A Complete Travel Guide for Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is a Middle Eastern country which has the world’s second largest oil reserve; it has high HDI (Human Development Index). The Kingdom is ruled by the Al Saud family who are the successors of Wahhabi leaders; its current ruler is King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Saudi Arabia is also known as “The Land of Two Holy Mosques” and all the citizens are Muslims. It has a desert climate which can reach up to 50 °C in the day time and at night, the temperature drops sharply. It shares the border with Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, Oman, UAE and Qatar. Main cities –

  • Riyadh (Capital)
  • Jeddah
  • Mecca
  • Medina
  • Tabuk
  • Dammam
  • Ta’if

Riyadh Tower33% of Saudi population are foreigners; people usually travel to Saudi Arabia for business purposes. It’s 77% of the economy is based on petroleum and gas revenue, but according to its vision 2030, they estimated to generate $100bn from non-oil and petroleum revenue. Saudi Arabian army ranks among the top twenty armies in the world with the expenditure of 10% of its GDP. The United Kingdom and the United States of America are the major suppliers of weapons.

Saudi Arabia Climate

Saudi Arabia is near to the equator, it has a desert climate which has extreme heat during the day, a sharp drop in temperature can be seen at night, except the coastal regions it receives very less rainfall. Asir is the only province which receives good amount of rainfall.It is recommended to wear light colored clothes during the summer season. Weather conditions dramatically change at night in the desert area which is famous for being cold even during the summer as the sand gives up its heat after dusk. It is recommended to wear light coloured clothes during the summer season. Weather conditions dramatically change at night in the desert area which is famous for being cold even during the summer as the sand gives up its heat after dusk.  Saudi Arabia Desert

Travelling Advice

Due to strict Islamic law (Sharia), you might wonder if Saudi Arabia is safe? It has very low crime rates due to the strict Sharia Law but you should be alert because incidents of robbery and pick pocketing commonly happens in the market area. No specific attacks on foreigners have ever happened so it is a quite safe place for the traveller. You can greet people by saying –

  • Welcome – ahlan wa sahlan
  • Hello – as-salām ‘alaykum
  • How are you? – kayfa ḥālak
  • Thank you – shukran

It is a Muslim dominated country so during the holy month of Ramadan – drinking and eating in public is prohibited, if caught then one can get in trouble (serious trouble). There are three public holidays i.e. Eid Al Fitr, Eid Al Adha and National day.

Holy Mosque Mecca

Since mid of 2015 Saudi Arabia has led air strikes in Yemen, there is a tension on the borders. It is advised not to travel within 80 km of the border until it is something important, also it has discontinued all the diplomatic relationship with Qatar. If you want to travel to Saudi Arabia from Qatar then you should contact your travel operator.

Travel Requirements

If you want to enter Saudi Arabia then you need a visa for that even for the Hajj and Omrah. You can apply for a visa through visa agency so that they can process the visa on your behalf. During the month of Hajj Jeddah and Medina airports are closed except for the Hajj visa holder. Things which you require before and during your travel to Saudi Arabia are –

Passport

A passport with six months validity is required.

Visa

If you’re from another country and travelling to Saudi, then the first thing you need is a Visa. Depending upon your travelling you can opt for the visas given below –

Please note that citizens of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates don’t require visa for Saudi Arabia as they fall under GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council).

Health Insurance

It is recommended to obtain health and medical cover insurance as well as your medical documents which include the Yellow fever certificate.

Female Traveler 

If you are a single female travelling to Saudi Arabia then you must meet your sponsor on the airport.

Non-Muslim Traveler 

If you are a non-Muslim traveller then you are not allowed to enter the Mecca and Medina.

Saudi Arabia Law

Saudi Arabia is an ultra-conservative country and the following points should be kept in mind –

  • Muslims in Saudi Arabia pray five times a day and during this time all the shops shut down for like half an hour.
  • Women need to wear “Abaya” in public. Abaya is a loose garment which is similar to a Burqa but without the veil.
  • Men are not allowed to wear shorts in public.
  • During the month of Ramadan, you are not supposed to eat and drink during day time.
  • Murder, homosexuality, terrorism and rape act leads to the death penalty.
  • No free mixing of opposite sex.
  • Women are not allowed to drive a car.
  • Consumption of pork and alcohol is illegal, if caught then serious actions would be taken against you.
  • Protest and public demonstration are not allowed.

Saudi Arabia culture

It is located in the centre of the old trade route. Arab played an important role in the trade between India and European countries. When Al Saud family over threw the Ottoman Empire they wanted to preserve the Arabian culture and they did so. Saudi Arabia has a rich cuisine, their food mainly consists of rice, meat, wheat, camel, dates, yoghurt and potatoes. Falafel and shawarma are very famous among any other dishes.

Saudi Food - Falafel

It is a much-misunderstood country than any other country, yes it is true that Saudi is strict towards following its rules and regulation but it has a diverse culture and heritage. Saudis are very friendly and down to earth, their tradition is influenced by the Islamic teachings.

  • Islam is the state religion.
  • Majority of the citizens are Sunni with around 90%; Shia consists of around 10% of the population.
  • Arabic is the national language; however, citizens do speak English.
  • Nepotism is supported in the Saudi society.
  • Though there is strict gender segregation women can own property in Saudi Arabia, also they get a portion in their father’s property.
  • Only halal food is served.
  • Food like “Kapsa” is very famous; it consists of meat and rice.
  • Coffee is the common beverage.
  • Football is the famous sport, Saudi government spend a lot of money to encourage sport.
  • Saudis love exchanging gifts and meeting each other.
  • It is good if you carry a small gift while visiting any Saudi.

Safety and Security Tips for Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is quite a peaceful place with lots of business opportunities but before travelling to any country it is important to understand the safety and security tips. Here are some pointers to keep in check before travelling to Saudi which are as follows:

  • Due to the ongoing war between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, it is advisable not to travel within the 80 km of the border.
  • Don’t make any statement against Islam and the ruling family Al Saud.
  • Women are allowed in the market with their known only.
  • Photography of women and government places are prohibited.
  • Don’t smoke, eat, drink and chew in public during daytime in the holy month of Ramadan.
  • Get vaccinated against MERS-CoV virus.
  • Playing music in public is not allowed.
  • You are not supposed to carry out any religious scripture other than Islamic scriptures.

Both the sex is segregated in Saudi Arabia with women considered to obey men. Some of the laws are for women that they are not allowed to go out of the house without the permission of their husband. There exist a religious police known as Mutaween who are authorised to catch foreigners and ask for the proof of their marriage. Locals wear a “Ghutra” or “Shimag”, but for a foreigner can wear loose trousers with a shirt and t-shirt. It is better not to wear shorts in public. It is not required for a man to cut his long hair. Shoulder-length hair is common among the culture of Saudi. There are tribal people known as Bedouins who have long hair as well, but anyhow your hair should not resemble a woman’s hair.

Saudi Arabia Traditional Attire

Ultimately, if you are visiting any country you are expected to respect the local culture and the same goes with Saudi Arabia. They follow Islamic Sharia Law which supports that if a visitor happens to break any rule or falls into trouble by mistake then the reaction will be dealt with generously and not with anger.

Requirements for Travelling to Saudi Arabia

Passport  Requirement

Before entering the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, you must carry a passport with at least six months validity; if your passport has an Israeli stamp then authorities will not issue a visa to you.

Visa Requirement

If you are a European nationalist then visa is required for you. Application process for Saudi Arabia visa is quiet easy it takes only 2-3 days for the processing, you can apply for the categories mentioned below –

  • Business Visa
  • Work Visa
  • Family Visit Visa
  • Visitor Visa

Prices

This table includes Saudi Arabia visa cost – 

    Visa Type

Visa Information

Business Visa 3 Month Single Entry – £130 6 Month Multi Entry – £130 1 Year Multi – £460
Work Visa Work Visa: £17.50
Family Visa Family Visit Visa £189
Visitor Visa 3 Months Single Entry Visit Visa – £130.00

 



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