About Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has beautiful beaches, crystal clear rivers, captivating oases and mesmerizing mountain tops. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is also a place rich in culture. Saudi Arabia gets revered for its two holy sites: the Prophet’s (PBUH) mosque in Medina (Masjid an-Nabawi) and the colossal mosque in Mecca (Masjid al-Haram).
With the current government in power, Saudi Arabia has seen much development on the tourism front with the construction of glittering malls, luxurious hotels and the adoption of a slightly more relaxed attitude which resulted in the lifting of the truly despicable and asinine ban on woman driving cars. However, the strict regime still ruling the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is consistently ranked among the “worst of the worst” for human rights, so bare this in mind if planning to visit.
Saudi Arabia Travel Info
Language: The official language is Arabic spoken by over 90 percent of the population. English too is widely spoken and has become a compulsory language in many schools.
Currency: Saudi Riyal.
Visa: Saudi Arabia has issued their first tourist visa on 1st April 2018 allowing single women over the age of 25 years, who are not accompanied by a male to be given a 30 day tourist visa. LOL.
Electricity: Saudi Arabia operates on 110/220 volts with a frequency of 60 Hz. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
Saudi Arabia Festivals & Celebrations
Al Janadriyah Festival: Al Janadriyah Festival is the most popular festival in Saudi Arabia and its popularity has gone beyond national borders. The rich history and culture of Saudi Arabia is the main highlight of this festival. The festival begins with an huge opening ceremony followed by a camel race which is thronged by locals.
Al Hareed Festival: The meaning of Hareed in English is “Parrot Fish.” Being a popular delicacy enjoyed by many, Parrot fish is found in massive quantities in the Red Sea. Every year during April, May the Parrot fish move in the Shallow water and local fishermen compete with each other to catch these fish.
Kuna Kida: Kuna Kida is one of those cherished festivals which people mark in their calendar months ahead. The old areas of Jeddah, in particular, Al Balad is famous for hosting this festival. The festival revolves around the rich cultural heritage. Various food stalls in this festival serve traditional cuisines, in particular, Arabian Shawarma.
Safety In Saudi Arabia
Although Saudi Arabia is a relatively safe country for travelers to visit, female tourists should pay particular attention to their attire so that they do not violate local rules which are much stricter than in Qatar or UAE. Always keep a duplicate copy of your travel documents and be extra careful when using public transport and in crowds. I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks or months before you plan to visit Saudi Arabia.
Top Things To Do In Saudi Arabia
Explore the Tabuk Castle, Tabuk
Tabuk castle dates back to 1559 and has now transformed into a museum. Within the castle, there is a mosque on the ground floor, an open courtyard, and stairs leading to the other mosque as well as a watchtower. Outside the palace are cisterns that were used to uphold spring water. Among the other valuables and artifacts exhibited in the museum are some documents and antiques that date back to the time of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
Make a trip to Deerah Souq, Riyadh
Souq stands for a market, and Deerah Souq is an Arabian market located behind the Masmak Fort. Here you can purchase souvenirs for your friends and family as there are many options to choose from at throw-away prices. You can easily find toys, key chains, ref magnets, shawls, scarfs, lanterns, carpets, makeup, scented oils, dresses, spics, and everything of need in the stalls here.
Witness the beauty of Riyadh from Sky Bridge
The most exquisite place in Riyadh is the magnificent and huge Sky Bridge famous for its captivating panoramic views of Riyadh city. At 56 meters the Sky Bridge, the third largest skyscraper in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stands on the 99th story of Kingdom Tower. Two special lifts do the job of ferrying the people in this humongous building. Irrespective of any time of the day and night, the views from this skyscraper are enchanting.
Visit National Museum, Riyadh
One of the best ways to understand any country is through visiting its museums; Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is no exception. The National Museum of Saudi Arabia is the epicenter of the ancient and rich culture and heritage. The Museum has eight halls namely: Arabian Kingdom, Man and the Universe, The Prophet’s Mission, The Pre-Islamic Era, First and Second Saudi States, Islam, and the Arabian Peninsula, The Hajj, The unification, and Two Holy Mosques. The museum has precious antiques, artifacts, and manuscripts.
Explore the Marine Life at Fakieh Aquarium, Jeddah
Fakieh Aquarium has a vast variety of Marine animals that includes Sharks, turtles and many more. On Wednesday night the Aquarium opens only for Ladies. The multifaceted compound features Kingdom’s first Ice skating rink which not only attracts kids but adults also. The complex also houses buffet-style small restaurant facing the Red Sea. Since many people in the evening throng the Fakieh Aquarium, the traffic is immense and parking almost non-existent. It is recommended to arrive early to avoid the massive crowd.
Hejaz Railway Station, Tabuk
Hejaz Railway Station representing the architecture of the 20th century is in the middle of the city. Hejaz is a coastal region of the western Arabian Peninsula bordering the Red Sea; it was formerly an independent kingdom until it got united with Nejd to form Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The station houses a workshop, a train engine, and a cargo car. Just adjacent to it is a state of art museum that features the history of Hejaz Railway Station.
Explore Qasr-al-Farid (the Lonely Castle)
Mada’in Saleh has many ruins among which one stands separate from the rest. It is the lonely castle that is carved out of a single enormous boulder and is a stunning piece of architecture that can give fierce competition to any carved structure on the globe. The castle got constructed in the 1st Century CE, and the construction never ended. The composition can be better described as a tomb built as a part of the ancient Nabatean site of Hegra.
Visit the Al Wahab Crater
Al Wahab Crater is situated in a barren desert and is believed to have come into existence as a result of volcanic activity. There must have been a massive steam explosion below the ground caused by the flow of magma into a nearby bottomless source of water. The eruption that would have happened as a result of this activity would have launched a massive amount of land into the air, thus forming the crater that we see today.
Spend some time at the Eve’s Tomb, Jeddah
It is one of the oldest cemeteries located in Al Balad, Jeddah and a small board on the gate reads, ‘our mother eve.’ Inside is a tomb that is believed to be of Eve. Initially, the tomb was 120 meters long, 3 meters wide and 6 meters high, but then it began to deteriorate due to neglect. However, it is a belief among some Muslims that when Adam and Eve got thrown out of Eden, they chose separate ways, Adam went to Mecca to build the Sacred Kaaba while Eve went to Jeddah.
Relive history at the Za’abal castle, Sakakah
In the northwest of Saudi Arabia, on the top of a mountain, sits a structure made of mud and stone, called the Za’abal Castle. It is not just a castle but is also on the top of a well system that has been the source of water for the city of Sakakah for hundreds of years. It is a belief that the construction of the castle took place some 200 hundred years ago, but archeological evidence proves that there have been several structures here since the 1st century AD.
Other than these top things to do in Saudi Arabia, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Be prepared to be flexible because sometimes other travelers that you meet on your travels will have the best suggestions for things to do in Saudi Arabia that are off the beaten path.
What To Eat In Saudi Arabia
Shawarma: The Shawarma of Saudi Arabia is exceptionally delectable and unique. The locals roll the shredded chicken, pickles, fries and garlic sauce into khubz (a flatbread). Shawarma did not originate in Saudi Arabia but has become an extremely loved street food.
Kapsa: Kapsa is the national dish of the country which can be easily prepared using chicken and rice as the main ingredients cooked in cinnamon, saffron, black lime, cardamom, bay leaves, and nutmeg. The result is an ultimate dish that is immensely satisfying.
Mutabbaq: The origin of Mutabbaq is Yemen, and it means ‘folded.’ It is a pancake that is stuffed and folded before being served. The stuffing is of vegetables, and the dish is delicious.
Saleeg: Saleeg is one of the favorite dishes of Saudi Arabia, and if you are inviting people over for lunch, the recipe will prove to be ‘face-saving.’ The preparation is just like risotto but the locals cook the rice in milk, and then the broth is dished up with chicken.
Maamul: Maamul is small morsels of deliciousness. These are small shortbreads filled with dates or pistachios or some other sweets. As per Arabic tradition, such desserts get served with mint tea or coffee, so start preparing your choice of beverage while the goodies are still in the oven.
Where To Stay In Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is a moderately priced place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Saudi Arabia is easy but finding affordable accommodation, if you’re on a tight budget, is the hard part. Luckily Saudi Arabia cheap hotels make travel here really affordable for backpackers and anyone visiting Saudi Arabia on a tight budget.
Whether you’re a backpacker, flash-packer or a luxury vacationer, Saudi Arabia will not disappoint. Still, a basic 3 star hotel room in Saudi Arabia can cost about $50 a night. If you’re traveling to Saudi Arabia during peak season or you prefer to stay in a luxury hotel then it’s wise to book your accommodation well in advance and expect to pay a high price.
Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best accommodation options have already been snapped up. Saudi Arabia is a popular year-round destination with business travelers and sight-seeing tourists alike.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Saudi Arabia.
If you’re backpacking in Saudi Arabia or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in the Middle-East much more affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
Saudi Arabia Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit Saudi Arabia
The best time to visit Saudi Arabia is between April and October, this is if you want mild and reasonably warm weather. December and January is peak tourist season and be aware that the iconic sights get very crowded.
Saudi Arabia Travel Budget
Saudi Arabia can be an expensive city if you want to see all of the popular tourist attractions and do lots of excursions but it’s still generally an affordable destination for travelers on a low budget. The cost of your trip to Saudi Arabia depends on the level of comfort you will want while here. If you’re backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating fast food then budget between 35 to 50 USD a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between 50 to 100 USD per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants in places like Riyadh then budget about 250 USD plus a day.
- Budget: $35 – $50
- Mid-range: $50 – $100
- Splurge: $150 +
Meal For One
- Budget: $8 – $25
- Mid-range: $25 – $60
- Splurge: $60 +
Saudi Arabia Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to Saudi Arabia, like most other places in the Middle-East is easy, just remember to pack lightweight and breathable clothing because the Middle-East can get very hot.
If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need while you’re in Egypt. Prices are generally higher in smaller boutiques than they would be online so expect to pay a premium if you don’t have the option of shopping around due to time restraints on your Saudi Arabia trip.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Saudi Arabia include a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to Saudi Arabia check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate Middle-East Packing List For Female Travelers.