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SAUDI ARABIA TRAVEL GUIDE

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Middle East and occupies about four-fifths of the Arabian Peninsula. It stands at the crossroads of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. It holds an important place in the religious map of the world as the cradle of Islam, the world's second-largest religion. Mecca and Madina, Islam's holiest shrines, are in Saudi Arabia. Uncountable pilgrims make their way into this country from all over the world.

 

As a country that strictly enforces Sharia law, if you are not prepared to accept several limitations on your behaviour and freedom of expression, or if you feel uncomfortable with such adjustments, you should not travel to Saudi Arabia.

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  • Capital: Riyadh

  • Government: Absolute monarchy

  • Currency: Saudi riyal (SAR)

  • Area: 1,960,582 km²

  • Population 33,7 million (2018)

  • Language: Arabic

  • Religion: Sunni Muslim majority and a Shia minority mainly in the eastern province.

  • Electricity: 127 or 220V, 60Hz (US, Schuko, Type G plugs)

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SEASONS AT A GLANCE

Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists. 

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Peak Season

Shoulder Season

Off Peak Season

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Climate Chart with avergae monthly temperatues and rainfall

BEST TIME TO VISIT SAUDI ARABIA

The best time to visit Saudi Arabia depends on the specific region you plan to visit and the type of weather you prefer. The country has a very hot and dry desert climate, with temperatures ranging from hot to extremely hot throughout the year. However, some parts of the country, such as the mountainous region of Asir and the eastern province of Al-Ahsa, have a more moderate climate with cooler temperatures and higher humidity. There are three main seasons in Saudi Arabia:

  1. Winter: The winter season in Saudi Arabia lasts from November to March and is generally the coolest and most pleasant time of year. The weather is dry and cool, with temperatures ranging from around 15-25°C (59-77°F). This is also the busiest tourist season, so you may want to book your accommodations in advance.
  2. Spring: The spring season in Saudi Arabia lasts from March to May and is characterized by warm temperatures and increasing humidity. The weather during this time of year is generally pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 25-35°C (77-95°F).
  3. Summer: The summer season in Saudi Arabia lasts from June to August and is the hottest and most humid time of year. Temperatures can reach as high as 50°C (122°F) in some parts of the country, making it a challenging time to visit for those who are sensitive to heat and humidity. This is a good time to visit if you are interested in outdoor activities such as hiking or camping in the desert.

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When trekking in Saudi Arabia, keep in mind that the air is dry and the sun is unforgiving.

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SAUDI ARABIA TRAVEL COSTS

The cost of traveling to Saudi Arabia will depend on a number of factors, including the time of year you visit, the length of your trip, your mode of transportation, your accommodation preferences, and your planned activities.

 

Here are some sample costs to consider when planning a trip to Saudi Arabia:

  • Flights: Prices for flights to Saudi Arabia will depend on your departure location, the time of year you travel, and how far in advance you book. As a rough estimate, you may be able to find round-trip flights from the United States for around $1,000-$1,500, although prices can vary widely depending on your specific route and dates of travel.
  • Accommodation: Accommodation costs in Saudi Arabia can vary depending on the type of accommodation you choose and the location. Prices for hotels and resorts in major cities and tourist areas can range from around $100-$300 per night, while budget options such as hostels and guesthouses may be available for $50-$100 per night.
  • Transportation: The cost of transportation within Saudi Arabia will depend on the distance you plan to travel and the mode of transportation you choose. Public transportation options such as buses and trains can be relatively inexpensive, while renting a car or hiring a taxi can be more expensive. As a rough estimate, you may be able to get around within cities using public transportation for around $5-$10 per day, while longer distance travel may cost $50-$100 per day depending on the mode of transportation you choose.
  • Food and drinks: The cost of food and drinks in Saudi Arabia can vary depending on where you eat and what you order. Street food and local restaurants tend to be more affordable than upscale restaurants and cafes, and prices for groceries and other essentials are similar to those in other countries. As a rough estimate, you may be able to get a meal at a local restaurant for around $10-$20, while a meal at an upscale restaurant may cost $30-$50 or more.

Overall, the cost of traveling to Saudi Arabia will depend on your specific needs and preferences. It is a good idea to create a budget and plan your expenses in advance to ensure that you have a smooth and enjoyable trip.

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TRAVEL TIPS FOR SAUDI ARABIA

Here are some travel tips to help you have a smooth and enjoyable trip to Saudi Arabia:

  • Plan ahead: It is a good idea to research your destination and plan your trip in advance to ensure that you have a smooth and enjoyable experience. Make sure to book your flights and accommodations ahead of time, and consider purchasing travel insurance to protect against any unexpected setbacks.
  • Respect local customs: Saudi Arabia has a conservative culture and follows strict laws and customs. It is important to respect local customs and dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites. Women should cover their heads and wear loose-fitting, modest clothing, and both men and women should avoid displaying public displays of affection.
  • Stay hydrated: The weather in Saudi Arabia is hot and dry, and it is important to stay hydrated to avoid dehydration and heat stroke. Carry a water bottle with you at all times and drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Be mindful of your surroundings: As with any destination, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to ensure your safety. Avoid walking alone at night, and be aware of your belongings to prevent theft.
  • Learn a few basic phrases in Arabic: While many people in Saudi Arabia speak English, it can be helpful to learn a few basic phrases in Arabic, such as "hello," "thank you," and "goodbye," to show respect for local culture and to facilitate communication with locals.
  • Get a SIM card: It can be helpful to purchase a SIM card upon arrival in Saudi Arabia to stay connected with family and friends and to have access to maps and other travel resources.

Overall, by following these tips and using common sense, you can have a smooth and enjoyable trip to Saudi Arabia.

REGIONS & HIGHLIGHTS OF SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi Arabia is divided into 13 regions, each with its own unique culture and attractions. Here are some of the main regions of Saudi Arabia and the highlights of each region:

  • Riyadh: Riyadh is the capital and largest city of Saudi Arabia, and is known for its modern skyline and cultural attractions. Highlights of the city include the Masmak Fortress, the National Museum, and the Kingdom Centre, a skyscraper with an observation deck offering panoramic views of the city.
  • Mecca and Medina: Mecca and Medina are the two holiest cities in Islam and are home to the Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) in Mecca and the Masjid an-Nabawi (Prophet's Mosque) in Medina, which are visited by millions of Muslims from around the world each year on the pilgrimage known as the Hajj.
  • Jeddah: Jeddah is the second-largest city in Saudi Arabia and is known for its vibrant culture and cosmopolitan atmosphere. Highlights of the city include the Al-Balad district, with its historic architecture and traditional souks, and the Corniche, a waterfront promenade with a variety of restaurants and cafes.
  • Asir: Asir is a region in southwestern Saudi Arabia known for its mountainous terrain and cooler climate. Highlights of the region include the Rijal Alma' village, with its ancient stone houses and terraced farms, and the Al-Hada Mountains, which offer hiking and camping opportunities.
  • Al-Ahsa: Al-Ahsa is a region in eastern Saudi Arabia known for its oases and date palm plantations. Highlights of the region include the Al-Ahsa Oasis, with its lush gardens and palm groves, and the Al-Hofuf Archaeological Museum, which features exhibits on the history and culture of the region.
  • Tabuk: Tabuk is a region in northwestern Saudi Arabia known for its desert landscapes and ancient ruins. Highlights of the region include the Madain Saleh ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring ancient rock-cut tombs, and the Tabuk Castle, a medieval fort with panoramic views of the surrounding desert.

Overall, Saudi Arabia has a diverse range of regions and attractions, each with its own unique culture and character.

WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi Arabia is a country with a rich history and culture, and offers a variety of attractions and activities for visitors to enjoy. Here are some of the best things to see and do when visiting Saudi Arabia:

  • Visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina: Mecca and Medina are the two holiest cities in Islam and are home to the Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) in Mecca and the Masjid an-Nabawi (Prophet's Mosque) in Medina, which are visited by millions of Muslims from around the world each year on the pilgrimage known as the Hajj.
  • Explore the ancient ruins of Madain Saleh: Madain Saleh is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the northwestern region of Saudi Arabia, and features a collection of ancient rock-cut tombs that date back to the Nabatean civilization.
  • Hike in the Al-Hada Mountains: The Al-Hada Mountains are located in the Asir region of southwestern Saudi Arabia and offer a range of hiking and camping opportunities, with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
  • Visit the Al-Ahsa Oasis: The Al-Ahsa Oasis is a lush green oasis located in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia, and is home to a variety of gardens and palm groves.
  • See the sights in the capital city of Riyadh: Riyadh is the capital and largest city of Saudi Arabia, and is known for its modern skyline and cultural attractions. Highlights of the city include the Masmak Fortress, the National Museum, and the Kingdom Centre, a skyscraper with an observation deck offering panoramic views of the city.
  • Shop and dine in the vibrant city of Jeddah: Jeddah is the second-largest city in Saudi Arabia and is known for its vibrant culture and cosmopolitan atmosphere. The city is home to a variety of shopping and dining options, including the Al-Balad district with its traditional souks and the Corniche, a waterfront promenade with a variety of restaurants and cafes.

Overall, Saudi Arabia has a diverse range of attractions and activities to offer visitors, from cultural and historical sites to outdoor adventures and modern city life.

WHAT TO EAT IN SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi Arabian cuisine is a blend of Middle Eastern and Arabian flavors, and features a variety of dishes made with ingredients such as lamb, chicken, rice, and vegetables. Here are some popular dishes to try when visiting Saudi Arabia:

  • Kabsa: Kabsa is a popular dish made with spiced rice and chicken or lamb, and is often served with vegetables and a side of yogurt or raita.
  • Shawarma: Shawarma is a popular street food made with shaved meat (such as lamb, chicken, or beef) that is grilled on a spit and served in a pita or wrap with vegetables and sauce.
  • Falafel: Falafel is a popular vegetarian snack made with ground chickpeas or fava beans that are formed into balls or patties and deep-fried. Falafel is often served in a pita or wrap with vegetables and sauce.
  • Hummus: Hummus is a popular dip or spread made with chickpeas, tahini (sesame seed paste), and spices, and is often served with vegetables or pita bread.
  • Mandi: Mandi is a traditional dish made with lamb or chicken that is slow-cooked in a pit filled with hot coals, and is served with rice and vegetables.
  • Biryani: Biryani is a popular rice dish made with spices, meat (such as chicken or lamb), and vegetables, and is often served with a side of yogurt or raita.

Overall, Saudi Arabian cuisine offers a variety of flavorful and satisfying dishes to try during your visit. It is always a good idea to be mindful of local customs and dietary restrictions when dining out in Saudi Arabia.

LGBTQ IN SAUDI ARABIA

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WHERE TO STAY IN SAUDI ARABIA

When visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time, the choice of areas to stay largely depends on the purpose of your visit and the cities you plan to explore. Here are some top cities in Saudi Arabia and specific accommodation suggestions for different budget ranges:


Where To Stay In Riyadh:

Riyadh is the capital and largest city of Saudi Arabia, known for its modern architecture, bustling souks, and cultural attractions.

Budget Accommodation:

  • Boudl Al-Malaz Hotel: Situated in the Al Malaz district, this budget-friendly hotel provides simple rooms, a cafe, and a convenient location near King Abdulaziz Historical Center.

Mid-Range Accommodation:

  • Radisson Blu Hotel, Riyadh: A mid-range hotel in the city center, offering comfortable rooms, a pool, fitness center, and several dining options including a rooftop restaurant with city views.

  • Mena Hotel Riyadh: Located in the Al Olaya district, Mena Hotel Riyadh provides mid-range accommodations with modern amenities, a pool, spa, and a choice of restaurants.

Luxury Accommodation:

  • The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh: Situated in the prestigious Diplomatic Quarter, this luxury hotel offers lavish rooms and suites, multiple pools, spa facilities, and a range of fine dining options.

  • Al Faisaliah Hotel, Riyadh: A luxury hotel featuring elegant rooms, a spa, fitness center, and several dining options including the iconic Globe restaurant with panoramic views.


Where To Stay In Jeddah:

Jeddah is a major port city on the Red Sea coast, known for its historic Old Town, vibrant souks, and modern waterfront developments.

Mid-Range Accommodation:

  • Mövenpick Hotel City Star Jeddah: A mid-range hotel in the Al-Madinah Al-Munawarah district, offering comfortable rooms, a pool, fitness center, and several dining options.

  • Radisson Blu Plaza Jeddah: Located near the Corniche, this mid-range hotel features modern rooms, a rooftop pool, spa facilities, and a choice of restaurants.

Luxury Accommodation:

  • Park Hyatt Jeddah - Marina, Club and Spa: Situated on the waterfront, this luxury hotel offers luxurious rooms and suites, a private marina, spa facilities, and several dining options overlooking the Red Sea.

  • Jeddah Hilton Hotel: A luxury hotel featuring elegant rooms, multiple pools, spa facilities, and a variety of dining options including a rooftop restaurant with panoramic views.


Where To Stay In Makkah (Mecca):

Makkah is the holiest city in Islam and is visited by millions of pilgrims every year for Hajj and Umrah.

Budget Accommodation:

  • Al Shohada Hotel: Located near the Grand Mosque, Al Shohada Hotel offers budget-friendly rooms, a restaurant, and easy access to the Haram.

Mid-Range Accommodation:

  • Swissôtel Makkah: A mid-range hotel offering comfortable rooms, a restaurant, and direct access to the Haram.

  • Hilton Makkah Convention Hotel: Located near the Haram, Hilton Makkah Convention Hotel features modern rooms, a restaurant, and views of the city and Haram.

Luxury Accommodation:

  • Fairmont Makkah Clock Royal Tower: Situated within the Clock Tower complex overlooking the Grand Mosque, this luxury hotel offers luxurious rooms and suites, several dining options, and panoramic views of the city and Haram.

  • Raffles Makkah Palace: A luxury hotel offering opulent rooms and suites, personalized butler service, multiple dining options, and exclusive access to the Haram.


These are just a few suggestions, and there are many other accommodation options available in Saudi Arabia to suit different preferences and budgets. Be sure to consider factors such as location, amenities, and guest reviews when selecting your accommodation.


Booking.com consistently return the cheapest rates for accommodation in Saudi Arabia. For longer stays, find unique homes worldwide on Holiday Swap, the most affordable travel platform that allows you to book homes anytime, anywhere in only a few clicks.

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DiscoverCars.com is a leader in online car rental bookings; we compare car rental deals from many companies so that you can choose which is best for your trip. 12Go connects the world door-to-door, from transfers to flights, under the same user-friendly ticket.

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