Saudi Arabia, officially recognized as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is an Arab nation situated in Western Asia, encompassing a significant portion of the Arab Peninsula. The majority of its population adheres to Islam, and religious freedom is governed by the nation's laws. While the country places a special emphasis on the Muslim faith, Saudi citizens are known for their warmth and helpfulness towards tourists. The nation's rich historical legacy, expansive desert landscapes, impressive forts, mosques, and temples are sure to captivate visitors. Furthermore, the unique festivals, Islamic customs, etiquette, and traditions will leave travelers intrigued and fascinated.
History of Saudi Arabia: Get to Know the Past of Saudi
The history of Saudi Arabia is a tapestry of ancient civilizations, Islamic expansion, and the rise of a modern nation. It begins with the ancient Arabian Peninsula, inhabited by various tribal communities and trade centers, including the city of Mecca. In the 7th century, Islam emerged in Mecca, and Prophet Muhammad's teachings spread across the region.
In the 18th century, the Al Saud family forged alliances and established control over parts of the Arabian Peninsula. By the early 20th century, Abdulaziz Ibn Saud succeeded in uniting various tribes, founding the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.
The discovery of oil in the 1930s transformed Saudi Arabia into a major player in the global energy market. This newfound wealth fueled modernization efforts and infrastructure development. In the latter half of the 20th century, Saudi Arabia became an influential figure in the Arab world and a strategic ally to Western nations.
The 21st century brought both challenges and reforms, with a focus on diversifying the economy away from oil dependence and implementing social changes. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 aims to reshape the nation for a more sustainable and diversified future. Throughout its history, Saudi Arabia has maintained a unique blend of traditional Islamic values and modern aspirations, making it a dynamic and evolving nation on the global stage.
Must-Know Tips for Traveling to Saudi Arabia - Ultimate Travel Guide to Saudi
Tipping and etiquette play a significant role in Saudi Arabian culture. Travelers need to be mindful of local customs and practices when visiting the country. Here are some key points to keep in mind for Saudi Arabia tourism:
- Tipping is customary in Saudi Arabia.
- When tipping, it's recommended to give at least ten percent to waiters or taxi drivers as a sign of appreciation.
Generosity with Locals:
- Behave generously and respectfully towards locals.
- Photography is often restricted in public places and around sensitive areas.
- Always seek permission before taking pictures, especially of people.
- If planning to visit deserts, check for sandstorm warnings in advance to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
Shopping in Saudi Arabia: Souvenirs and Memories from Saudi
Saudi Arabia offers a delightful shopping experience. The country boasts luxurious malls featuring a diverse range of renowned brands, making them a one-stop destination to satisfy all your shopping requirements.
Gold shopping enjoys immense popularity in Saudi Arabia. Additionally, the delectable and tempting dates make for wonderful souvenirs. Bazaars and souks are excellent places for budget-friendly shopping, where you can acquire exquisite handicrafts. Engaging in haggling is a common practice, so don't hesitate to negotiate for more favorable prices.
Here are some of the famous malls you can visit in Saudi Arabia tourism:
- Red Sea Mall (Jeddah): One of the largest and most popular shopping centers in Saudi Arabia, the Red Sea Mall offers a wide array of international and local brands, dining options, entertainment, and a spacious indoor ice skating rink.
- Kingdom Centre Mall (Riyadh): Located in the capital city, Riyadh, the Kingdom Centre Mall is known for its upscale shopping experience, featuring luxury brands, designer boutiques, and a panoramic sky bridge with stunning views of the city.
- Al Nakheel Mall (Riyadh): This mall is renowned for its mix of high-end fashion, electronics, home decor, and dining options. The Al Nakheel Mall is popular with both locals and tourists.
- Al Rashid Mall (Khobar): Situated in Khobar, Al Rashid Mall is a shopping hub with a variety of shops, restaurants, and entertainment facilities, making it a popular destination for families.
Nightlife in Saudi Arabia: Discover the Nights in Major Cities
Here are some places, that have great nightlife, add these places to your Saudi Arabia travel guide:
- Tahlia Street (Riyadh): Tahlia Street in Riyadh is known for its upscale restaurants, cafes, and lounges. It's a popular spot for locals and expats to gather for dinner and socialize in a relaxed atmosphere.
- King Abdullah Road (Jeddah): This area in Jeddah features various cafes and eateries, making it a hub for socializing and enjoying the evening. Local and international cuisine can be enjoyed here.
- Corniche (Khobar): The Corniche area in Khobar is a scenic waterfront promenade where you can take leisurely evening strolls. You'll find several cafes and restaurants along the Corniche offering sea views and a pleasant atmosphere.
- Resorts and Hotels: Many upscale resorts and hotels in Saudi Arabia offer private dining and entertainment options within their premises. These venues often host events, live music performances, and themed nights for guests to enjoy.
Currency in Saudi Arabia: Exchanging Tips
The currency of Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Riyal (SAR), which is abbreviated as 'ر.س' or 'SR.' It is further subdivided into 100 halalas.
You can exchange foreign currency at numerous outlets throughout Saudi Arabia, but avoiding changing money at hotels is recommended due to unfavorable rates. Commercial banks often offer more favorable rates, and ATMs are readily available in shopping malls, major airports, and even at the airport's Bureau de Change.
Language of Saudi Arabia: Communication Made Easier
Arabic is the official language of Saudi Arabia, with various regional dialects spoken across the country. English is widely used in business and education, and it's commonly understood in urban areas.
Here are some common Arabic phrases for tourists to add to their Saudi Arabia travel guide:
- Hello: مرحبًا (Marhaban)
- Good morning: صباح الخير (Sabah al-khair)
- Good evening: مساء الخير (Masa' al-khair)
- Thank you: شكرًا (Shukran)
- Please: من فضلك (Min fadlik)
Religion in Saudi Arabia: Know the Cultural Background of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is predominantly Islamic, with Islam as the state religion. The country follows the strict interpretation of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, which heavily influences its laws and social norms. To visit the majority of religious places, one must obtain a special visa, which is specifically for Muslims. Here is the list of religious places:
- Mecca (Makkah): A significant city in Islam, Mecca is home to the Kaaba, the most sacred site in Islam, located within the Masjid al-Haram (the Grand Mosque). It is the destination for Muslims undertaking the Hajj pilgrimage.
- Medina (Madinah): Another significant religious city, Medina is home to the Prophet's Mosque (Al-Masjid an-Nabawi), where the Prophet Muhammad is buried.
- Mount Arafat (Jabal al-Rahmah): Located near Mecca, this mountain is where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his Farewell Sermon during the Hajj pilgrimage. It is a key religious site visited by pilgrims.
- Al-Quba Mosque: Known as the first mosque in Islam, Al-Quba Mosque is located in Medina. It holds a special place in Islamic history and is a popular destination for religious tourists.
Daily Budget in Saudi Arabia: Planning your Finances for visit to Saudi
Planning your daily budget for Saudi Arabia is essential to ensure an enjoyable and comfortable visit. Here's a breakdown of estimated expenses to add to your Saudi Arabia travel guide to help you plan your finances:
- Budget Traveler: $30 - $100 per night for hostels or budget hotels.
- Mid-Range Traveler: $100 - $300 per night for mid-range hotels.
- Luxury Traveler: $300 and above per night for upscale hotels.
- Street Food: $5 - $15 for local street food and snacks.
- Casual Dining: $15 - $40 for meals at local restaurants.
- Fine Dining: $50 and above for upscale dining experiences.
- Public Transport: $2 - $5 for one-way fares on buses or trams.
- Taxi/Ride-Sharing: $10 - $30 for short rides within cities.
- Daily Transportation: $10 - $20 for public transport usage.
Attractions and Activities:
- Entrance Fees: $5 - $20 per attraction, depending on the site.
- Guided Tours: Prices vary but budget around $20 - $50 for guided tours.
- Entertainment: $10 - $30 for shows, performances, or cultural experiences.
- SIM Card: $5 - $20 for a local SIM card with data.
- Souvenirs: Budget as per your preferences.
- Incidentals: $10 - $30 per day for unexpected expenses.
Suggested 7-Day Itinerary for Visit to Saudi
Exploring Saudi Arabia over a 7-day itinerary offers a blend of rich history, culture, and natural beauty. Here's a suggested 7-day itinerary for Saudi Arabia tourism:
Day 1: Arrival in Riyadh
- The King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh will be the point of arrival.
- Check into your accommodation.
- Evening visit to Al-Masmak Fortress, an iconic historical site.
- Dinner at a local traditional restaurant.
Day 2: Riyadh Exploration
- Morning visit to the National Museum for an introduction to Saudi Arabian history and culture.
- Explore Diriyah, a UNESCO World Heritage site, including the At-Turaif District.
- Lunch at a traditional Saudi restaurant.
- Evening stroll at King Fahd Park or Salam Park.
- An evening meal at a local restaurant.
Day 3: Road Trip to Al Khobar
- Depart for Al Khobar by car or domestic flight.
- Check into your accommodation in Al Khobar.
- Visit Half Moon Bay for its scenic beauty and beach.
- Dinner at a seafood restaurant along the Corniche.
Day 4: Explore Al Khobar
- Morning visit to King Fahd Causeway.
- Explore Al Khobar Corniche, a popular waterfront area.
- Lunch at a local seafood restaurant.
- Visit Dhahran for the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture.
- Dinner at a traditional Arabian restaurant.
Day 5: Jeddah Excursion
- Depart for Jeddah by car or domestic flight.
- Check into your accommodation.
- Visit the historic district of Al-Balad with its traditional architecture.
- Lunch at a local restaurant.
- Explore the King Fahd Fountain and Jeddah Corniche.
- Dinner at a seaside restaurant.
Day 6: Tabuk Trip
- Explore the historic Al Baldah Castle, known for its rich history.
- Visit the Tabuk Fort, an archaeological site with ancient inscriptions.
- Enjoy a local lunch in Tabuk to savor the regional cuisine.
- Explore the beautiful Qayal Beach, a coastal area for a calm experience.
Day 7: Yanbu Trip
- Explore Yanbu's picturesque waterfront and enjoy a leisurely walk along Al Nawras Beach.
- Visit the Yanbu Flower Festival Park (if in season) or one of the city's beautiful gardens.
- Discover Yanbu's historic sites, such as the Yanbu Historic Area, the Old Town.
- Enjoy a relaxing afternoon on the city's Al-Bahr Beach.
- Farewell dinner at a local restaurant.
Q. Can I perform Umrah on a tourist e-visa?
A. Yes, you can use the tourist e-visa for leisure trips, visiting friends and relatives, attending events, and performing Umrah. A multiple entry visa is valid for one year and allows travelers up to 90 days' stay in Saudi, with multiple entries.
Q. Is it allowed to consume alcohol in Saudi Arabia?
A. No, as the sale, purchase, and consumption of alcohol and drugs is illegal in Saudi Arabia.
Q: What is the appropriate dressing for tourists in Saudi Arabia?
A: While exploring Saudi Arabia and visiting local attractions, it is important to adhere to conservative dressing. The dress code may vary depending on the specific establishment, with some places allowing casual attire while others preferring a more sophisticated look. However, it is essential to dress modestly when visiting places of worship.
Q: What precautions should I take to avoid getting sunburned in Saudi Arabia?
A: The sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so it's recommended to seek shade during these hours. Wearing protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, can help shield your skin. Additionally, applying broad-spectrum sunscreen to any exposed skin is crucial. Staying hydrated and considering the use of a hat or an umbrella for extra protection are also important measures to take.