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Places to visit in Saudi Arabia – 15-day itinerary

By Joan Torres 31 Comments Last updated on April 11, 2024

what to visit in Saudi Arabia

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Allowing Westerners to get in is going to be a game-changer for the country because it means that Saudi will be open, more and more tourists will have the chance to discover its beauties and, therefore, the country will evolve positively and more progressive rules will be implemented. 

For all the visa-related information, read how to travel to Saudi Arabia .

All right, the first thing you need to know is that there are many awesome things to do in Saudi Arabia and it actually has a massive touristic potential that goes way beyond desert, camels, and Bedouins. 

I mean, just look at its dimensions – it’s massively huge, really – with an area 4 times bigger than Spain, so the country is home to large geographical contrasts, ranging from high, green mountains to sand dunes and coral reefs. 

After spending 2 weeks traveling around, I have compiled all the places to visit in Saudi Arabia in a 2-week itinerary. 

things to do in Saudi Arabia

In this Saudi Arabia travel itinerary you will find:

Table of Contents

  • How to organize your trip
  • How to access blocked websites
  • 10-12-day itinerary
  • Additional Places (2-3 days)
  • More information

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How to organize your Saudi Arabia itinerary

Most likely, your Saudi itinerary will start in Riyadh or Jeddah, from where you will start planning your journey. 

Read: How to find the right accommodation in Riyadh

The problem with Saudi Arabia, however, is that the distances are too big, plus the 2 main cities are located in the middle, which means that, if you want to visit both the south and the north, you will have to do some really crazy detours. 

Just for you to have an idea, imagine you want to visit Riyadh , Jeddah, Al-Ula and Jizan, which are the 4 greatest places to visit in Saudi Arabia in my opinion:

Riyadh to Jeddah: 954km Jeddah to Jizan: 714km Jizan to Al-Ula: 1,382km Al-Ula to Jeddah: 676km

That’s 3,726km in less than 10 days, only for moving from one city to another. 

Remember to get travel insurance for Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia’s health care is extremely expensive, so insurance is a must. IATI Insurance offers different plans, for all budgets. Get your 5% exclusive discount if purchasing via this link

itinerary for Saudi Arabia

Then, how to plan what to do in Saudi Arabia?

Moving around by car.

If you are willing to drive long distances, you can rent a car, no problem, but just be aware that, in Saudi, most rental car companies (not to say all), offer limited daily mileage , around 250-300km, so if you drive all around the country, the final quote can be a bit expensive. 

Moving around by plane

Probably the most feasible option. I personally took 2 flights, from Riyadh to Al-Jawf and from Jizan to Jeddah and it saved me a lot of time. There is a very budget airline called flyadeal and, if you book in advance, you should get good rates. 

In any case, there is not a single place to visit in Saudi Arabia made for walking or moving around by public transportation, so even if you fly in, you will have to rent a car at the destination itself. 

best places to visit in Saudi srabia

How to access blocked sites in Saudi

Something you should know is that, in Saudi, the internet is censored.

This means that some websites might be blocked and inaccessible for regular internet users.

Moreover, because of this censorship and, since there is no freedom of speech, the Government reserves the right to monitor your internet activity.

Therefore, if you want to access blocked sites and navigate anonymously, you will need something called a VPN (Virtual Private Network) and for that, I use – and strongly recommend – ExpressVPN , the VPN that works best for Iran.

If you have no clue about VPNs, read my tutorial: What is it and how to find the right VPN for Saudi Arabia

Get this epic travel guide to Saudi Arabia!

My friends Sian & Bob have recently published a full guidebook to Saudi Arabia, containing loads of actionable advice and a great overview of each one of their regions. A great introduction to the country, this must be the only available travel guide to Saudi Arabia !

easy travel saudi arabia

Places to visit in Saudi Arabia – 10-12 Days itinerary

This Saudi itinerary covers the following things to do:

  • Riyadh – The capital, which is surprisingly interesting.
  • Jeddah – The second largest city has the most beautiful Old Town in the Gulf.
  • Abha – Spectacular mountains and colorful heritage villages.
  • Jizan – Mountain villages and Yemeni-like culture.
  • Al-Ula – A replica of Petra and Wadi Rum but without tourists.

Visiting Mecca and Medina – Why aren’t included in the Saudi Arabia itinerary? Good question. The Saudi tourist visa specifies that you can go anywhere in the country except Mecca and Medina, the two holiest places on Earth for Muslims. ”I understand, but I know that some Westerners have sneaked in successfully” Yes, but let me tell you something: those holy places receive thousands and thousands of visitors every day, so they can’t check everybody who gets in, especially if you dress like them. However, entering without their permission is not only illegal but also extremely disrespectful, let me tell you why: According to their interpretation of the Quran, whoever goes to Mecca or Medina needs to have their soul and body cleansed, and that involves following some rituals and protocols before getting in, similar to going to a regular mosque but even more extreme. Christians entering Mecca won’t follow any of those rituals and, according to Saudis, that could lead to something bad. Yes, it is a superstitious thing but you are in their country and in their holy place, so if you want to be a responsible tourist, you shouldn’t go there. You can, however, visit both cities but there is a line several meters before the holy place which you are not allowed to cross. 

Map of the things to do in Saudi Arabia

Riyadh – The country’s capital (3-4 days)

As the capital, Riyadh has the largest number of flight connections from Europe, Asia and many places around the world , so it makes sense for it to be your first place to visit in Saudi Arabia. 

The first thing you need to know about Riyadh is that it has nothing to do with the fancy, oil-rich, Dubai-style and Maserati-filled capital you may think of, but it is actually a crowded city, full of dust, and not very clean precisely. 

Nevertheless, Riyadh is rich in culture and history, more than any other capital in the Arab Peninsula, so I actually liked it a lot, plus it has some wonderful natural beauties, as well as ruined cities, just outside of the city. 


Things to do in Riyadh

In the Old City – Don’t forget to check Masmak Fort, the place that held the famous Riyadh Battle ; the National Museum; Deera Square, where public executions take place; and Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque, one of the largest mosques in Saudi. 

Outside of Riyadh – Visit the Red Sand Dunes, the Edge of the World, the Camel Trail and Ad Diriyah. 

In the modern part – At sunset, you must climb the Skybridge tower. 

For more information, I have written a full mega-guide:

How to visit Riyadh in 3 days – A complete guide

Where to stay in Riyadh

These are just a few options. For a proper district breakdown, check: Best areas to stay in Riyadh

Budget Hotel –   OYO 150 Al Hamra Palace Al Aswaq – Simple but clean and comfortable. In Saudi, aparthotels are very common and the cheapest accommodation. 

Mid-Range –   Mada Suites – For travelers with a higher budget, this aparthotel is a really good value for money choice. 

Affordable Luxury – Crowne Plaza – This 5-star hotel is cheaper than many other luxury options in the city. 

easy travel saudi arabia

Jeddah – The most progressive city (3 days)

Established in the 7th century AD as the gateway for Muslims going to Mecca who arrived by sea from mostly Africa, Jeddah is the second largest city in the country and, in relative terms, the most progressive place to visit in Saudi Arabia. 

Here is where you find the most liberal young hipsters in Saudi, who mainly hang out in the modern cafés, which are growing day-by-day, and organize the many underground, clandestine parties Saudi is famous for. 

Places to visit in Saudi Arabia jeddah

Things to do in Jeddah

Al Balad – Besides being the preferred place for expats to live, Jeddah is also home to Al Balad, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the most beautiful Old City from all the Gulf Monarchies, composed of buildings with colorful windows and narrow streets with a great local life that turns into a bustling and vibrant area right before sunset. 

things to do in Jeddah

The Red Sea – Moreover, since Jeddah is settled on the shores of the pretty untouched Red Sea, Jeddah has a great coastline with great beaches, Silversands for example, is a mixed gender beach where women can wear bikinis. 

Al Wahba Crater – If you have time, I also recommend going on a day trip to Al Wahba Crater, a crater around Taif area, which is believed to be caused by a meteorite. 

The Floating Mosque – Last, don’t forget to check out the Floating Mosque (north corniche), a beautiful mosque on the sea which gets pretty busy after the main Friday prayer. 

Where to stay in Jeddah

Budget –  OYO 125 Al Hamra Palace – It is the same one I recommend in Riyadh, basically, because they are the best decent budget option in town. 

Mid-range – Shada Executive Hotel – This beautiful hotel has a great design concept, it is in a relatively good location and is one of the best-rated hotels in town. 

Affordable luxury – The Hotel Galleria By Elaf – One of the best, cheapest and best-rated 5-star hotels in Jeddah. 

Where to visit in Saudi Arabia

Abha – Epic ancient buildings and monkeys (2 days)

My Couchsurfing host had canceled my request upon my arrival in Abha, so I headed to the center of town in order to figure out where I could stay.

I was walking around with my backpack, without many expectations to be honest, until I found a great traditional market, the first one I had visited in which the different stalls were not Indian or Pakistani-run, but 100% local Saudi, both men and women, who were selling from dates to all sorts of fruits and homemade meals. 

There were also many honey-stalls, some of them selling literally tens of types and there I learned that Abha is worldwide famous for its honey and, in fact, it is considered the best one in Asia. 

If you want to read more content about this region, read: where in the Middle East is safe ?

Saudi Arabia travel itinerary

You will have a great time in that market but the main reason you should visit Abha is that it is located in a secondary dimension from the rest of Saudi Arabia and that is in a mountainous area filled with lush green hills, wild monkeys (yes, there are loads of monkeys) and some striking local architecture. 

Moreover, Abha is a real off the beaten track region , so making random Saudi friends is fairly easy and I actually met a great group who showed me around their mountains and villages. 

What to do in Saudi Arabia

But perhaps, Rijal Almaa Heritage Village is the place Abha is most famous for and one of the best places to visit in Saudi Arabia. 

Many centuries ago, Rijal Almaa was the main stopover for people coming from Yemen to Mecca and Medina, so the village turned into an important trading center. 

The main peculiarity about Rijal Almaa is that it was never totally under total Ottoman rule, so they managed to keep their traditional architecture which, as you may see from the photos, is similar, if not the same, to the architecture you find in Yemen. 

The colorful Heritage Village is still under restoration and it will take a while to be finished because it is mainly been restored from the villagers’ pockets.

Today, Rijal Almaa is in the tentative list for becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site.

It contains a museum, as well as many viewpoints from where you can take great pictures.

Rajal Almaa Abha

Where to stay in Abha and Rijal Almaa

Be aware that accommodation here is more expensive than in the big cities.

Budget – Shatha Abha Furnished Units – The cheapest option in Abha.

Mid-range – The View – Relatively fancy, super spacious rooms with great views of Abha’s lake. 

Affordable Luxury – Blue Inn Boutique – There are not many 5-star hotels in Abha, but I recommend this one because it is quite affordable for what you get. 

easy travel saudi arabia

Jizan – Welcome to Yemen (2 days)

Jizan, WOW. 

If Abha is a secondary dimension, then Jizan is in a different universe because the mountains here are not only more dramatic but the Yemeni-like culture is totally different from any other place to visit in Saudi Arabia. 

They eat Yemeni food and, in the villages, you will find many people dressing in the traditional Yemeni way, which often involves wearing a janbiya , the Yemeni dagger, and a hat made of flowers. 

Jizan people

These Yemeni-like people are really friendly and you can ask them for a picture, no problem at all. In fact, they will like it because it’s not every day that a random foreigner asks for a photo. 

Jizan is also very close to two Against the Compass destinations (just across the sea): Somalia and Eritrea

While Abha is very much off the beaten track, it attracts a lot of domestic tourism, but barely Saudis visits Jizan, which means that you will be a particularly exotic element here. 

Jizan is a province, with Jizan City as its capital. The city is not very exciting, other than having a really average-looking corniche, quite boring in my opinion, but it is a great base to explore the region. 

The places you should not miss are Fayfa and Absiyah , two mountain villages which are around 100km east of Jizan, where you will find the famous hills with those terrace fields (Southeast Asia style) Jizan is famous for. 

Read: Syria travel guide

Famous places to visit in Saudi Arabia

There are many different villages to explore and I recommend to drive around randomly. By the way, the local market where you will meet those Yemeni-like people bargaining for a dagger takes place every day in a different village, so do find out where will it be held on the day of your visit.

interesting places to visit in Saudi Arabia

Where to stay in Jizan

Budget – El Eairy – The most budget option. Seriously, despite the bad rate on booking (Saudis are very demanding), it is not that bad for one or two nights. I stayed here and it was fine. 

Mid-range – Nozol Ghayda – For people on a mid-range budget, this is a good value for money option. 

Affordable luxury – Novotel Jizan – There are only two 5-star hotels in Jizan and this is the best-rated. I came here to have some nice coffee in the morning and it was great. 

easy travel saudi arabia

Al-Ula – Like Petra and Wadi Rum but without tourists (2-3 days)

I will be honest here. 

This is the only place from this Saudi Arabia itinerary that I didn’t go to. 

And the reason is that Madinah Saleh , the most jaw-dropping thing to do in Saudi Arabia, was closed during my visit, as the place had suffered from vandalism and they had restricted the entrance until they figure out what to do with the place. 

Nowadays, however, Madinah Saleh is fully open to visitors!

How to travel to Saudi Arabia as a woman

In any case, what is Madinah Saleh?

Madinah Saleh, or Hegra, was an ancient city founded by local tribes 5000 years ago, but it was not until the 2nd century BC that the Nabateans, the same guys that built Petra, made it a great city, in a fear of the Romans conquering Petra, so it could serve as the new capital. 

Still, the Romans conquered both cities, Hegra and Petra, but the more than 100 tombs carved from the giant desert rocks still remain and it is particularly more stunning than Petra because it is located in the middle of literally nowhere. 

For more information, I recommend you read this guide to Madinah Saleh from Blue Abaya . 

Besides Madinah Saleh, there are other things to do around Al-Ula

The desert around Al-Ula – Is a replica of Wadi Rum but with no Bedouins trying to sell you expensive desert tours. 

Al Deerah Heritage Village (Old Town) – Another great highlight, Al Deerah is a 2,000-year-old mud-based ghost town.

Where to stay in Al-Ula

Mid-range – Sahary Al Ola Camp – A beautiful desert-themed hotel located in the middle of the beautiful desert. 

What to do in Saudi Arabia – Extending your itinerary: Al Jawf & Hofuf (2-3 extra days)

Since I had some spare days left, I decided to also visit Al Jawf and Hofuf, located in the far north and far east respectively. 

To be honest, they are not the greatest touristic places but I enjoyed my time because I went there with a great group of people and also, I had to go because I was working on a project for a local company, so they wanted to show me around and take some photos. 

Is it worth it to go? Well, I will show you the photos, give you some explanation and then you decide. 

Hofuf – Great temples and mosques – (1 day)

Hofuf is 327km from Riyadh, so if you leave early in the morning, you could visit it on a day trip, that’s what I did. 

It is located in the eastern part of Saudi, in Al Ahsa region, relatively close to Dammam, an unattractive industrial city with no particular touristic interest. 

In Hofuf, however, there are a few sites worth checking out.

Hofuf Saudi Arabia

Things to do in Hofuf

Ibrahim Palace – Beautifully restored, this 500-year old Ottoman building used to serve as both an Islamic building and a military fortress, and elements fulfilling these functions can be seen all around. 

Jabal Qarah – In the middle of Hofuf, there is a small rocky hill named Qarah made of utterly strange rock formations.

Most of the site has been restored, very badly, and it seriously looks like shit because they have added loads of artificial elements, losing the total sense of a natural place and, unfortunately, as I expected, the locals freaking love it. 

Only because of that refurbishment, I would tell you to skip it but if you get off the main trail, climb the walls, you will see that half of it hasn’t been restored yet, so it is a great place to watch the sunset and take some cool shots. 

things to do in Hofuf

Jawatha Mosque – Apparently, this was the second mosque that Prophet Muhammed ever prayed at on a Friday and what I like about it is that it is very humble. 

The souq – The souq of Hofuf is composed of narrow lanes with traditional wooden facades and many of the shops are run by local Saudis, so it was pretty cool to visit. 

Where to stay in Hofuf

Budget – Al Masem Hotel – The classical budget aparthotel in Saudi. 

Mid-range (traditional hotel) – Al Koot Heritage Hote l – We visited this hotel because it is one of the very few hotels in Saudi Arabia which is decorated in the most traditional way and tries to sell a cultural experience. The food here was also great. 

Top-end – Al Ahsa InterContinental – The best-rated 5-star hotel in Hofuf. 

Jawatha Mosque Hofuf

Al Jawf – The most northern region (1 or 2 days)

Well, if you check the map, you will see that Al-Jawf is crazy far, more than anywhere else, and it is in fact 1,147km away from Riyadh. 

I personally came here by plane from Riyadh but, like I said, I went there to work on a project, so they paid all my expenses. Still, if you happen to be in Tabuk, a northern city that has the greatest desert landscapes in the country, Al-Jawf is pretty close. 

So, is it worth it to go or not?

I had loads of fun because there I was received by two young Saudi ladies who wore the niqab and spent the whole day with them. I went for coffee with one of them in a café (just the two of us), they invited me to their house, fed me and, of course, showed me around their province.

It was a great cultural experience, one that very hardly any male can tell. 

easy travel saudi arabia

Anyways, other than my interactions with the local women, Al Jawf is rich in archaeological sites, as well as a local culture which sometimes seems to have closer relation with Jordan than Saudi itself, especially when it comes to food, as I just ate Arab Levantine dishes such as makluba and  dolma and you will be surprised to know that the region is very rich in olive oil. 

Actually those ladies gifted me with 1 litre of local olive oil. 

Many Saudis also claim that Al Jawf is home to the most hospitable people in the country but I would not know what to say about that, as I was treated like a royal guest everywhere I went. 

Things to do in Al-Jawf

Rajajil columns – Some very weird 6,000-year old stone columns built by pagans. They believe that each rock represents a man. 

Rajajil columns Al Jawf

Za’abal Castle – More a fort than a castle, located on the top of a hill from where you get stunning views of the valley. 

Marid Castle – An Assyrian 1,800-year old castle with traces of Romans and Nabateans. This is the top place to visit in Al-Jawf region. 

Where to stay in Al-Jawf region

Budget – Ghoson Al Zaitoun Furnished Units – The most budget classic aparthotel.

Mid-range – Dana North – Spacious rooms and the best location for travelers with a higher budget. 

Amazing places to visit in Saudi Arabia

More information to complement your Saudi itinerary

📢 In my Travel Resources Page you can find the list of all the sites and services I use to book hotels, tours, travel insurance and more.

All guides and articles for traveling in Saudi Arabia destination

  • Travel Guide to Riyadh
  • Where to Stay in Riyadh
  • Solo Female Travel Guide to Riyadh
  • Is it Ethical to Visit Saudi Arabia as a Tourist
  • Hitchhiking and Backpacking in Saudi Arabia
  • VPN for Saudi Arabia
  • Travel Guide to Saudi Arabia

Travel Itineraries to other countries in the Middle East

  • Iran Itinerary
  • Iraq Itinerary
  • Travel Guide to Oman
  • Travel Guide to Lebanon
  • Syria Itinerary

You will also be interested in: Where in the Middle East is safe? and The most beautiful places in the Middle East .

places to visit in Saudi Arabia


Great rundown of places for a first-time itinerary! I was excited to hear that they were allowing regular tourists to visit, so now I’m trying to think of a good time for me to do so. That said, I’ll probably wait until Madain Saleh is open for visiting, as that is definitely a place I want to visit when I go there.

Hello, my friend and I are going to Saudi in January 2020 for 10 to 12 days. We really want to go to Jizan and the surrounding mountains and villages. Did you feel it was safe when you went yourself? How close did you go to the Yemeni border? Also, How did you move around, did you arrange a guide/driver? would you have any recommendation for that? Finally, did you consider going to the Farasan Islands by ferry from Jizan? Thanks for this great blog post, we found plenty of very useful information! François

Hi François, I went as close to Yemen as Jizan and Fayfa. It was safe. In Jizan, I met up with a local Couchsurfer and they showed me around with their car. The rest of Saudi was mainly by hitchhiking and locals I met on the way. I would suggest you rent a car. I did consider going to the islands but didn’t have time unfortunately.

By the way, I just wanted to quickly update you on the status of Madain Saleh, it is open this January for the winter festival on weekends only, then it will close again until they figure out how to open it to tourists. More info at https://experiencealula.com/en/Pages/default.aspx and bookings at https://book.experiencealula.com/

thanks for the update!

I really love your travel blog here and it gave me a very good start and overview for my plannings!

Now I am planning a trip to beautiful Saudi Arabia and visiting Madain Salih would be my main reason to visit also the north! But now I am wondering if this would be possible in the middle of march 2020!? I saw the news that the sight is closed for maintanance reasons till the end of 2020 – only open during a festival from december till beginning of march.

Will it be worth to go there or is there a way to visit this wonderful sight?

I would los to see this place!

Thank you and kind regards from Austria,

Hey Florian, I just updated the article accordingly and, as you say, it will only be opened until March 7th. After that, there is no official source saying what will they do with the site. I think that not even they know what will happen. If Madinah Saleh is your only and main reason to visit Saudi, I would suggest you postpone the trip. For me, it was a big disappointment not visiting Madinah Saleh but as you can see, there are loads of things to do in Saudi

Hi, I have tried to get a visa via the recommended site, however, the price they mentioned is very far away from the US170 and they claim that you need to buy a visa from them in order to get the visa? Do you know how to get a visa for US170 without having to get an insurance too as I do have one already covering KSA too? Bertil

Hi, today we returned from a trip of one month in KSA and it was wonderful. I have loads if fresh information. The country is very safe, even on the road visiting Najran as close as 15 km from the Yemeni border. People are extremely friendly and helpful. For shorter legs we took the Saptco bus and flying with fyadeal never was expensive. But we could not visit Madain Saleh. There are lot of other places worth a visit.

Thanks for your report 🙂 I also couldn’t visit Madinah Saleh, a pitty, but yeah, Madinah Saleh is just one of the many wonders in Saudi

Good morning Thanks to the new visa regulation we are allowed to visit Your country and therefore we ask for your assistance to study the following itinerary: 13 DAYS group of 11 pax TOUR iNCLUDING : fly to jIDDAH – AL MADINAH – AL ULA – MADAIN SALHI – AL WAJH on the coast- DUBA on the coast , AYNUAH – – HUMAYD – TABUK flay to italy via Riyad Duration 12 days Using 4×4 cars which will be driven by us One car will have to be driven by your guide/driver expeert of the area while other 2 car by our clients (2 cars driven by us 1 car driven by tour guide/driver . We nweed to arrange all overnights in hotels,private houses when available or tented camps but always of mediun cost , not de luxe – You can include il your quotation ( no meals that will be paid locally) Ariport Transfer upon arrival andeparture CAR RENTAL FOR 4X4 SELF DRIVEN CARS ALL ACCOMODATION AS REQUESTED ONE DRIVER – GUIDE WHO WILL FOLLOW OUR GROUP FO THE WHOLE 12 DAYS We intend to promote this tour and receive many groups from January 2020 on april /may according to temparature . Hope to receive as soon as possible tour reply and info abd suggestions about our project Faithfully Vittorio Kulczycki

Please let me knmown if you received my message vittorio >KUlczycki

Hello Vittorio. I am not a tour operator but this is just a travel blog, sorry!

Hi Torres, thank you for your feedback about Saudi Arabia. I enjoyed your blog about your trip. You went to the most beautiful places in Saudi and you mad the right chose. I do work with a Saudi travel agency called Taiba Flocks. Also, thank you for writing about Saudia because many western people have bad thoughts about Saudi, and no one can judge them because we know how the media impact everything. And you all welcome to Saudia.

thank you for sharing. It is very difficult to find some relevant information about traveling around KSA and some great sights to see. Sadly even some expats living there have no clue about the country. Nevertheless we are flying to Jeddah in a month and we will try to enjoy our stay as much as possible. Since we have just 10 days, we want to cover just a small part of the KSA and so far it looks like we are going to the south (security situation permiting). Our preferable way of travel would be a rental car and we would like to camp in the wild as much as possible. Do you think it would be possible? I assume that in the middle of nowhere we would just turn off the road and pitch the tent and in case we are in inhabited area like in the mountains we would ask locals.

Thanks for your feedback, Michael

Hi Michael, yes, it would be possible, In fact, random camping is a very common practice in these region

Thanks Joan, we are looking forward to new middle east adventure. Together with Kuwait, the KSA is the very last country in the region we haven’t been to yet. So exciting! One more question – do you think we would need a proper offroad car (Toyota Landcruiser or so) to drive around southern mountains or is common SUV good enough? In Oman we always rented a big proper one which would alow us to get deep in some wadis, but mostly any car is fine, high clearance is a plus.

Thanks, Michael

Hey Michael, at least for all the places mentioned in this article, there is no need to get a 4×4, but it depends on where you wanna go!

Hi Joan, I’m so glad I found your well written blog about KSA as there isn’t that much info on internet for travelers who like to travel on their own. We’re 4 Slovak guys planning to go for a week (can’t stay longer unfortunately due to family reasons) to Saudi Arabia flying into Riyadh and departing from Jeddah (to save time). As Madinah Saleh is closed we’ll skip the north because of lack of time (I visited Petra together with my wife last year), so we’ll might focus on Riyadh, Jeddah , probably Dhee Ayn, Marble Village and eventually Jizan. We plan to rent a car but that issue with limited daily mileage concerns me a lot. I googled through different renting websites but couldn’t find an offer for unlimited mileage. Do you eventually know which company could offer such? What I considered as well was taking some bus/train at least between Riyadh and Jeddah, but I can’t really find some direct connection. I have a question as well in regards of that eVisa, found several websites offering to handle the touristic eVisa, none of them is governmental though. Most of them don’t even have the final price stated until you fill out the data…a fact I don’t like that much. The link you provided in your blog, that price of 170 USD is a final one everything included? Thanks in advance. BR Martin

Hi Martin, When I was in KSA, I asked many locals about the mileage issue and they said that that was the general rule in KSA. As per the evisa, the one linked in my blog is the official one. I don’t know how much it costs now, as it has changed since the last time I applied

Hi there This blog is so good! Thank you so much much for all the info and ideas. Ive booked my flight into Riyadh for next month and can`t wait to travel Saudi Arabia 🙂 My plan is to end up in Hail and then somehow cross by land boarder into Jordan. I tried booking a bus with JETT and SAPTCO , but both websites don`t seem to have a bus service between Saudi Arabia and Jordan anymore. Does anyone have any ideas or Links on how I could travel into Jordan by road ? Maybe from Hail or any other destination in Saudi Arabia

If there is no bus, would it be possible and safe to hitch hike with a truck or ride share with locals. Would people be able to take me legally across the border into Jordan. Unfortunately I don`t speak Arabic 🙁 Any help would be appreciated, thanks Markus

Just wondering the best way to travel from Abha to Jizan? Did you fly into one of the cities and drive/bus from there?

Love your blog!

you should be able to find a bus to Jizan from Abha, or a shared taxi. Otherwise, hitchhiking is also feasible

Hi Joan! Thanks for putting this post together! I have a question regarding your Fayfa/Jizan/Abha pics above: There is the one with a man sitting in front of a beautiful door looking over the fields. Do you know the name of the building or where exactly it is? Thanks, Anton

Hey Anton, unfortunately, I couldn’t tell, as we were just driving around randomly, However, it is in one of the highest points in Haifa and by the way, there are many view points like this one where you can see similar views. Cheers,

Hi Joan I really would like your help, because still can`t find a bus to take me from Saudi Arabia to Jordan. Do you know if I could cross the border hitch hiking? Ive got a German passport and visas are okay.

Thanks Markus

Dear Saudi tours agents . Can someone of yours know about non Muslims visiting the city of Medina and the city off Mecca ?

Flyadeal is not specially cheap. The rates difference to Saudia is insignificant. And you can’t buy well in advance as tickets are only made available a couple of months before the flight.

Wow! Beautiful photos. It would be really nice if you had also shared the coordinates of the phots or the name of the lookouts where photos were taken. Incredible photos and great details.

Your 15-day itinerary of Saudi Arabia is a treasure trove of cultural and scenic diversity! From the urban landscapes of Riyadh and Jeddah to the natural beauty of Abha and the historical wonders of Al-Ula, your guide covers it all. It’s fascinating to see how travel in Saudi Arabia, a country without permanent rivers, revolves around road trips, showcasing its vast and varied terrain. This guide is a brilliant resource for anyone wanting to explore the rich tapestry of experiences Saudi Arabia has to offer. Thank you for sharing your adventures and insights!

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View from the Al-Faisaliah  (Globe) tower, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Arabia

If there is a final frontier of tourism left, it's Saudi Arabia. The birthplace and spiritual home of Islam, Saudi Arabia is rich in attractions and stirring symbolism. For Muslims, the cities of Mecca and Medina, rich in Prophetic significance, have no equal, while the carved temples of Madain Saleh, known as the second Petra, and the sophisticated rock art at Jubbah are the Kingdom's greatest pre-Islamic treasures.


Must-see attractions.

Prophet’s Mosque

Prophet’s Mosque

One of only two mosques in the world that can accommodate a million people, the Prophet’s Mosque holds deep significance for Muslims all over the world…

Al Masjid Al Haram

Al Masjid Al Haram

The focal point for every Muslim and the biggest mosque in the world, Al Masjid Al Haram is able to host a million worshippers and covers an area of 356…

Jubbah Rock Carvings

Jubbah Rock Carvings

This is arguably the Kingdom's premier pre-Islamic site and open-air art gallery. Covering an area measuring 39 sq km are some of the most impressive…

Masmak fort in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Masmak Fortress

Surrounded by sand, this squat fortification was built around 1865 and is like a scene out of the movies: a big fortress representing an empire. It was…

Pearl Merchants' Neighbourhood

Pearl Merchants' Neighbourhood

Staring at the mesmerising geometric and floral designs of the carved patterns that adorn the houses and arched gateways of Farasan's former pearl…

Students in square at National Museum, Riyadh, Riyadh Province, Saudi Arabia

National Museum

This state-of-the-art museum is one of the finest in the Middle East. Encased within modernist architecture, its two floors contain eight well-designed…

Empty Quarter

Empty Quarter

The 'Abode of Silence', or the Empty Quarter, covers almost 655,000 sq km and evokes all that was romantic and forbidden for European adventurers, such as…

Al Ula Viewpoint

Al Ula Viewpoint

The views as you wind your way up to this gem of a spot offer glimpses of what's to come. At the top, the road plateaus through a windswept, lunar…

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A handout picture provided by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah on October 4, 2020, shows Saudis and foreign residents circumambulating the Kaaba (Tawaf) in the Grand Mosque complex in the holy city of Mecca, as authorities partially resume the year-round Umrah for a limited number of pilgrims amid extensive health precautions after a seven-month coronavirus hiatus. (Photo by - / Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umra / AFP) (Photo by -/Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umra/AFP via Getty Images)

Jan 25, 2021 • 3 min read

With strict COVID protocols for 2021, here's what you need to know about the Hajj, Islam's most important religious pilgrimage.

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Here’s What You Need to Know Before Visiting Saudi Arabia

For the first time in its history, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced that will be opening its doors for tourism by issuing an electronic visa for visitors coming from 49 countries — including the United States.

Anyone over the age of 18 can apply for an eVisa . It costs approximately $120 and is valid for a period of one year with an option for multiple entry, and permits a maximum stay of 90 days in the country. Previously, the Kingdom issued only visitor visas for religious pilgrimage and business visas. This monumental announcement is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reform program, Vision 2030 , which aims to reduce the country’s reliance on oil and diversify its economy by way of tourism and entertainment.

Over the past two years, the government has also announced the launch of several ambitious projects, including an entertainment mega-city in Riyadh (reportedly, twice the size of Orlando’s Disney World ), a futuristic beach destination along the coast of the Red Sea, and restoration of UNESCO World Heritage sites. By 2030, the government expects 100 million annual visits, increased foreign and domestic investment in hotels and associated amenities, the creation of million jobs, and an increase in tourism revenue from the current 3% to 10% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, according to Reuters.

To attract Western tourists and market itself as a tourist destination — on par with neighboring Gulf states— Saudi Arabia has eased some of its conservative restrictions, like granting women rights to drive and travel without a guardian, curbing the powers of the moral police, permitting unmarried tourist couples to rent hotel rooms, and relaxing dress codes.

Within the first 10 days of the introduction of the eVisa 24,000 visitors entered the Kingdom, according to Arab News . Although there is a lack of adequate tourism infrastructure, those curious to learn about and experience the country will find Saudi’s natural landscape and its welcoming locals incentive enough to visit.

If you find yourself heading to Saudi Arabia to explore the land uncharted to tourists, here are a few basic and cultural tips for first-time travelers to the Kingdom.

With this news, people are asking: Is Saudi Arabia Safe for tourists? Yes, Saudi Arabia is safe for tourists. As with travel to any other country in the world, be respectful of local rules and customs, be mindful of your surroundings, and carry out due diligence before traveling. Be sure to consult travel advisories before your trip.

Public spaces

Public spaces may be segregated, and you will find separate entrances or seating areas for men and women. Refrain from public displays of affection.

Seek permission before photographing locals. Under the public code of conduct , it is a punishable offense. Other offenses include vandalism of public property, playing music during prayer times, and dress code violations.

Female tourists are not required to wear the abaya (a cloak, previously mandated by the government). However, both men and women should dress modestly, avoiding tight fitting and revealing clothes in public. The official Visit Saudi tourism website provides further details on what this entails.

Stores and restaurants close during prayer times, five times a day. To make the most of your trip, plan your itinerary according to these times.

Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country. While non-Muslims are welcome and permitted to practice their religion in private spaces, preaching in public forums or on social media platforms is prohibited. Malicious propaganda against the country, government, and religion is a severe offense.

The sale, purchase or consumption of alcohol and drugs is illegal in the country.

Social customs

You will find locals to be hospitable, generous, and as equally curious about you as you may be about them. It is not uncommon to be invited to share a meal or a cup of gahwa (Arabic coffee) and dates. Your hosts — and even strangers — will want to extend their welcome and offer a token of their hospitality, like food or even a small gift. It is considered rude to refuse such an offering. Just remember, always accept and consume food and beverages with your right hand.

If you are invited into a Saudi house, remove your shoes, unless your host insists you keep them on. In a traditional Majlis, (a sitting hall with floor cushions) you are expected to sit on the floor. If hosted elsewhere, you can expect a modern setup with armchairs and other furniture.

Saudis encourage and welcome Westerners asking questions about their culture. To avoid offending local sensibilities, it's best to steer clear of political or religious topics of conversation.

Familiarizing yourself with Saudi rituals like greetings and handshakes will always make a favorable impression with your hosts. “Marhaban!” (Welcome) is a common way of greeting and you may respond with “Marhabtain” (I give you two welcomes).

Men shouldn’t extend a handshake to a Saudi woman, unless she does so first. To err on the side of caution, place your hand over your heart and greet with a hello.

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Travel to Saudi Arabia | Tips & Things to Know Before a Trip to KSA

Now that tourist visas are available to citizens in 49 countries, travel to Saudi Arabia is more exciting than ever. Tourists can now spend up to 90 days at a time in the Kingdom, but even shorter itineraries allow visitors to discover Saudi Arabi’s rich culture, diverse landscapes and incredible attractions. While any visit to the Middle East is thrilling, it can also look different than sightseeing in European, Asian or American countries. Just remember, embracing Saudi traditions and culture is part of the adventure!

Travel to Saudi Arabia-things to know-tourists-desert-camel rides

Travel to Saudi Arabia | Tourist visas

Tourists visas (eVisas) to Saudi Arabia are now available to citizens in 49 countries. Tourists can check eligibility and apply for a visa online at the visa.visitsaudi website. The new tourist visas grant one-year, multiple-entry visits and allow tourists to spend up to 90 days at a time in the Kingdom. All tourists must hold a passport that is valid for at least six months.

Travel to Saudi Arabia | Travel insurance

It’s a good idea to purchase travel insurance when traveling to Saudi Arabia because healthcare for foreigners can get a little pricey. Some airlines offer certain types of low-cost medical insurance for healthcare emergencies, and travel companies can recommend credible and affordable companies that provide international travel insurance. Travelers should check online for reputable options.

Travel to Saudi Arabia | Language

Saudi Arabians speak Arabic, which is the official language of the Kingdom, but tourists who don’t know any Arabic should not feel too intimidated. Many Saudi’s speak English, or at least enough English that makes communication easier. Most road signs are written in both Arabic and English, making getting around for foreigners possible. English-speaking visitors probably can get by in Saudi Arabia without knowing any Arabic phrases, but knowing a few key words and phrases can score lots of brownie points with locals.

Arabic words & phrases that are good to know

  • Hello and goodbye – assalamu alaykom
  • Yes – na am
  • No – la or kalla
  • I want a taxi – ureed sayaratt ujra
  • I want to get to [location] – ureed an azhab ila [location]
  • Thank you – shukran
  • Thank you very much – shukran jazeelan
  • Welcome or you’re welcome – ahlan wa sahlan or hayak
  • Can I take a photo? – momken asawwar
  • Excuse me – afwan

Travel to Saudi Arabia-things to know-tourists-waterfront-corniche

Travel to Saudi Arabia | Dress codes

Dress codes in Saudi Arabia can seem a bit intimidating for visitors from countries with more relaxed fashions, but tourists should remember that dressing a little differently for a few days is part of the adventure in Saudi Arabia! Besides, laws are loosening, so dress codes are less strict than in years past when women were required by law to wear abayas (full-length dresses or robes) in public.

Recently, however, the laws for female fashions were modified. Women (including foreign women) in the Kingdom are now allowed a little more freedom. Though women are still required to “dress respectfully,” meaning they still must cover their shoulders, arms and legs, they now can do so in a more stylish fashion. Many Saudi women still wear traditional abayas and cover their hair with a niqab, or head covering, but some women are taking advantage of the new laws and are making public appearances in more colorful abayas and more casual dresses.

Foreign women visiting the Kingdom should adhere to these dress codes as well, and even though it might feel different at first, you’ll appreciate not sticking out like an uninformed tourist when sightseeing in Saudi Arabia. Foreign women should wear loose-fitting clothes that cover their shoulders and knees. Tight jeans and t-shirts that reveal a woman’s curves and shorts or short skirts above the knees are no-nos. Women should keep in mind, however, that there are advantages to dressing like a local in Saudi Arabia: long sleeves offer protection from the sun, and flowing, lightweight skirts are perfect for catching cool desert breezes.

For men, fashions are a little more relaxed. Most Saudi men wear a long, white robe, called a thobe (sometimes spelled thawb), and a ghutrah (head scarf), but male foreigners are not required to go out in traditional dress. Instead, men should wear loose-fitting, modest clothing. Wearing shorts, however, should be avoided.

Travel tip – visitors to the Kingdom are expected to follow dress codes in public places. Police can approach visitors and ask them to change clothing or leave an area due to dress code violations. However, many hotels and private beaches allow tourists (and locals) to dress more casually. Most private beaches allow women to wear bikinis, but wearing a one-piece swimsuit is recommended.

Check In to a beachfront hotel in Jeddah

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Travel to Saudi Arabia-things to know-mosque

Travel to Saudi Arabia | Culture & prayer times

As the most religious Muslim country in the world, Saudi Arabia observes prayer time five times a day, from sun-up to sundown. Visitors should never feel nervous about being inside a shop when they hear the athan (call to prayer), as shopkeepers will ask customers politely to leave if they need to close their shops or restaurants for prayer times. It’s helpful for visitors to download an athan app on their phones, as prayer times differ slightly from day to day. (They move up progressively a minute or two every day.)

What to expect during prayer times

During prayer time, most shops and restaurants close, and customers are asked to leave. There are exceptions, however. For instance, if customers are eating inside a restaurant when the athan is sounded, they will be allowed to finish their meals, but if they leave before prayer time is finished, they may be asked to exit through the back door. Supermarkets also are a popular place to get “trapped” during prayer times. If customers make it inside before prayer time starts, they can stay and shop until prayer time is finished. Prayer times last about 30 minutes. A few malls and shops are changing traditions and are staying open during prayer times, but visitors will find that most businesses still observe the local custom of closing.

Tourists will notice, too, that cues at coffee shops get longer just before prayer times. That’s because locals rush to grab drinks which help to pass time during prayers! While it’s handy to know when prayer times are scheduled, it’s not vital, as locals will tip you off with subtle cues – and obvious mannerisms!

Public decency

While dress codes have been relaxed, Saudi Arabia still adheres to public decency laws, and visitors should be aware of those laws before planning a trip to the Kingdom. Anyone violating public decency laws could be fined between 50 and 3,000 SAR.

  • Acts of public sexual harassment
  • Playing loud music in residential areas
  • Playing music during prayer times
  • Failing to remove pet waste
  • Occupying seats designed for people with disabilities
  • Bypassing barriers to enter public places
  • Wearing improper dress in public, such as underwear or pajamas
  • Wearing shirts that display nude pictures
  • Wearing shirts that display phrases offending public decency
  • Writing and drawing on the walls of public places
  • Placing racist stickers on cars
  • Distributing ads in public without a license
  • Starting fires in authorized places during safaris
  • Threatening people verbally or through gestures
  • Cutting in line in public venues
  • Shining laser pointers into people’s eyes
  • Taking people’s pictures without their permission
  • Taking pictures of a traffic accident without permission from the parties involved in the accident

Travel to Saudi Arabia-things to know-smoking

Travel to Saudi Arabia | Smoking in KSA

While illegal drugs and alcohol are strictly forbidden in KSA, tobacco is legal. Smoking in public, however, is allowed in designated areas only. Tourists should not light up outside malls, restaurants, educational and sports facilities, and especially not outside of mosques. The same rules apply for smoking shisha.

Travel to Saudi Arabia-things to know-restaurant seating

Travel to Saudi Arabia | Family seating in restaurants

Laws are gradually changing when it comes to segregated seating in Saudi Arabia, but many restaurants still adhere to traditional policies. It’s common to find restaurants with seating areas for families (and all-female groups) on one side and for single men on the other. If seating etiquette is not obvious upon entering a restaurant, foreigners can ask a host to seat them in the proper section.

Check out Agoda’s Saudi Food Guide

Travel to Saudi Arabia-things to know-Centria Mall-Al Rashid Mall

Travel to Saudi Arabia | Shopping

Ironically, most department and retail stores have fitting rooms for men only. Women are asked to either take their clothes home or step into a public restroom to try them on. If an outfit does not fit, women can return or exchange it for the correct size at the store. To be fair, men cannot go lingerie shopping without their wives.

Shop ’til you drop! | Top Shopping Spots in Saudi Arabia

Travel to Saudi Arabia-things to know-family theme park

Travel to Saudi Arabia | Weekends

In Saudi Arabia, Sunday is the first day of the work week, so weekends are celebrated on Friday and Saturday. Friday is considered a family day throughout the Kingdom, and many families spend the day praying at the mosques and doing activities. For this reason, many shops and restaurants are closed for most of the day on Friday. Some places will open at 2 p.m., but others wait until 4 p.m. before unlocking the doors. Restaurants are the exception to this rule. Some restaurants will open for lunch. Travelers who will be in the Kingdom during a weekend should plan ahead to account for longer lines and heavier traffic.

Plan a trip | Things to See in Saudi Arabia

Travel to Saudi Arabia-things to know-souq-markets

Travel to Saudi Arabia | Currency

Saudi Arabia’s national currency is the Saudi riyal (SAR). Visitors can exchange local currencies at airports upon arrival, and it is best to bring USD or euros to exchange, as some national currencies are not accepted. Riyals come in notes with denominations of 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500. Coins are issued for denominations of 1 riyal and 2 riyals, and riyals are subdivided into halala, which also are issued as coins in denominations of 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1. ATMs are available at all airports and shopping malls.

Goods and services are taxed 5 percent. Some restaurants and department stores will include the VAT in the price, but others do not. It’s a good idea to ask about the VAT policy before making any large purchases.

Travel to Saudi Arabia-things to know-airports

Travel to Saudi Arabia | Getting there & getting around in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is home to several international, regional and domestic airports, so once a visa is secured, it’s easy to get to KSA and hop from region to region. Travelers can book a flight at Agoda.com to any international airport in the Kingdom. Once visitors arrive in KSA, they can get around major cities with taxis and ride-share companies. In addition, Saudi Arabia’s railway system connects several popular regions, including Riyadh and Eastern Province.

International airports in Saudi Arabia

  • King Khalid International Airport (RUH) – Riyadh
  • King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) – Jeddah
  • King Fahd International Airport (DMM) – Dammam
  • Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport (MED) – Madinah
  • Prince Abdulmohsin Bin Abdulaziz International Airport (YNB) – Yanbu
  • Al-Ahsa International Airport (HOF) – Al Ahsa

Check In to a hotel in Dammam

easy travel saudi arabia


Travel to Saudi Arabia-things to know-Saudi Railways

Travel to Saudi Arabia | Getting around cities

While the capital city of Riyadh works on building a massive metro system, visitors to the city can utilize taxi services and rideshare programs to get around. Travelers can hail taxis on the street (malls and tourist districts are the best places to find them), or they can utilize the Careem or Uber rideshare apps. Careem seems to be the most popular app in the Kingdom, but Uber retains a presence there as well. Both taxis and rideshare companies are affordable in Saudi Arabia, with a 10- or 15-minute ride costing between 20 and 30 riyals (6 to 8 USD). Some taxi drivers will try to negotiate a price, rather than turn on the meter, for customers. Foreigners who are not familiar with the cost of taxi services should always request that the driver turn on the meter.

Travel tip – during emergencies, tourists can call 938 for help.

Car rentals

If you’re confident with driving on the right side of the road in a foreign country, renting a car is a great option. Most airports offer car rentals, and any foreigner with an international driver’s license and a credit card can rent one.

Many guests to the Kingdom don’t know about the railway system, but Saudi Arabia operates three primary train stations. The Riyadh – Dammam journey makes stops in Riyadh , Abqaiq (Buqayq), Hofuf and Dammam . The North Train serves Riyadh , Al Majmaah , Qassim , Ha’il and Al Jouf , and the Haramain High-Speed Railway operates between Mecca , Jeddah , King Abdullah Economic City and Medina .

Check In to a hotel in Riyadh

easy travel saudi arabia


Plan an itinerary with the Best Things to Do in Saudi Arabia

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easy travel saudi arabia

A driver’s manual to road trippin’ Saudi

Want to go on an epic Saudi Arabia road trip? Here’s a guide to traveling Saudi Arabia by car, including information on how to rent a car in Saudi Arabia, tips for road tripping, driving advice, costs, road trip itineraries, and more.

Want to travel Saudi Arabia? You're gonna need a car. Renting a car is the best way to travel around Saudi Arabia, and road tripping Saudi Arabia is the best way to get off the beaten track and explore Saudi Arabia properly. This travel guide includes all the information you need to rent a car in Saudi Arabia, road trip itineraries, information on women driving, travel advice, and more. Click through for the ultimate guide on road tripping in Saudi Arabia. #SaudiArabia #roadtrip #travelguide

Saudi Arabia is made for cars.

Immaculate roads stretch for hundreds of kilometers between cities, sometimes without even petrol stations in sight. Capital Riyadh sprawls like a small country; it always takes at least half an hour to get from A to B. Saudi’s best sights lie deep within its borders, far from any manicured city.

Trust me: if you want to travel Saudi Arabia you need a car.

Don’t be intimidated. Road tripping in Saudi Arabia is totally manageable! Here’s what you need to know to travel Saudi Arabia by car.

  • Cost of renting a car
  • What you need
  • Renting without an International Driver’s Permit (IDP)
  • Mileage limits and solutions
  • Is it safe to drive?
  • Dangers of driving
  • Things to know
  • Can women drive?
  • Wild camping

Camping on beaches

  • Road trip itineraries

Chevorlet Spark rented in Saudi Arabia for a road trip

The car we rented. Teeny, but it got the job done.

Renting a car in Saudi Arabia

I rented a tiny Chevrolet Spark with another backpacker for the majority of my three weeks of travel in Saudi Arabia, and it was sufficient. We could access most of the sights we were interested in, could camp anywhere and everywhere, and it had juuuust enough space for our bodies and backpacks (… but not much else) .

Best car for driving in Saudi Arabia

If money isn’t an issue 4x4s are best for Saudi Arabia . Four-wheel drive = off-roading on sand and rock—one of Saudi’s favorite pastimes—and access to virtually any location in the country. The downside: 4x4s are costly, as is their petrol.

If on a budget, any sedan will do . The Chevrolet Spark I had was weak, low to the ground, and had a dangerously teeny tank… but it was the cheapest option, and it survived!

Have a bit of wiggle room with your budget? Find a sedan with 4WD that’s a bit higher off the ground to avoid damage from rocks and bumps.

Browse Saudi Arabia car rentals on Rentalcars.com

Cost of renting a car in Saudi Arabia

Split between two people, car rental in Saudi Arabia was reasonable.

The little Spark costs about US$30 per day to rent. When driving all day, we spent US$15-20 on petrol. In total: $25 per person per day for a teeny car.

SUVs are more costly. The cheapest are around US$80 per day, but you’re likely to spend upwards of $100 for a decent vehicle. Filling the tank costs upwards of $30-40. Expect to pay $150+ per day for an SUV .

Luckily, petrol in Saudi Arabia is cheap compared to the rest of the world. Gasoline is about $0.40 per liter for 91, and $0.50 per liter for 95.

Some rental companies charge a fee for returning the car to a different drop off point. Ask the sales clerk if you’re planning to drop the car at a different location from where you picked it up.

For other information about prices in Saudi, check out my guide on how much it costs to travel in Saudi Arabia.

Friend outside of rental car in Jazan, Saudi Arabia

Renting a car is more manageable if you pair up with other backpackers… even if they’re a little bit batty.

What do you need to rent a car in Saudi Arabia?

A driver’s license is the most obvious requirement, but there’s another important item you need: an international driving permit (IDP) .

Many car rental companies in Saudi Arabia will not rent cars to foreign drivers without IDPs. You need to have an IDP before entering Saudi Arabia—you usually get them in your home country. Look up requirements for your country’s IDP .

Tip: Once you’re on the road, you don’t officially need an IDP unless your license uses non-Roman script. I don’t have an IDP, and when I was stopped at checkpoints I only showed my US license and passport without issue.

You also need a credit card to rent a car. Car rental companies in Saudi Arabia require a hold—a kind of deposit—to be taken from your card. Our hold was 500 SAR (US$135). It was returned to us on the last day of our car rental.

Note: Though many pickup locations are listed, many local agencies only allow foreigners to pick up cars at airports or major branches. Call ahead to make sure.

Want to travel Saudi Arabia by car? You'll need to rent one! This guide to renting a car in Saudi Arabia has everything you need to know, including what kind of car you need, what documents you need to rent a car, how and where to rent a car, how much it costs to rent, sample road trip itineraries, and more. #roadtrip #SaudiArabia #middleeast

How to rent a car in Saudi Arabia without an International Driving Permit (IDP)

Don’t have an IDP? Don’t despair just yet!

Major international car rental companies such as Enterprise and Avis might be more willing to rent you a car without an IDP. It’s best to go to their airport franchises in person to discuss (… argue) with them to convince them to do so. A friend of mine succeeded in renting cars in multiple locations without an IDP in December 2019.

View of Abha from car in Saudi Arabia

Watching sunset in Abha, Saudi style: in the car!

Mileage limits on car rentals in Saudi Arabia

Mileage limits are the biggest issue when renting cars in Saudi Arabia. Most major rental companies have a 200-250 kilometers per day limit.

Sounds like a lot? Wrong.

You can easily drive 200 kilometers and not get anywhere in Saudi Arabia. Just driving from Riyadh to the “nearby” Edge of the World and back is more than 200 kilometers.

If you anticipate driving at least 400 kilometers per day (a modest estimate), you’ll pay at least another $25 per day in mileage. Extra kilometer charges start at 0.35 SAR/km, and increase with the quality of the car.

What to do?

Solution 1: Don’t drive every day.

Cars from some reputable companies on Rentalcars.com offer total mileage limits. So long as your total mileage is less than 250km/day on average , you’re fine. If you drive long stretches then spend a few days in each destination you’ll be under the limit.

Solution 2: Pay for unlimited mileage.

If planning on driving long distances often—like I did—it’s best to shell out extra cash for unlimited mileage… but not every company offers unlimited mileage.

Yelo is a reputable car rental company in Saudi Arabia offering an unlimited mileage add-on for purchase. Cost depends on the length of rental, but it’s still cheaper than paying for extra kilometers. Their website makes for easy bookings, and their customer service is very responsive and helpful.

Solution 3: Rent cars selectively

The most time-consuming option is to take buses over long distances, and rent a different car in each city/area. For example, you rent a car to go around Riyadh, take a bus to Jeddah, then rent another car for Jeddah, the coast, etc.

You’ll lose some time going to and from airports and from dealing with paperwork, but at least you’ll stay under the mileage limit!

View of driving in Saudi Arabia

Typical Saudi Arabia: wide open spaces, dry landscape, and a damned good road with no one on it

Driving in Saudi Arabia

Is it safe to drive in saudi arabia.

Multiple people warned me that Saudi drivers are balls to the walls INSANE and utterly terrifying.

Honestly? I didn’t think they were that bad.

If you’ve been to countries where roads are wild and drivers drive fast with no care for rules *cough Iran cough* , Saudi Arabia won’t be too overwhelming. To be fair, before traveling to Saudi I was motorbiking in Pakistan , which is far more chaotic, but I still didn’t find driving in Saudi particularly stressful.

Though Saudi drivers aren’t the safest, I think anyone who can drive, keep calm, and carry on will be fine road tripping in Saudi Arabia.

Donkey by rental car in Wadi Disah, Saudi Arabia

An unexpected danger from our road trip: aggressive donkeys

Dangers of driving in Saudi Arabia

Of course, there are some notable dangers of driving in Saudi. Some things you need to watch out for when traveling by car in Saudi Arabia include…

Sand: Probably the riskiest part of driving in Saudi Arabia. It’s easy to get stuck in loose sand, very difficult to get out without a shovel or rope, and you might be waiting for a while before someone passes by. Luckily, Saudi’s main roads are well-paved. You won’t hit sand unless you purposefully drive off-road.

Speed bumps: Seems benign, but they are EVERYWHERE in Saudi Arabia… and aren’t always marked. Checkpoints with five speed bumps in a row are common. Especially in the south, many speed bumps were too high for the Spark to make it over without scrapes. Drive carefully to protect your car and avoid crashes when people slam on breaks to slow for unexpected speed bumps.

Other drivers: Saudi drivers aren’t the worst… but they certainly aren’t winning safety prizes any time soon. You’ll see people driving in the opposite direction of traffic on highways, taking illegal U-turns, driving too fast, ignoring lane boundaries, and crashing into other cars every once in a while. Texting while driving is also common. Roundabouts are particularly perilous places. Drive cautiously; right of way isn’t a concept in Saudi roundabouts.

Running out of fuel: Petrol stations can be few and far between, even on major highways. We almost ran out of petrol on a road leading into Riyadh, the capital, because there was no station in sight. If traveling long distances make sure to fill whenever possible. I don’t advise letting your tank dip far below ¼ full, especially if driving a small car.

Chevorlet Spark car stuck in the sand in a desert in Saudi Arabia

Stuck in the sand after venturing off-road

Things to know about driving in Saudi Arabia  

  • Speed limit signs are often only in Arabic. I recommend learning Arabic numerals before hitting the road.
  • Do NOT play music during the call to prayer. It’s forbidden. Obviously you can get away with it in remote areas or if your music is quiet; keep windows closed if so.
  • STC has the best mobile coverage in Saudi Arabia. Expect working mobile signals with data along the vast majority of Saudi’s highways. STC SIM cards are available from kiosks in major airports, or in franchise stores in cities.
  • There are speed cameras. Look for unassuming gray boxes on roadsides. If flashed your ticket will be sent to your car rental company and they’ll notify you.
  • You can go 10% faster than the speed limit without getting a ticket. I may or may not have tested this regularly.
  • Emergency flashers on moving cars usually mean speed cameras or speed bumps coming. Slow down if you see cars ahead with flashers on.
  • Police and army checkpoints are frequent. Usually they’re empty, but sometimes officers stand roadside. If no one is there or no one stops you, keep driving. Otherwise, give the officer your passport and car registration.
  • Google Maps isn’t always reliable. Maps isn’t always aware of existing U-turns, and makes you drive too far to change direction on highways. Minor roads are often not listed on Google Maps.
  • If you have to pee, look for a mosque. Petrol stations have mosques with toilets and places to wash. Female travelers should ask for the women’s area, often hidden around the back of the mosque.

Roadside sign in Saudi Arabia

One of my favorite parts of traveling Saudi Arabia by car: all the bizarre statues and signs next to the roads

Getting gas/petrol in Saudi Arabia

Fueling up is pretty straightforward in Saudi—you don’t even have to get out of your car!

Thanks to the state-run oil company Aramco, petrol stations offer very similar prices: around 1.5 riyal/L for Gasoline 91 and 2 riyal/L for Gasoline 95 as of December 2019. Diesel is available at stations frequented by trucks.

When refueling, all you have to do is drive next to a pump with an attendant, open the tank access if necessary, and tell them how much fuel you want. Regardless of language, most understand “full”. You pay after they fill by giving the attendant cash or a credit card. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted.

Note that attendants disappear and stations essentially shut down during prayer times five times a day.

Female traveler driving in Saudi Arabia

Woman at the wheel, look out!

Can women drive in Saudi Arabia?

Yes. As of 2018, both foreign and Saudi women can drive cars in Saudi Arabia . No male guardian necessary. Solo or otherwise, women can rent cars in Saudi Arabia in their name.

It’s not so common to see women driving, especially outside of cities, but don’t let that stop you. I did have an overly thorough inspection at a police checkpoint near Riyadh, which I suspect happened because I’m a woman, but aside from that I didn’t have any issues except people staring.

For more info for women traveling to Saudi, check out my guide to female travel in Saudi Arabia .

Camping in Wadi Disah, Saudi Arabia

Car camping in Wadi Disah

Finding accommodation while road tripping Saudi Arabia

Hotels and guesthouses.

A decent amount of accommodation in Saudi Arabia is online on websites like Booking.com and Airbnb. In my experience, accommodation is often cheaper on Booking.com than if booked directly at the hotel. Hotel owners told me to book online if the rate was lower. Mystery, but so be it.

Browse Saudi Arabia hotels on Booking.com

However, in small towns not much is listed online. Finding cheap accommodation was also difficult as many hotels online are mid-range or luxury. Sometimes it’s best to just walk into several hotels and see what your options are.

Furnished rental apartments turned out to be the best value for money in Saudi Arabia, and often the cheapest option. Starting at around 100-120 riyal per night, the spaces usually include one or two bedrooms, a common room, and a kitchen. They’re not always listed on booking websites, but if you search “apartment” on Google Maps in the town you want to stay in there’s usually at least one or two rental apartments listed in each place.

Camping while road tripping

Love camping? You’ll love Saudi Arabia.

Camping is part of Saudi culture—though perhaps not as you know it—and on weekends tents and camps blossom all over Saudi’s otherwise empty expanses.

You can essentially camp anywhere you want in Saudi, and it’s generally safe to do so. However, it can be surprisingly difficult to avoid people unless you have a 4×4. No need to be concerned about danger—the issue is more that police and/or local people will appear out of nowhere to come and make sure you’re okay if they see a car parked near the road.

To avoid this, consider camping in or near the small prayer rooms along empty roads. You can also sleep inside prayer halls in mosques and airports if you’re feeling bold. Otherwise, make sure to get as far from the main roads as you can to get some alone time.

Tip: Many petrol stations have attached shops. Especially in remote areas, these shops are a treasure trove of camping supplies. They have everything from cooking gas to wood to pots to blankets and pillows… in addition to basic groceries. Score!

Camping in Saudi Arabia near a prayer room

Camping out near a tiny prayer hall outside Najran

Camping on Saudi’s shores is trickier: they’re patrolled by the Coast Guard 24/7. Though you’re allowed to camp in certain areas—anywhere with picnic shelters and lights is a good bet—the Coast Guard will ask you to leave others if they see you camping.

If you’re determined to stay put, local blogger Nada al Nahdi told me bringing passport copies for officers helps with getting permission.

Car parked offroad in Saudi Arabia

With so many routes and tempting side tracks, deciding where to go in Saudi can be tricky!

Saudi Arabia road trip itineraries

Vivid desert sunrises, perfectly silent. Crumbling abandoned villages made from mud. White sandy beaches all to yourself. These are but a few of the things that await you when road tripping in Saudi Arabia.

Read: Essential Saudi Arabia – A detailed one-month itinerary

These itineraries are some examples of possible road trips. Infinitely more combinations and options exist; use these as a base to craft an itinerary that works for you . Peruse sites and spots on Google Maps. And, of course, never hesitate to drive off down a good lookin’ side road. That’s what road tripping is all about, right?

Note: All of these places are accessible by sedan. No 4×4 necessary unless noted.

Sunset in old Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Sunset in old Jeddah

Saudi Arabia Essentials | 10 days, Riyadh to Jeddah

Saudi road trip itinerary from Google Maps

  • Day 1: Riyadh
  • Day 2: Day trip to Edge of the World (4×4 necessary)
  • Day 3: Pick up car, day trip to Ushaiger Heritage Village
  • Day 4: Drive to Al Waba Crater and camp (6.5 hours, 710 km/440 mi)
  • Day 5: Hike Al Waba Crater, drive to Jeddah (4h, 350 km/215 mi)
  • Day 6: Jeddah
  • Day 7: Jeddah
  • Day 8: Drive to Al Ula via Yanbu coastal road (7h, 675 km/420 mi)
  • Day 9: Al Ula
  • Day 10: Drive to Jeddah [via Medina if Muslim] (7.5h, 700 km/435 mi)
  • Return car in Jeddah

Mosque in Ushaiger village, Saudi Arabia

Mosque in Ushaiger village

Riyadh and the East | 7 days, Riyadh to Riyadh

Saudi Arabia road trip map

  • Day 2: Pick up car, drive to Shaqra via Ushaiqer Heritage Village (2.5h, 220 km/135 mi)
  • Day 3: Drive to Hail (4.5h, 460 km/285 mi)
  • Day 4: Day trip to Jubbah (3h return, 260 km/160 mi)
  • Day 5: Drive to Riyadh via Buraydah (6.5h, 720 km/450 mi)
  • Day 6: Drive to Hofuf (3.5h, 330 km/205 mi)
  • Day 7: Drive to Riyadh, return car if sedan (3.5h, 330 km/205 mi)
  • Day 8: Day trip to Edge of the World (4×4 necessary)

Sunrise over Fayfa, Saudi Arabia

Sunrise over Fayfa

Southwest Saudi | 11 days, Jeddah to Jeddah

Southwest Saudi Arabia road trip map

  • Day 1: Jeddah
  • Day 2: Pick up car in Jeddah [visit Mecca if Muslim]
  • Day 3: Drive to Al Bahah via Dhee Ayn Village (5h, 425 km/265 mi)
  • Day 4: Drive to Abha via Rijal Alma Village (6h, 360 km/225 mi)
  • Day 5: Abha and Khamis Mushaiyt
  • Day 6: Drive to Fayfa via Wadi Lajab (5h, 300 km/185 mi)
  • Day 7: Drive to Jizan (1.5h, 100 km/65 mi)
  • Day 8: Ferry to Farasan Island with car
  • Day 9: Return to Jazan
  • Day 10: Drive to Al Qunfudhah (4h, 350 km/220 mi)
  • Day 11: Drive to Jeddah (4h, 360 km/220 mi)

Have more questions about traveling Saudi Arabia by car? Ask them in the comments!

Want to travel Saudi Arabia? You're gonna need a car. Renting a car is the best way to travel around Saudi Arabia, and road tripping Saudi Arabia is the best way to get off the beaten track and explore Saudi Arabia properly. This travel guide includes all the information you need to rent a car in Saudi Arabia, road trip itineraries, information on women driving, travel advice, and more. Click through for the ultimate guide on road tripping in Saudi Arabia. #SaudiArabia #roadtrip #travelguide

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Alex Reynolds

19 thoughts on “ a driver’s manual to road trippin’ saudi ”.

Hey Excellent blog full of Information. M glad u enjoy exploring KSA.I believe I m fortunate enough to be here as getting opportunity to explore ! Just wondering do you have any itinerary for umluj /yanbu? Would appreciate if you share … Regards

Hi, Excellent blog 👍 I’m planing to do Riyadh -> Djeddah soon, the goal is to spend 3 days in each of these cities : Riyadh/Djeddah/Medina) We have 3 kids, and I think driving from Riyadh to Djeddah will be too long for the kids. where do you think we can spend the night in between (a city with a confortable hotel for the night & a good meal 👌)

Thanks, very helpful article 👍

thanks for all the info. about to head out for 21 day road trip in Saudi. thinking I will bring my tent and do some good camping. how far did you hike into Wadi Disah for camping.

plan to read your post on riding through Pakistan as I want to do the same.

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Days to Come

Traveling Without a Passport

Hot air balloons flying in the blue sky of AlUla, Saudi Arabia

The Best Tour Guide Tips for Travelling to Saudi Arabia

easy travel saudi arabia

This story was created in partnership with: Visit Saudi 

Welcome to Arabia, the land of a thousand and one adventures. From ancient cities and starry desert landscapes to incredible hiking and diving opportunities, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has an exciting experience for everyone. However, because it’s still a widely unknown travel destination, we’re sure you have lots of questions. That’s why we’ve asked Nada AlFuraih and Ghada Bander Almutairi (two highly esteemed female tour guides from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) to share their best tips for travelling to Saudi Arabia. Find out everything and more about this enchanting country and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!

The golden sun shining on Elephant Rock in AlUla, Saudi Arabia.

How to get there

The KSA is located in the Middle East and borders Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates. With an emphasis on growing its tourism sector, Saudi Arabia has officially opened its doors to international travellers. In fact, if you’re from one of the 49 countries listed, you can now apply online for a tourist visa or obtain one upon arrival. For more visa information, you can also check the official Saudi Tourism Authority website .

Although the bus system connects Saudi Arabia with major cities like Dubai and Doha, the easiest way to enter is by air. As a matter of fact, the country has several international airports including the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, the King Fahad International Airport in Dammam, and the King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh (the capital city).

When you’re ready to start planning your Saudi Arabia adventure, feel free to check here for your best flight options.

See Also: Saudi Arabia Travel Guide

When to visit

The peak season (November to February) is the best time of the year to visit the KSA. With balmy daytime temperatures (Riyadh’s average daily high in November is approximately 28°C) and lovely cool nights, the country truly comes alive during this period. Enjoy world-class hiking through the Alhada Mountains; explore enchanting cities like Riyadh and Jeddah; or embark on a desert camping excursion unlike any other.

With that said, there are also advantages to visiting Saudi Arabia in the low season (July to August). During the summer months, the temperatures peak, causing people to flock to the Red Sea for an aquatic adventure. Visitors can enjoy turquoise waters, pristine beaches, and magnificent marine life while they snorkel, scuba dive, or simply relax and savour the serene surroundings. Plus, travellers can take advantage of possibly even lower flight or hotel prices.

Image showing a group of tourist and their tour guide in Saudi Arabia.

Being a tour guide is my dream job. It opens the door to meeting others from different countries, sharing knowledge with them, and getting to know a little about their culture and history. – Ghada Bander Almutairi, Saudi tour guide

Practical tips

Now that you know the best time to visit Saudi Arabia, you’re probably wondering what you should pack and whether you should travel by yourself or in a group. 

Tips for travelling to Saudi Arabia: What to pack

Firstly, make sure you bring all of your important documents such as your passport, tourist visa, and any necessary COVID-19 paperwork. Secondly, only pack conservative clothing that covers your shoulders and knees – you can read more about the dress code in the next section. For now, a good rule of thumb is to leave behind your short shorts and bring an extra sweater for the evenings because it can get cool in the desert (or even in all the air-conditioned buildings!). 

Thirdly, since credit cards and contactless payments are widely accepted throughout the KSA, don’t forget your travel credit card (some banks have specific cards that will save you money on transaction fees). Finally, once you’ve packed all the essentials, stay stress-free by remembering that you’ll be able to find anything else you need in Saudi Arabia.

Tips for travelling to Saudi Arabia: a woman is sitting down at a table as she plans a trip using her smart phone, pen and paper, and computer.

Tips for travelling to Saudi Arabia: Adventure styles

In addition to planning your packing list, it’s always a good idea to consider how you’d like to travel. In other words, do you prefer solo adventures or guided group trips? An active experience or a slower-paced cultural immersion? The options are endless! 

Before choosing what’s right for you, it’s important to do a little research on the place you’ll be visiting. For example, look up how easy it is to get from one popular landmark to another. Discover what type of adventures (hiking, camping, wellness retreat, etc.) are offered. Determine how safe the country is and what form of travel will bring you the most peace of mind.

Although the locals are very kind and welcoming, it can still be daunting for a traveller to visit a new country like Saudi Arabia. Therefore, many will find that a group adventure – which comes with the added benefit of having a tour guide around to answer questions and offer expert knowledge and tips – offers the best of both worlds.

“I love being a tour guide and sharing historical facts while visitors explore and take pictures. It’s wonderful and absolutely heartwarming to see the excitement on their faces. – Nada AlFuraih, Saudi tour guide

Female Saudi tour guide dressed in an abaya talks to her tour group.

The dress code

Whether you’re a speed demon or enjoy spending time getting ready, clothes play an instrumental role in our day-to-day lives. In fact, some countries have local laws that require men and women to dress modestly in public. For example, the KSA expects people to wear loose-fitting attire that covers down to the elbow and below the ankle. However, the laws do not require locals or tourists to wear the traditional clothing.

If you’re still unsure about the proper Saudi dress code, just remember to cover as much skin as possible. Moreover, avoid short, tight clothes and anything that displays profane language or images .

See Also: A Female Traveler’s Guide to Saudi Arabia

Now that we’ve discussed the appropriate dress code, it’s worth mentioning the more traditional clothing (which is still often worn). For women, the most important articles are the abaya (a long, black robe that covers their everyday clothing), hijab (a headscarf), and niqab (a face cover). In terms of traditional clothing for Saudi men, it’s customary to wear a long-sleeved, dress-like garment known as a thobe (or thawb ) along with a red and white checkered headscarf called a keffiyeh (or shemagh ).

Four men and one woman in a mix of traditional Saudi clothing and business attire talk next to a ruin in Saudi Arabia.

Customs and traditions

In a similar fashion to the dress code, the KSA’s customs and traditions often need a little introduction as well. So, without further ado, here are some additional tips for travelling through Saudi Arabia.

  • The typical greeting is Salam Alaykum (or “peace be upon you”); followed by a handshake or a single kiss on the cheek. Due to COVID-19, the handshake or kiss has temporarily been replaced with a wave.
  • Foreigners are encouraged to use other polite Arabic words such as Ahlan (for “hi”) or Shukran (which means “thank you”).
  • Because Saudi people enjoy meeting foreigners, get ready for a warm welcome. Moreover, don’t be surprised or alarmed if locals ask to take a photo with you. 
  • Although you may agree to pose for a photo, remember that taking pictures or videos of others without their consent is a violation of public decency and can lead to penalties.  
  • Respectful public decorum is strongly advised. In other words, avoid profane language or gestures and refrain from public displays of affection.  
  • Finally, it’s important to understand that drugs and alcohol are illegal in the KSA.

Must-see places

The image shows one of the impressive rock formations in AlUla, Saudi Arabia.

No trip is complete without visiting some of the highlights. The question is, how do you choose from the many wonders that Saudi Arabia has to offer? Fortunately, we have the insider tip from our expert local guides, Nada AlFuraih and Ghada Bander Almutairi. Drum roll, please! Here are their top three picks (in no particular order): 

  • AlUla – This ancient city is home to Hegra (Mada’in Saleh), the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site (shown above). 
  • At-Turaif in Diriyah – A UNESCO World Heritage Site (shown below), At-Turaif is located northwest of Riyadh. This historic district was the original home of the Saudi royal family and served as the country’s first capital.
  • Rijal Almaʽa – Dating back over 900 years, this ancient village is an archeological masterpiece.

A night view of At-Turaif UNESCO World Heritage Site in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.

Epic experiences

Have you always dreamt of a dazzling desert experience like camping under the stars or flying over the sand dunes on a motorbike? Well, nothing says the trip of a lifetime like the chance to tick off your top bucket list items. Discover incredible desert adventures beyond your wildest dreams; enjoy world-class hiking through enchanting landscapes like the Alhada Mountains; and go scuba diving in turquoise waters filled with coral reefs and mesmerising marine life. 

Hurry, so you can be one of the first to explore everything that Saudi Arabia has to offer!

The images shows two men looking down at Al Wahba crater, one of Saudi Arabia’s most impressive natural wonders.

​​ Ready to explore the land of a thousand and one adventures? Head over to TourRadar and start planning your Saudi Arabia trip today!

easy travel saudi arabia

Stephanie Fuchs

Stephanie is a Content Specialist at TourRadar. When she’s not writing, you can find her cooking, playing tennis, or exploring the world as she strives to reach her goal of visiting 100 countries before 2025.

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Real-Time Traveller

Best Of Saudi Arabia | The Perfect 12-Day Itinerary

easy travel saudi arabia

If you are planning a trip to Saudi Arabia, your flight will most probably land either in Jeddah or Riyadh. It doesn’t really make a difference from where you will start your exploration journey, since the places you will be visiting are pretty much standard. With that in mind, you can easily reverse the order of the cities, based on the optimum inbound/outbound flights found.

Here below you will find the perfect 12-day itinerary, covering the very best of Saudi Arabia, for all first-time visitors to the Kingdom.

Road-Trip Distances Around Saudi

Every road itinerary in Saudi is shaped around 4 distinct areas: Jeddah, Riyadh, Abha, and AlUla. The distance between these cities is pretty huge, so I can hardly propose driving the whole way. Indicative distances here below:

  • Jeddah – Riyadh (950 km, 9-10h): I find this to be the most useless drive, as there is nothing interesting to see between these two cities. You can skip this part entirely.
  • Riyadh – AlUla (1.060 km, 11h): This is an interesting drive that is worth doing if time is not a big issue for you. We personally “invested” 3 days on this route, driving from Riyadh to Buraidah (400 km, 4h), from Buraydah to Haʼil (280 km, 3h), and from Haʼil to AlUla (430 km, 5h). We found both Buraidah and Haʼil an interesting add-on to our trip, so this is a big YES for me.
  • AlUla – Jeddah (690 km, 7-8h): I don’t see any good reason for driving all this way unless your intention is to make a stop at either Madinah or Umluj. We have done the drive for Madinah (330 km, 4h) so no regrets!
  • Jeddah – Abha (720 km, 10h): This is still a big question mark for me. Our initial intention was to drive this route, visiting Taif, Al Bahah, and Thee Ain Ancient Village along the way. I still think it’s an interesting drive to consider, but unfortunately, I cannot speak out of my own experience.

easy travel saudi arabia

Day 1: Explore Jeddah

Jeddah is the second largest city in Saudi and the main gateway for Muslim pilgrims heading to Makkah. Despite its religious significance, it is also the most progressive city in the entire Kingdom.

I recently read an interesting debate about the name of Jeddah. Based on an old legend, Jeddah (translating into “grandmother” in Arabic) was named after our universal grandmother, Eve. This legend is supported by the fact that Jeddah is considered to be the burial place of Eve. Her Tomb is located in a cemetery close to Jeddah’s Old Town. In an effort to prevent pilgrims from visiting Mother Eve’s Cemetery, the religious authorities sealed the tomb with concrete back in 1975, making it no longer visible. The cemetery is most of the time closed, but even if you manage to get inside you stand no chance of tracing Eve’s grave.

Some people argue with this old legend saying that Jeddah was initially pronounced “Juddah”. Juddah translates into “seashore” in Arabic, signifying the city’s location next to the Red Sea.

The absolute minimum time you should spend in Jeddah is one full day for sightseeing the main points of interest. Let your first stop be the lively corniche! The Corniche of Jeddah has a lot of green rest areas and offers its visitors opportunities for walking, running, setting a picnic outdoors, or simply enjoying scenic views over the Red Sea. As it’s quite big in length, you’d better focus on interesting zones such as the  Jeddah Sculpture Museum , or the “Art Promenade”. The latter is the best spot for gazing over the famous Al Rahma Floating Mosque from a close distance.

easy travel saudi arabia

While in Saudi, you will soon realize that not many things are happening during the day. The heat has forced people to minimize their outdoor activities in the daytime, with most marketplaces and Souqs turning operational in the early afternoon. With that in mind, the best time to visit Jeddah’s Old Town, the world-famous  Al Balad  district, is before sunset. At this time of the day, Old Jeddah turns into a bustling and vibrant area, full of life!

Al Balad is famous for its unique architecture based on the use of coral stone (extracted from the nearby reef in the Red Sea). Another noticeable feature of this Hejazi architecture is the elegant rawasheen (wooden windows and balconies) adorning the buildings’ facades. As part of the country’s Vision 2030, and in an effort to preserve Al Balad’s identity and heritage value, a lot of historical buildings are currently undergoing heavy renovation. This might not allow you to see them at their full grandeur, but you will still get a very good feel of how wealthy and prosperous the merchants of Old Jeddah used to be.

Some places you should not miss while in Old Jeddah:

  • The Nassif House  was constructed in the late 1800s for Omar Nassif Efendi, the governor of Jeddah at that time. The very same house served as the residence of King Abdulaziz (the founder of Saudi Arabia) while in Jeddah. A fun fact about this house is the existence of a pathway that allowed the King to ride his horse all the way up to his office on the second floor! Bait Nassif has also been nicknamed the “House with the Tree”, thanks to a beautiful neem tree that stands at its very entrance! It is said that, up until the 1920s, this was the only tree in the entire Jeddah! Over the course of the years, the Nassif House has served as a library, a cultural center, and a museum.
  • The Al-Shafi’i Mosque (Masjid Of Al-Imam Al-Shafi’i), is the city’s oldest mosque, counting over 1.400 years of age. Non-Muslims are allowed to enter the mosque outside of prayer times. Before entering, make sure that you are dressed modestly and that you have taken your shoes off!
  • The traditional Souq Al Alawi , where you can find genuine Arabian jewelry, traditional dresses, perfumes, as well as local herbs, spices, and textiles.
  • The Bab Makkah , a three-arched gate that has been marking for centuries the start of the pilgrimage journey to Makkah.
  • Al Saidi Bakery is most probably the oldest bakery in Jeddah, baking traditional bread for almost 100 years! You can find it very close to Nassif House. From there, let the smell of the freshly baked bread show you the way!

Your last stop of the day should be at King Fahd’s fountain , the tallest fountain in the entire world! It is located on the shore of the Red Sea, and at a close distance from Al-Hamra’s Corniche. The height of its water reaches a maximum of 312 meters, making it even taller than the Eiffel Tower (without its antenna). At night the fountain is beautifully illuminated, while the fact that the water changes colors is making it a mesmerizing sight that should not be missed.

easy travel saudi arabia

Day 2: Jeddah - Abha (flight)

The city of Abha is the capital of the Asir Province in the South of Saudi Arabia. Due to its mountainous location, and contrary to the rest of the country, Abha enjoys pleasant weather all year round. And this is precisely what makes it extremely popular in the summertime when Saudis are trying to escape the extreme temperatures experienced in the rest of the Kingdom. Abha is also well-known for the beautiful landscape above the clouds!

Using a flight for this part of your trip will save you a whole lot of time! Upon arrival in Abha, you can walk around the city center and admire interesting sites, such as:

  • The historical village of Al-Muftaha is located at the very heart of Abha. Al-Muftaha counts over 260 years of age, however, for many years it was left in an extreme state of neglect. Thanks to the efforts of the Saudi government, restoration work was completed giving the village a new life and purpose! Ever since, it has been serving as a regional cultural center, with lots of art galleries and exhibition spaces. Overall, it is acting as a platform for local creativity. The colorful houses have been maintained exactly like the original ones and are a fascinating example of traditional Asir architecture. At the time of my visit, Al-Muftaha was, unfortunately, not open due to restoration work done all over Abha.
  • For museum lovers, Shada Palace is the place to go (if open). It is one of the few traditional buildings still standing in Abha, originally built for a ruling governor, and now housing a handicrafts museum. This mud-walled tower definitely stands out from the modern buildings surrounding it.
  • Art Street is another favorite gathering place for locals. A street lined up with trees, and what more full of art and life. Shops, galleries, cafes, restaurants, and street art, all in one place. Stroll, stroll, stroll, and people watch as others stroll, stroll, and stroll! Don’t miss the Souq Al Thulatha (Tuesday Market) , which is just around the corner! The market is open on all days of the week, but it attracts the best merchants of the region every Tuesday!
  • The Abha Dam Lake is a peaceful place with pretty nice views. It is definitely worth a quick stop. You can get here within a 10’ drive from the city center.
  • The High City is most probably the highest viewpoint in Abha, offering its visitors mesmerizing views over the valley and the surrounding mountains. But apart from a viewpoint, it is mainly a recreational area and a get-together spot for local Saudis. The High City gives a more European flavor to Abha with its elegant (and pricey) coffee shops and restaurants. Normally, a cable car is connecting the High City with another popular location, the Green Mountain (more on this below). However, at the time of our visit (again), this was not operational (maintenance work in progress).
  • Next stop, Jabal Al Akhdar , or else the iconic Green Mountain of Abha. Not really a mountain, but a hill, Jabal Al Akhdar took its name from the green lights used to illuminate it at night. Definitely, an amazing spectacle for visitors and locals alike. You can get to the mountain’s summit either by hiking your way up or by using the cable car. I am not sure about the cost of the cable car since we could not use it, but there is an entrance ticket of 20 SAR (5€) to the Green Mountain itself. The entrance fee can be redeemed at any restaurant on site, but again restaurants in tourist places are rather expensive. The view from the top is worth taking the ride, but the mountain itself is way more impressive (when illuminated) from a distance! Opening Hours: After 2 p.m.
  • Khamis Mushait is a nearby city in close proximity to the Abha airport. It hosts the heritage village of Dhafer Bin Hamsan which is covering an area of 15.000 square meters and offers its visitors the opportunity to explore the ancient social lifestyle within its grounds. The city’s Souq Al Khamis (Thursday Market) also boasts some of the best gold and silver Bedouin jewelry in the region.

easy travel saudi arabia

Day 3: Abha - Al Sahab Mountain Park - Al Sawda - Rijal Alma - Abha (130 km / 3 hours)

No visit to the South of KSA can be complete without heading to Rijal Alma. Rijal Alma is yet another heritage village of Saudi Arabia that has been gradually transformed into a major tourist attraction. Hidden in the mountains of the country’s southwest Asir region, this small village is characterized by Yemen-style architecture. This makes absolute sense, considering its strategic location and proximity to Yemen itself.

Rijal Alma historically served as one of the most important trade centers in the Arabian Peninsula. As such it was strongly influenced both culturally and architecturally by the foreign travelers that passed through. The village’s iconic stone buildings (also known as forts) are decorated by skilled painters in fascinating color combinations and designs.

In an effort to preserve the heritage of the region, most of these buildings have gone through a thorough restoration driven by the locals themselves. In that direction, a Heritage Museum has also been established onsite, displaying over 2,800 exhibits collected among the local families.

How to Get to Rijal Alma

Rijal Alma can be reached by car within just 1.5 hours from the city of Abha. Do just note that the road before reaching the village is extremely steep and sharp, making the drive down a bit scary.

On your way to Rijal Alma, it is worth making two quick detours at:

  • Jabal Sawda (or else “Al Sawda” ), is the highest peak in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This is one of the best viewpoints, famous for its spectacular misty landscape. Al Sawda peak is easily accessible by car, just 30 mins from the center of Abha.
  • El Sahab Park , for more views of the surrounding mountain peaks. “Sahab” literally translates into “cloud”, and that is exactly what this place is all about. A wonderful viewpoint above the clouds!

easy travel saudi arabia

Day 4: Abha - Riyadh (flight)

I highly recommend using a domestic flight for this part of the route to quickly and comfortably reach Riyadh. Assuming that you can afford one day only in the Kingdom’s capital city, here are the most important points of interest you should target visiting:

  • Al Masmak Fort: Dominating the center of the Old City, Al Masmak Fort is the exact spot where the Battle of Riyadh took place. This is literally the place where the first page in the history of modern-day Saudi Arabia was written. Al Masmak is nowadays serving as a Museum, and is open for public visits free of charge.
  • The Deera Square: Right across Al Masmak Fort, lies Deera Square, the site where public executions were performed until very recently. For that very reason, Deera is commonly known as “Chop Chop Square”.
  • The Imam Turki Bin Abdullah Grand Mosque , one of the largest mosques in Saudi Arabia, is located right on Deera Square. If you are dressed up decently, you can ask for permission to get inside. The prayer hall is simply enormous and can accommodate up to 17,000 worshippers!
  • Al Murraba Palace: Al Murraba was built by King Abdulaziz to serve as his personal residence. It also has a historical significance being the very first building constructed outside the Old City of Riyadh. Today, the palace is a “living museum”, housing some of King Abdulaziz’s personal items, archives, and other royal antiques. Among these, the Rolls Royce presented to the King as a gift by Winston Churchill.
  • The National Museum of Saudi Arabia . A stone’s throw away from Al Murraba Palace, you will find the crown jewel of Riyadh, the National Museum of Saudi Arabia. Consisted of eight different Exhibition Halls, presenting (with the use of multimedia technology) different stages of the Arabian Peninsula’s evolution. Geographical, historical, cultural, and heritage-related elements, all beautifully blended together. I personally found pretty impressive the halls exhibiting models of the two Holy Cities and Mosques, displaying Hajj rituals, and pilgrimage routes from ancient to recent years. Entrance to the museum is free of charge.
  • The Sky Bridge at Kingdom Center . The Kingdom Center is Saudi Arabia’s fifth-tallest skyscraper and one of the most iconic buildings in Riyadh. On its very top sits the 65 meters long Sky Bridge, a viewing platform offering breathtaking views over Riyadh’s skyline. The ticket price for the Sky Bridge is 69 SAR.
  • Ad Diriyah . The historical city of Diriyah, dating back to 1446 CE, is one of the oldest heritage sites in Saudi Arabia. It served as the first capital of the newly founded Kingdom, as well as the home of the country’s ruling House of Saud. Diriyah’s historical center (At-Turaif), demonstrates the traditional mud-and-brick Najd architecture and was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2010. Ever since, and in an effort to be transformed into the new Saudi Arabia’s cultural capital, it has been undergoing various restoration and preservation works. This is one of the most ambitious projects for the Kingdom, aiming to make the historic Diriyah one of the most important tourist attractions and cultural destinations in the entire world.

easy travel saudi arabia

Day 5: Riyadh - Desert Safari - Sunset at the Edge of the World (or at the Camel Trail) - Riyadh

If you can afford one extra day in Riyadh and are up to some adventure, then book yourself a half-day desert safari tour. Such a tour will take you via a 4×4 car to Riyadh’s desert for unlimited fun while sandboarding, quad biking, and dune bashing!

As an alternative or even a combination of the abovementioned activity, head to either the Edge of the World (Jebel Fihrayn) or the Camel Trail. These are two of the best viewpoints of the Tuwaiq Mountain offering jaw-dropping views of the dunes, and ancient camel tracks of the Arabian Desert.

The Edge of the World is located approximately 90 kilometers (and 2 hours) away from Riyadh. It is basically a 300 meters high cliff overlooking the vast desert. Being here makes you literally feel like standing on the edge of the world! Whether you are going with your own vehicle or via a tour, you will need a 4×4 car, and good driving skills to avoid getting stuck in the sand. In the last years, and due to an accident of a person falling off the cliff, this particular site was shut down for safety reasons. At the time of our visit, it was not clear whether the Edge of the World was reopened or not. You’d better check with some local tour operators before heading there.

The best alternative to the Edge of the World (and 100% accessible) is the so-called Camel Trail . This site is way closer to Riyadh but still requires a 4×4 vehicle. The Camel Trail is a historical trail that was used by pilgrims that were making their way toward Makkah. What to expect here? Breathtaking views from the top of the mountain, of course, and the opportunity to descend down via the historic trail if you are up for some extra challenge.

easy travel saudi arabia

Day 6: Riyadh - Shaqra - Ushaiger Heritage Village - Buraydah (400 km / 5 hours)

Visitors to Saudi Arabia have the chance to learn about the Kingdom’s history and distinctive architecture by visiting one or more heritage villages that are scattered around the country. This is by far the ideal way to step back in time and see how everyday life in Saudi Arabia was some hundred years ago.

Those landing in Riyadh should, by all means, plan a full-day trip in the mud villages of Shaqra and Ushaiger , located less than 2.5h away from the Kingdom’s capital city. Most buildings remain in ruins, yet some others have been renovated by the owners themselves, in an effort to keep their heritage alive. While wandering around the narrow streets and winding alleyways, be on the lookout for any doors left open! These will give you access to the houses’ rooftops for unparalleled views over the surrounding oasis and farmlands.

My personal recommendation, and if you are following this suggested itinerary, is not to return back to Riyadh after visiting Shaqra and Ushaiger but to head towards Buraydah for your overnight.

Buraydah is the capital of Al Qassim province. Its strategic location in the heart of Saudi Arabia makes it an important connection hub for travelers moving between different regions in the country. Buraydah is called the city of dates for the production of high-quality dates, as well as the biggest date festival in the world.

Time permitting, you can make a quick visit to Buraydah Museum, Aloqilat Museum, and Al Musawkaf Market.

easy travel saudi arabia

Day 7: Buraydah - Madinah (525 km / 6 hours)

Buraydah is also famous for the world’s largest camel market, the Al Qassim Camel Market which is located in short proximity to the city itself. For taking part in this very unique and truly Saudi experience, you will need to wake up early in the morning as the market comes into life already at 5-6 am.

Your next stop, over 500 km away, is the holy city of Madinah . Home to the Prophet’s Mosque (Masjid Al-Nabawi), which is one of the largest mosques in the world, and the second holiest after Masjid Al-Haraam in Makkah. The Prophet’s Mosque was built by Prophet Muhammed in the year 622 CE when he migrated to Madinah. A Green Dome marks the exact location of the “Sacred Chamber” where the Prophet’s real home and also his final resting place is.

The mosque alone is a grand spot of utmost grandeur. It stands out from a distance thanks to its sparkling white marble, the numerous minarets, and of course its dazzling green-colored dome. The courtyard of the mosque is covered with lots of giant umbrellas aiming to provide shade to the worshippers. Moreover, its floor has been renovated using Thassos Snow White marble, a high-quality material that reflects the sunlight and keeps a low temperature throughout the day. In this way, pilgrims can walk barefoot without feeling any heat. The exact same marble has been used in the Great Mosque of Makkah, surrounding the Holy Kaaba.

The Prophet’s Mosque, as well as the area in its vicinity, is known as Haram and is closed to non-Muslims. However, non-Muslims can visit the rest of the city and even stay here for the night.

easy travel saudi arabia

Day 8: Madinah - AlUla (340 km / 4 hours)

Another lengthy drive till you reach the spectacular AlUla. In addition to ruins of ancient civilizations, AlUla offers its visitors stunning natural landscapes from eroded mountains to desert oases and a lot more.

For your first day, I suggest you take it easy and head to one (or more) of the following unique locations:

  • No ticket is needed to enter the site, while parking is complimentary for all visitors, as well.
  • There are several food places on site, but they only open in the early afternoon. With that being said, afternoon visits ONLY can be combined with a light dinner (comfort food on offer, such as burgers, shawarmas, hot dogs, pancakes, etc.) while sitting around a bonfire.
  • This site is ideal for night stargazing, so the most adventurous ones can also consider it as their camping spot!
  • The Harrat Viewpoint: The Harrat Viewpoint is a lookout point and seating area at the top of the Harrat Uwayrid volcanic mountain. From here you can enjoy epic views over Dadan, AlUla Old Town, and AlUla Oasis, surrounded by majestic red mountains. The best time of the day to get up here is shortly before sunset so that you can get the best views of the sky’s orange glow, as the sun is disappearing into the horizon. Entrance to the site is free of charge, while parking is also complimentary for all visitors.
  • The Maraya: The magnificent Maraya concert hall is not just a state-of-the-art construction, but also the world’s largest mirrored building! The name “Maraya” itself translates into exactly that: a “mirror” or a “reflection”. Maraya is a multi-purpose venue, housing concerts, annual festivals (such as the Winter Tantora festival), international events, and business conferences. Touristic visits are not allowed, so if you do not hold a ticket or invitation for an event or concert, your only chance to admire this amazing building is by making a reservation at the Maraya Social restaurant (open for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday).

easy travel saudi arabia

Days 9-10: AlUla

Ever since Saudi Arabia opened up to tourism, AlUla, hosting the first UNESCO World Heritage site in the country, was promoted as the #1 must-visit destination for international travelers.

To date, numerous archaeological sites have been identified in the broader area, while the excavation of even more is still ongoing. Amazingly, the very first inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula carved a whole city out of rock in this very place. Madain Saleh (also known as Hegra) , was a principal city of the Nabataean Kingdom and served as its former capital, second only to Petra in Jordan.

What comes as a big surprise is that despite its historical significance, AlUla was deliberately neglected by locals for centuries. Reason being the clear statement made by Prophet Muhammed in the Quran that this place had been cursed by Allah and should be avoided by all means.  To be more specific, Allah decided to punish the Thamud people, original inhabitants of the area, for their sins. As a consequence, the land of Thamud was severely hit by earthquakes, destroyed, and abandoned.

The Saudi government, in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 program, urges people to start visiting AlUla. The efforts to revive AlUla’s past role as a thriving hub of trade and cultural exchange target at offering visitors a unique travel experience, including a combination of outdoor adventures, wellness, heritage, and entertainment.

What is very important to know is that independent visits to the various heritage sites are strictly forbidden. You will have to book your tours and experiences through the official  Experience AlUla website  and be accompanied at all times. Not only that, but you have to make your bookings well in advance, as there is a limitation on the daily slots. Check the instructions sent to you upon ticket reservation to have a clear understanding of:

  • The exact pick-up location . For most tours and experiences, you will be picked up at the Winter Park. Yet, there are still a few tours and experiences that have set a different meeting point.
  • The meeting time . You are usually prompted to be at the meeting location at a specific time – well before the official commencement of the tour. Make sure to respect the given timeframe.
  • Avoid booking back-to-back tours . If there is a delay in the first one, you may easily miss the next one. I think that two tours per day are pretty sufficient.

It is worth looking at the map to understand the location of each site, as they are pretty much scattered around the broader area. Even if you will not be driving to the actual sites yourself, you will still need a car, a driver, or a taxi to drop you off and pick you up from meeting locations. Taxis are neither reliable nor on time when you need them, so you should not risk missing a tour just because of that.

easy travel saudi arabia

Day 11: AlUla - Jeddah (flight) OR Wadi Disah - Tabuk

  • Option (1): If you don’t want to drive all the way to Jeddah (pretty meaningless as you will waste over 7 hours behind the wheel to cover the 700 km of distance), you can consider using a domestic flight instead. Al Ula is served by the Prince Abdul Majeed Bin Abdulaziz Domestic Airport, located 34 km away from the city center. The airport provides direct (but not that frequent) flights to both Jeddah and Riyadh. If you take this option, you can spend a lazy rest of the day at Silver Sands Beach nearby Jeddah.
  • Head back to AlUla and get a flight to Jeddah
  • Drive for another 3 hours to Tabuk and get a flight to Jeddah from there

Day 12: Tabuk - Jeddah - (departure flight)

I leave this day free of schedule so that you can better organize the logistics of your departure from the Kingdom.

Ready To Go?

On the most practical part, and while setting aside the itinerary  itself, I totally urge you to also go through my previous post titled  “The Ultimate Survival Guide For Travelling To Saudi Arabia” . Through this post, I am sharing with you essential information on the entry requirements, as well as the evolution of the tourism industry in the country from the past, through the present, to the future!

If you feel you cannot organize such a trip alone, then you can always join me on one of my future trips! As a point of reference, I will be posting my most up-to-date travel dates at the end of each blog post!

Join Me In Saudi Arabia

Next Travel Dates:  17-28 November 2022

« The Ultimate Survival Guide For Travelling To Saudi Arabia

The ultimate travel guide for syria | know before you go ».

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Your 12-day itinerary of Saudi Arabia is a treasure trove of cultural and scenic diversity! From the urban landscapes of Riyadh and Jeddah to the natural beauty of Abha and the historical wonders of Al-Ula, your guide covers it all. It’s fascinating to see how travel in Saudi Arabia, a country without permanent rivers, revolves around road trips, showcasing its vast and varied terrain. This guide is a brilliant resource for anyone wanting to explore the rich tapestry of experiences Saudi Arabia has to offer. Thank you for sharing your adventures and insights!

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Real-Time Traveller

Happy you enjoyed reading my blog posts for Saudi! Hope my guide will turn out handy should you decide to plan this trip yourself! Cheers!

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Away With The Steiners

Saudi Arabia Travel guide: Everything you need to know about KSA.

  • By Sarah Steiner
  • Updated On April 7, 2024

Considering Saudi Arabia?  Visiting KSA and this part of the Middle East is somewhere that has been on our bucket list for a long time and this year we finally got to visit. But deciding where to go in a country so big is not easy; so we went ALL over.  Here is our Saudi Arabia travel guide with everything you need to know to plan your visit too. 

  • Why visit Saudi Arabia?

Travel in Saudi Arabia with kids

  • Best time to visit
  • Visas  

ATM’s and money

  • Our itinerary  
  • Where to go – Dammam – Al Hofuf – Riyadh – Tabuk – AlUla – Yanbu – Jeddah – Abha
  • Transportation
  • SIM cards, connectivity and wifi
  • Accommodation options
  • Where we stayed

About Saudi Arabia, quickly

  • Full name:  The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Capital:  Riyadh
  • Official language:  Arabic 
  • Religion:  93% Islam, 4.4% Christianity
  • Currency:  Saudi Riyal (SR) (SAR)
  • Population:  36,000,000
  • Time Zone:  National Standard Time (UTC+3)
  • Calling Code:  +966
  • Drives On:  Right
  • Credit Cards:  Visa/MC accepted
  • Outlets:   Plug Type G (110/220 V / 60 Hz)

Travel guide for Saudi Arabia starting in the city of Riyadh.

Why visit Saudi Arabia? 

While the country has always received many visitors for Hajj and Umrah (pilgrimages) it has been essentially (effectively) closed off entirely for tourism until 2019. 

Now it is open with a tourist visa ; yet it still remains a bit of a mystery as far as mainstream tourism goes…

But for those of us (guilty) who have a particular passion for countries away from the mainstream tourist trail; Saudi Arabia fits perfectly… 

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a Middle Eastern country that makes up the vast majority of the Arabian Peninsula.  In other words, it’s huge! 

It’s not the most common tourist destination to head for with kids but I am going to tell you about how we found it a truly great – and incredibly hospitable – travel destination that was  perfect  for a road trip adventure…

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with kids in our Saudi Arabia travel guide.

It’s great news regarding visas for Saudi Arabia as a traveller. International visitors from 49 countries can apply for an eVisa for Saudi Arabia.   And  a whole lot of those 49 can also (check pandemic changes to regulations) actually apply for a Visa on Arrival.  

In order to enter Saudi Arabia (at any border entry point) visitors travelling with an eVisa also need: 

  • An eligible passport with more than 6 months validity remaining
  • A valid eVisa
  • Evidence of onward travel to another country
  • Address of accommodation in Saudi Arabia

But here’s how we did it.  Crossing to Saudi Arabia from Bahrain on the King Fahd Causeway we hadn’t pre-arranged eVisas for Saudi.  We had done (and had fingers crossed) as much research as we could find out and understood that there was a theory we could get a Visa on Arrival at the causeway border.  

And if not; we would need to hook to the wifi (literally) at the visa office right there and apply for and receive an eVisa.  

This was in fact what ended up happening.  And so in doing so we entered Saudi Arabia with kids and four times eVisas in our hands at the crossing. 

Travel in Jeddah Saudi Arabia with kids in our Saudi Arabia travel guide.

Getting  to  Saudi Arabia

There are four international airports in Saudi Arabia that travellers can enter with an eVisa: 

  • King Khalid International Airport (RUH) –  Riyadh
  • King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) –  Jeddah
  • King Fahd International (DMM) –  Dammam
  • Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz International (MED) –  Madinah

And  it is also possible to enter Saudi Arabia overland from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain .  Which is exactly what we did.  

I have written a separate guide to the overland border crossing from the Kingdom of Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.  And about how to enter overland into Saudi Arabia with kids in tow. (Note: It isn’t actually that hard). 

From Bahrain, entry to the country is via the King Fahd Bridge border checkpoint.  This is a 25km causeway from Bahrain to the city of Khobar (less than 50km from Dammam). 

Entry into Saudi Arabia by road from the UAE is via the Al Batha border crossing.  This is located on the Emirates’ Western border approximately 500 km southeast of Riyadh.

Crossing the King Fahd Bridge from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia (everything you need to know in our Saudi Arabia travel guide).

Currency and cash in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi riyal is the currency of Saudi Arabia.  The exchange rate in 2024 is as below:

  • 1 SAR  = 0.27 USD
  • 10 SAR  = 2.67 USD
  • 100 SAR  = 26.66 USD
  • 1000 SAR  = 266.58 USD

Cash comes in notes of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 Rs. 

There are many ATM’s on the roadside in Saudi Arabia (and quite seriously there are plenty of drive-through ATM’s lining the highways and huge petrol station stops!). 

The first ATM we used was less than 1km after entering KSA (while we were still on the King Fahd Causeway middle island).  The most common banks we found and used with our international bank cards while in Saudi Arabia were:

  • Al Rajhi Bank

Each of these ATM’s worked for us each time and had the menu option in English on the first page of display. 

Al Rajhi Bank and how to use ATM's in Saudi Arabia travel guide.

Going in to shops and restaurants in the big cities you will find people that speak some English.  However out in rural Saudi Arabia an English translation is much more limited.  

It is  hugely  appreciated if you can greet and thank people you meet in Arabic.  And even if you can’t speak much more than that; do not worry! The people of Saudi Arabia are extremely hospitable and welcoming and will make sure you are comfortable even without a common language to do so. 

  • Hi/Hello:  Salam Alaykum
  • Thank you:  Shukran
  • You’re welcome:  Afwan
  • How are you?  Kaif halak? Or Kaif al hal? 
  • I’m fine, thank you:  Ana bikhayr shukran
  • What is your name?  Eysh Esmk?
  • How much?  Be kam? 
  • Please:  Min Fdlek
  • Yes:  Eewa
  • No:  La

The varying landscapes and villages of Saudi Arabia in our Saudi Arabia travel guide.

Our itinerary around Saudi Arabia 

Here is our itinerary from a month of travel in Saudi Arabia.   We started in the North and headed towards the capital by train; flew out west and then drove by rental car to the beautiful south of the country…

  • Bahrain  > taxi   >  Al Khobar  entry border
  • Al Khobar  > taxi >  Dammam
  • Dammam  > train >  Al Hofuf
  • Al Hofuf  > train >  Riyadh 
  • Riyadh  > domestic flight >  Tabuk
  • Tabuk  > rental car >  AlUla
  • AlUla  > rental car >  Yanbu
  • Jeddah  > rental car >  Abha 
  • Abha  > rental car >  Jeddah 

Plus we visited  Taif ,  Halaba ,  Al Bahah  and  Al Qunfuddah  as towns we stayed at least one night in during our trip around by rental car in East and southern Saudi Arabia! 

Places to visit in Saudi Arabia

Alright. The country is HUGE.  It is in fact the  13 th  largest country  in the world by land size area so there is much to see.  And each of the different regions of the country is very different from the last.  

Here are the highlights from our time in Saudi Arabia with what we would recommend you prioritise in each place…

The northern coastal city of Dammam is somewhere that has boomed since the discovery of oil and thus petrol in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  From the history we observed on display at the incredible Heritage Village in Dammam (see below) it was a fairly average-sized city before the boom of industry and the rush of people moving to the area.  

Things to do in Dammam

  • Heritage Village:  A must see in Dammam! This was a highlight for us and a great way to learn about the different regions of Saudi Arabia. 
  • Dammam Corniche:  As long as it’s not too hot (read: July or August!) it’s beautiful to walk along the corniche right by sea. 
  • King Fahad Park:  Said to be the largest park in Saudi Arabia by size and also an amusement park with over 25 rides. 
  • Cobra Entertainment City:  Another park and amusement area famous for being one of the best and most beautiful recreational places in  Dammam.

Visiting the Heritage village in Dammam what to do in Dammam visit Saudi Arabia travel guide for Saudi Arabia with kids.

Transportation from Dammam

  • Train to Al Hofuf:  1.5 hours
  • Train to Riyadh:  4 hours 
  • Drive to Riyadh:  4.5 hours

Known also as Al Hufuf, this city of Saudi Arabia in the Eastern Province not only has one of the largest oil fields in the world but is also one of the largest date producers in the world.  Al Hofuf is situated in the largest oasis in the world with huge groves of palm trees; counted at over two million.

Things to do in Al Hofuf

  • Qaisariah Souq:  Traditional market place selling gold jewellery, gifts and textiles.
  • Al Qarah Mountain:  Stunning rock formations and natural caves that show archaeological evidence of some of the oldest settlements in the Arabian Peninsula dating back to 5,000 BC. 
  • Jawatha Mosque:  Built in 628AD it is the first mosque in the Eastern province.  It is said that the first jummah prayer outside Madinah was prayed here. 
  • Ibrahim Palace:  A beautiful 500+ year old palace and related museum and architectural masterpiece that was a Turkish military barracks and the main headquarters of the Ottoman garrison in Al-Ahsaa.

Al Hofuf in Saudi Arabia travel guide.

This is the capital city of Saudi Arabia and there are endless options of sights to see and activities to do in Riyadh; literally from luxury tours and restaurants to hiking on the outskirts at the famous ‘Edge of the World’. 

Things to do in Riyadh

  • Kingdom Tower:  Riyadh’s iconic and ultra-modern skyscraper. You can walk along the skybridge for an epic view of the city. 
  • Masmak Fort:  The museum inside the old fort gives a good history and map of the old city with artefacts from the area.
  • National Museum of Saudi Arabia:  The Kingdom’s biggest and best museum showcasing centuries of Arabian prehistory, history, culture and art.
  • Deera Square:  A lot of history here but if you’re visiting Saudi Arabia with kids this is also a great place to splash in the water fountains! 
  • Najd Village:  The best restaurant in Riyadh for tourists with traditional food and a traditional set up inside. 
  • Edge of the World:  This was a separate highlight for us in Riyadh out of the main city. I highly recommend visiting KSA’s Edge of the World!
  • Al Baik:  Any Saudi you meet will recommend you  must  try Al Baik (it’s fried chicken; like the Middle Eastern answer to KFC).  Go on; do it…

Riyadh and Saudi Arabia with kids!

Transportation from Riyadh

  • Train to Al Hofuf:  2.5 hours
  • Train to Dammam:  4 hours
  • Bus to Dammam:  4.5 hours
  • Domestic flight to Tabuk:  1 hr 50 mins
  • Drive to Jeddah:  9+ hours

The very famous Madain Saleh is located near the city of AlUla and is the iconic image you will have seen of  Hegra ; the beautiful rock city in the desert that looks a lot like neighbouring Petra in Jordan. 

The official  AlUla website  has all the information for visiting Hegra and buying tickets online.  

Things to do in AlUla

  • Madain Saleh/Hegra:  The southernmost settlement of the Nabatean Kingdom (the kingdoms second largest settlement after Petra) consisting of over 131 tock-cut monumental tombs and caves.  
  • Elephant Rock:  An artfully formed outcrop that almost looks as if it must be made for Instagrammers.  With some creative license the shape of the rock resembles the form of an elephant with a long trunk. 
  • Hotel Pakistan:  We have added this in as a must-try attraction (ok; restaurant) in AlUla. This has to be some of the best food we came across in Saudi Arabia!

Visiting Hegra in AlUla and Saudi Arabia with kids.

A port city of the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia (and for us a halfway(ish) point between AlUla and Jeddah in the south).  Yanbu is actually the second largest port city on the south of the country (after Jeddah) and one of the oldest seaports on the Red Sea with history dating back approximately 2500 years. 

Things to do in Yanbu

  • Yanbu Historical Area:  An interesting area on the waterfront (currently under construction) to get a sense of architecture and housing style in this area of KSA.
  • Dinner in Food Street:  Lots of outdoor cafes right on the waterfront.  Everything from Turkish to Egyptian, popcorn and pizza.
  • Yanbu Port:  Walk along the waterfront port and cruise ship dock in the centre of Yanbu’s port city.

The beautiful historical centre of Yanbu, Saudi Arabia travel guide.

The port city of Jeddah has long been regarded as Saudi Arabia’s cultural capital; the perfect blend of old and new.  Jeddah has always served as the gateway to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city.  And as a result has been heavily influenced by the influx of pilgrims it has received over the centuries. 

Things to do in Jeddah

  • Jeddah Corniche:  A great picnic spot and (obviously) beautiful place for a walk along the Red Sea and waterfront. 
  • Al Balad:  The neighbourhood of Al Balad is the oldest in the city and served as the city-centre for several hundred years. 
  • King Fahad’s Fountain:  The tallest fountain of its type in the world and definitely worth a look. 
  • Al Balad Souk:   Al Balad  is home to the main traditional souks in Jeddah like the Bedouin market where in the past Bedouin travellers would sell their own products (now you’ll find food products like coffee, cardamom, grains and nuts). 
  • Al Romanisah:  Not technically a historic or site as listed on KSA’s guiding website but I’m adding it in. Check out our video of trying Saudi’s famous restaurant and I reckon you will be convinced too…

Al Balad in Jeddah Saudi Arabia travel guide and traveling in Saudi Arabia with kids.

Transportation from Jeddah

  • Drive to Al Bahah: 5 hours
  • Drive to Yanbu: 3.5 hours
  • Drive to Al Qunfudhah: 4 hours
  • Drive to Riyadh: 9.5 hours 
  • Flight to Riaydh: 1.5 hours

Al Bahah is one of Saudi Arabia’s prized destinations; not only for international visitors but for domestic tourism as well.  It enjoys a pleasant climate and is surrounded  by natural sights and beauty with more than 40 forests and waterfalls. 

Things to do in Al Bahah

  • King Fahd Mountain Pass:  A drive along King Fahd’s Mountain Pass serves up some of the best views in Al Baha with scenic villages and deep valleys. 
  • Sheda Village:  A historic village hidden in the green cliffs and valleys of the Sarawat Mountains. Even driving by you get views of ancient stone houses dotting the roadside and offering a glimpse of a time and communities past.
  • Dhe Ayan:  Often called the Marble Village this is another historic village of the past where the cuboid buildings are made of stone and slate and tucked right up into the hillside.  

Travel tip:  I’m adding this as an official travel tip in our Saudi Arabia travel guide because the beautiful King Fahd Mountain Pass is worth a drive just for the views of epic valleys and villages. Even if you aren’t stopping and staying in Al Bahah I would recommend coming this way around towards Abha. 

Stone walls and buildings in Abha and Al Bahah Saudi Arabia.

The hilltop city of Abha is the capital city of the Aseer Province in the southwest of the country.  It’s known as a summer playground or resort town for Saudi nationals (to escape the heat of the desert cities during the peak of summer holidays) as well as hosting tourists from all over the GCC that flock here to escape the sweltering summer heat.

(So do note; it can get particularly busy during those summer months and accommodation prices not only skyrocket but make it hard to find somewhere to stay. Plan ahead with that one… 

Things to do in Abha

  • Rijal Almaa:  This beautiful village is on UNESCO’s tentative heritage list as a colourful stone village that’s original homes have stood the test of time now for centuries. Now a restored touristic site and museum the village is worth the drive from Abha to visit.
  • Al-Basta:  Known as the neighbourhood holding the largest number of ancient buildings and monuments; this is Abha’s main tourist destination. 
  • Green Mountain:  Specifically the iconic mountain of Abha (known favourably as Green Mountain) that provides an incredible view of the city and can only be reached by cable car. 
  • Abu Kheyal Park:  Famous for the bright purple blossoms of Jacaranda trees in the early spring. 
  • Fog Walkway:  Also dubbed the Corniche of Abha where all the infamous pictures with clouds are taken. 

Visiting Gingerbread Village Rijal Almaa in Saudi Arabia travel guide.

Transportation from Abha

  • Drive to Jeddah: 8 – 9 hours 
  • Drive to Al Qunfudah: 4 hours
  • Bus to Jeddah: 10 hours
  • Flight to Jeddah: 1 hour
  • Flight to Riyadh: 1.75 hours

Food in Saudi Arabia (you need to try )

Food plays a very important role in traditional Saudi Arabian culture and is seen as a symbol of hospitality. 

The most common food items you will come across on your travels in Saudi Arabia include rice, chicken, lamb, spices, yoghurt, potatoes, bread and dates.  LOTS of dates. 

  • Kabsa:  Rice and roast chicken with fried onions, raisins, pine nuts (the most famous dish in Saudi Arabia!)
  • Maqluba:  This is a favourite of ours and most simply described as an upside-down rice dish!
  • Tamiya  (falafel): Vegetarian fritter made chickpeas/fava beans 
  • Mandi:  Rice and meat cooked in a Tandoor oven
  • Sharwarma : 
  • Kibbeh:  Deep fried croquettes of wheat, meat and pinenuts (the word kibbeh comes from the Arabic word kubbah, for  ball ).
  • Gahwa:  Arabic coffee mixed with spices
  • Sambusak  (samosas): Savoury, deep-fried pastries stuffed with meat 
  • Kunafah:  Sweet, crunchy pastry

Food in Saudi travel with kids.

What kind of food will the kids eat while we’re in Saudi Arabia?

It’s definitely a fair call to be contemplating travel in Saudi Arabia with kids and wondering what on earth they are likely to eat while you’re there…  

Here are some firm favourites we found during our month of travels (that was not including the supermarket packaged treats that I do admit were also handy when in transit on a road trip between cities!). 

  • Arayes:  Crispy pita bread sandwiches 
  • Shakshouka:  Poached eggs in cooked tomato sauce – this one we had at breakfast time in a couple of places. 
  • Jallab:  Basically a fruit syrup!
  • Basbousa:  Semolina cake
  • Muhallebi:  Milk pudding made with rice flour 

Traveling with kids in Saudi Arabia is great! Read our Saudi Arabia travel guide for everything you need to know about what kind of food is in Saudi Arabia.

Also note that most markets don’t open until late afternoon (around 4pm).  AND I have to say that only a couple of hotels out of alllll the different ones we stayed at actually included breakfast in the room charge.  (I mean seriously they barely even offered utensils or crockery).  

So don’t get the idea of filling up on breakfasts for the days adventures.  Best to head to the markets or find a roadside restaurant (we can recommend a few of  those  we enjoyed!). 

Transportation in Saudi Arabia 

Saudi Arabia is a huge country to travel around. (Remember; it’s the 13 th  biggest country in the world by land-size!).  But the good news is that it is also a country with multiple options for travel – overland, by public transport (train) or by flight. 

Here is what we found about transportation in Saudi Arabia condensed into the following Saudi Arabia travel guide! 

Getting around Saudi Arabia by train

The Dammam-Riyadh train line offers a (relatively) budget-friendly way to travel between the largest Saudi cities (with a view). 

There are six daily departures on two trains (one operating Sunday through Thursday and the other on Thursdays and Saturdays). 

The trains we went on between Dammam and Riyadh have Premium (1st) class and Standard (2nd) class, a café on board and even a prayer area.

Tickets between  Dammam and Riyadh  cost: 

  • 1 st  class:  136.50 SAR (USD $37) 
  • 2 nd  class:  78.75 SAR (USD $21)

There is also a  North Train  that connects Riyadh to the north of Saudi Arabia and serves the following stations: 

  • Hai; and 

And the  Haramain High-Speed Railway  popular with pilgrims is the latest and fastest train in the Middle East, operating between the holy cities of Makkah and Medina in western Saudi Arabia. It serves the following stations: Makkah, Jeddah, King Abdullah Economic City and Medina.  (Note you cannot visit Makkah as a non-Muslim tourist). 

Taking the train from Dammam to Hofuf and Dammam to Riyadh in our Saudi Arabia travel guide. Travel in Saudi Arabia with kids is great!

Getting around Saudi Arabia by rental car

Although you might have heard tales fast and erratic driving in Saudi Arabia (sorry; they’re mostly true) and be put off the consideration of hiring a car in Saudi; it is actually a great way to get around the country. (As long as you’re a confident driver).  Because the country is geographically HUGE! 

There are maddening crowds and traffic in the big cities, mountain switchbacks (looking at you, Abha) and dark desert highways that stretch for literally miles on end.  

But in actual fact road conditions are fairly good and when we rented a car and drove in Saudi Arabia (ok, Gavin drove) this year we had a great experience and found it an economical way to get from one side of the country to (almost literally) the other.

Cars in Saudi Arabia are left-hand drive and automatic transmission is standard.

And luckily, petrol in Saudi Arabia is cheap (no surprises there).  Petrol costs about 1.5 riyal/L ($0.40 USD) for 91 and 2 riyal/L ($0.50 USD) for 95.  

Note: As a non-resident (tourist) you do need to have an International Driving Permit (IDP) to rent a car and drive in Saudi Arabia.  

We hired a car through Avis rentals and found their service particularly good.  We picked up the car in Tabuk and returned it to Jeddah three weeks later. A great experience. 

Signs towards Meccah in Saudi. Driving the road to Meccah as a non-Muslim? Here is our Saudi Arabia travel guide including everything to know about travel in Saudi Arabia.

Getting around Saudi Arabia by plane 

Getting  to  Saudi Arabia is easy these days with four international airports served by a wealth of different international carriers.  

Saudi Arabia also operates 15 domestic airports around the country with three carriers that make short hops between regions fairly cost effective too. 

  • Nesma Airlines

It’s easy to book flights online through each carriers website (or using a larger flight scanning app or site). 

Travel guide for Saudi Arabia including best options to get around the country in KSA.

Getting around Saudi Arabia by taxi

It’s fairly easy to get a taxi in the major cities of Saudi Arabia.  (In Dammam we were picked up by a taxi driver who said he couldn’t bear to see us outside in the heat and insisted on dropping us off for free!). 

The cheapest option is definitely Uber although sometimes we found with the long wait time it wasn’t the most sensible choice (especially waiting in the heat with kids).  

In Dammam an Uber for 3km cost us around 15SAR.  And in Riyadh during the peak evening time we got an Uber for 10km for 45SAR.  

Saudi Arabia travel guide how to get around in Saudi Arabia with kids.

Budgeting for Saudi Arabia

There’s no need to beat around the bush with this part of the travel guide for Saudi.   Whether you are in Saudi Arabia with kids or not; it is an expensive country to travel in. 

Not only is it above average costs for the daily budget as a traveller; it is expensive to  enter  the country (see above section about visas) unless you are a Gulf country citizen or resident worker.  But there are different options for food and drinks (like a supermarket or finding a smaller non-chain restaurant) that can help to budget for your trip… 

  • Water  (1L): 2 SAR
  • Soft drink  (can): 4 SAR
  • Coffee  (Starbucks): 18 SAR
  • Ice cream  (packaged): 3 SAR
  • Meal  at McDonalds: 
  • Sharwarma:  15 SAR
  • Hummus:  8 SAR
  • Chicken kabab:  24 SAR
  • Mixed grill  meat platter: 35 SAR
  • Pizza  (restaurant): 35 SAR
  • Uber  (3km): 15 SAR
  • Uber  (peak time; 10km): 45 SAR
  • SIM card  (STC with 20GB): 95 SAR 

Saudi Arabia travel guide with everything you need to know about travel in Saudi Arabia. This green and yellow logo minimart is everywhere in Saudi Arabia.

Connectivity and WIFI

WIFI is a bit hit and miss across accommodation in Saudi Arabia.  (That’s putting it politely. Don’t get your hopes up; sorry). We’ve have some hotels that were great and WIFI 

was fast and included in the price.  And then others where the signal is so weak it can’t even pick up the supposed ‘free WIFI’… 

The major cities have 5G mobile reception which with a local SIM and data makes it the most efficient way to navigate the country (especially if driving by car as the distances between cities – or even shops or villages where people might help – are huge). 

SIM cards and data

There are 3 main operators in Saudi Arabia:  STC, Mobily and Zain.  

They have similar packages and prices and coverage is great in the cities. All the SIM cards are valid for 7 or 30 days in Saudi Arabia.

  • STC KSA : SAR 30 and comes with SAR 25 with of credit
  • Mobily : prepaid plans for SAR 25, 30, 75, and 150
  • Zain KSA : 55 SAR for 2GB data

From what information I could find before we arrived (we needed a Saudi Arabia travel guide and hence creating this one!) it sounded like STC is the best option (it’s the largest phone operator in the country). 

Prices for a prepaid STC sim card in Saudi Arabia: 

  • 65 SAR ($17 USD): 2GB data, 5GB social media, 500 minutes
  • 90 SAR ($24 USD): 8GB data, 200 minutes 
  • 160 SAR ($42 USD): 10GB data, unlimited social media and calls

SIM card registration is mandatory in Saudi Arabia and will be done at the point of sale (using your passport information).  And you also have to provide your fingerprint for additional security (true). 

Saudi Arabia travel guide including best SIM card for Saudi. Where to stay in Saudi Arabia everything you need to know in our Saudi Arabia travel guide.

Accommodation options in Saudi Arabia 

Alright this area of our Saudi Arabia travel guide is going to just be honest and let you know what accommodation in Saudi Arabia is like.  

I wouldn’t rate it.  I assume if you have lots of money and are traveling in luxury through the Kingdom (as many domestic and international travellers are) as it is renowned for; then truly your options are limited.  There are not backpacker hostels or even backpacker- type  places to stay yet.  It’s only early days. 

So there is a weird combination of budget chain hotels (OYO) that aren’t in fact actually budget prices.  And smaller hotels trying to offer what might have once looked like luxury accommodation (headboards so big the bed hardly fits in the room and lace and overexaggerated furniture).  

But the most odd thing about the accommodation has to be in the kitchens.  Seriously, some of the kitchens are ridiculously enormous.  Huge cook-tops, full-size catering ovens, fridges and a huge dining.  But no cutlery and no crockery and no pots and pans.  Like; none at all.  

And if you go to the reception to ask if you might have a cup to use with the provided electric kettle they look at you very strangely.  They might if you’re lucky call housekeeping who will need the security guard to translate your very unusual request and might provide you with a paper cup (even two) for a hot drink.  Nice. 

But overall we did manage to make our way around the country trialling a range of accommodation options.  Some we would recommend and stay in again and some maybe not.  

Where to stay in Saudi Arabia everything you need to know in our Saudi Arabia travel guide.

Where we stayed in Saudi Arabia

Here is a list of where we stayed during our travels in Saudi Arabia.  

  • Dammam:   Tulip Inn Suites and Residence Dammam (recommend)
  • Al Hofuf:   Lily Hotel Suite Mubarraz (recommend)
  • Riyadh:  Capital O 162 Brzeen Hotel
  • Tabuk:   Rafahyat AlFakhama Furnished Units (recommend; no crockery though)
  • AlUla:   AirBnB-Style House (highly recommend)
  • Yanbu:   OYO 273 Star Yanbu Hotel Suites
  • Jeddah: Qasr Al Thuraya Hotel Apartments (recommend)  
  • Al Qunfudhah:   Layali Alandlous Furnished Units

Where to stay in Saudi Arabia everything you need to know in our Saudi Arabia travel guide.

Your Saudi Arabia travel guide

So there you have it!

Your complete Saudi Arabia travel guide plus much more to keep you planning/dreaming/scheming for your Arabian adventure to come.  Have fun and enjoy this incredible country that has for so many years been a mystery to most of the world. 

We had a truly fantastic time and hope you do too.  

Happy travels in KSA! 

More about travel planning for Saudi and beyond…

These are the companies we use while traveling fulltime as a family and that we would recommend to anyone planning and booking travel. 

  • Booking.com  – The best all-around accommodation booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation and it’s easy to filter and sort into price and availability with all the extras you are looking for personally. (We love the flexible cancellation policy!). 
  • Hostelworld – The largest inventory of hostel accommodation in the world. 
  • Skyscanner   – This is by far our favourite flight search engine. They are able to search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites often miss. We book all our flights through Skyscanner.  
  • GetYourGuide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions offered all around the world including everything from walking tours, to street-food tours, cooking classes, desert safari’s and more!
  • SafetyWing  – A global travel insurance that covers people from all over the world while outside their home country. You can buy it short or longterm; and even if you are out of the country. 
  • World Nomads   – Travel insurance tailored for longterm travel and nomads (including those who have already left home). 

Wondering about itineraries?  Questions about schooling?  See our Family Travel Guides and FAQ here . 

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2 thoughts on “Saudi Arabia Travel guide: Everything you need to know about KSA.”

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Dammam to Bahrain Taxi: Choose a taxi for your trip from Dammam to Bahrain and enjoy door-to-door service. This option provides a comfortable and timely travel experience, with knowledgeable drivers familiar with the best routes and border crossing procedures, ensuring a smooth and pleasant journey. read more: https://noorhatransport.com/

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Your detailed itinerary of Saudi Arabia is incredibly helpful! It’s great to see how you navigated the vast landscape, from Dammam to Riyadh and beyond. Your blend of train travel and car rentals provides a practical roadmap for future travelers. Thanks for sharing!

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Culturally Immersive & Responsible Travel

7 essential Travel Tips before you Visit Saudi Arabia

easy travel saudi arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has announced the introduction of e-Visa for visitors. In the eligibility list of procuring a Saudi e-Visa, at least 49 countries are listed, including the citizens of the United States. This is an amazing chance to experience Saudi Arabia and her famed ancient hospitality deeply rooted in the Bedouine culture. 

Previously visitor’s visas were allowed for the religious purpose of pilgrimage only. On a landmark decision, the country opened for the world. It is part of the Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reform program named “Vision 2030.” The aim of allowing tourism is a part of initiatives that reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependency on oil-based trade economy and find newer revenue generating models. 

In the pipeline is an entertainment mega city based in Riyadh which is going to be twice the size of Orlando’s Disney World. Several UNESCO world heritage sites are undergoing restoration for the cultural travellers. 

Following is a comprehensive list of essential travel documents one must carry to visit Saudi Arabia. An individual with a visit visa is also known as an Iqama holder.  These requirements are almost similar for a Umrah visa holder too. Please ensure you have fulfilled all these requirements before boarding the flight from the origin airport. 

easy travel saudi arabia

Also read: 20 Astounding Pictures from Egypt that will Inspire you to travel

Muqeem mandatory Vaccination Registration

Travellers visiting Saudi Arabia are required to register their names online at Muqeem vaccine Registration portal. Please register about your vaccination status at Tawakkalna before proceeding with Muqeem vaccination registration process. 

Children under 12 years old do not require vaccination. You may add them as dependents in your visa application. Those who do not have vaccination can travel to Saudi Arabia however they have to go through a quarantine period at a hotel.

easy travel saudi arabia

Procuring a Flight Ticket for Saudi Arabia

Try to book your ticket to Saudi Arabia through the national carrier Saudia. Based in the headquarter of Jeddah, Saudia formerly known as Saudi Arab Airlines is an award winning aircraft operating since 1945. 

With recent Covid related restrictions to travel with Saudi being considerably relaxed, Saudia is hoping to cater to a greater number of tourist footfall in upcoming months. 

Saudia is famous as a reliable aircraft carrier that adheres to the best procedures and maintains excellent safety rules. Booking a flight to Saudi with Saudia is recommended based on long standing renowned service history. It is the third largest aircraft carrier in the entire Middle East. Saudia operated in 39 countries and caters to 95 destinations. The numbers are on the rise as their business expands. 

You may access their lounges (or partner lounges as well) while flying to Saudia flights . Saudia has a frequent flyer program, known as Alfurson. As benefits, passengers enjoy various services including lounge access, extra baggage, upgrades, complimentary flights, priority boarding etc. It is always a wise idea to fly with Saudia while visiting Saudi Arabia and enrolling for their frequent flyer program. 

Be Ready with the Vaccination Certificate

As Covid related travel protocols have been relaxed considerably in the past few weeks, Saudi Arabian still requires passengers to provide Covid vaccine certificates. If you have been administered the booster dose, do not forget to state that too as you enter the country on a visitor’s visa. 

Also read : 2 Weeks Itinerary for Myanmar, the hidden gem of Asia!

Valid Passport to Visit Saudi Arabia

To enter Saudi Arabia you must present your passport from the country you are a citizen of, with at least 6 month’s validity remaining on paper. Please note, an individual travelling alone under the age of 18 needs a legal guardian to enter the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Without a passport, you have a bleak chance in securing a visitor’s visa to enter the Kingdom. 

easy travel saudi arabia

Valid Visitor’s Visa issued by KSA

To apply for a visitor’s visa, passengers may check their eligibility on the official Saudi website .

While citizens from the list of these countries are eligible to apply for e-Visa, a few may opt for a Visa on Arrival to enter Saudi Arabia. Citizens from the rest of the countries can always apply for a visa at the consulate. For consulate visas, passengers are requested to connect with the nearest Saudi Arabia Embassy. 

E-visa to Saudi allows visitors to spend 90 days at a stretch in the country. The visa validity is for about a year with multiple entry options. For a single-entry tourist visa, you may spend k30 days in the country at a stretch. 

For an E-visa to KSA, visitors need to pay SAR 535. For the Visa on Arrival option, visitors need to pay SAR 480. Payments must be made with Saudi Riyals using an International Debit or Credit card. 

Please note, to obtain a visitor’s visa to the KSA, religion is irrelevant. 

Usually, it does not take more than 30 minutes to issue an e-visa for KSA. 

Please be prepared to show a return ticket from Saudi and booking accommodation (for an address) while applying for a visitor’s visa to Saudi. 

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Travel insurance with a valid coverage for Covid 19

In case of any medical emergency, hospitalisation or similar incidents, tourists planning a visit to Saudi Arabia are required to procure insurance with extensive coverage. Most importantly, the insurance must cover expenses for medicines, hospital and clinical tests and treatment that might occur due to illness related to Covid 19. 

easy travel saudi arabia

Visiting Saudi Arabia is going to be one of the most cherished experiences of your lifetime. Look up a bit on the prevalent social customs before you board the Saudia flight. The Arabs are renowned for their generous hospitality. You might find yourself invited to a massive dinner spread hosted by a stranger. Please remember to use only one hand while eating, ideally the right one. Remove your shoes before entering someone’s house. You may put your palm on the chest to show goodwill and thankfulness. Consumption of alcohol is a strict no in KSA. While female tourists no longer need to wear mandatory Abaya, it is always recommended to wear modest clothing for both men and women to be respectful towards the locals. Given the way the Sun shines in the desert land, you would want to cover up to save yourself from the scorching sun. 

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Security Alert May 17, 2024

Worldwide caution, update may 10, 2024, information for u.s. citizens in the middle east.

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Saudi Arabia

Travel Advisory January 24, 2024

Saudi arabia - level 3: reconsider travel.

Updated after periodic review to provide information on the risk of arrest due to social media use and the importation of prohibited items.

Reconsider travel to Saudi Arabia due to  the threat of missile and drone attacks.   Exercise increased caution in Saudi Arabia due to  terrorism, the risk of arrest based on social media activity, and importation of prohibited items.  Some areas have increased risk.  Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Do not travel to the following locations due to the threat of  missile and drone attacks  and  terrorism :

  • Within 50 miles of the Saudi-Yemen border, as well as the cities of Abha, Jizan, Najran, and Khamis Mushayt;
  • Abha airport;
  • Qatif in the Eastern Province and its suburbs, including Awamiyah.

Country Summary : U.S. government personnel under Chief of Mission responsibility must adhere to the above travel restrictions.  As such, the U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in these locations.

Missile and drone attacks perpetrated by Iran and Iran-supported militant groups have occurred as recently as September 2023.  The Islamic Republic of Iran has in the past supplied Yemen-based Houthis and regional proxy groups with weapons to conduct destructive and sometimes lethal attacks using drones, missiles, and rockets against a variety of Saudi sites, including critical infrastructure, civilian airports, military bases, and energy facilities throughout the country, as well as vessels in Red Sea shipping lanes.  Past attacks were aimed at targets throughout Saudi Arabia including Riyadh, Jeddah, Dhahran, Jizan, Khamis Mushayt, the civilian airport in Abha, Al Kharj, military installations in the south, as well as oil and gas facilities.

Debris from intercepted drones and missiles has also represented a significant risk to civilian areas and populations in the recent past.  Militant groups have threatened to conduct attacks against locations in Saudi Arabia.  U.S. citizens living and working near military bases and critical civilian infrastructure, particularly near the border with Yemen, are at heightened risk if missile, drone, or rocket attacks reoccur.

Terrorism continues to be a concern in Saudi Arabia.  Attacks can occur with little or no warning.  Past attacks have targeted tourist locations, large gatherings, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities.  Terrorists are also known to time attacks around major holidays and/or in response to military operations.  Terrorists have targeted both Saudi and international interests, mosques and other religious sites (both Sunni and Shia), and places frequented by U.S. citizens.

Be advised that social media commentary – including past comments – which Saudi authorities may deem critical, offensive, or disruptive to public order, could lead to arrest .  This may include posting, re-posting, or liking comments about Saudi institutions, policies, and public life.  U.S. citizens have been convicted for social media activity under Saudi laws concerning cybercrime, terrorism, and disrupting public order.  Punishment for social media activity has included prison sentences of up to 45 years in some cases.  Saudi courts do not necessarily consider the timeframe of the posts or the location from which they were made to be material to these cases.

The importation of drugs (including marijuana), drug paraphernalia, alcohol, weapons, pork, or any materials that could be considered pornographic or suggestive, is prohibited.   Penalties for drug possession, consumption, and trafficking are severe by U.S. standards.  An extensive list of banned items is available on our Saudi Arabia country information page .

Due to risks to civil aviation operating within the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman region, including Saudi Arabia, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an advisory Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM).  For more information U.S. citizens should consult the  Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices .

Read the  country information page  for additional information on travel to Saudi Arabia.

If you decide to travel to Saudi Arabia:

  • Visit our website for information on  travel to high-risk areas .
  • Stay alert in large crowds and/or locations frequented by foreign nationals.
  • Obtain comprehensive medical insurance that includes medical evacuation.
  • Review local laws and conditions before traveling, including our Saudi Arabia country information on arrest notification and the Department of State’s general information on arrests of U.S. citizens abroad .
  • Enroll in the  Smart Traveler Enrollment Program  ( STEP ) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on  Facebook  and  Twitter .
  • Follow the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia on  Facebook  and  Twitter .
  • Review the  Country Security Report   for Saudi Arabia.
  • Visit the CDC page for the latest  Travel Health Information  related to your travel.
  • Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the  Traveler’s Checklist .

Yemen Border, Abha airport, and Qatif in the Eastern Province and its suburbs, including Awamiyah – Level 4: Do Not Travel

Militants in Yemen have attacked Saudi border towns and other sites in Saudi Arabia with armed drones, missiles, and rockets .  Civilians that are near the border with Yemen are especially at risk.   Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Saudi Arabia, including in Qatif.

The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens within 50 miles of the Saudi-Yemen border as U.S. government personnel and their families are restricted from travel to this area.

Visit our website for information on  travel to high-risk areas

Embassy Messages

View Alerts and Messages Archive

Quick Facts

A valid passport is required for U.S. citizens to enter or exit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A minimum of six months’ validity beyond the date of travel is recommended.

One page required for entry stamp.

Required for certain visa classes

More than 16,000 USD must be declared. Customs details are here .

Embassies and Consulates

The normal work week in Saudi Arabia is Sunday through Thursday.

U.S. Embassy Riyadh Abdullah Ibn Hudhafah As Sahmi Street Roundbaout no. 9, Diplomatic Quarter Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Telephone: (966) (11) 488-3800 Emergency Telephone: (966) (11) 488-3800 Fax: (966) (11) 488-7670 [email protected]

U.S. Consulate General Jeddah Al Safa Street, Al Muhammadiyah District, near the new American School building. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Telephone: (966) (12) 220-5000 Fax: (966) (12) 220-5093 [email protected]

U.S. Consulate General Dhahran Off King Saud bin Abdulaziz Road, at the corner of Salaheddin al Ayoubi Street and Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Street, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia Telephone:   (966) (13) 839-5700 Emergency Telephone:   (966) (13) 839-5700 Fax:   (966) (13) 330-6816 [email protected]

Destination Description

Learn about the U.S. relationship to countries around the world.

Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

See the  Embassy of Saudi Arabia’s website  for visa information.

COVID-19 Requirements: There are no COVID-related entry requirements for U.S. citizens.

For residency permit-holders (iqama), an exit/reentry permit is required to leave Saudi Arabia as well as six month’s validity on your passport to request an exit/reentry permit.

  • Saudi law requires that residency permit-holders carry their residency card (iqama) at all times while in the Kingdom. Failure to do so could result in a fine of 3,000 Saudi riyals and a jail sentence of six weeks.
  • Females and minors may require a male guardian’s permission to leave the country, including U.S. citizens or dual-nationals.
  • You must exit Saudi Arabia using the passport for the nationality corresponding to the one on which you entered Saudi Arabia.

Saudi law requires all Saudi citizens to enter and depart the country with a Saudi travel document. If you enter the country on a Saudi laissez-passer (temporary travel document), you may encounter difficulty leaving the Kingdom.

Saudi embassies do not have the authority to adjudicate citizenship claims or issue passports, but they may issue a laissez-passer for presumed Saudi citizens for whom citizenship has not been adjudicated, such as children of a Saudi parent or parents who were married outside of Saudi Arabia. Once admitted to Saudi Arabia on a laissez-passer, the traveler must obtain a Saudi passport before leaving the country. Saudi nationality is not conferred quickly or easily, and the processing time for a Saudi passport in these cases has often been six months or years in some cases. Obtaining a U.S. passport will not help, as you will not be able to leave Saudi Arabia without an exit visa which will not be granted if you entered as a Saudi citizen.

The Department strongly recommends that U.S. citizens enter Saudi Arabia on a U.S. passport and Saudi visa, and not a laissez-passer.

Length of Stay:  Bearers of tourist visas are generally admitted for a 90-day stay and may not remain in the Kingdom more than 180 days in a twelve month period. Carefully check your visa validity and length of stay granted, and clarify any questions on permitted length of stay with Saudi immigration officials on arrival. Dates are calculated in accordance with the Hijri calendar, which differs from the Gregorian calendar.

If you overstay your visa, you could face significant fines, detention, and/or deportation, and a ban from returning to Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. Embassy is unable to intercede, reduce fines, or prevent incarceration if you violate Saudi law.

Travel Bans:  When placed under a travel ban, you cannot exit the country, even if you are a U.S. citizen or a dual U.S.-Saudi citizen. Travel bans are rigidly enforced and can take months or even years to resolve. Only Saudi Arabian authorities and sponsors can remove travel bans.

The government may issue travel bans on people who are/have:

  • charged with criminal offenses;
  • under investigation;
  • involved in financial or labor disputes;
  • failed to report to work according to the terms of the contract (absconded);
  • unpaid debts or who have passed bad checks.

The list above is not exhaustive. Private Saudi citizens may also initiate travel bans against foreign citizens for various reasons.

Residency Permits:  If you are seeking residency in Saudi Arabia, make sure you have all required legal documents authenticated before arriving. Neither the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh nor the U.S. Consulates General in Jeddah or Dhahran can provide this service.

You should have all U.S. issued documents authenticated by the  Department of State Office of Authentications  (202-485-8000) and attested by the  Embassy of Saudi Arabia  in Washington D.C.

Work Visas: If you plan on working in Saudi Arabia, you must obtain a work visa before you arrive. Foreigners working in Saudi Arabia are subject to the country’s sponsorship system, which concedes substantial legal authority over the worker to the employer. This can include the ability to prevent the employee from leaving the country. American citizens considering working in Saudi Arabia should carefully review the information about employment in the “Local Laws and Special Circumstances” section below.

If the visitor or business visa has been annotated “not permitted to work,” you are not allowed to legally work in Saudi Arabia. You risk substantial financial penalties, detention, deportation, and a ban from returning to Saudi Arabia if you work without legal permission. Additionally, without a work visa, there would be no legal grounds to pursue a case against an employer should a dispute arise.

HIV/AIDS:  To obtain work and residence permits, you are required to obtain a medical report or physical examination confirming that you are free from contagious diseases, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. If you test positive for HIV/AIDS or hepatitis, you will not be allowed to work in the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia has not imposed HIV/AIDS or hepatitis travel restrictions on other categories of travelers. Please inquire directly with the  Embassy of Saudi Arabia  before you travel.

Vaccinations:  Visitors to Saudi Arabia should check vaccination requirements on the  Saudi Ministry of Health website.

Yemen Travel:  The Department strongly advises U.S. citizens against travel to Yemen due to the ongoing conflict in that country. See our  Yemen Travel Advisory  for further information. A visa is required to enter Saudi Arabia, and Saudi authorities generally do not permit foreign citizens to enter Saudi Arabia using land border crossings from Yemen. The Embassy and Consulates General cannot provide assistance to U.S. citizens seeking to cross the Yemeni-Saudi border.

Safety and Security

The Department of State advises you to exercise increased caution when traveling to Saudi Arabia due to terrorism and the threat of missile and drone attacks on civilian targets. See the Travel Advisory for Saudi Arabia here .

Do not travel:

  • Within 50 miles of the border with Yemen due to terrorism and armed conflict.

Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Saudi Arabia. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities. Terrorists have targeted both Saudi and Western government interests, mosques and other religious sites (both Sunni and Shia), and places frequented by U.S. citizens and other Westerners.

Houthis operating in Yemen have fired long-range missiles into Saudi Arabia, specifically targeting populated areas and civilian infrastructure; they have publicly stated their intent to continue doing so. Missile attacks have targeted major cities such as Riyadh and Jeddah, Riyadh’s international airport, Saudi Aramco facilities, and vessels in Red Sea shipping lanes. Rebel groups are also in possession of unmanned aerial systems (UASs or drones) which they have used to target civilian infrastructure and military facilities in Saudi Arabia. U.S. citizens living and working on or near such installations, particularly in areas near the border with Yemen, are at heightened risk of missile and drone attack.

On October 11, 2018 the Saudi General Authority for Civil Aviation issued a Notice to Airmen about threats to civil aviation and airports in Saudi Arabia posed by missiles and UASs launched from Yemen. For more information, U.S. citizens should consult the U.S. Government’s Defense Internet NOTAM Service (Type “OEJD” in the search field, then click “View NOTAMs,” then scroll down to W0438/18 and click to view).

The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in the following locations as U.S. government personnel and their families are restricted from travel to:

  • Within 50 miles of the Saudi-Yemen border, including the cities of Jizan and Najran;
  • Qatif in the Eastern province and its suburbs, including Awamiyah.

You can find additional details relating to safety and security in our Travel Advisory and Alerts and the website of the U.S. Mission in Saudi Arabia .

Crime: Crime in Saudi Arabia has increased over recent years but remains at levels far below most major metropolitan areas in the United States.

  • You should be aware of your surroundings, keep valuables out of sight and secure, and travel with a companion, if possible.
  • Some Saudi citizens who perceive that a foreigner is not observing conservative standards of conduct or dress have been known to harass, pursue, or assault that person.
  • Even when released from detention, witnesses to criminal incidents may be prohibited from leaving the country until investigation of the incident is complete.

See the websites of the Department of State  and the  FBI for information on scams.

Victims of Crime: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime, you should contact the local police at “999” and contact the Embassy in Riyadh or one of the Consulates in Jeddah or Dhahran.Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.

See the Department of State’s webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas .

The Department can:

  • help you identify appropriate medical care;
  • assist you in reporting a crime to the police;
  • contact relatives or friends with your written consent;
  • explain the local criminal justice process in general terms;
  • provide a list of local attorneys;
  • provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S. ;
  • provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution;
  • help you find accommodation and arrange flights home;
  • replace a stolen or lost passport.

Domestic Violence: If you are the victim of any form of physical violence, including domestic violence, you should contact the Saudi police by calling “999”.  In addition, victims of domestic violence can contact the Saudi National Domestic Violence Hotline by dialing “1919.” The Saudi Ministry of Labor and Social Development runs a network of shelters for women and children. Contacting the domestic violence hotline (“1919”) is the only way to access these shelters. The Saudi National Family Safety Program also runs a Child Help Line “116111” and can assist children in accessing Saudi social services.

When reporting domestic violence, it is imperative to get a case reference number as all Saudi social and legal assistance is tied to this case number. It is also a good idea to document any injuries and obtain a copy of any medical reports. U.S. citizens should be advised that filing a police report or utilizing any Saudi victims’ assistance services may result in the Saudi authorities informing your sponsor or guardian.

U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy or Consulates for assistance.

Tourism:  The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in/near major cities. First responders are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities and to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage .

Local Laws & Special Circumstances

Dual Citizenship: Saudi Arabia generally does not recognize dual nationality. Saudi law requires Saudi citizens to obtain official permission from the government before obtaining a second nationality. At times, Saudi authorities have confiscated the passports of U.S. citizens applying for Saudi citizenship. This does not constitute loss of U.S. citizenship. If this happens to you or someone you know, report the incident to the U.S. Embassy.

Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy or consulate immediately. Be aware that Saudi Arabia generally restricts consular notification of the arrest of foreigners to the Embassy of the country that issued the travel document used to enter the Kingdom. If you enter Saudi Arabia with a Saudi travel document, or with the passport of a country other than the United States, it will be extremely difficult for the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services if you are subsequently detained. Persons detained in Saudi Arabia may be held without charges for lengthy periods and denied access to counsel; dual citizens may not have consular assistance. See the Embassy’s webpage for further information.

Drones: The importation of drones for commercial or personal use is prohibited without prior approval from the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA). A customs clearance certificate authorizing importation can be obtained as part of the GACA approval process. Visit GACA’s website for further information.

Criminal Penalties: While in Saudi Arabia, you are subject to local laws. If you violate Saudi laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled; arrested; imprisoned; held without trial for lengthy periods of time; interrogated without counsel; subject to corporal punishments, including lashings; or executed.

Penalties for the import, manufacture, possession, and consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs in Saudi Arabia are severe. Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences, heavy fines, public floggings, and deportation. The penalty for drug trafficking is death. Furthermore, some laws are prosecutable in the United States regardless of local law. For examples, see our webpage on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website .

There are substantial limitations on freedom of speech and political expression in Saudi Arabia. For additional information see the Department of State’s Human Rights Report for Saudi Arabia .

Faith-Related Travel Issues: Islam is the official religion of the country and is present in all aspects of life in Saudi Arabia. See our Hajj and Umrah Fact Sheet .

  • Saudi authorities do not permit criticism of Islam or Muslim religious figures, including on social media.
  • The government prohibits the public practice of religions other than Islam. Non-Muslims suspected of violating these restrictions have been jailed and/or deported. Church services in private homes have been raided, and participants have been jailed and/or deported.
  • Muslims who do not adhere to the strict interpretation of Islam prevalent in much of Saudi Arabia may encounter societal discrimination and constraints on public worship.
  • Public display of non-Islamic religious articles, such as crosses and Bibles, is not permitted.
  • Non-Muslims are forbidden to travel to Mecca and parts of Medina, the cities where two of Islam’s holiest mosques are located.
  • See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report .

LGBTI Travelers: Same-sex sexual relations, even when consensual, are criminalized in Saudi Arabia. Violations of Saudi laws governing perceived expressions of, or support for, same-sex sexual relations, including on social media, may be subject to severe punishment. Potential penalties include fines, jail time, or death. See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of the Department of State's Human Rights report for further details.

Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what is generally found in the United States. Saudi law does not prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities, and there is no legislation requiring public accessibility. Newer commercial and government buildings, however, often include such access. According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, there are numerous government-sponsored centers for people with disabilities. Note that Saudi Arabia has limited infrastructure to care for those with mental disabilities.

Students: See the Department’s Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips .

Women Residents and Travelers: Married women, including non-Saudis, require their husband's permission to depart the country, while unmarried women and children require the permission of their father or male guardian.

Minor children must have their father’s permission in order to leave the Kingdom. Children visiting their fathers in Saudi Arabia, even when there is a custody agreement, can be prevented from leaving unless the father consents. This is true even if the child is an American citizen. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates cannot obtain exit visas for the departure of minor children without their father/guardian's permission.

If a foreigner and a Saudi living in Saudi Arabia divorce, Saudi courts rarely grant permission for the foreign parent to leave the country with the children born during the marriage, even if he or she has been granted physical custody.

Foreign mothers of Saudi children, who are divorced or widowed, may apply for a permanent residency permit(iqama) without the need for a sponsor. To do so, they must prove maternity and that they were legally married to the Saudi father.

Also see the Department’s travel tips for Women Travelers .

Employment: The Arabic text of a contract governs employment and business arrangements under Saudi law. Verbal assurances or side letters are not binding under Saudi law. In the event of any contract dispute, Saudi authorities refer to the written contract.

  • Sponsors have wide latitude and responsibilities for employees and family members under their sponsorship, including obtaining residence permits for the employee and for any family members.
  • All residents should be issued a Saudi residence permit (iqama) and are legally required to carry it at all times.
  • The U.S. Embassy and Consulates General in Saudi Arabia cannot sponsor private U.S. citizens for Saudi visas.
  • Sponsors have been known to demand that residents working in Saudi Arabia surrender their passports while in the Kingdom. Such practices are illegal and should be reported to the Ministry of Labor and Social Development .
  • Since the Saudi sponsor controls the issuance of exit permits, U.S. citizens may be prevented by the sponsor from leaving Saudi Arabia in the event of a labor or business dispute, which could take months or years to resolve.
  • To change employers within the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia requires the written permission of the original sponsoring employer.
  • The U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulates General cannot assist in labor or business disputes, nor can they provide translation or legal services.
  • U.S. consular officers can provide lists of local attorneys to help U.S. citizens settle business disputes, but ultimate responsibility for the resolution of disputes through the Saudi legal system, and payment for those services, lies with the parties involved. For additional information on Saudi labor law, please refer to the Ministry of Labor and Social Development’s webpage .
  • Saudi customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning the importation of such banned items as alcohol, weapons, and any item that is held to be contrary to the tenets of Islam (such as pork, anything considered pornographic under strict Islamic principles, and religious materials).
  • Imported and domestic audiovisual media and reading matter are censored.
  • Christmas and other holiday decorations, fashion magazines, and "suggestive" videos may be confiscated and the owner subject to penalties and fines.
  • Electronic devices may be subject to inspection upon entry or exit. Please see the Department’s Customs Information page as well as the Saudi Customs webpage.

Importing Animals: The Saudi Ministry of Agriculture must approve all pets imported into Saudi Arabia.

  • Cats and dogs entering Saudi Arabia require a Veterinary Health Certificate and a dated letter from the veterinary practitioner addressed to his/her sponsor to obtain the necessary approval from the Ministry of Agriculture.
  • Both documents must be authenticated by the Department of Agriculture Veterinary Service Office and the State Department's Authentications Office and attested by the Embassy of Saudi Arabia .
  • The certificate must indicate that the animal was examined and is free from disease and confirm that rabies and other vaccines are current. Information on the name, breed, sex, color, and age of the animal must also be stated.
  • Please see additional information on taking a pet overseas .

Teaching English in Saudi Arabia: In recent years, increasing numbers of American language teachers have experienced contractual and other problems. Some teachers have complained about arbitrary dismissals, difficult living conditions, salary arrears, unwanted reassignments, restrictions on their movement, and inability to leave the country. Prospective teachers in Saudi Arabia should vet their potential employer and carefully review their employment offer as well as the detailed information found in the Embassy’s Guide to Teaching English in Saudi Arabia . Additionally, prospective teachers should also take care to make sure that they obtain the appropriate work visa prior to coming to Saudi Arabia. The Embassy cannot help you if you violate Saudi labor law.

Standards of Conduct and Religious Police: Norms for public behavior in Saudi Arabia are extremely conservative. Both the uniformed police and the religious police, referred to colloquially as the mutawwa or al-hay’a, are charged with enforcing these standards.

  • Mutawwa are required to carry special identification and usually are accompanied by uniformed police.
  • While a 2016 government decree withdrew the authority of the mutawwa to make arrests independently of regular police forces, visitors should be prudent in their interactions with mutawwa.
  • An individual must, if requested, present his/her residence permit (iqama) or other identification to the mutawwa or the police.
  • U.S. citizens who are involved in an incident with the mutawwa should report the incident to the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh or the U.S. Consulates General in Jeddah or Dhahran.

In most areas of Saudi Arabia, and particularly in Riyadh and the central part of the Kingdom, women wear a full-length covering known as an abaya. Most women in conservative areas also cover their hair with a hijab for modesty, and many also cover their faces with a niqab.

Tourists are expected to dress modestly in public, avoiding tight fitting clothing or clothes with profane language or images; women are not required to wear abayas or cover their hair but are expected to cover their shoulders and knees, and men should not go without a shirt. Women who choose not to conform to Saudi Arabia’s dress code face a risk of confrontation by mutawwa, negative or hostile comments by Saudi citizens, and possible detention Guidelines on public decorum for tourists are available at the Saudi government’s official tourism website, www.visitsaudi.com. Many areas of life in Saudi Arabia are segregated by sex to ensure that unrelated men and women have no possibility of mingling (a punishable crime) by unmarried men and women. Less frequently, members of the mutawwa try to enforce this by asking for proof that a couple is married or related. Men and women detained for socializing with individuals who are not relatives may be charged with moral crimes such as khulwa (mixing with unrelated members of the opposite sex). Less frequently, some restaurants may refuse to serve women who are not accompanied by a close male relative In addition, a few restaurants or cafes do not have a "family section" in which women are permitted to eat. Men not accompanied by a close female family member are not allowed to enter family sections and cannot use services (such as registers at supermarkets) designated as “family.” These restrictions are not always clearly posted.

While there are now movie theaters, musical concerts, and artistic performances in Saudi Arabia, the country remains socially conservative. Social media postings which contravene cultural standards can have legal and/or criminal consequences.

Photography: The Saudi government does not permit photography of governmental facilities, such as military bases and government buildings, nor military, security, or police personnel. The Saudi government is also sensitive to photographs that may be perceived as portraying the country in an unfavorable light. This policy can include photos of mosques, impoverished areas, the local population, and traditional souks (markets). You should not take anyone’s picture without clear consent, and never take a picture of a woman or a place where women congregate. Be aware of local sensitivities whenever you are taking pictures in public. U.S. citizens have been routinely detained for violating these policies. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates General are unable to intervene if you violate Saudi law.

The Hajj and Umrah: Please review the Department of State’s Hajj and Umrah Fact Sheet for useful information on traveling to perform the Hajj or Umrah.

COVID-19 Testing:  COVID-19 testing is available to U.S. citizens throughout Saudi Arabia at public and private facilities. Private hospitals and clinics charge a fee for COVID-19 testing.  Cost, delivery method, and timing of results varies. Some facilities can electronically deliver results within 24 hours or less.  

COVID-19 Vaccines:  The COVID-19 vaccine is available for U.S. citizens to receive in Saudi Arabia. For more information, please see the Ministry of Health’s website.

Visit the FDA's website to learn more about FDA-approved vaccines in the United States.

Medical care varies greatly in quality, and high-profile cases of medical malpractice and errors have occurred. Consult your regular physician if you are considering serious medical treatment in Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulates General do not pay medical bills.  Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers in Saudi Arabia accept cash or credit card payments.  See the Department’s webpage for more  information on insurance providers for overseas coverage . Supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation is strongly recommended. If you are covered by Saudi insurance, be sure to read the fine print: local insurance can have exclusions that are unusual in the United States. For example, some local policies may not supply coverage for accidents that occur while engaging in adventure sports, such as riding quad vehicles in the desert, that are a common past-time for expatriates.

If traveling with prescription medication, check with the  government of Saudi Arabia  to ensure the medication is legal in Saudi Arabia. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. 

Please note:

  • Saudi Arabia has a dry climate with extreme heat several months of the year – travelers should stay hydrated.
  • Air pollution is a significant concern in many parts of Saudi Arabia including Riyadh, Al Jubail, Jeddah, and Dammam.
  • Many infectious diseases, such as measles, typhoid, dengue, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), are present in Saudi Arabia.

Be up-to-date on all  vaccinations  recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For further health information, go to:

  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   (CDC)
  • Saudi Ministry of Health

Medical care varies greatly in quality, and high profile cases of medical malpractice and errors have occurred. Consult your regular physician if you are considering serious medical treatment in Saudi Arabia.

We do not pay medical bills.  Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments.  See our webpage for more  information on insurance providers for overseas coverage . We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation. If you are covered by Saudi insurance, be sure to read the fine print: local insurance can have exclusions that are unusual in the United States. For example, some local policies may not supply coverage for accidents that occur while engaging in adventure sports, such as riding quad vehicles in the desert, that are a common past-time for expats.

Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription.

If traveling with prescription medication, check with the  government of Saudi Arabia  to ensure the medication is legal in Saudi Arabia. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription.

For health-related information on the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), formerly called “novel coronavirus,” visit the  CDC’s MERS-CoV webpage .

Be up-to-date on all  vaccinations   recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • World Health Organization
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC)

Travel and Transportation

Road Conditions and Safety: Driving in Saudi Arabia can be hazardous due to speeding and aggressive driving, lax enforcement of traffic regulations, and a high volume of traffic.

Beginning on June 24, 2018, women have been able to obtain a driver’s license and can legally drive in Saudi Arabia. With a valid visitor visa and U.S. or international driver’s license, visitors may drive a rental car. However, outside the major cities of Riyadh, Dhahran and Jeddah, visitors—especially women—may experience difficulty renting a car. Female residents with independent sponsorships and U.S. or international driver’s licenses also may obtain a Saudi driver’s license, necessary to drive vehicles other than rental cars. Foreign women residing in Saudi Arabia who are listed as dependents on their Saudi residency permit (“iqama”) may experience difficulties in obtaining Saudi driver’s licenses. To drive vehicles other than rental cars, a Saudi driver’s license, appropriate car registration, and auto insurance are required. Police may detain you if you cannot produce these documents.

See the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior website for further information.

Traffic Laws :

  • Temporary visitors may drive using their valid U.S. or international driver's license for up to 90 days.
  • Foreigners resident in Saudi Arabia who wish to drive must obtain a local driver's license from the Department of Traffic Police.
  • In the event of a traffic accident, U.S. citizens should dial “993” to report the accident. You must remain on the scene until the traffic police arrive. Failure to do so can result in a criminal offense.
  • Additionally, U.S. citizens should contact Najm, a private company contracted by the traffic police to complete the accident report (+966 9200 00560).
  • In the event of a traffic accident resulting in personal injury, everyone involved (if not seriously injured) is likely be taken to the local police station.
  • All drivers, regardless of fault, can be held in custody for several days until responsibility is determined and any reparations paid.
  • Use of front seat belts (driver and passenger) is required by law.
  • U.S. citizens involved in a serious accident resulting in injury or death should immediately contact their sponsors and the U.S. Embassy or nearest U.S. Consulate.
  • Residents should update their personal details through one of the methods available here to receive SMS notifications once a traffic ticket is issued.
  • Delay in payment of any ticket might result in doubling of the ticket amount.
  • Travelers will need to pay any fines issued through this system before leaving the country.

Public Transportation:

  • U.S. Government employees are prohibited from using taxis in Saudi Arabia with the exception of Uber Black in Riyadh, Kareem First in Jeddah, and Majestic taxi service in Dhahran. If you must use a taxi, only use established companies, such as those offering cabs with meters. Taxis and lift services are available throughout major cities, and you should arrange a pickup by telephone or via smartphone app when possible.
  • Avoid sitting in the front seat of a taxi, do not travel to unfamiliar areas, and do not enter taxis with unknown passengers.

Please refer to the Department’s Road Safety page for more information. Also, it is recommended that you visit the website of the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior .

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Saudi Arabia's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization aviation safety standards for oversight of Saudi Arabia's air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA safety assessment page .

Information for Mariners:

Mariners should also review U.S. maritime alerts and advisories on the Maritime Security Communications with Industry Web Portal .

For additional travel information

  • Enroll in the  Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)  to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
  • See the  State Department’s travel website  for the  Worldwide Caution  and  Travel Advisories .
  • Follow us on  Twitter  and  Facebook .
  • See  traveling safely abroad  for useful travel tips.

Review information about International Parental Child Abduction in Saudi Arabia . For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act ( ICAPRA ) report.

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COVID-19: travel health notice for all travellers

Saudi Arabia travel advice

Latest updates: Natural disasters and climate – added information on heat waves

Last updated: June 18, 2024 13:30 ET

On this page

Safety and security, entry and exit requirements, laws and culture, natural disasters and climate, saudi arabia - exercise a high degree of caution.

Exercise a high degree of caution in Saudi Arabia due to the threat of terrorist attacks and security incidents.

Border with Yemen - Avoid all travel

Avoid all travel to areas within 80 km of the border with Yemen, due to rocket, missile and mortar attacks on Saudi population centres near the border.

'’Out of bounds’’ zones - Avoid non-essential travel

  • the border with Iraq
  • the towns of Hafr al Batin and Khafji

Abha International Airport - Avoid non-essential travel

Avoid non-essential travel to the Abha International Airport, in Asir Province, due to the risk of missile and drone attacks.

Al Qatif and its suburbs - Avoid non-essential travel

Avoid non-essential travel to Qatif and surrounding suburbs, such as Al Awamiya, in Eastern Province. Ongoing tensions between Saudi security forces and local militants create potential for unrest.

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Border with Yemen

Armed groups in Yemen regularly target Saudi interests near the border in retaliation for Saudi involvement in the war in Yemen. Houthi militias regularly launch rockets, missiles and mortars at Saudi population centres near the border.

  • Exercise extreme caution if you are travelling to or within other parts of southwestern Saudi Arabia
  • Airports in the area may be closed with little or no notice. Verify your travel plans before leaving for the airport

Northern Saudi border

The Saudi authorities have declared “out of bounds” zones within 20 km of:

  • the towns of Hafr al Batin and Khafji in Eastern Province

Violations are punishable by up to 30 months in prison and a SAR 25,000 fine.

Direct access to land border crossings remains available and signs are being placed in areas where vehicles are allowed to cross. Consult local authorities before attempting to cross a land border through this area.

From May to September, 2017, clashes between Saudi security forces and activists and militants have caused casualties in Al Awamiya in the Qatif region of Eastern Province. Although the situation has calmed, tensions remain high and there is a heavy security presence in the area.

Al Awamiya and Al Musawara

Civil unrest and armed clashes may occur. Saudi forces may impose curfews with little or no notice.

If you must travel to Al Awamiya and Al Musawara suburbs of Qatif, exercise extreme caution and follow the instructions of local authorities.

Missile strikes and drones

Missiles and drones have been launched from Yemen into Saudi Arabia, most of which have been intercepted and destroyed by Saudi air defence systems. The majority of these events occur close to the Yemen border, however some have occurred in cities such as Riyadh, Abha, Yanbu as well as in parts of the Eastern Province. Urban areas, military, oil and public facilities, such as airports, may be targeted by these missiles and drones. These events are expected to continue to occur and the situation remains unpredictable. Given the significant range of recent strikes Saudi Arabia, the Red Sea and the Gulf are at risk.

Missile and drone interceptions may cause scattered debris or fragments. Seek shelter during these events, stay away from doors and windows and follow the instructions of local authorities.

If you encounter debris or fragments:

  • don’t get close to or touch them
  • move away from them immediately
  • contact local authorities

There is a threat of terrorism. Attacks have occurred throughout the country. Latest large-scale attacks have targeted the Shia minority in Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia’s security forces and places of worship where large groups gather. Further attacks cannot be ruled out.

Targets could include:

  • government buildings, including schools
  • places of worship
  • airports and other transportation hubs and networks
  • public areas such as tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping centres, markets, hotels and other sites frequented by foreigners

Heightened security measures are currently in place and may be reinforced on short notice.

  • Always be aware of your surroundings when in public places
  • Be particularly vigilant during religious holidays and public celebrations. Terrorists have used such occasions to mount attacks

There is a threat of kidnapping in Saudi Arabia. Maintain a high level of vigilance at all times.


Demonstrations are illegal in Saudi Arabia. They occur predominantly in Shia communities in the Qatif area of Eastern Province. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation. Security forces quickly prevent demonstrations from forming or gathering momentum.

  • Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities
  • Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations

Mass gatherings (large-scale events)

The next Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca is expected to take place from June 14 to 19, 2024. Traffic in Mecca peaks during Eid al-Adha.

Religious sites during Hajj

There are safety risks at religious sites due to overcrowding. Pilgrims have been killed or injured in stampedes. The sites are far from the Canadian embassy. Contact your travel agent for information on available services and support.

Useful links

  • Information on entry requirements during the pilgrimage

The crime rate is low. Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, occurs, especially in crowded areas and at holy sites.

  • Don’t show signs of affluence
  • Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times

Women’s safety

Women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse.

Advice for women travellers

Road safety

Roads in larger cities are generally well maintained. Roads in rural areas are less developed, poorly lit and range from pavement to sand or gravel.

  • Exercise extreme caution when driving
  • Don’t drive off-road unless you are in a convoy of four-wheel-drive vehicles and with an experienced guide
  • Ensure you are well prepared with a sufficient supply of gas, water and food, and a cell or satellite phone
  • Leave your travel itinerary with a relative or friend

Driving risks

Poor driving habits, disregard for traffic laws and road markings, and excessive speed are common and cause fatal accidents.

Only use pre-arranged, licensed taxis. Avoid shared or unregistered taxis.

Marine transportation

Exercise caution if travelling by sea, including for recreational purposes, in the Gulf, particularly around the disputed islands of Abu Musa and Tunbs. Iran and the United Arab Emirates each claim sovereignty over the islands.

Pirate attacks occur in coastal waters and, in some cases, farther out at sea. Mariners should take appropriate precautions.

Live piracy report - International Maritime Bureau

We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.

Information about foreign domestic airlines

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.

We have obtained the information on this page from the Saudi Arabian authorities. It can, however, change at any time.

Verify this information with the  Foreign Representatives in Canada .

Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.

Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.

Regular Canadian passport

Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you expect to leave Saudi Arabia.

Passport for official travel

Different entry rules may apply.

Official travel

Passport with “X” gender identifier

While the Government of Canada issues passports with an “X” gender identifier, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You might face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the “X” gender identifier. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.

Other travel documents

Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.

  • Foreign Representatives in Canada
  • Canadian passports

Tourist visa: required  Business visa: required  Student visa: required  Working visa: required

All visa applications, with the exception of applications for tourist visas, must be sponsored by a Saudi citizen, a travel agency, or an organization.

Overstaying your visa will result in heavy fines, and you will be unable to exit the country until the fine has been paid.

Tourist visa

You can obtain a tourist visa online before your trip or upon arrival at the airport. The tourist visa allows for multiple entries and is valid for one year. You can stay up to a maximum of 90 days in total per visa. You cannot extend a visa. Muslim tourists can perform Umrah with any type of visa. A specific visa is required to perform Hajj.

Apply for a tourist visa online - Visit Saudi Arabia

Obtaining a visa

You can obtain a visa at an agency authorized by the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia to Canada in Ottawa. If you reside in a foreign country, you may obtain a visa from the nearest Saudi embassy or consulate.

Women entering Saudi Arabia

Women must be met by their sponsors at the port of arrival or risk being denied entry. This does not apply to women entering the country on a tourist visa.

You must present a valid Hajj visa if you travel to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage. This visa is only valid for travel to Jeddah, Mecca and Medina, and for travel between these cities. Non-Muslims are forbidden from travelling to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Pilgrims performing Hajj must travel with a travel agency that is accredited with the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

Women of all ages may travel without a mahram (male guardian, such as a brother, father or husband) to perform Hajj or Umrah. A notarized letter of no objection from the husband, son or brother is no longer required.

In the period preceding and during the Hajj pilgrimage, Muslim visitors with a valid Hajj visa will be allowed to board flights to Jeddah, Medina and Taif. Muslim travellers with business or visit visas must enter through any other entry point.

  • Foreign representatives in Canada
  • Visit Saudi – Saudi Tourism Authority
  • Nusuk Hajj Platform – Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah

Entry and exit permits

Holders of residency permits.

If you have a resident permit (iqama), you can't leave the country without obtaining an exit (or exit/re-entry visa if you intend to return to Saudi Arabia) from the Saudi Ministry of Interior. You must have your sponsor's approval to obtain these visas.

Single-entry visa

Single-entry visa holders don't need an exit permit.

Outstanding fees for dependents

Prior to exit, expatriates who have outstanding fees for dependents may be required to pay at the point of exit prior to departure if they have an exit re-entry visa, or on renewal of their exit re-entry visa.

Regional travel

Canadians have been denied entry into Saudi Arabia because their passports bore an Israeli visa, an Israeli border stamp or an Egyptian or Jordanian border stamp issued by an office bordering Israel. Such a stamp would indicate the traveller visited Israel prior to coming to Saudi Arabia.

Health entry requirements

You must produce a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) test certificate and proof of a criminal background check if you intend to work in Saudi Arabia.

  • Children and travel

Learn more about travelling with children .

Yellow fever

Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).

Relevant Travel Health Notices

  • Global Measles Notice - 13 March, 2024
  • Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in Saudi Arabia - 31 August, 2023
  • COVID-19 and International Travel - 13 March, 2024
  • Hajj 2024 - 27 May, 2024

This section contains information on possible health risks and restrictions regularly found or ongoing in the destination. Follow this advice to lower your risk of becoming ill while travelling. Not all risks are listed below.

Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before you travel to get personalized health advice and recommendations.

Outbreak Monitoring

Meningococcal disease cases linked to umrah travel to saudi arabia.

There have been reported cases of meningococcal disease linked to Umrah travel to Saudi Arabia.

If you are considering travel to Saudi Arabia for the purposes of Umrah, make sure you are vaccinated with a quadrivalent (ACYW) meningococcal vaccine before travelling, as required by Saudi Arabia. Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before travel to discuss vaccination, and to get personalized health advice and other recommendations.

Health requirements (moh.gov.sa)

Immediately seek medical attention if you, your child, or another close contact develops symptoms of meningococcal disease. This can include sudden fever, drowsiness, irritability, headache, vomiting, stiff neck, and a skin rash that spreads rapidly.

Symptoms of invasive meningococcal disease  

Routine vaccines

Be sure that your  routine vaccinations , as per your province or territory , are up-to-date before travelling, regardless of your destination.

Some of these vaccinations include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.

Pre-travel vaccines and medications

You may be at risk for preventable diseases while travelling in this destination. Talk to a travel health professional about which medications or vaccines may be right for you, based on your destination and itinerary. 

Yellow fever   is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.

Country Entry Requirement*

  • Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from or have transited through an airport of a country   where yellow fever occurs.


  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care professional.
  • Contact a designated  Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre  well in advance of your trip to arrange for vaccination.

About Yellow Fever

Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada * It is important to note that  country entry requirements  may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest  diplomatic or consular office  of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.

There is a risk of hepatitis A in this destination. It is a disease of the liver. People can get hepatitis A if they ingest contaminated food or water, eat foods prepared by an infectious person, or if they have close physical contact (such as oral-anal sex) with an infectious person, although casual contact among people does not spread the virus.

Practise  safe food and water precautions and wash your hands often. Vaccination is recommended for all travellers to areas where hepatitis A is present.

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.

Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.

Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.

  Hepatitis B is a risk in every destination. It is a viral liver disease that is easily transmitted from one person to another through exposure to blood and body fluids containing the hepatitis B virus.  Travellers who may be exposed to blood or other bodily fluids (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) are at higher risk of getting hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all travellers. Prevent hepatitis B infection by practicing safe sex, only using new and sterile drug equipment, and only getting tattoos and piercings in settings that follow public health regulations and standards.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious viral disease. It can spread from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.

It is recommended that all eligible travellers complete a COVID-19 vaccine series along with any additional recommended doses in Canada before travelling. Evidence shows that vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. While vaccination provides better protection against serious illness, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Anyone who has not completed a vaccine series is at increased risk of being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and is at greater risk for severe disease when travelling internationally.

Before travelling, verify your destination’s COVID-19 vaccination entry/exit requirements. Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are adequately protected against COVID-19.

 The best way to protect yourself from seasonal influenza (flu) is to get vaccinated every year. Get the flu shot at least 2 weeks before travelling.  

 The flu occurs worldwide. 

  •  In the Northern Hemisphere, the flu season usually runs from November to   April.
  •  In the Southern Hemisphere, the flu season usually runs between April and   October.
  •  In the tropics, there is flu activity year round. 

The flu vaccine available in one hemisphere may only offer partial protection against the flu in the other hemisphere.

The flu virus spreads from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Clean your hands often and wear a mask if you have a fever or respiratory symptoms.

Malaria  is a serious and sometimes fatal disease that is caused by parasites spread through the bites of mosquitoes.   There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this destination. 

Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic before travelling to discuss your options. It is recommended to do this 6 weeks before travel, however, it is still a good idea any time before leaving.    Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times:  • Cover your skin and use an approved insect repellent on uncovered skin.  • Exclude mosquitoes from your living area with screening and/or closed, well-sealed doors and windows. • Use insecticide-treated bed nets if mosquitoes cannot be excluded from your living area.  • Wear permethrin-treated clothing.    If you develop symptoms similar to malaria when you are travelling or up to a year after you return home, see a health care professional immediately. Tell them where you have been travelling or living. 

There are vaccination entry requirements in place for travellers entering Saudi Arabia for Umrah, Hajj or for seasonal work in Hajj zones.

These include vaccinations for COVID-19, polio, meningococcal meningitis, and yellow fever. Before travelling, make sure you meet all requirements for participating in Hajj or Umrah.

For more information, visit the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health’s page for Hajj and Umrah health regulations.

Hajj and Umrah Health Regulations - Ministry of Health in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (external)

Large numbers of people in small areas can enable the spread of infectious diseases and increase the risk of injury. Take the time to prepare for your trip and know how to reduce the risks.

In this destination, rabies  may be present in some wildlife species, including bats. Rabies is a deadly disease that spreads to humans primarily through bites or scratches from an infected animal. 

If you are bitten or scratched by an animal while travelling, immediately wash the wound with soap and clean water and see a health care professional. 

Before travel, discuss rabies vaccination with a health care professional. It may be recommended for travellers who will be working directly with wildlife. 

Safe food and water precautions

Many illnesses can be caused by eating food or drinking beverages contaminated by bacteria, parasites, toxins, or viruses, or by swimming or bathing in contaminated water.

  • Learn more about food and water precautions to take to avoid getting sick by visiting our eat and drink safely abroad page. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
  • Avoid getting water into your eyes, mouth or nose when swimming or participating in activities in freshwater (streams, canals, lakes), particularly after flooding or heavy rain. Water may look clean but could still be polluted or contaminated.
  • Avoid inhaling or swallowing water while bathing, showering, or swimming in pools or hot tubs. 

Typhoid   is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.

Travellers visiting regions with a risk of typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation, should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.  

Insect bite prevention

Many diseases are spread by the bites of infected insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas or flies. When travelling to areas where infected insects may be present:

  • Use insect repellent (bug spray) on exposed skin
  • Cover up with light-coloured, loose clothes made of tightly woven materials such as nylon or polyester
  • Minimize exposure to insects
  • Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in buildings that are not fully enclosed

To learn more about how you can reduce your risk of infection and disease caused by bites, both at home and abroad, visit our insect bite prevention page.

Find out what types of insects are present where you’re travelling, when they’re most active, and the symptoms of the diseases they spread.

There is a risk of chikungunya in this country.  The risk may vary between regions of a country.  Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.

Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.

  • In this country,   dengue  is a risk to travellers. It is a viral disease spread to humans by mosquito bites.
  • Dengue can cause flu-like symptoms. In some cases, it can lead to severe dengue, which can be fatal.
  • The level of risk of dengue changes seasonally, and varies from year to year. The level of risk also varies between regions in a country and can depend on the elevation in the region.
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue typically bite during the daytime, particularly around sunrise and sunset.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites . There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue.

Rift Valley fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases, it can be fatal. It is spread to humans through contact with infected animal blood or tissues, from the bite of an infected mosquito, or eating or drinking unpasteurized dairy. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from insect bites and avoid animals, particularly livestock, and unpasteurized dairy. There is no vaccine available for Rift Valley fever.

Animal precautions

Some infections, such as rabies and influenza, can be shared between humans and animals. Certain types of activities may increase your chance of contact with animals, such as travelling in rural or forested areas, camping, hiking, and visiting wet markets (places where live animals are slaughtered and sold) or caves.

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, livestock (pigs, cows), monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats, and to avoid eating undercooked wild game.

Closely supervise children, as they are more likely to come in contact with animals.

Cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) have been reported in this destination. The risk to travellers is low; MERS is primarily spread through contact with camels or camel-based products (raw milk, meat, urine). It can also spread through close contact, such as when caring for an infected person. 

Avoid contact with animals (especially camels), camel-based products, and wash your hands frequently.

Prevention of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)

MERS symptoms range from mild and flu-like to more severe pneumonia-like symptoms, and can result in death.

There is no vaccine or medication that protects against MERS.

Person-to-person infections

Stay home if you’re sick and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette , which includes coughing or sneezing into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand. Reduce your risk of colds, the flu and other illnesses by:

  •   washing your hands often
  • avoiding or limiting the amount of time spent in closed spaces, crowded places, or at large-scale events (concerts, sporting events, rallies)
  • avoiding close physical contact with people who may be showing symptoms of illness 

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) , HIV , and mpox are spread through blood and bodily fluids; use condoms, practise safe sex, and limit your number of sexual partners. Check with your local public health authority pre-travel to determine your eligibility for mpox vaccine.  

Medical services and facilities

Modern medical care is available in large cities. Adequate medical services are available in smaller cities. Immediate cash payment may be required.

Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.

Travel health and safety

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a   travel health kit , especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You must abide by local laws.

Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad .

Legal process

The Saudi judicial system is based on Sharia (Islamic law). The legal process may be slow and cumbersome. Those suspected of, and witnesses to offences may be held for lengthy periods without access to legal counsel or consular officials. If access is granted, it may be severely limited by Saudi authorities. Seek legal advice as soon as possible.

Authorities may place a legal travel ban on individuals involved in ongoing legal cases or investigations, or who have outstanding debts. Saudi citizens are also permitted to place travel bans on individuals.

Drugs and alcohol

Penalties for the import, manufacture, possession and consumption of alcohol,  illegal drugs or products containing their ingredients are severe.

Saudi authorities practice zero tolerance and make no distinction between alcohol and soft or hard drugs. Drug offenders may be sentenced to corporeal punishment or death.

Drugs, alcohol and travel

Religious proselytism

It's illegal to:

  • engage in religious proselytizing
  • criticize Islam
  • practise any religion other than Islam in public spaces

Be cautious when discussing religious issues.

In 2024, the lunar month of Ramadan is expected to begin on or around March 10.

In public, between sunrise and sunset, refrain from:

Dress and behaviour

The country’s customs, laws and regulations adhere to Islamic practices and beliefs. Dress conservatively, behave discreetly and respect religious and social traditions in order to avoid offending local sensitivities, especially in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and in mosques.

Women should observe the strict Saudi dress code and wear conservative and loose-fitting clothes, including a full-length cloak (abaya) and a head scarf. Men should not wear shorts in public or go without a shirt. Seek guidance concerning acceptable clothing before your arrival.

Public spaces

Avoid physical contact, such as holding hands, in public.

Women aren’t allowed to associate with men in public unless the women are accompanied by other family members. A woman can be charged with prostitution if she’s found associating with a man who is not a relative.

Restaurants can have two sections: one for men only, and the family section where families, accompanied females and unaccompanied females are served.

Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice

The Mutawa, also known as the religious police, have harassed, pursued and assaulted foreigners they believe disregard strict Saudi standards of conduct and dress. Often, they will simply instruct women to cover their hair. The Mutawa carry special identification and are typically accompanied by a uniformed police officer.

  • If you’re stopped by the Mutawa, cooperate and ask them for their credentials. Offer to accompany them to the nearest police station
  • Don’t hand over identification documents
  • Inform your sponsors if the police retain your documents

2SLGBTQI+ travellers

The laws of Saudi Arabia prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex. Further, it is illegal to be transgender. Those convicted may face the death penalty.

2SLGBTQI+ travellers should carefully consider the risks of travelling to Saudi Arabia.

Travel and your sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics


Local authorities may ask you to show identification at any time.

  • Carry identification documents, including your residency permit (iqama) or entry visa, at all times
  • Leave your passport in a safe place and carry a photocopy for identification purposes

Dual citizenship

Dual citizenship is not legally recognized in Saudi Arabia.

If local authorities consider you a citizen of Saudi Arabia, they may refuse to grant you access to Canadian consular services. This will prevent us from providing you with those services.

Travellers with dual citizenship

Marriage between a foreign woman and a Saudi man

A Saudi man who wishes to marry a foreign woman must obtain permission from Saudi authorities. He must also sign a document that gives irrevocable permission to his wife and the children born of their union to enter and exit the country without restrictions. This law has been in effect since 2008, and is not retroactive. Regardless, the foreign spouse and their children may still have difficulty leaving Saudi Arabia.

Common-law unions

Common-law relationships are illegal and are subject to severe punishment, including the death penalty.

Extramarital relations

Extramartial relations are illegal and subject to severe punishment, including the death penalty.

International Child Abduction

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty. It can help parents with the return of children who have been removed to or retained in certain countries in violation of custody rights. It does not apply between Canada and Saudi Arabia.

If your child was wrongfully taken to, or is being held in Saudi Arabia by an abducting parent:

  • act as quickly as you can
  • consult a lawyer in Canada and in Saudi Arabia to explore all the legal options for the return of your child
  • report the situation to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or to the Vulnerable Children's Consular Unit at Global Affairs Canada by calling the Emergency Watch and Response Centre

If your child was removed from a country other than Canada, consult a lawyer to determine if The Hague Convention applies.

Be aware that Canadian consular officials cannot interfere in private legal matters or in another country's judicial affairs.

  • International Child Abductions: A guide for affected parents
  • Canadian embassies and consulates by destination
  • Request emergency assistance

Royal family

Criticizing the royal family is illegal.

Be cautious when discussing political issues.

Pork Products

It’s prohibited to import and consume pork-based products.


It’s forbidden to photograph official buildings (e.g. government, military institutions) and holy sites. Seek permission prior to photographing individuals.

Prohibited activities and censorship

Dancing and music are prohibited.

Imported and domestic audio-visual media and reading materials are censored in Saudi Arabia.

Imports and exports

Airport authorities will thoroughly examine all electronic devices entering or leaving Saudi Arabia. Pirated or explicit materials will be confiscated. You may be detained or deported if you don’t comply. If deported, you’ll be barred from re-entering Saudi Arabia.

The importation of any item that is held to be contrary to the tenets of Islam, such as pornographic materials, drugs, alcohol and weapons, is prohibited.

The work week is from Sunday to Thursday.

You must carry an international driving permit.

International Driving Permit

Women are now legally allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.

If you’re involved in an accident:

  • don’t disturb the scene until the traffic patrol arrives
  • don’t make any financial arrangement with the other drivers
  • immediately contact your visa sponsor and the Canadian embassy in Riyadh or the Consulate of Canada in Jeddah

In a traffic accident resulting in personal injury, regardless of fault, drivers may be held for several days until responsibility is determined and restitution is made. If severe injuries or death occur, compensation may need to be paid to the victim’s family for the injuries or loss of life.

Automated ticketing system

Some Saudi cities have implemented an automated traffic ticketing system. All fines issued through this system must be paid before leaving the country. Payment can be made at the airport during regular Saudi office hours.

The currency is the Saudi riyal (SAR).

Saudi Arabia faces extreme heat, especially in the summer between June and August, with temperatures well above 40°C. 

Know the symptoms of dehydration and heatstroke, which can both be fatal. 

During heat waves:

  • stay hydrated
  • avoid sun exposure
  • monitor weather reports

Sun and heat safety tips for travellers

Heavy rains

Although Saudi Arabia is one of the driest countries in the world, heavy rains occur occasionally between the months of November and February and can cause major flooding. This can severely affect overland travel and reduce the provision of essential services.

  • Exercise caution
  • Monitor local news and weather reports
  • Follow the advice of local authorities

Sand storms

The weather is very dry and hot from May to October. Sand storms and dust storms may occur during the summer months.

Shamals, sand-laden winds from the northern deserts, occur most frequently in early summer and can blow at significant speeds for days, creating difficult driving conditions. These storms can also cause respiratory problems, which can be fatal for some people.

If a dust storm is occurring:

  • stay indoors
  • keep windows closed
  • be prepared to change your travel plans on short notice, including cutting short or cancelling your trip
  • monitor local media for up-to-date information on the situation

Local services

In case of emergency, dial:

  • police: 999
  • medical assistance: 997
  • firefighters: 998
  • general security: 989

Consular assistance

Bahrain, Oman, Yemen

For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada to Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh, and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.

The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.

The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.

If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.

Learn more about consular services .

Risk Levels

  take normal security precautions.

Take similar precautions to those you would take in Canada.

  Exercise a high degree of caution

There are certain safety and security concerns or the situation could change quickly. Be very cautious at all times, monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities.

IMPORTANT: The two levels below are official Government of Canada Travel Advisories and are issued when the safety and security of Canadians travelling or living in the country or region may be at risk.

  Avoid non-essential travel

Your safety and security could be at risk. You should think about your need to travel to this country, territory or region based on family or business requirements, knowledge of or familiarity with the region, and other factors. If you are already there, think about whether you really need to be there. If you do not need to be there, you should think about leaving.

  Avoid all travel

You should not travel to this country, territory or region. Your personal safety and security are at great risk. If you are already there, you should think about leaving if it is safe to do so.

easy travel saudi arabia

Saudi Arabia Travel Guide

Saudi Arabia

CAPITAL   Riyadh POPULATION   28,686,633 AREA   2,149,690 sq km LANGUAGE   Arabic CURRENCY   Saudi Riyal (SAR)

Best time to travel

For current information on government travel advice, please refer to the U.S. Passports & International travel , the Canadian Travel Advice and Advisories , the  Foreign & Commonwealth Office or the Australian Department of Foreign Affaires website.

For current information regarding health, recommended vaccines and the location of trustworthy doctors and medical clinics, please refer to the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers website .

  • 3 star hotel: $100
  • 4 star hotel: $120
  • 5 star hotel: $200
  • Inexpensive restaurant: $4.00
  • Meal for 2, mid-range restaurant, 3 courses: $26.66

Type A

127V/220V / 60Hz

  • Architecture and History
  • There are no rivers in Saudi Arabia and Yemen

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Tips for Traveling to Saudi Arabia as a Woman

Tips for Traveling to Saudi Arabia as a Woman

Saudi Arabia remained closed to most tourism for years. In the past, the only way of traveling to Saudi Arabia was by a special business visa or by family invitation.

In 2019 Saudi Arabia finally opened for tourism and visiting KSA couldn’t be easier. The process is easy and everyone is extremely welcoming. Plus, the country has a lot of natural beauty that rivals Iran’s when it comes to tourism.

Visiting Saudi Arabia was surely an eye-opening experience, mostly because most things you hear about KSA are that people are unfriendly and there’s nothing to do there.

Believe me when I tell you that whoever says there’s nothing to do in Saudi Arabia is simply ignorant because not many other countries have such diverse landscapes and amazing hospitality.

I even met a few businessmen in Saudi and none of them could grasp the fact that I was visiting as a tourist. In their mind there was nothing to do in Saudi, but when I started to ask them questions about what they’d seen I discovered all they did on their numerous visits was come to Riyadh, get picked up by a driver, stay at a hotel, go to another business building and sometimes go for dinner.

They didn’t even bother to go to the observation deck, take a day trip, or even take a stroll around the old town of Riyadh or Jeddah. They saw basically nothing.

Traveling to Saudi Arabia as a Woman in 2022

Traveling to Saudi Arabia

Recent Changes in Saudi Arabia

I specifically pointed out when I wrote this paragraph as things have changed quite significantly and most blog posts and opinions online are outdated.

Many people might not think that visiting Saudi Arabia would be for them due to the things they heard. The most common question I received before and during my visit was how was I even allowed to travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia alone as a woman.

Let me explain. Even a year ago things have been slightly different in Saudi then they are now. Strict Islamic laws have been softened. Segregation isn’t a major issue anymore and as you probably heard – women can drive now.

Not so long ago women and men had to use separate entrances and weren’t allowed to hang out or dine together. Even standing in line together in a food court.

This is no longer the case in most places, which made things easier for work events, mothers with older sons and simply friends.

What surprised me, however, is that many women told me that they still prefer to go to places exclusively for women, so they can relax and remove their headscarves.

While women are not legally obliged to wear an abaya and hijab anymore, they wear them for religious reasons. The fact that it’s not compulsory by law anymore isn’t changing anything for many of them.

It isn’t like in Iran where most women dislike wearing headscarves and lonely fit overcoats. In Iran women wear them on the very edge of the head and the minute they can they remove it all and underneath there’s a tight and short dress. This doesn’t happen in Saudi.

Many women chose to wear nib which covers the whole face without the eyes. It’s not sexist and against their rights as many Westerners tend to say. If you talk to many Saudi women you’ll understand that most don’t feel restricted – it gives them a sense of privacy.

You’ll naturally find some liberal Saudis who will willingly wander around in jeans, but it’s not a regular appearance.

Common Misconceptions:

It’s worth mentioning that women were never technically forbidden to travel around the country and abroad, they just needed permission from their guardian (father, brother, husband, uncle or any men from the family).

It was more of a cultural norm, but many families have always allowed women to travel and actually encouraged them to do so.

Traveling to Saudi Arabia as a Woman

Is It Ethical to Travel to Saudi Arabia?

I don’t think I need to tell anyone about human rights violations happening in the country – it’s all over the news and naturally many of you asked about it straight away.

What I personally find difficult with traveling to countries like Saudi, Iran, Eritrea, or some I haven’t been to like North Korea, Syria, Myanmar, Nauru; is that many would like to boycott traveling there because of it. I highly disagree.

Simply because if we take what we see on the news and what governments do we’d be boycotting almost whole world – USA, Australia, Poland, Mexico, Ethiopia included, just to name a few.

I’m saying this from a perspective that I definitely don’t agree with the politics of my home country and my adopted country as well – what doesn’t mean that you cannot mean awesome people in both and discover the beauty of the place as a visitor.

My experience as a visitor to Saudi Arabia was obviously limited because I haven’t spent months exploring it, plus I’m aware that visitors’ experience is usually different than the life of locals.

I’m well aware that Saudi now isn’t what it used to be even a year ago, but let’s talk about now, as that’s what matters.

That said I think it’s surely worth going to Saudi Arabia. There’s so much almost untouched natural beauty of the country that you can easily spend a month there.

easy travel saudi arabia

How to Behave in Saudi Arabia

Tourists aren’t a usual appearance in Saudi, so be prepared for questions ‘who do you work for’ or ‘how long you’ve been living in Riyadh for’.

Riyadh does have a big expat community, so while it’s no unusual to spot a foreigner, no one will assume you’re just a tourist. Including foreigners who travel to Saudi for business.

I had the privilege of spending a day with local girls and guys and learning a lot about their culture and how their lives truly look like – and let me tell you this: Saudi people are extremely welcoming and intelligent.

Most of the locals and expats whom I spoke to enjoy living in KSA and they do travel a lot and many of them lived elsewhere. In fact, I had a long chat with the girls on pros and cons of many things.

Before you travel to Saudi keep one thing in mind: Saudi Arabia is very religious and therefore most people you’ll meet will be religious. Be respectful of their religion and culture.

solo female saudi arabia

Solo Female Tips for Traveling to Saudi Arabia

1000 times yes. Everywhere I went I felt extremely safe. In fact, Saudi girls I met were telling me that one of the reasons they wouldn’t want to live elsewhere was because in Saudi they can go on the street in the middle of the night and feel safe, which isn’t a norm in other spots, US included.

Many of you messaged me regarding the abaya and were stunned to see that I didn’t wear a headscarf in my photos . Wearing an abaya and headscarf isn’t compulsory by law, it’s more of a cultural thing.

The only thing asked from visitors is to dress modestly, but if you don’t want to feel out of place buy an abaya before your visit. I got mine on Amazon.

If anyone feels offended by this and dare to say that no one should tell me what to wear, think of it logically: you wouldn’t wear what you wore to Burning Man at the Vatican.

You wouldn’t wear a bikini to parade it in a European city (you’d actually get fined for it in Venice), so simply be respectful to local women. Not all of them want to remove their headscarves – I met many who wouldn’t do it for religious reasons.

You don’t have to worry about stares and catcalling in Saudi Arabia, unlike in some other Muslim countries I’ve visited. Men are very respectful and polite to women.

solo travels saudi arabia

Extra Tips for Visiting Saudi Arabia

1) Saudia Arabia never sleeps

Saudis are definitely night owls. It’s perfectly normal to go shopping at 11 pm and parties tend to start after midnight.

It’s super safe to wander around at night, even as a woman, and that’s not just my opinion but what was I told by local women.

2) There’s Prayer Time a few times a day

When planning your time exploring keep in mind that things will suddenly close for prayer. Shops and restaurants included.

In Riyadh, most malls are opened at 9 am-12 pm and 4 pm-11 pm, but when I went around 5 pm most shops were closed. They opened about half an hour later after the prayer time ended.

3) Saudi is a Muslim country, so rules apply

Naturally, as it’s a religious Muslim country drinking alcohol is forbidden. Drugs are a death sentence, so don’t try to do anything stupid.

PDA is also not allowed, similar to Dubai, Qatar, Iran and many other places.

4) Weekend is Friday and Saturday

Remember that just like in any other Muslim country, Friday and Saturdays are weekends. Everything is usually closed on Fridays.


How to Get a Visa to Saudi Arabia

E-visa is finally available through their official website . You can apply for a visa by filling your passport information, uploading regular (2×2) passport photos.

While you don’t need to provide your flight information apart from the port of entry, the system asks you which hotel you’ll be staying in first and when will you travel. In my case, I actually put a different hotel as I wasn’t sure where will I stay and it was never an issue.

You’re also required to pay for the visa online. E-visa to Saudi Arabia costs 440 Saudi Riyals (about $120).

You need to print this visa before boarding your flight, as both airlines and immigration officers upon arrival will ask you to present it to them.

MORE ON: How to Get an eVisa to Saudi Arabia

visa to Saudi Arabia

How to Get to Saudi Arabia

Traveling to Saudi Arabia is very easy as there are many airports around the country, all operated by major and respected airlines.

Your best bet would be getting a flight to either Riyadh (the capital) or Jeddah. I flew in with FlyDubai and left with Saudia Airlines.

While the first one was a typical budget airline, Saudia was great and affordable, so I would recommend it.

One tip: I was going to revisit Lebanon after my Saudi trip and fly back to Europe with Qatar Airlines from Beirut. As I opted against it due to the situation in Lebanon at the time, I was unable to change this flight from within Saudi as any Qatar-based websites are blocked. That said, I had to call my husband to do it for me from Europe. Just something to keep in mind.

Cost and Money in Saudi Arabia

Exchanging money and taking more cash from the ATM isn’t a problem in Saudi Arabia. All of my cards from various countries worked just fine.

Saudi Arabia isn’t as expensive as many think it might be. A standard hotel is usually $100 for a regular double room. You should expect to pay about $5 for lunch and $10 for dinner at the restaurant.

Keep in mind you’ll be using Uber and Taxis a lot because Saudi Arabia isn’t designed for pedestrians. Especially in Riyadh, you cannot just walk around anywhere apart from Embassy district.

Internet and SIM cards in Saudi Arabia

I didn’t need to purchase a SIM card for Saudi Arabia, because my T-Mobile International plan worked great. It was actually faster in Saudi Arabia than in some parts of the US, and definitely way faster than in Europe.

If you don’t have an international plan you could get Mobily SIM with 10 GB internet for about 150 SR ($40).

English in Saudi Arabia

Accommodation in Saudi Arabia

You can travel and book hotel rooms as an unmarried couple these days. The only issue is when you’re a gay couple who wants to stay together because homosexualism is illegal in Saudi.

As a woman, don’t get too excited about a hotel pool. Pools are exclusively for men, even in most luxury hotels. While you can go see the pool, you cannot get in.

I can recommend a few places to stay, but it’s really tough to find a bad hotel to stay in Saudi Arabia.

In Riyadh, Ritz Carlton is “the” hotel to visit as it’s simply incredible inside. Even if you’re not staying there, take a look inside and come for some tea.

For those not willing to pay so much, Centro Olaya by Roatana is a good alternative. It’s a luxury hotel with a good restaurant and rooftop.

Do you have any questions about traveling to Saudi Arabia as a woman? Or maybe you’re interested in reading my tips for visiting other places in the Middle East like Jordan , UAE or Lebanon ?

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Sunday 18th of September 2022

How long does it take to get an e-visum? Are there organized trips for sightseeing in Riyadh?

Friday 24th of June 2022

Thank you for this quite informative and reassuring article. On my first trip to Jeddah now and reading this made me feel very confident I will have a good time.

Khurram Raja

Tuesday 18th of February 2020

It means all hotel accommodation seems like luxury. Wow!

Tuesday 10th of December 2019

This is really useful! I've always been unsure about visiting countries like this but it actually looks like it could be a lot of fun now! I've definitely always wanted to visit the Middle East and would love to see places like Oman and Qatar as well :)

Interesting; I will probably go in June. I read that in conjunction with the e-visa introduction, foreign women were merely allowed to wear a looser, Persian-style hijab. But you're saying there is no hijab law for local women as well anymore? Did you see any with Persian-style or without one entirely?

Anna Karsten

Hijabs are not legally required - neither for foreign visitors, not for local women. I've never worn one. I've seen many women without one, but also women who wore a full-on burqa especially in malls. In small towns you might feel more comfortable covering your head not to stand out too much, but in Riyadh, Jeddah, Al Ula there's really no need for it.

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Why travel with us.

easy travel saudi arabia

Experiences over Sightseeing

Our travel itineraries are full of must-visit sites giving offbeat experiences to the customers that they can't find anywhere else.

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Value for Money

You can enjoy here quality services at the best prices and make your trip a lifetime experience. Indulge into trips of your choice at attractive rates.

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Create packages of your choice and enjoy the freedom to choose what you want to see and where you want to go. Get existing packages customized as per your choice.

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Tours to discover, best of places and activities to present you with one-of-a-kind experiences .

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Riyadh Tour

Saudi, the authentic home of Arabia, is a destination rich in mystique and magic ... See more

Starting Form

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easy travel saudi arabia

Discover Riyadh & Jeddah

World Heritage Site and the largest conserved site of the Nabataean civilization, Riyadh ... See more

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Discover Riyadh

The place offers historical buildings with intricate architecture, mosques, and shops. ... See more

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Al Ahsa Escape Tour

The kingdom boasts quite an itinerary, from desert and water adventures to camping ... See more

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Think no more, book a holiday package with EaseMyTrip, and have unlimited fun! ... See more

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This stunning holiday package to AlUla will make you in love with your vacation ... See more

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Highlights Of Saudi Arabia

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Explore AlUla

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Jeddah with Jordan

Jordan is a land of antiquities and offers a great opportunity of tourist through traveling ... See more

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Alula & Emirates with Fly Dubai

Dubai is one of the fascinating tourist destinations; sited on the emirate’s northern ... See more

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Wonder of Saudi

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Dreamed Saudi Arabia

ALULA, Riyadh and Hail. The place offers historical buildings with intricate architecture, mosques, and shops. It offers stories about the inhabitants and merchants of the area. ... See more

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When you visit Saudi, you can immerse yourself in the fascinating culture that can be found in this beautiful ... See more

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Wouldn't it be fantastic to enjoy FIFA'22 along with experiencing the marvellous Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia? Come and ... See more

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There's nothing better than experiencing FIFA 2022 in Jeddah, a country steeped in history! You can witness the beautiful city along with enjoying the football game ... See more

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Magical Tour to Saudi & Dubai

When it comes to choosing the right destination for your next overseas vacation, there are various options ... See more

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When it comes to choosing the right destination for your next overseas vacation, ... See more

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Discover Saudi & Qatar

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When you visit Saudi, you can immerse yourself in the fascinating culture ... See more

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Saudi Wonder

Saudi Arabia's population is 27 million, including 8.4 million foreign residents (2010 census), and its capital city is Riyadh ... See more

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Saudi Heritage

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Arabian Peninsula. It occupies an area about the size of ... See more

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Saudi Classic

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₹ 153,999/-

Jeddah, umluj & alula tour.

Saudi is a beautiful country, globally loved for offering an eclectic blend of tourist attractions. Tourists, ... See more

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Jeddah Tour Package

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Riyadh Tour Package

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Riyadh Heritage Tour Package

Saudi, the authentic home of Arabia, is a destination rich in mystique and magic underpinned by ... See more

About Saudi Travel

Saudi, the authentic home of Arabia, is a destination rich in mystique and magic underpinned by unparalleled hospitality. It is a country that is defined by natural beauty, great diversity, and hidden treasures. When you plan your travel to Saudi, you get to explore arid deserts and lush valleys, clear seas and rugged mountains, ancient archaeological sites and modern architecture, haute cuisine, and street food. Saudi is a land rich in culture, heritage, mystique, and romance. Explore the undiscovered places of Saudi through Saudi Tour Packages available with us. Adventure - Saudi offers awe-inspiring natural phenomena and exciting, unique ways to explore its diverse terrain, making the kingdom worthy of a spot on any outdoor enthusiast’s bucket list. The kingdom boasts quite an itinerary, from desert and water adventures to camping and hiking through caves and craters. Culture - Saudi culture is as rich as it is diverse. Visit the Kingdom’s many mosques and traditional markets to experience a rhythm of life that has little changed over the centuries. Explore the different regions to experience the multi-cultural variety of foods, lifestyles, and customs. And, for a taste of modern Saudi, don’t miss the urban districts and entertainment centers where people meet to shop, dine or just spend time with friends. Heritage – Discover a land of heritage sites including Al Ahsa Oasis, Historic Jeddah, Rock art in the Hail region, Al-Turaif District in Diriyah, and more. Know about the history of Saudi through ancient ruins and rock-carven tombs. Check out the splendid architecture and fascinating history of Saudi. You would just fall in love with every single ancient site of Saudi. Saudia has everything that makes a perfect vacation. Explore heritage sites, adventure sports, nature’s wonders, iconic buildings, museums and castles, shopping markets, and amazing food. On your trip to Saudi, you will have a unique experience that will remain in your heart forever.

Weekend Tour in Saudi

Your Weekend Guide to the Amazing Saudi!

Saudi, the authentic home of Arabia, is a destination rich in mystique and magic underpinned by unparalleled hospitality. It is a country that is defined by natural beauty, great diversity, and hidden treasures. When you plan your travel to Saudi, you get to explore arid deserts and lush valleys, clear seas and rugged mountains, ancient archaeological sites and modern architecture, haute cuisine, and street food. Saudi is a land rich in culture, heritage, mystique, and romance. Explore the undiscovered places of Saudi through Saudi Tour Packages available with us.

Frequently Asked Questions

Ques: How much does a budget trip to Saudi cost from India?

Ans: A trip to Saudi with flights, stay and sightseeing costs around 1 to 1.5 lakh per person. However, a land package starts from 50k per person.

Ques: When is the best time to plan a trip to Saudi?

Ans: You can visit Saudi throughout the year as the weather remains pleasant. You must experience the coldest as well as warmer days in Saudi to have a different experience.

Ques: Ques: What are the best destinations to travel to Saudi?

Ans: Some of the best places to visit in Saudi are Al Ahsa, Al Baha, Asir, Diriyah, Red Sea, Tabuk, Al Ula, Jeddah and a lot more.

Ques: What is the dress code in Saudi?

Ans: In public, both men and women are asked to dress modestly, avoiding tight-fitting clothes and items with profane language or images. Women should cover their shoulders and knees in public. (Consider packing blouses with sleeves, scarves or shawls for your shoulders and mid- to maxi-length skirts and dresses, capris or pants to cover your knees.)

Ques: What precautions has Saudi taken to ensure it is safe for travelers (during COVID-19)?

Ans: Saudi continue to work closely with the Ministry of Health on health and safety standards, and the development of clear protocols for establishments across the entire tourism ecosystem - Free healthcare is provided to anyone in Saudi Arabia (citizens and visitors alike) affected by COVID-19 - Tracking and testing apps have been introduced to help people assess their health and manage any quarantine requirements - The Saudi tourism e-visa process is 100% digital, ensuring the reduction of touchpoints ahead of travel and upon arrivals

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Travel around the World

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Times Insider

Why Cover Saudi Arabia as a Travel Destination?

An editor on the Travel desk explains our decision to explore the Middle Eastern kingdom.

On a highway at dusk, a camel sits in the bed of a pick up truck. The truck is weathered, and Toyota is spelled across the back.

By Stephen Hiltner

An editor and photojournalist for the Travel section, Stephen Hiltner spent a month exploring Saudi Arabia for a story that published in early June.

When my Travel story about Saudi Arabia was published online last week, some readers bristled.

Why, they wanted to know, had The New York Times’s Travel team devoted so much time and effort to a country whose authoritarian government has committed grievous human rights abuses? Why did the kingdom deserve our attention? How much had the government paid us for our coverage?

The last question is the easiest to answer: Accepting money (or any other benefit) in exchange for coverage is strictly prohibited by The Times’s ethics guidelines . We simply don’t do it.

But in the context of Saudi Arabia, I can understand why readers wonder. While reporting the story, I learned about the incredible extent to which the Saudi government and its tourism officials have paid online influencers — those on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube — to visit the country and share overly simplified accounts of carefully curated experiences. Such an arrangement creates incentives to focus on the positive aspects of the country and leave out anything that paints a more complicated picture. And so social media is awash with glossy, one-sided content from the kingdom — which you might not realize, because the arrangements that produce it often aren’t disclosed.

In my mind, that’s one of the factors that justifies our independently reported article about Saudi Arabia’s new tourism projects: The Times is now one of the few outlets where curious readers — and potential visitors to Saudi Arabia — can find a balanced travel story that acknowledges both the country’s profound changes and its continuing complexities, including its troubling track record with human rights abuses, religious extremism and the oppression of women and L.G.B.T.Q. people.

Why was the story assigned in the first place? To put it simply: It’s newsworthy. Saudi Arabia’s $800 billion approach to drawing tourists — by building vast infrastructure for nonreligious visitors on a relatively short timetable — is unparalleled in its ambitions. What’s more, it’s part of a broader set of goals to reshape both the Saudi economy and its society at large.

We’ve been hearing about Saudi Arabia’s monumental efforts since 2019, when it began issuing its first tourist visas . This year, now that the coronavirus pandemic has waned and more of the new tourist destinations are coming online, we thought the time was right to check in on the progress.

For me, that meant taking a 5,200-mile road trip — alone, without a fixer or a translator — that would bring me into contact with a broad swath of Saudi society. I wanted the article to reflect the country as a whole, not just its new construction projects. And I wanted to offer glimpses into the lives of everyday people. To achieve that, I visited several fancy resorts, but didn’t stay overnight at any of them. (Some cost well over $1,000 per night, which is way beyond the limit for a Times expense account.) Instead, I slept at communal campsites and booked rooms in budget hotels. My accommodations cost about $65 per night on average.

As for whether the kingdom deserves The Times’s attention: I’d rather say the kingdom warrants our scrutiny. To me, the word “deserve” connotes an element of moral judgment, as if a Times article were meant as a stamp of approval. And judging whether we morally agree with newsworthy events, or with the people driving them, isn’t part of the equation we use to determine what we cover. (By that logic, for example, people who committed atrocities might not “deserve” obituaries, even if they influenced the course of history.)

Ultimately, my job as a Travel journalist is neither to persuade nor dissuade anyone from visiting Saudi Arabia, nor is it to pass judgment on their society or tourism projects. My job is to explain what’s happening in the country as best I can, from the perspective of an informed traveler, and to provide cultural and historical information to help situate the present moment in a broader context.

So I attempted to do just that — in a visually immersive story that I hope offers a fair and balanced portrait of a country undergoing profound changes.

Stephen Hiltner is an editor, writer and photographer for the Travel section of The Times. More about Stephen Hiltner


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    How to get a visa on arrival (VOA) for Saudi Arabia. In 2023, they also introduced a VOA regime, valid for any entry port into Saudi Arabia. The VOA on arrival costs 300 Saudi Rials, but they also make you buy travel insurance, which costs an additional 180 Saudi Rials. The total cost is 480 SR, cheaper than the e-visa.

  6. Places to visit in Saudi Arabia

    Just for you to have an idea, imagine you want to visit Riyadh, Jeddah, Al-Ula and Jizan, which are the 4 greatest places to visit in Saudi Arabia in my opinion: Riyadh to Jeddah: 954km. Jeddah to Jizan: 714km. Jizan to Al-Ula: 1,382km. Al-Ula to Jeddah: 676km.

  7. Saudi eVisa

    Saudi Arabia is opening its doors to the world through its new tourist visa. Through the fast and easy-to-use online portal, international visitors from 66 eligible countries can apply for an eVisa and discover the warm hospitality of Saudi people the rich heritage, vibrant culture, and diverse and breathtaking landscapes; from the mountains of Abha to the beaches of the Red Sea to the ...

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    Saudi Arabia. Middle East. If there is a final frontier of tourism left, it's Saudi Arabia. The birthplace and spiritual home of Islam, Saudi Arabia is rich in attractions and stirring symbolism. For Muslims, the cities of Mecca and Medina, rich in Prophetic significance, have no equal, while the carved temples of Madain Saleh, known as the ...

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    Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). See the State Department's travel website for the Worldwide Caution and Travel Advisories.

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