A country that has now reopened to tourists from around the world, Saudi Arabia is home to ancient architecture, time-honoured traditions and truly spectacular landscapes. From the vast sands in the Empty Quarter to the modern metropolis of Riyadh, its capital, there is simply so much to experience here.
In Saudi Arabia, you will encounter UNESCO-listed Nabatean rock-cut tombs at Hegra, you’ll gaze upon awe-inspiring rock art at Jubbah that dates back to the 10th millennium and you will discover ancient petroglyphs at Al-‘Ula. The archaeology and history waiting to be discovered in this lesser-visited destination is incredible.
While it’s important to note that any visitor with evidence of a previous trip to Israel or with a birthplace of Israel listed in their passports may be denied entry to Saudi Arabia, it is much easier to gain access now as all that is needed is a tourist visa, which can be obtained online.
UK: All visitors, pilgrims included, will require a visa to enter Saudi Arabia. The application process can be done online, prior to travel, but the FCO also advises that visas can be obtained on arrival at any of its international airports. From the date of issue, tourist visas to Saudi Arabia are valid for 360 days and can be used for trips of up to 90 days consecutively. If, for any reason, you outstay your visa, you will face paying a daily fine.
USA: All visitors, pilgrims included, will require a visa to enter Saudi Arabia. The application process can be done online, prior to travel. Check with the relevant embassies for up-to-date advice and further details.
In Saudi Arabia, the currency is Saudi Arabian Riyal, often abbreviated to SAR.
Something you’ll find useful on a tour is a comfortable backpack, in which you can carry your daytime essentials as we will be away from hotels for long periods of time. As Saudi Arabia is located in the desert, you can anticipate high temperatures in the daytime and much colder weather as the sun sets. We would advise that you bring a quality sunscreen with you, along with clothing you can layer should the temperatures change and also to protect your skin from the desert sun. A lot of visits will be on foot, due to sites’ often remote locations, so a decent pair of walking shoes would be a welcome addition to any suitcase.
During your visit to Saudi Arabia, you should dress conservatively at all times and respect local customs as well as the Islamic faith, which is strictly adhered to here. Men and women are expected to refrain from public displays of affection, and the government advises not to take photographs or videos without first asking permission of the subjects. The Visit Saudi website is a great resource for how to behave and dress during your visit.
Arabic is the main language, but visitors will find that English is both widely spoken and written throughout Saudi Arabia. Call to prayer is something that takes place five times per day, and during prayer many businesses will close and things will come to a temporary standstill. It is important to respect this ritual.
Some restaurants might include a service charge as part of the bill, but if not then a tip of between 10% - 15% is acceptable. Tips can also be left in hotels at the end of a stay for the relevant members of staff to collect.