Planning to visit Saudi Arabia? Immerse yourself in this essential guide for an unforgettable stay!
Saudi Arabia, a country of a thousand and one wonders which, since the opening of its tourist visa, has become an essential travel destination. Known for its rich historical heritage, its grandiose desert landscapes and its fascinating culture, to visit Saudi Arabia is to immerse yourself in a unique adventure. Wondering what to do, what to see, where to go, what are the local customs? Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place. Our guide will answer all of these questions and more. So get ready to pack your bags and embark on an exciting journey!
Read our Essential Saudi Arabia Travel Guide In 2023:
A booming new tourist destination
Saudi Arabia has recently opened up to international tourism , making it a booming destination. In addition to its historical and natural wealth, it benefits from significant investments aimed at promoting tourism. Pharaonic projects such as the development of leisure complexes in Riyadh or the creation of futuristic cities in the middle of the desert , such as Neom or The Line, attract the attention of the whole world. In addition, the country strives to facilitate entry into its territory. The tourist visa is now more accessible , which encourages more and more travelers to visit Saudi Arabia. International events such as the Dakar Rally or the Future Investment Initiative also attract a global audience.
Finally, Saudi Arabia is a destination still preserved from mass tourism (but not for long), thus offering an authentic and unique experience. A real gem for travelers looking for novelty and originality!
Table of Contents
Why visit Saudi Arabia?
To visit Saudi Arabia is to set out to meet a still little-known destination that has so much to offer. The country seduces with its rich historical and cultural heritage which offers a real journey through time. History buffs will delight in exploring archaeological sites from the pre-Islamic era, such as the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Mada’in Salih . But Saudi Arabia is also a spectacular nature that contrasts with the common image of a country in the Middle East . Between the mountains of Asir, the Rub al-Khali desert or the Red Sea and its incredible seabed, nature lovers and adventurers will be conquered.
And what about the meeting with the Saudis? Welcoming and warm, they are the beating heart of the country and will make your stay unforgettable. To visit Saudi Arabia is to discover an authentic and generous population , always ready to share its traditions and its way of life. Finally, for gourmets, Saudi cuisine is a real culinary adventure . You can taste traditional dishes with oriental flavors, accompanied by mint tea or Arabic coffee, for moments of pure delight.
In short, visiting Saudi Arabia means immersing yourself in a unique experience, rich in discoveries and emotions. You will surely come back from this trip with memories in your head and only one desire: to go back.
Where to go in Saudi Arabia?
The question arises from the beginning of the organization of a trip: where to go when you decide to visit Saudi Arabia? Between vibrant cities, bewitching deserts and breathtaking historical sites, the country offers a variety of destinations for all.
Riyadh, the capital, is a must . A modern and dynamic city, it reflects the new face of Saudi Arabia. Don’t forget to visit the King Abdulaziz Center for Knowledge and Culture for a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. Direction then Jeddah , “the door of Mecca”. Stroll through its old quarter, Al-Balad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or dive into the Red Sea to discover a rich and diverse marine life.
If you are a nature lover , the province of Asir and its mountainous landscapes offer great hiking opportunities. Its national park is a real jewel of biodiversity. Finally, a stay in Saudi Arabia would not be complete without an immersion in the desert . The experience of a night under the stars in the Rub al-Khali, the largest sand desert in the world , is simply magical.
Each region of Saudi Arabia has its specificity and beauty. So don’t hesitate to get off the beaten track and let yourself be surprised by the richness and diversity of this still little-known country.
What is the history of this country to better understand it?
Saudi Arabia, known today as the cradle of Islam , carries with it a long and fascinating history that dates back millennia. Over the centuries, different civilizations have left their mark there, thus enriching the historical and cultural heritage of the country.
As early as the 4th millennium BC, nomadic peoples populated this land , leaving behind vestiges such as the fascinating tomb sculptures at Mada’in Salih. With the advent of Islam in the 7th century, Saudi Arabia experienced a profound transformation. Indeed, it was on this land that the Prophet Muhammad was born and received the revelation of the Quran, making Saudi Arabia the spiritual center of the Muslim world .
During the 20th century, the country experienced profound upheavals with the discovery of large oil reserves, propelling Saudi Arabia onto the world economic stage . Under the reign of the Saud dynasty, the country experienced rapid development, while preserving its cultural and religious heritage.
What is the local culture to discover during your trip?
Visiting Saudi Arabia is much more than admiring breathtaking landscapes or visiting ancient historical sites. It also means immersing yourself in a rich and varied local culture, where age-old traditions rub shoulders with the modern aspects of a rapidly changing society .
Music and dance
One of the most fascinating aspects of Saudi culture is arguably its music and dance . Traditional dances, such as the Ardah (sword dance), performed at weddings or other celebrations, are a sight not to be missed. As for the music, it varies greatly from one region to another, mixing traditional instruments with modern influences.
But the discovery of the local culture also passes through the cuisine. Saudi cuisine is a real blend of flavors , influenced by Levantine, Persian and African cuisines. Do not miss to taste the famous Kabsa, a dish made with rice and spicy meat, or the delicious dates, often served with Arabic coffee.
Saudi literature , although less known, is also worth a look. Many contemporary authors like Abdul Rahman Munif or Ghazi Al Gosaibi offer captivating works of fiction that help to better understand Saudi society. Finally, religion plays a central role in Saudi culture . The country is the cradle of Islam and welcomes millions of pilgrims from all over the world for the Hajj every year. Visiting a mosque, respecting the rhythm of Ramadan or understanding Islamic values is an integral part of the travel experience in Saudi Arabia.
In short, discovering the local culture in Saudi Arabia is an adventure in itself, which will allow you to immerse yourself in an authentic and exciting universe.
What are the formalities and precautions for traveling to Saudi Arabia?
Before flying to visit Saudi Arabia, it is essential to find out about the formalities to be completed for a stress-free stay. Here’s what you need to know.
First, the visa . Since 2019, Saudi Arabia has simplified its visa process for tourists. It is now possible to obtain an electronic visa to enter the country . It will cost you around 120 euros and it is valid for 90 days. Remember that your passport must be valid for at least six months at the time of visa application.
In terms of health, no specific vaccination is required to travel to Saudi Arabia, but it is always recommended to be up to date with universal vaccinations.
Regarding dress standards , even if the country is opening up to tourism and modernizing, it is important to respect local customs. Women are especially encouraged to wear modest clothing that covers the shoulders and knees.
Finally, keep in mind that Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country where respect for traditions and customs is very important . Inform yourself in advance and adopt a respectful attitude for a rewarding and smooth experience!
When is the best time to visit Saudi Arabia?
When considering visiting Saudi Arabia, one of the key questions is undoubtedly: “ When to go? What is the best period? “. The answer to this question largely depends on what you want to do during your stay and the areas you plan to visit.
Saudi Arabia being a country with continental dimensions, the climate is extremely varied. However, it can be said that Saudi Arabia has two main seasons : a hot season and a milder season.
The hot season , which runs from May to September , sees temperatures soar to 50°C in some areas. Unless you are an avid heat lover, this time is generally not recommended for tourist travel .
The milder season, from November to March , is undoubtedly the best time to visit Saudi Arabia . Temperatures are milder, generally between 20 and 30°C, making visiting historic sites and discovering natural landscapes much more pleasant. Moreover, this period coincides with several cultural festivals, such as the Al Janadriyah festival in Riyadh, offering a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture. However, this period is also that of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. If you are planning to visit the Makkah region during this period, it is important to note that the city is extremely busy and travel conditions can be more complex.
What budget should I plan for this trip?
As with any destination, the budget for visiting Saudi Arabia varies depending on several factors such as length of stay, type of accommodation chosen, planned activities and spending habits.
Regarding accommodation , Saudi Arabia offers a wide range of options, ranging from luxury hotels to more modest guesthouses. A standard hotel in Riyadh or Jeddah can cost between 50 and 100 euros per night, while a 5-star hotel can easily exceed 200 euros. Added to this is the cost of meals which also varies according to your tastes and your appetite for culinary adventure, count between 5 and 15 euros per meal in a local restaurant.
Check for best deals:
Internal travel can be a significant chunk of your budget, especially if you plan to visit multiple regions. The cost of an internal flight usually varies between 50 and 100 euros, while a car rental costs around 30 euros per day. As for activities , entrance fees to tourist sites are generally low. However, if you plan to do excursions or guided tours, this can quickly increase your budget.
In conclusion, an average daily budget for a trip to Saudi Arabia could be between 100 and 150 euros per person , taking into account accommodation, food, travel and activities. However, remember that each trip is unique and that it is always possible to find ways to save according to your desires and your means.
How to get around the country?
You have managed to arrive in Saudi Arabia, but now the question arises: how to get around this fascinating country?
First, know that the Saudi road network is in excellent condition . The car is therefore the ideal means of transport to explore the country at your own pace. Many rental companies are available, but don’t forget your international driving license!
If you’d rather avoid driving, taxis and ride-hailing services (Uber and Careem to name a few) are widely available, especially in major cities like Riyadh and Jeddah. For longer journeys, the country has an efficient intercity bus network SAPTCO that connects the main cities.
Finally, for longer distances, Saudi Arabia has an efficient internal air network. There are several daily flights between major cities, which can be a quick and convenient option for travelers in a hurry.
What souvenirs to bring back from your stay in Saudi Arabia?
If you are looking for authentic souvenirs to immortalize your trip to Saudi Arabia, you will be spoiled for choice. The country is full of handicraft treasures that reflect its rich cultural heritage.
Among the traditional cloth items, we find the “bisht”, a kind of cape worn by men on special occasions. Elegant and refined, it is a top-of-the-range gift that will cause a sensation. For a more feminine choice, opt for an “abaya”, the traditional black dress worn by Saudi women.
As for food , you can bring back fresh dates, symbols of Saudi hospitality. Local spices, such as sumac and zaatar, will allow your loved ones to discover the flavors of the Middle East. Also be sure to bring back some Arabic coffee and a dallah, the traditional coffee pot, for tastings that will immediately transport you to the shade of a Bedouin tent.
Finally, gold and jewelry are particularly popular in Saudi Arabia. The gold souks of the big cities offer an impressive choice of jewelery at prices that are often more attractive than in the West.