Disclosure: As a traveler, I use all the companies I recommend and you should know that, if you buy any service through any of these links, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you. From Bedouin to East-African-looking people and even the cultural-Yemeni-like people from the south of the country, in Jizan, Saudi is the most multi-ethnic Arab country. Mobily is the most popular one but they asked me to buy 10GB, at least, which was around 150SR (40USD). You can find plenty of hotels in Booking.com, CLICK HERE TO FIND THE BEST HOTELS DEALS ON BOOKING.COM, Remember to get your Saudi guidebook – CLICK HERE TO CHECK PRICES ON AMAZON. There were temporary visas issued corresponding to specific events for which they wanted to attract foreigners. If you are self-driving for long distances, most small towns you pass by will also have budget apartment-hotels which are always clean, at least in my experience. It features 111 ancient monumental tombs Credit: get When I came back from Saudi Arabia, I received many, many messages from very upset people who claimed that traveling to Saudi Arabia implicated collaborating with a regime that doesn’t respect the basic human rights. For years, many pro-feminist groups in Europe have been claiming that the use of niqab is sexist, against the women’s rights and they wear it against their will. I wore the veil and followed the customs completely. Women need to wear an abaya – The abaya is a local dress that covers your body (not your head). Thank you, Graham, from Inside Other Places for the clarification. Other people have simply disappeared since 2015. Following the relaxation of the religious laws, women are no longer required to wear the abaya and hijab, they are however expected to wear decently in public. I mean, just check its size and you will see that it is bigger than any European country. Saudi Arabia is a very religious country proud of its traditions. With ZAIN, I think I just paid around 30SR for the SIM Card plus 1GB worth of data. The Saudi eVisa allows eligible citizens to obtain a tourist visa for Saudi Arabia exclusively online, eliminating the need to apply for a visa from a Saudi embassy or consulate.. Pero este es el artículo en inglés, así que mejor publícalo en el link en español: https://againstthecompass.com/es/viajar-a-arabia-saudita/. A woman traveling with a man who is not her husband, sponsor or a male relative can be arrested. According to the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, it is not mandatory for women visiting the country to wear an abaya or hijab. Hola Joan! There is not a single city in Saudi which is walking friendly. Do you know if it’s OK to travel with your own car? It took me 3 days to get to Jizan (1100km). Other companies would not be allowed to hire women as engineers. Visiting Saudi Arabia also made me aware of my gender in a way I am utterly unaccustomed to. Question for you – If you had only 4-5 days to spend in Saudi, where would you go? In the US, the cultural perception of freedom of speech takes priority over the documented harms of verbal (and online) bullying. While many Westerners don’t see any problem with people wearing whatever they want, other cultures don’t agree. Cross my finger, in a few years time we will be seeing hundreds of thousands of tourists to experience Saudi Arabia…and we will be glad to welcome you all. The reality is miles away from this stereotype. Moreover, you came to Saudi to meet people and make local friends, so saying you are an atheist won’t help you at all. So yeah, the idea of having international visitors who are not expats or workers is still a concept they aren’t familiar with. Don’t forget to read my 2-week itinerary in Saudi Arabia. Your email address will not be published. Before, the only way to travel to Saudi was on a business visa, via a strong local connection who could sponsor your visit or by getting a pilgrimage visa to visit Mecca and Medina (only for Muslims). I am perfectly aware that, since I am not a woman, my opinion doesn’t really count here but, luckily, during my journey, I met Nada al Nahdi, a Yemeni / Indonesian girl who was born in Saudi, so she knows the people and culture very well and has traveled around the country extensively. Seriously, it is not even close to what you may think. Sure, Saudi is an extremely patriarchal country, so this kind of reaction is perfectly understandable. in Riyadh. We fly soon. By the way, most rental companies won’t rent you a car if you don’t have an international driving license, so remember to convert it before leaving your country. I was totally unaware that Saudi Arabia has so much To offer the adventure crazy traveler. Women or men that go with women need to sit in the family section. I am actually left-handed and sometimes I forget about it and Saudi has been the only place where the locals got a bit upset when they saw me eating with my left hand. You can even exchange Indian and Pakistani rupees and other Asian currencies, as there is a large Asian population living in Saudi. You can’t seriously walk. How many days you need, maybe 3 days in Jeddah, 3 days Abha & Jizan, 2 days in Al Ula + traveling time. There’s nothing objective to validate claims of moving forward or backward. A great introduction to the country, this must be the only available travel guide to Saudi Arabia! I have a girlfriend here in Riyadh also and of course we’re not yet married. You won’t find Wi-Fi in the cheap cafés but most malls or Western-Style cafés have public Wi-Fi. Hitchhiking to get out of Riyadh was tough but then it was so easy. In the past for sure (even though they could be kind of flexible with resident expats). Do not be fooled by the work of countless foreign consulting firms. Me encantaría si pudiese ser que nos pongamos en contacto ya que quisiera preguntarte alguna cosa más vía mail. JEDDAH: When I first tried to rent a car in Saudi Arabia, in the morning women were allowed to drive for the first time, I was told I couldn’t without a Saudi license, but one day, “Insha’Allah.” Today, it was easy, and I became the first foreign woman to rent a car from Budget in the Kingdom. Required fields are marked *. Thank you so much for this … look forward to visit8ng next year after Mada’in Saleh opens up to visitors. Moving to a Middle Eastern country will certainly be a culture shock for someone from a Western society, especially with the gender segregation and traditional culture. And when you do your bday, after clicking a few hundred times, hold the status bar and a decade year range will show up.. I’m also going to publish an article about Saudi Arabia soon. Saudi Arabia is the most religious country I have ever been to. Neighboring countries include Jordan to the northwest, Iraq and Kuwait to the northeast, Bahrain and Qatar to the east, the United Arab Emirates to the southeast, and Oman and Yemen to the south. I think that as Westerners, we should understand that they want to protect their culture as they begin allowing tourists into their country, and this is a very reasonable law in the grand scheme of things. She enjoys writing travel, medical, health and how-to articles for various publishers. Read: How to find the right VPN for Saudi Arabia. As you may imagine, tourism in Saudi Arabia is in a very embryonic stage. However, going backwards refers to the fact that they force you wearing certain clothes. I’d wanted to visit Saudi Arabia after watching Wadjda (one of the best travel movies I’ve seen), the first movie produced by a female Saudi Arabian filmmaker. According to my local Saudi friends, some laws haven’t been changed but the religious Islamic police (mutaween) has lost power, so they aren’t controlling what people do anymore. Joan, I appreciate a fair exchange. You should follow these rules : * Banned items : Do not produce, consume or import alcohol, narcotics, pork. Visiting Saudi Arabia also made me aware of my gender in a way I am utterly unaccustomed to. Tourists will obtain a multiple-entry visa valid for a year that will allow them to stay in the country for up to 90 days. Whereas I fully understand their point, I think that their argument is quite simplistic and it just lets you see one tiny side of the whole picture. Good luck traveling with an unrelated member of the opposite sex! English can be a sometimes problem when you travel in Saudi Arabia, as most people don’t speak it but you will always find someone who does. Note – Saudis prefer to be called Salafis, instead of Wahabis. More information is available at: Public decorum. The vision 2030 will have the world see a modern, welcoming, more hospitable and economically stronger Saudi Arabia. My point is that this topic is way more complicated than we think and, as tourists, we shouldn’t be talking or trying to change it because you are traveling to Saudi Arabia to learn about their culture and visit beautiful places. During the last couple of years, a lot of their super strict Islamic laws have been softened or, at least, they have become more flexible. It was an enriching experience. and thanks for such great and informative vlog. You probably could’ve guessed that Saudi Arabia is an… interesting place for female travelers. Every day more speed cameras and signalling on changing lanes has become much more of a thing. Is it ethical to visit Saudi as a tourist? Prior to visiting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I had a lot of questions about what it would be like to visit as a woman. I’m an American but live in Israel. I really appreciate your support :), Use Booking.com for hotels and guesthouses, Check on Hostelworld for for backpacker hostels, 1 – IATI Insurance (5% discount) – Cheapest travel insurance and for travelers above 70, 2 – True Traveller – Best backpacking insurance (only Europeans), Trekking equipment, books, etc, check on Amazon, If you want to know all the companies I use to plan my trips, check my travel resources page. Hi, we are Belgian citizens and got our visa very easy online through http://www.visitsaudi.com I’ve been living in Saudi only since February 2019 (Eastern Province) but the drivers have definitely gotten better over that time. There is a large Shia population, as well. Not sure how is it in the airport, but bring one just in case, hi joan, do you know if its going to be a problem travelling to saudi with a iran-visa in the passport? Single foreign women can also visit Saudi on a tourist visa – You can travel to Saudi with your unmarried boyfriend and even if you are single, no problem. Saudi Arabia is home to five UNESCO World Heritage ... beheading vacation spot you'll never vacation in." Yes, you can, as long as you are 25 years old or more. I wonder one day, people will get what they actually deserve. However, I also went to Jizan, the region bordering Yemen and everything was extra peaceful. My question is, can we sleep on a hotel together? Full sleeves on both arms, chest is completely covered and am working on both legs. Thanks in advance. https://againstthecompass.com/en/places-visit-saudi-arabia-itinerary/, There is no need women to cover their body with an abaya, any more… It even happened that a complete stranger started kissing me. Thanks for the polite exchange and the fun read on Saudi Arabia. Distances are huge. Mann is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and English. Thank you for this amazing post. Visiting Saudi Arabia as an American woman, what are some things I should know? And does this visa have limit country? If you are short of time, a very good alternative is taking domestic flights. The rest of the borders, however, are currently closed: Yemen, due to the ongoing conflict; Qatar, due to their current diplomatic issues; and Oman, due to it being under construction. However, as long as you are respectful and have some understanding of their way of life you will fit in soon enough.A move to the country may be more challenging for a woman due to the variance in culture. Women don’t need to wear hijab – You don’t need to cover your head but, like I just said, you must cover your body with an abaya. These are the prices of the most typical things: Something you need to know: Saudi Arabia is the least walking-friendly place I have ever been to. Thanks to Joan for an otherwise fun, informative article. To avoid problems, it is essential to know what to wear in Saudi Arabia and, more importantly, what not to wear.. Same with Al Ula. I have the utmost respect for the culture and faith of Muslim people. By the way I am a filipino expat in this country. For centuries, Muslims from all over the world came to Saudi on their journey to Mecca and, at some point, decided to settle there. In my opinion, the only actual threat when traveling in Saudi Arabia are the extremely crazy drivers. You can also move by bus between cities. If you’re accompanied by a male nobody will come talk to you, at most you’ll have people stating at you for being different. Please note that I am not trying to justify the use of the niqab but I just wanted you to know that many Saudi women actually choose to wear it. Yo estoy ahora por aquí y se niegan a servirmela porque dicen que necesitan mi huella dactilar, la cual no figura en el pasaporte. Visiting Saudi Arabia as a tourist. Asking people to cover up is not harming anyone, it is just asking that people remain respectful of their culture and the prevailing religion there. Abdullah taught me many interesting things about Saudi culture, especially their interpretation of Islam. Different countries, different perspectives, different rules. So I got my visa….yeah…note to appliers that when you load your foto, it doesn’t show up til the end!! It was a pleasure to meet you again and hang out with you for a couple of days. Me ha encantado tu artículo, explicas muchísimos detalles interesantes y creo que es un sitio grandioso para visitar. The war is happening on the other side of the border, not in Saudi. Thanks a lot. There are no restrictions on what shoes you are or aren't allowed to wear in the Kingdom. Read: Places to visit in Saudi Arabia – Complete itinerary. Like in many Middle Eastern countries, in Saudi, you find loads of particularly kind people. The Saudi Embassy advises women to dress conservatively in public; that means wearing ankle-length dresses with long sleeves and not pants. The U.S. Department of State urges all potential visitors to carefully consider the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia. Women traveling alone are not allowed to enter the country unless they will be met at the airport by a husband, a sponsor or male relative. If it doesn’t work, you can just Google “Saudi Arabia shorts stepfeed” and check the news on Stepfeed’s website. I am planning a trip to Delhi and I found many well-priced tickets with a loooong layover in either Jeddah or Riyadh. Remember that, in Saudi, the internet is censored and, if you want to access blocked sites, you will need a VPN. If you don’t comply with these requirements, you may face penalties. Man and woman in traditional Arab clothing in Riyadh. From the Yemeni food-like dishes from the south to the olive oil-rich food from the north of the country, Levantine Arabic dishes such as vine leaves and makluba, foul and hummus for breakfast and, of course, the classic Gulf food that includes all sorts of rice with meat, the cuisine of Saudi Arabia also shows the cultural richness of the country. Juan.. Greetings. Thanks a lot , Hi Ani, in Saudi, the only compulsory thing is wearing an abaya to cover your body (not your head). if y'all have any questions I am more than happy to answer them. Nada wrote an article about this topic on my site, so if you want to know more, read: 9 misconceptions about traveling to Saudi Arabia as a woman. It is best to study Saudi customs and appropriate behavior before beginning your trip. I’m not trying to be argumentative. Very nice article. I’ve worn a kandoora when visiting mosques. When I finally reached Jizan, I decided not to hitchhike anymore. You could book your tickets through the website sharek.sa and, immediately after purchasing them, they would issue a legit and valid e-visa to travel to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is opening up more to tourists. All EU countries within Schengen zone + Andorra, Monaco, United Kingdom and Ukraine, Brunei, China, Canada, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, United States. Check:Somaliland travel guideEritrea travel guide. This kind of segregation is slowly disappearing, especially in Jeddah and Riyadh. Now, with the tourism boom that the country will suffer, let’s see how it goes. I mean, you should always be aware of your belongings but pickpocketing or being robbed is quite unheard of. it is obvious that who wrote this article didn't visit Saudi Arabia ever. This guide contains all the practical information. Therefore, if you want to access blocked sites and navigate anonymously, you will need something called a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Other countries limit harmful speech freedoms, something many US citizens find unforgivable. I am living in Saudi Arabia and know most of the things you said, So, I know most of the information you expressed in your blog. Women visiting Saudi Arabia will no longer need to wear an abaya. Questions about visiting Saudi Arabia alone as a white American woman Hi all, so I understand that Saudi Arabia has recently opened up its borders to foreign tourists, so I'm planning on visiting at some point in the near future. Here's what to look out for. Saudi Arabia is opening its doors to visitors from all over the world with a new entry visa regime in place from 27th September 2019. stay bless people of whole Saudia Arabia (both Hijaz and Najd), amen! You should appreciate that no Muslim would refer to themselves as a Wahabi as it is an insulting term, albeit deserving for some more extreme believers. (Photo: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images ). All air and sea points of entry between Saudi Arabia and Qatar were cut on 6 June 2017. In Saudi Arabia, accommodation is quite expensive, especially for solo travelers. Eat with your right hand, always – This is a generic Muslim rule but in Saudi is particularly strict. However, bring always some extra cash, as the Indian-run cafés and other more local places don’t accept cards. Women over 25 won’t need a guardian, but they will need to be part of a tour group. You might have some leeway if you’re a white foreigner, though. As per terrorism threat, I will not deny the fact that there have been some one-off terrorist attacks but even UK travel advice says that, except for the areas close to the Yemeni border, all Saudi Arabia is safe to visit. Saudi Arabia has been leading coalition air strikes in Yemen since 2015, following a request for support from President Hadi to deter continued Houthi aggression. Really love that one day, all those misconceptions about Saudi people also removed, and I wish they also get their true representatives one day. They also cover their heads with the ghutrah, which can be of different colors but red & white seems to be the most commonly used. SIGN UP THROUGH THIS LINK TO GET YOUR 35€ OF FREE CREDIT. Type here..Am so much happy for the wonderful information you give out about the culture and law operating in Saudi Arabia God bless, my dream is to be in Arabia one day not just for anything but to understand the language of Arabia to promote and advance the level of my education even if am to get someone who I will work with in any of his local company , May Allah help us all. Apparently, their results and experience were rather satisfactory and, along with the fact that Saudi is trying to find alternative ways of not being so dependant on oil revenue, they finally announced the introduction of an e-visa system, starting from September 2019. Plenty of reasons. Women can't open bank accounts on behalf of their kids without their husband's permission. i am saudi girl, i don't know some answers from some people sound like ages ago, what i am trying to say there are some things a woman should do and expect but come on it is not a jungle or something people are quit open than before. Arabic is the official language. Outside of Riyadh, on the way to the Edge of the World – T. Get this epic travel guide to Saudi Arabia! Because there are fewer than 100,000 Westerners thought to be living in Saudi Arabia, most Western women who travel there have been sponsored by their workplace for a specific period of time. For places to visit read my Saudi Arabia itinerary, VisaTravel InsuranceGetting to SaudiTourism in Saudi ArabiaIs it ethical?Blocked websitesHow to behaveThe people – The SaudisThe foodSolo female travelSafetyMoneyMoving around SaudiInternet and SIM CardAccommodationMore information, Amazing News October 2019 – E-visa finally available through visitsaudi.com – Continue reading to know more about it. Arab Fashion Week was female-only by necessity, so the clothing could be freely modelled and the audience could remove their abayas. However, in the visa application, I had to specify my port of entry and they didn’t give you the choice of selecting a land border entry point, so I preferred to just book a flight because, in any case, going from Muscat to Riyadh was a very long way and I didn’t even know about public transportation options. Very different Western cultural responses to the question of permissible freedom. These small earnings help me to improve and create more content for Against the Compass. Saudi Arabia has a different culture than the Western world and it sounds like they’ve been changing a lot of their rules to make it more liberal lately. Thank you for the clarification. You check all bus schedules and buy tickets on this website. Travelers should be aware of the following Saudi Arabia rules for women in order to avoid getting into trouble: Yes, it is OK, as long as you have valid visas for your next country. I strongly recommend World Nomads for the following reasons: CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR FREE QUOTE FROM WORLD NOMADS, If you want to know more options, read how to find the best backpacking insurance. The country is quiet, slow paced, and friendly. As a Saudi I felt offended. Is tracing possible there? At first, some women may find the thought of moving to Saudi Arabia daunting. You may need to update the part of the post about men wearing shorts, because that’s now illegal in public (unless you’re at a pool or a gym) pursuant to a new public decency law and you could get fined for it. Hi Joan! They were as hospitable as any Muslim man I had met before and the only difference is that I didn’t see their faces. Then, I tasted one or two different local dishes in some houses and the rest was all Indian food. Women are not allowed to do most of the jobs that men can do in Saudi Arabia. The comparison between the prerogative to wear shorts and the prerogative to bully people online is valid because both the judgment of either as right or wrong is rooted in changing cultural values. Find what to do today, this weekend or in December. Cheers. Women over 25 won’t need a guardian, but they will need to be part of a tour group. Places to Visit in Saudi Arabia, Middle East: See Tripadvisor's 34,872 traveller reviews and photos of Saudi Arabia tourist attractions. 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