The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Saudi Arabia

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A destination that many wonder about, and few visit… I spent four months living in Saudi Arabia learning about the people, culture, and what makes Saudi… Saudi.  From the desert to the sea, there are many incredible things about visiting Saudi Arabia.  This guide will inform you general safety tips, what to wear, cultural expectations, and more.


The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Saudi Arabia


If you’re planning on traveling to Saudi Arabia, I highly encourage you to purchase travel insurance to give you peace of mind if anything were to go wrong.  I use and recommend SafetyWing.


History of Saudi Arabia

While Saudi was originally founded in 1727, modern day Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 by Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman.  There are four different regions of Saudi Arabia – Hejaz, Najd, Al-Ahsa, and Asir that were united by a series of conquests beginning in 1902.  Since then, Saudi Arabia has been a monarchy governed by Islam law.  The two holiest places in Islam exist in Saudi Arabia – in Mecca and Medina; which has earned Saudi Arabia the name “The Land of the Two Holy Mosques”.

Saudi Arabia is the worlds second largest oil producer, the largest oil exporter, controls the world’s second largest oil reserves, and sixth largest gas reserves.

As of late, Saudi Arabia is trying to turn their image around and welcome foreigners to the country once they realized that they won’t be able to rely on oil money forever.  And that brings us up to where we are today in Saudi Arabia’s history.

The Crown Prince – Mohammed bin Salman – is responsible for launching Saudi Arabia into tourism, reforming the way the country operates.  His goal is “Saudi Vision 2030” – a way to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil and diversify its economy.  According to The Guardian, as of 2021, the government of Saudi Arabia was still 75% dependent on oil exports for its budget.


Is Saudi Arabia Safe to Visit?


The million dollar question… is Saudi Arabia safe to visit?  As a female, American tourist, I would say yes – Saudi is safe to visit as long as you can follow the laws of the country (no drinking, no drugs, etc).  With the Crown Prince wanting Saudi Arabia to be viewed as a top country for tourists to visit, combined with the harsh laws of the Kingdom, tourists are greatly protected in Saudi Arabia.  While anything can happen at any time, it’s highly unlikely that any local will have a hand in harming a tourist.

As far as terrorist activity goes in Saudi Arabia, I suggest looking up your country’s guidelines to visiting Saudi Arabia.  If you’re an American, I recommend signing up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

As always, make sure to take general travel precautions – make sure a loved one has a copy of your passport, knows where you’re staying at all times, etc.  I also recommend having your country’s embassy phone number and address handy.  If you’re an American, the phone number is +966 11 488 3800 and the address is Al Safarat Abdullah Ibn Hudhafah As Sahmi Street Roundabout no. 9, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


Read more:  Safety Tips and Cultural Expectations in Saudi Arabia


Visa/Vaccination Requirements for Saudi Arabia

As an American visiting Saudi Arabia you are required to have a tourist visa to enter.  This visa is valid for one year and you can purchase it here.

As of 2022, visitors of Saudi Arabia are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID and produce evidence of a full course of vaccination.  Additionally, you need to register your vaccine status here and also provide proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of your arrival to the Kingdom.


When to Visit Saudi Arabia/Weather in the Country

Because Saudi Arabia covers so much land, different parts of the country can experience different weather patterns.  However, generally, Saudi Arabia is a very hot country.  Saudi Arabia follows the US weather patterns – hot in the summer/spring/fall months and cooler in the winter months.  The coolest months in Saudi Arabia are from December to February (with January historically being the coldest months with temperatures in the 50s-70s F).  Otherwise, you can expect blazing hot temperatures (sometimes up to 120 F) throughout the spring, summer, and fall months.

I highly recommend visiting Saudi Arabia when the temperatures drop.  Sometime between November-February.  This is also a time where the country really comes alive, especially in Riyadh, where there are more outdoor activities like concerts, art displays, and more.


How to Dress in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is a very conservative, Muslim country, and dresses as such.  While it is not lawfully required for foreigners to wear a burka and/or an abaya (traditional dress for women in the country), it is expected that you dress conservatively and cover your shoulders, knees, chest, and sometimes elbows.  Depending where you are in the country, you may take this a step further and consider an abaya – especially if you’re in Mecca or Medina.  You also want to make sure that your clothes aren’t too tight or revealing.  You can wear any type of shoe you want in Saudi – including heels.

What I suggest wearing in Saudi Arabia is as follows…

  • Loose and flowy pants/trousers
  • Loose fitting jeans
  • Long-sleeve jackets that cover your bum
  • Baggy t-shirts (although in some parts of the country you might want to cover your elbows)
  • Long-sleeve shirts
  • Linen


Currency/Paying & Tipping Practices


Saudi Arabia operates on the Saudi Riyal (SAR) and the currency is pegged to the US dollar at a constant rate of exchange.  There are ATMs all over the country to take cash out, but most places take credit and debit cards.  You might want to have cash on hand specifically for taxi rides or in case of emergency.

It is not common to tip in Saudi Arabia, although is always greatly appreciated.


Language/Simple Phrases to Know


The main language in Saudi Arabia is Arabic; although there are a lot of people who speak English.  Because you’re in their country, however, I do recommend learning a few simple phrases to show respect.

  • Hi – Marhaban
  • Goodbye – Mae alsalama (mah-sa-lah-ma)
  • Thank you – Shukran (shoo-krahn)
  • You’re welcome – Afwan (off-whan)
  • God willing – Iin sha’ Allah (en-sha-lah) – this is a very common phrase in Saudi essentially meaning, “it’s out of my control and in Allah’s hands”; you will hear this often


Getting Around Saudi



Because oil is prominent in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, taking a taxi or rideshare is incredibly cheap!  You can find taxis throughout Saudi or I suggest downloading the Uber app and Bolt app to request rides.  Something common that might happen to you if you order a rideshare is that they will message you on the app asking you “cash or card”.  When this happens it generally means they want you to pay cash – which I’ve personally never felt comfortable doing. If you don’t answer or say “card”, the driver generally cancels your ride.

If you’re traveling in Riyadh and are looking for a reliable, trustworthy, private taxi driver… I highly suggest the driver I used – Amer.  Whether you’re taking a taxi to/from the airport or wanting to drive to Bahrain, Amer is your guy.  You can contact Amer on WhatsApp – +966 55 585 6607.



While a less popular mode of transportation, there are trains in Saudi Arabia.  If you want to travel by train, check out Saudi Arabia Railways (SAR).



If you’re planning to travel throughout Saudi Arabia, chances are you’ll be traveling by plane due to the sheer size of the country.  Luckily, there are many airlines that operate throughout the Kingdom, including budget airlines!  The three airlines that I suggest looking into when searching for flights are Saudia, Flynas, and Flyadeal.

My favorite way to compare and contrast flight prices is by searching for flights on KAYAK.


While Saudi Arabia is opening up to tourists and has come a long ways in the past few years, it still has quite a ways to go.  I lived in the Kingdom for four months and it was a challenging experience each and every day.  Do I recommend visiting Saudi Arabia?  Not necessarily above other countries.  But if you’re an adventure seeker, looking to travel off the beaten path, or wanting to explore the Middle East, then yes.  Saudi is sure to attract more and more tourists each and every year so if you’re interested in visiting, might as well go now before it gets to overrun with tourists.


Read about my experience living in the Kingdom:  I’m an American Who lived and Worked in Saudi Arabia – This is What it Was Like


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Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to purchase through my link, at no cost to you.


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Kylee is a Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse passionate about making travel affordable and accessible to nurses. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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