Travel information


Flying to Saudi Arabia is an expensive proposition from the USA, and not much cheaper from Europe. There are buses between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Turkey. There is also a car ferry which links Jeddah to Suez, as well as passenger-only services from Jeddah to Port Sudan and Musawwa (in Eritrea). There is no departure tax.


Passports valid for at least six months and visas are required for entry. Visas are issued for business and work, to visit close relatives, and for transit and religious visits. Visas for tourism are issued only for approved tour groups following organized itineraries. Airport and seaport visas are not available. All visas require a sponsor, can take several months to process, and must be obtained prior to arrival. Women visitors are required to be met by their sponsor upon arrival.


Saudi customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning importation into Saudi Arabia of such banned items as alcohol products, weapons and any item that is held to be contrary to the tenets of Islam. This includes non-Islamic religious materials, pork products, and pornography. Saudi customs and postal officials broadly define what is contrary to Islam, and therefore prohibited. Christmas decorations, fashion magazines, and "suggestive" videos may be confiscated and the owner subject to penalties and fines. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington or one of Saudi Arabia's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.


The currency is called Saudi Arabian Riyal (SR) = 100 halala; 5 halala = 20 qurush. Notes are in denominations of SR500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1. Coins are in denominations of 100, 50, 25, 10, and 5 halala, and 10, 5, 2 and 1 qurush. Most foreign currencies can be exchanged at commercial banks and money-changers, which stay open longer. MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club and Visa are all widely accepted. Travellers’ cheques are widely accepted although they can be hard to change. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take travellers cheques in Saudi Riyal, Euros, US Dollars or Pounds Sterling and to carry the purchase receipt.


Saudi Arabia's deserts have extreme climates. From mid-April to mid-October, daytime temperatures is around 45°C (113°F) or higher throughout the country. In the dead of winter (December to January) things cool down in the cities: it's only around 15°C (59°F) during the day, and can be colder in the central deserts overnight. In the coastal areas it rains regularly, with high humidity in the summer, but there's very little rainfall in the capital Riyadh.


Tropical or lightweight clothing.


The official language is Arabic. English is spoken in business circles.

Special Events

Saudi Arabia's only holidays are Islamic. The most important of these holidays is Ramadan, a month when everyone fasts between sunrise and sunset to conform to the fourth pillar of Islam. Fasting during Ramadan is mandatory. There are strict laws against smoking, drinking or eating in public during this period. Ramadan ends with a feast, Id-ul-fitr and is concluded with prayers, celebration with friends and relatives and the exchange of gifts. Eid al-Adah, held around March, is the other big feast of the year, and marks the time when people of the Islamic faith make the pilgrimage to Makkah. The only non-religious festival is the Jinadriyah National Festival of folklore and culture, held every February.

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