4 Crucial Things to Know Before Travelling to Saudi Arabia

22nd March 2022

Of all of the destinations of the Middle East, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has long been out of the spotlight. For much of the past few decades, tourists of all stripes have flocked to the glittering, cosmopolitan locales of Amman, Beirut, Tel Aviv, and Dubai, with Saudi often being left out of itineraries.

However, the government of SA is hoping to change this fast. Billions have been spent on one of the most ambitious expansions to push tourism, while visa requirements have been largely dismantled for Westerners and once-closed historical sites have been opened to the public for the first time ever.

If you’re seeing all this and have decided to finally tick the Kingdom off your travel bucket list, there are some important things to keep in mind before you book your flights. Here are the answers to the key questions travellers must ask before they head over. 

What Clothes Should I Pack?

Before packing your suitcase, there are two crucial factors to take into account; temperatures and social mores. First off, Saudi Arabia is very hot – hotter than anywhere else you have been before. Several of the world-historical records have been hit here, and it is not uncommon for weeks of +40-degree temperatures.

It is also important to remember that you must dress modestly during your time in Saudi Arabia, as this is a conservative, traditional, and deeply religious country. Female tourists are no longer required to wear an abaya, but men and women should ensure shoulders and legs are fully covered at all times. Wear light, loose-fitting clothes to ensure that you can stay cool without falling foul of social mores. 

What Is the New Visa Process for Visiting Saudi Arabia as a Tourist? 

In some good news for people who have wanted to travel to SA for a while, but have been put off by strict visa policies, all of that has changed now. If you are from one of 49 eligible countries (nearly exclusively Western countries and wealthy Asian countries) then you can apply for a Saudi eVisa. This is done entirely online and takes less than two minutes. All you need to do is enter your passport details and pay the fee, which is currently 87 USD.

Once this is granted, you have a one-year, multiple-entry visa to Saudi Arabia, valid for stays of up to 90 days at a time. As long as you are visiting for tourism purposes, this visa will be granted. 

What Can I Expect When Visiting Tourist Sites?

saudi-arabia-mosque pic

The number of historical-cultural sites that have been opened to tourists for the first time is truly staggering, ranging from ancient cities to tropical beaches to the world’s first camel hotel. However, while you are free to visit at your leisure, keep in mind that certain rules are likely to be in place during your visit. Importantly, many tourist attractions remain gender-segregated, meaning there will be separate entrances for men and for women, such as the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country bordering Saudi Arabia that you can visit if you have the time and money.

We’re not sure how much this will actually be enforced among tourists, since these sites have literally just been opened up to foreigners, but you should expect to be separated from any fellow travellers of the opposite sex at some point in your trip. 

Do I Need a VPN in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia, like most countries in the region, imposes quite strict restrictions on online activity. Some of these restrictions can impact routine activities, such as updating your Instagram stories or checking your emails. As a tourist, it is worth downloading a quality VPN prior to your trip, which you should really be doing before travelling anywhere.

There are some internet restrictions that are very specific to SA. For one, it is not possible to place bets on sports teams or participate in any online real money games without a VPN. As this interesting explainer on online betting in Saudi Arabia lays out, betting does take place within the country via certain overseas platforms, but a VPN is often a prerequisite before you can even sign up to these platforms, which are detailed on the site along with other betting-related information. Arrangements such as this should give you an impression of the current digital landscape that tourists can expect upon arrival. 

Saudi Arabia is unlike anywhere else you have been before, which is why it might also seem like a somewhat daunting travel experience. However, for the truly adventurous, this is a country with so much to offer. Just keep these nuggets of wisdom in mind before you go. 

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