Saudi Arabia is a country located in the Middle East, and it occupies most of the Arabic Peninsula. It does not have the best-developed tourism section because of the many restrictions that are in place, but if you are planning a trip there, you will find some things to do.
Nevertheless, we must advise you right from the start that a trip to Saudi Arabia requires you to do your homework about their particular rules and customs. This is not the kind of country in which you can do as you please. As a country in which Islam is of the utmost importance, Sharia laws apply, and if you knowingly do something against it, you will be punished. You should never push your luck because even the smallest crime can get you a few months in prison.
For starters, we will give you some information about the entry requirements. Saudi Arabia used to have some of the strictest visa rules. However, that changed recently. As of 2019, the citizens of 52 countries are eligible for either an electronic visa or a visa on arrival. As long as you qualify for one of those, The Premium Visa Services can help you get the travel document you need. The application process for the eVisa is entirely online, and you can get it within a few days with minimal effort.
The change came as a response to the oil prices taking a dive. As you may very well know, Saudi Arabia was an oil-dependent economy. And it still is, for the most part. That is why its government decided to enhance tourism as a means of increasing revenue. The electronic visa and the visa on arrival are supposed to help achieve that. All nationalities that qualify for either one of them are allowed to stay in Saudi Arabia for no more than 90 days.
If you are not eligible for an electronic visa or a visa on arrival, your only option is to go to the nearest Saudi Arabia embassy or consulate and submit a visa application there. It may take some time for it to be processed, but that is normal.
Keep in mind that Qatari citizens are banned from entering Saudi Arabia as a result of the severance of diplomatic ties in 2017. Qatari citizens could enter the country without a visa before that, but now they are allowed only for Haji. Also, Israeli citizens are not allowed even to transit through Saudi Arabia.
If you are planning to take a trip to Saudi Arabia, we recommend that you do not do so during the months of July and August. The temperatures during that period are unbearable, often surpassing 42 degrees Celsius. All those who live there leave the country if possible. The people who remain are very slow, and very little work gets done. During the winter, the temperatures are very comfortable, at around 21 degrees Celsius. During the night, the temperature can even drop below zero, and some snow may be present. It does not stay for long, though.
The official language in Saudi Arabia is Arabic. You should learn a few phrases to be able to get around. Some locals speak English, but not very well. The road signs, however, are displayed in both English and Arabic.
As for what you can see in Saudi Arabia, there are many places you can go, especially along the coastline. However, we would like to start by saying that if you are not a Muslim, the cities of Mecca and Medina are off-limits. They are holy cities reserved only for people of the Muslim faith. Other than that, it is recommended that you hire a professional tour guide.
If you are looking for something to do, keep in mind that activities are limited in Saudi Arabia. Alcohol is strictly forbidden, and so is loud music. People do not travel there for the nightlife. Desert excursions are popular with the locals, but it can be dangerous for tourists, especially women. Armed Bedouins are not to joke around with. If you go to Saudi Arabia’s red coast, you can enjoy scuba diving. It is quite popular among tourists. However, we must advise you to be extremely careful not to injure yourself. Hospitals are poorly equipped to handle scuba-related injuries or decompression sickness. In case you decide to go and explore the Red Sea, keep in mind that it is full of venomous fish and corals. But, as long as you are careful not to touch anything, you should be fine.
Amusement parks are also available, especially near malls and beaches. However, many of them are restricted to families only.
As far as food in Saudi Arabia is concerned, you may want to try the local cuisine. The national dish is Kabsa, which is orange or red-colored rice with lamb or chicken, and it is heavily spiced, but not with chili. It is very tasty.
The tap water is not drinkable, and during the summer it is incredibly hot. Bottled water and fruit juices are widely available. Please remember that alcohol is strictly forbidden, and you can get severely punished if you are caught with it.
One of the most important aspects to remember is that you must express a great deal of respect for Saudi Arabia’s culture when you go there. Religion is very important, and you must act accordingly. As a woman, you should dress conservatively. Nobody expects foreign women to dress just like the local women, but you should be covered as much as possible. Make sure to cover your legs and upper arms, and you should not wear anything with cleavage.
While in this department, we should probably mention that Saudi Arabia is one of the least friendly nations towards LGBTQ rights. If you are a part of this community, you should avoid this country altogether. Saudi Arabia punishes homosexuality with death. For the first offense, you can get a few months to life in prison, public flogging, and so on. Not to mention the vigilantes.
The bottom line is that you may actually enjoy a trip to Saudi Arabia, but only as long as you are willing to follow the rules. There are many of them, and you may find them a bit too much, but you know the saying, ‘when in Rome…’, right? As long as you don’t do anything to offend the Saudi Arabians and their culture, you should have a lovely stay.