance to try out the ‘Easy Taxi’ app which I saw regularly advertised in the taxis – such is the power and ease of being a Careem/Uber user.

Elsewhere, I had a seamless experience across Bahrain as a tourist. I paid for absolutely everything with my phone and sometimes with my Apple Watch.

Every coffee shop. Every restaurant, every shop, and every hotel I visited: All contactless. I even paid for a lovely aromatherapy massage with my iPhone. Brilliant!

I would have very much loved to have tried out some of the services that the Bahraini locals get to experience. I was talking through the services with some of the locals and it does look rather impressive what the country has constructed with BenefitPay (or “BPay”). It’s effectively a ‘does everything’ wallet that’s supported by all the local banks, meaning you can instantly and easily send money to friends and family locally; make contactless payments (with your phone too) and effortlessly pay bills. Smart.

So there we go.

This is the end of my GCC Contactless Challenge. I’ve really, really enjoyed the process. It’s been magnificent to stroll around these countries using just my iPhone and occasionally my Apple Watch to pay! I’ll do a wrap-up post shortly.

Ewan is Founder and Editor of FinTech Profile and Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of mobile and FinTech industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.
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