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Saudi Arabia Travel: Essential Guide For First-Time Visitors

How to prepare for your travel to Saudi Arabia (and what to expect!) 

COVID-19 travel update: with international travel resumed from 1 August 2021, tourism in Saudi Arabia seems to be looking up. All travellers wishing to enter the Kingdom must have a negative PCR COVID-19 test 72 hours before flying, have health insurance, and either be fully vaccinated or be ready to quarantine for seven days.

For more info, read the latest covid-19 travel requirements to Saudi Arabia.

It’s official. Saudi Arabia travel and tourism is now a thing.

Since 2019, the Kingdom has lifted its travel restrictions, making it possible for foreigners – even non-Muslims – to visit Saudi Arabia.

Avid travellers have been jumping and clicking their heels together, not least because they’re finally allowed to enter a country that has been closed off from the rest of the world for decades.

But also because of the wonders above and below the sea’s surface.

If you’re ready to take the plunge, here’s some useful Saudi Arabia travel advice for tourists.

Magnificent door by Faris Al Zahrani
Al-Rahma Mosque by Haidan

Do you need a visa?

Generally speaking, foreigners can visit Saudi Arabia on a multi-entry tourist visa, valid for up to 90 days. They can either apply for an e-visa or get a visa on arrival.

For more info, check Saudi Arabia travel visa requirements

Welcome to Jeddah! Photo by Halah Fallatah

Where should you stay?

As a tourist, Jeddah is probably the best place to stay. It’s far more liberal than other Saudi Arabian cities, meaning that you don’t have to fret as much about what you can and cannot do. 

Unique cultural heritage sites by Felipe Pires
Great Road trips. Photo by Abdulla Dhahri
Taif mountain range by Abdul Rahman-Ghzwani

Saudi Arabia travel do’s and don’ts

Like any country in the world, Saudi Arabia has its local laws and customs that, even if they may sound weird to an outsider, should be respected so as to not upset the locals.

So here are some important do’s and don’ts on how to behave in Saudi Arabia.

Do’s:

  • Do dress modestly, covering shoulders and knees. 
  • Do use your right hand when eating, touching, shaking hands or handing something to someone.
  • Do accept invitations from the locals. Guests are seen as a gift from God, so enjoy the hospitality
  • Do have an open mind. 
  • Do respect cultural and religious practices.  

Don’ts:

  • Don’t engage in PDA with your partner, including holding hands (even if you’re married).
  • Don’t criticise the country, the royal family, or Islam.
  • Don’t shake hands with a woman, unless she offers her hand first.
  • Don’t sit next to the opposite gender, unless you’re travelling with them.
Jeddah’s old town: UNESCO world heritage site. Photo by Marwan Ahmed.

Can women travel to Saudi Arabia?

Contrary to popular belief, women can now travel to Saudi Arabia without a male guardian.

As foreigners, women are not required to wear a niqab either (face veil with just the eyes showing). However, if you’re visiting a mosque, you’re required to wear a headscarf, but you probably knew that already, right?

Are you a female traveller? Read more about what to wear when travelling to Saudi Arabia.

Jabal Sawda, Saudi’s highest peak by Kemo Sahab.

Things to see and do in Saudi Arabia

As one of the largest countries in the world, there are heaps of places to see. Including: 

  1. Al-Ula: with spellbinding canyons, natural arches and volcanic plateaus, Al-Ula is a UNESCO heritage site like no other.
  2. Jeddah: visit the old town of Jeddah [link], Al-Balad, where modern skyscrapers leave room for narrowing maze-like alleys and mud houses, earning it UNESCO heritage site recognition.
  3. Yanbu: a coastal city best known for its white beaches and pristine coral reefs. 
  4. Medina: yes, the holy city is open to tourists. Find out how to travel to Medina as a non-Muslim.

Road trip wonders By Mohammed Hassan.

Have any questions?

Or some Saudi Arabia travel advice to share? Contact us or let us know in the comments!

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