The mystical land of Saudi Arabia has always fascinated many travelers. From the stretch of the Red Sea to the UNESCO sites of Al-Ahsa Oasis and the At-Turaif district, Saudi Arabia has continued to enchant people from all over the world. And now you can make your dream of traveling to Saudi Arabia come true!
Now that tourist visas are accessible to citizens of 49 countries traveling to Saudi Arabia is more exciting than ever before. Tourists can now spend close to 90 days at a time in the Kingdom, but shorter itineraries also allow visitors to discover Saudi Arabia's rich culture, diverse landscapes and amazing attractions. While any particular visit to the Middle East is exciting, it can also feel different from sightseeing in European, Asian, or American countries.
Just remember that embracing Saudi traditions and culture is part of the adventure!
Ready to explore the warmth and hospitality of the Saudi people and discover the rich heritage, vibrant culture and stunning landscapes of Arabia? Come and experience everything from the Abha Mountains to the beaches of the Red Sea and the quicksands of the Empty Quarter. If you find yourself traveling to Saudi Arabia to explore uncharted lands as tourists, here are some basic and cultural tips for travelers visiting the Kingdom for the first time.
So if you're planning your trip, this is what you need to know.
1. Find Out Why You Are Traveling
It might seem pretty obvious; however, if you're looking to travel to Saudi Arabia, you really need a valid visa documenting exactly why you're there. If you are a pilgrim traveling to the country, you will need a specific visa from an agency accredited to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, and if you are on a business trip, you will be required to show proof of business appointments in the country. Think cautiously about how you list your job title: journalists, photographers, and writers often don't have access, as the Saudi government suspects them.
2. Couples Should (Preferably) Be Married
If you are a married couple and have an official marriage license, you can travel together. However, if you are an unmarried couple wishing to travel to Saudi Arabia, this is frowned upon and may cause your visa application to be rejected.
3. Playing Music In Public Is Prohibited
This can be seen as a public nuisance and could get you in trouble, especially if rap or western trance is your thing. It's not illegal to indulge when you're safely in the hotel, but make sure it's not loud enough to offend the neighbors.
4. Photography Is Not Encouraged
Assuming you're the type who likes to photograph everything, you might run into trouble in Saudi Arabia. The government is still very wary of tourists, especially Westerners, and the photograph can be mistaken for a terrorist plot or espionage. This is especially true when you are in close proximity to government buildings or other high-traffic locations such as mosques and markets. Even taking photos of locals without permission is a no-go area, especially for women!
5. Female Travelers Must Have A Sponsor
Due to certain cultural and political rules, visitors must be met by a sponsor upon arrival in Saudi Arabia. If you land and there is no one suitable to meet you, at best, there will be delays before you can travel further into the country; at worst, you could be denied entry altogether. It is normal for your sponsor to keep your passport while you are issued an Iquama (residence permit) for daily commuting.
With this news, people are wondering: Is Saudi Arabia safe for tourists? Yes, Saudi Arabia is safe for tourists. As with travel to any other country in the world, please respect local customs and regulations, be aware of your surroundings and exercise due diligence before travelling. Be sure to check travel advisories before you travel.
7. Social Customs
You will find that the locals are hospitable, generous and as curious about you as you are about them. It is not uncommon to be invited to share a meal or a cup of gahwa (Arabic coffee) and dates. Your guests, and even strangers, will want to extend their welcome and offer a token of their hospitality, such as food or even a small gift. It is considered impolite to refuse such an offer. Just remember to always accept and consume food and drink with your right hand.
Assuming you are invited to a Saudi home, remove your shoes unless your host insists on wearing them. In a traditional Majlis (a sitting room with cushions on the floor), you are expected to sit on the floor. If you're staying elsewhere, you can expect a modern setup with easy chairs and other furniture.
The Saudis encourage and welcome Westerners who ask questions about their culture.
To avoid offending local sensitivities, it's best to avoid political or religious topics of conversation.
8. Religious Items From Non-Islamic Religions Are Prohibited
If you have a crucifix, Bible, or any other religious accessory, leave it at home as the law prohibits the public observance of any religion other than Islam.
If you practice a non-Islamic faith, you are better off worshiping in private.
Be prepared to be greeted by fascinating natural and archaeological sites, contrasting landscapes, and above all, by the warm hospitality of the Kingdom! Don't worry; by observing the local culture, you will get used to the country's unique labels. Remember to avoid clicking on images of women and government buildings when in the Kingdom.;