There’s a wide array of misconceptions that trail behind Saudi Arabia, nevertheless, it is still a conservative and religious country that follows the Shari’a Laws.
Still, you’ll find that upon arriving at the country, it’s unlike its representation by the West. There is a multitude of things to do in the different parts of the country, and you’ll find that you’d have had an enjoyable trip.
But here’s 14 general things to know about visiting Saudi Arabia (as a tourist):
1. You’re allowed to take photos but be cautious of:
The government is vigilant on any prospective undercover work so it is highly encouraged not to take photos when around government buildings, mosques, airports and some markets. Also, try not to randomly snap shots of the locals, especially women- unless given permission.
2. Women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia
You’ve probably heard of this one before, but if you’re a woman looking to visit Saudi Arabia alone, you’ll have to sort out your transportation beforehand. Besides that, there are plenty of taxis in certain cities.
3. Alcohol is strictly prohibited
And so are drugs, for very obvious reasons.
4. Abide by the local culture
This means dressing a little differently than you would back home, women usually cover up in a black abaya, or dress modestly showing little skin and no public displays of affection are allowed. Although it’s not required to cover your hair with a hijab too, it depends on the are you are in. In some cases, women need to wear an abaya as long as they are conservatively dressed.
5. Smoking is prohibited in public spaces
Smoking next to mosques, cultural, social, academic and health spaces can set you back with a fine of SAR5,000. Even employees who smoke in the office could get terminated because of this. So be wary of that when traveling there.
6. Contrary to a few misconceptions, Saudi Arabia does offer tourist visas to those who want to visit
Tourism has come a long way and is second next to oil for the country’s revenue. And it’s only going to improve and widen from here!
7. Shops usually close during prayer times
So the timeframe between maghrib and isha’a is known by expats to be a good time to buy your groceries at the supermarket, if you’re quick enough.
8. It’s mandatory to already be for women to be wearing an abaya at the airport
According to many, perhaps not always, but better safe than sorry. If you don’t have it, dress as conservatively as can be.
9. The shopping in Saudi is generally more affordable
Especially for school supplies, clothing and probably souvenirs to take back home. You just gotta try out the public souks to find your luck.
So go on and #treatyoself
10. Always do your research on the weather prior to flight, it does get a little chilly during the winter
Yep, Saudi isn’t always the Oasis-type of desert warm. You might be stunned to know that it can sometimes rain heavily, even causing floods during the winter months of November to February. Keep this in mind when packing.
11. Tipping is common
Generally, people tip around 10% for waiters and other service professionals. It’s up to you, at the end of the day but anything will be appreciated.
12. Be aware that the holy month of Ramadan usually falls around the months of May-June
Ramadan is the holy month in the Islamic calendar, this is when Muslims fast all month to commemorate it. Again, it’s good to check the approximate date, just so you’re aware that when you enter Saudi Arabia- eating and drinking in public (even as an expat) will not be permitted outdoors.
All the restaurants, and sometimes shops will be closed everyday for that month until a certain time at night or late afternoon.
Shameless plug, but also really useful, if you’re 100% CLUELESS on where to go, what to visit and things you can do.
We got you covered!