Travel tips when travelling to Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is renowned as the birthplace of Islam. The country’s other claim to fame is that it is very rich with natural resources particularly oil and gas. Also, the country is rich with gold, uranium, bauxite, coal, iron, phosphate, tungsten, zinc, copper, and silver. The native population makes up 90% of the total population with 10% of the native population being of Afro-Asian origin. The country boasts 7.3 million strong workforce which are composed of about 80% foreign workers who serve in various industries around the country. Saudi Arabia is well known as being a highly conservative country. Hence, it is advisable for tourists to learn its customs, laws, and culture.
Saudi Arabia’s laws comply with the Islamic Shari’a law since Islam is the official religion of the country. There are many restrictions, especially for women who are for instance banned from being behind the wheel. It is important for travellers to carry out early research about the country prior to travelling there. This is to avoid travellers from getting themselves into potential trouble which might lead to unwanted consequences. With that in mind and for your convenience, here are some travel tips when travelling to Saudi Arabia.
Gaining access to Saudi Arabia can be quite tough for some as there are many restrictions. Bear in mind that the currency, customs, and quarantine regulations in Saudi Arabia are updated fairly regularly. It is therefore advisable to visit the nearest Saudi Arabian embassy or consulate to obtain the latest updates on its local news and laws. If you wish to perform Hajj, you must have a Hajj visa. Ask your travel agent about this before you travel. You may not be able to enter Saudi Arabia if your passport or luggage has any evidence of prior travel to Israel, such as Israeli entry or exit stamps. Make sure you also have a valid passport with at least 6 months validity remaining prior to departing.
Whether you are a local or foreigner, you must respect the local laws of Saudi Arabia given the highly conservative nature of the country. Hence, you should mind your behaviour at all times when travelling to the country to avoid yourself from offending others. Be careful when taking pictures. You wouldn’t want to get yourself into trouble by pointing your camera at Saudi Muslim women which is strictly forbidden. Alcohol is strictly prohibited and unavailable for purchase throughout the country. The spreading of religious views and teachings which are opposed to Islam is also not allowed under any circumstances.
Saudi customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning the importation into the country of banned items such as weapons, non-halal items such as pork products and alcohol, pornography, and religious materials not pertaining to Islam. It is normal to shake hands with the locals when meeting them and on departing from a gathering. Kisses however are not permitted. Homosexuality is strictly forbidden. In this case, gay and lesbian partners would have to sleep separately. If you happen to visit the country during Ramadhan, bear in mind that all restaurants will be closed during the day and will only open in the evening once fasting is broken by the iftar (a meal or buffet).
Did you know that showing the soles of your feet to anyone in Saudi Arabia is considered a major insult? So, be careful of where you point your feet in public places. When it comes to women’s well-being, women are required to abide by certain rules and restrictions. They are not allowed to drive and must never leave home without wearing an Abaya. Whether you are a local or tourist, you too have to put on an Abaya if you are a woman. Men and women are not permitted to attend public events together and are segregated in the work place. Women cannot walk with men who are not their relatives. If you wish to ask for directions, it’s best to ask from people of the same sex.
Saudi Arabia evokes images of camels and deserts. It is a humid place indeed. Due to its extremely hot climate, it is advisable to wear sun block lotion when going under the sun. Take a bottle of water with you at all times to avoid dehydration and do not stay under the sun for too long. Saudi Arabia has many interesting malls to go to, so you can walk around in the air-conditioned malls. Trust me there is plenty to do both under and away from the sun!
People don’t steal in Saudi because stealing is immoral and committing such offence in Saudi Arabia can be your worst nightmare if you ever get caught! Never attempt to steal unless you don’t mind your hands and fingers getting cut off. Explore the country and you will be amazed with its buildings, food, malls, and vehicles. Most Saudi Arabians drive nice luxurious cars. Forget the camels! Believe it or not, the country has the world’s most number of beautiful and luxurious cars. Don’t be surprised to see an average family driving a fancy car! Visit Saudi Arabia today and experience it yourself. Your trip to Saudi Arabia would definitely be great, as long as you behave!