Saudi Arabia has finally opened its doors to travelers eager to explore its many natural and historical wonders, long hidden behind a policy that made travel virtually impossible. Now, with a huge tourism boost, much more relaxed laws and a more welcoming attitude, the kingdom is waiting to be discovered. From places like the historic city of Al-Balad in Jeddah to the impressive tombs of Hegra, from the real desert to amazing rock formations, and even Jordan where it snows in the desert, there is plenty to do. But as with all travel, there are plenty of tips and tricks and travel requirements in Saudi Arabia that are good to know before embarking on your first trip.
The Size And Geography Of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is a vast land, a fifth the size of the US, 3.2 times the size of Texas, and believe it or not, much hotter and drier. Occupying most of the entire Saudi Arabian Peninsula, between the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf, bordering Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Yemen, the country it is 829,999 squares in size.
Miles, a coastline of 1,640 miles, and is 95 percent desert. The Rub Al Khali, the Empty Quarter, makes up a large part of the Saudi Arabian desert and happens to be the largest sand desert in the world.
Not surprisingly, the prevailing climate is a desert climate, but in the Southwest, it is semi-arid. There are occasional showers, mainly in late winter or early spring, and when it does rain, it tends to pour down torrentially for a few hours and then stop again for a year. In the Tabruk region to the north, it even snows from time to time, with a strange phenomenon evident at times when snow covers sand and then sand covers snow again.
But the most important thing to know about the weather in Saudi Arabia is that it is hot. Seriously hot. When you see temperature charts online with high temperatures reading 100 degrees Fahrenheit, don’t believe it. In the summer it often goes above 130, and that’s in the shade, if you can find anything. Don’t travel to Saudi Arabia between the end of May and the end of October, but book early, because everyone else does.
Easy Visa Application
Once you’ve set a date, it’s time to get your visa, and now, it’s never been easier. Citizens of 49 countries around the world, including North America, most of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, are eligible for this fast service. Get your flight and hotel details and your passport ready, go to the Visit Saudi Visa page, fill in the details, pay a fee of around $150 per person, and in less than an hour you will receive your visa. And if you feel that the fee is quite high, this is a multiple entry visa that lasts for a full year from the date of travel.
Considering the size of the country, the terrain and the climate, I strongly recommend against taking longer road trips unless you are used to driving in the region or are accompanied by someone who is. That said, if, for example, you’re based in AlUla and want to explore, you’re better off renting a car at the airport, which makes getting around much easier. You can drive with your valid driver’s license and rent a car as long as you are over 21 years old. In Saudi Arabia, you drive on the right, and most cars are automatic.
Driving in the cities of Saudi Arabia requires a bit of je ne se quoi; a bit of a reckless attitude, as you will face total recklessness and defiance of the strict rules, from speeding to flagging, to shoving or bullying if you are too slow. It takes a little getting used to, but you will.
Between locations, say Jeddah and AlUla or Riyadh and Tabruk, there are regular domestic flights that are easy and frequent.
Respect For Local Sensitivities
Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country and as such there are some cultural sensitivities to be aware of when visiting. While it is no longer necessary to cover up in an all-encompassing abaya, the traditional black robe, the dress code is simple: both men and women must wear clothing that covers the shoulders and falls below the knee. Cursing is not okay, and neither are rude hand signals, even if you feel tempted while being cut off on the road.
Women Travelers – Accompanied or Alone
Things have changed so much, it’s really amazing. It is no longer necessary to cover yourself with a long abaya, nor do women need to cover their hair. That said, while respectful clothing can be safely worn in larger cities like Jeddah and Riyadh, once you get deeper into the country, where life is still much less modern, you might wear an abaya just to make sure that you don’t feel like a sore thumb sticking out. I actually like wearing an open, flowy abaya, it feels wonderful and I immediately feel more respectful.
Even single female travelers can get a visa and travel around the country without any problems. Now, you can rent a car and drive yourself, if you want, and you generally feel very safe everywhere, with people more interested in you out of genuine curiosity than harassment.
Alcohol, Or Lack Thereof
Saudi Arabia is an alcohol-free country. You won’t get a beer or a glass of wine anywhere, not on a plane if you’re flying Saudia Airlines, not at any of the five-star luxury resorts, or celebrity chef restaurants. You may have heard of Western expats brewing their own alcohol in some of the big gated communities, but unless you’re visiting a friend in one of those resorts, your vacation stay in Saudi Arabia is going to be dry.
Saudi Arabia is a protected state, with values deeply influenced by the Islamic religion. Therefore, it is not surprising to find that the Saudi Arabian government does not issue online casino gaming permits. This country has no legally operating online casinos.
That said, eager gamblers from Saudi Arabia have found a haven in overseas sites for best online casinos in Saudi Arabia. Here you can enjoy online casino games like roulette, slots, blackjack, baccarat, craps, video poker and many more.
Therefore, in the best online casinos in Saudi Arabia platforms that offers a welcome bonus, deposit and no deposit bonuses. If you want to play various types of online roulette, blackjack or slots, casino sites can be an ideal place to visit. I must say that online casinos have prepared free slots, various tournaments, cashback bonuses and bonus codes for local players. And of course free spins for new players and jackpot slots for everyone. Good luck in games where everyone is having fun.