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The Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia was up to recently the most difficult country in the world to visit as a tourist, but in late September 2019 did it change, and Saudia Arabia is now ready to welcome tourists.
And forget everything you have ever heard and read about the largest country in the Middle East, the country is much more liberal than you would expect, also for the local woman these days.
This post is only about travelling to and within Saudi Arabia as a tourist.
And obviously, so are not the human rights in Saudi Arabia something to be proud of, but this a travel post and not a post about politics.
Visa For Saudi Arabia.
How To Get To Saudi Arabia.
- A visa for Saudi Arabia was up to September 2019 the hardest visa in the world for people from the west to obtain.
- But everything changed when Saudi Arabia introduced tourist E-VISA.
Who can get E-VISA for Saudi Arabia:
Citizens from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, UAE do not need a visa for Saudi Arabia.
Citizens from Israel and Qatar are not allowed to visit Saudi Arabia.
NB: Having an Israeli stamp in your passport will not deny you entry to KSA.
What´s the price for Saudi Arabia E-Visa?
463 SAR / 124 USD.
How long is the visa valid for?
1-year multi-entry visa. Each visit you can stay for 90 days.
Where To Apply for Saudi Arabia E-VISA.
There´s a lot of websites offering E-Visa service these days, but the ONLY OFFICIAL website is https://visa.visitsaudi.com/
The application takes less than 5minutes, and there is no need to use an agent, do it yourself and save some money, it´s easy!
Be sure to print the email you get with your E-Visa.
Also, keep copies with you in your backpack; most of the hotels will ask for a copy when you check-in.
The visa is also valid for land border crossings from the neighbouring countries.
How To Get To Saudi Arabia.
There are six international airports with flights to all major cities in Africa, Asia and Europe and an additional five regional airports with flights to and from neighbouring Arab countries.
The three largest airports in the country and your most likely entry port is:
Damman King Fahd International Airport (DMM).
Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED).
Riyadh King Khalid International Airport (RUH).
How To Travel Around Saudi Arabia.
Be aware if you are planning travel around Suadi Arabia with a bus and planning to travel across the country, be aware that as non-Muslim are you not allowed to change bus in Medina, which is, unfortunately, is very common!
KSA is a huge country, so getting from one place to another can take you a lot of time, going across the country is flying by far your best option.
Unfrutentlyes so are local transportation to tourist sites really not existing yet, so you have to two options if you want to visit places outside the cities, either rent a car with a driver or rent a car and drive yourself.
There are 3 Domestic Airlines in KSA, 2 of them being budget Airlines. Be sure to book your tickets to the smaller destinations early, there´s often only one flight a day, and they are often fully booked.
I couldn’t book my flight to Abha in south Saudi Arabia do to being fully booked for days, so I had to fly to Jizan instead than hiring a car to reach Abha instead.
Saudi Arabia Bus companies.
Saudi Arabia Train Company
Renting A Car In Saudi Arabia.
Renting a car is by far the best option for you to explore the country.
While every large internal car rental company like Avis, Euro Car etc. have offices around the country, also at the international airports in Jeddah and Riyadh, but unfortunately do all the large car rental company a daily 250km/155miles distance limit a day.
Foreign women can also rent cars these days without any problems.
Making exploring KSA with a rental car kinda difficult do to huge distances and the low daily distance limit the car rental companies in Saudi Arabia have.
Must visit sight like the Al Wahbah crater which is only possible to visit with a rental car is located 350km/217miles northeast of Jeddah, making it 700KM return trip, making it almost 3times the daily distance limit with the international car rentals.
Of all the car rental companies I did check (more than 10) was there only ONE car rental company that offered unlimited km/miles a day: AL WEFAQ RENT A CAR has an office at Jeddah International airport.
Their office I located in the same building as all the other car rental companies.T he price was 250SAR (64USD) for 24hours with unlimited Km/miles plus fuel. The staff spoke excellent English.
Money In Saudi Arabia.
The Offical currency in KSA is Saudi riyal (SAR). 4SAR = 1 EURO. 3.75SAR = 1USD.
There´s ATM´ literally everywhere in the country, and card payment is available in every shop, restaurant and hotel.
Money Exchange is ONLY possible in Banks and Hi-end hotels. And It´s important to remember that banks are closed during prayer time and on Fridays.
Water – 1 SAR
Petrol – 0.40 SAR/litre
InterCity Bus Fare – 2 SAR
Food from local eateries
Breakfast: 5 – 10 SAR
Lunch/Dinner: 10 – 20 SAR in a cheap local restaurant.
Lunch/Dinner: 100+ in a good local restaurant-
Coke: 2.5 SAR
Stay Connected In Saudi Arabia.
Arabic is the language in Saudi and spoken by everyone, so it´s wise to learn a bit of basic Arabic if you are planning to travel outside the big cities.
But with approximately 9million foreign workers in the country, with most of them being from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Philippines, these often work in hotels, shops, restaurants, taxi drivers etc. and they all speak English making things very easy in KSA when it comes to English.
Also, English is a compulsory second language in schools. So I never had any problems speaking with locals.
Food in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabian dishes vary from a region to another as the culture itself changes, and it seems like every town has a dozen western fast food chains these days. But the local cousin is not to be missed, in the southern part of the country is Camel meat common. It´s not to bad actually.
The National Dish of Saudi Arabia is a dish called “Kapsa” rice-based dish with often chicken or camel meat when in the southern part of the Kingdom — eaten with your hands while sitting on the floor.
Saudi Arabia is a dry country, meaning there´s no alcohol here, but alcohol-free beers are widely available. Which can be a pricey experience in the restaurant, a non-alcohol Budweiser set me back a staggering 11usd in a nice restaurant.
The standard power plugs in Saudi Arabia are the same as in the UK, three pins. So everyone from Europe, Asia and the USA will need to bring a power adapter for your visit to Saudi Arabia.
Voltage: 220-240 volts AC @ 60 Hz
Is Saudi Arabia safe to visit?
While Saudi Arabia actually has one of the lowest crime rates in the world due to regular police presence in public, and it´s very strict sharia laws. The most significant danger during a visit to Saudi Arabia is the crazy divers on the roads around the country.
Criticizing the local government and the royal family are strictly forbidden.
LGBT activities are strictly forbidden in the KSA is one of the least homosexual friendly countries in the world, so be advised and stay private during your visit.
Do not bring anything religious, which is not Islam into the Kingdom.
Also including Bibles and any religious literature. Public observance of religions other than Islam is a crime in Saudi Arabia punishable by up to death.
How To Dress in Saudi Arabia.
Like in most other countries in the Middle East, so are the dress codes a lot more conservative than we are used to in western countries.
Men should go with long pants and a shirt/t-shirt (no tank tops).
Women should wear loose trousers or skirts, long-sleeved shirts, no closed fitting cloths. Foreign girls are not required to wear traditional Abaya or covering their hair.
It was also astonishing to see that in Jeddah had most local woman stopped covering their hairs and wearing an Abaya in the northern part of the city (the most liberal part of the country).
But some parts of the country and especially in the countryside would it be advisable for also the foreign woman to wear an abaya and cover their hair.
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