Tips and how to travel to Saudi Arabia in 2021

Dubai has rapidly expanded its economic base by becoming the tourist hub of the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has followed suit, opening its doors to international tourists beyond Hajj in 2019. Here are a few tips for those who would like to travel in Saudi Arabia.

 

Know the Rules before You Book Your Trip

Women must cover up in public, though the rules have relaxed in that regard. They no longer have to wear the black formless abaya, but that is still recommended. At least the country no longer requires women to be accompanied to visit the country. You can’t wear a bikini or even modest Western swimsuit at the beach. Public displays of affect remain illegal. You’re not allowed to import pictures of scantily clad women. Customs officials may screen your device. Once you’re in the country, know that a number of websites are censored. It is your choice whether or not you bypass the restrictions by using a VPN.

It is still illegal to drink alcohol or bring it into the country, while smuggling drugs can result in a death sentence. If you have prescription medication, have a doctor’s note and copy of your prescription ready.

Non-Muslims still aren’t allowed into Mecca and Medina. Do not disrespect the dominant faith unless you want to risk being arrested. Don’t try to convert others, and don’t sneak in holy books for distribution, though you can bring in a Bible for personal use. Know when Ramadan is, because you’ll be expected to fast from sunrise to sunset like everyone else when in public.

Do not photograph government buildings, palaces and military installations. Don’t take pictures of people without their permission. The rules are even stricter in sacred places.

 

Learn about the Tourism Opportunities

Saudi Arabia is home to several World Heritage sites. The ruins of Al Ula are but one example of ancient sites you might want to visit. You can go hiking at famous sites like “The Edge of the World” rock formation.

Book activities in Saudi Arabia in advance as the country started building Qiddiya in 2018 to build an “entertainment city”. This would be a large tourist area complete with motor sports facilities and several theme parks or go scuba diving in the shallow Red Sea. The coast has a climate similar to the Maldives but isn’t nearly as developed or crowded.

 

Sunset at Al-Masjid An-Nabawi

Plan Your Stay Well in Advance

The country no longer restricts visitors to those with business visas or those with pilgrimage visas. However, Saudi Arabia requires travel visas for tourists. With a valid passport, you can generally stay up to ninety days and visit anywhere but Mecca and Medina.

Don’t expect to walk up to a hostel or hotel and book your stay for the night. Book your hotels online before you go to ensure that you have a room. Take some time to learn geography, because you don’t want to make the mistake of thinking you can see something like the Edge of the World five minutes after you leave your Riyadh hotel room. Booking hotels in Al Khobar put you in easy reach of Bahrain and Qatar. However, you’re going to need the right visas to cross national borders.