Saudi Arabia is a common travel destination, particularly for those on a religious pilgrimage. Home to Mecca, this country draws millions of Muslim visitors every year. If you’re planning a trip to Saudi Arabia, there are several important considerations to keep in mind. The following nine tips will help you have a successful visit.
Practice Modesty at All Times
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Modesty is very important in Saudi Arabia. Women especially should take care to dress appropriately. All women should wear an abaya in public. This full-length garment goes over your outfit, which should itself be very modest. While a head scarf is not strictly required, wearing one will show a greater respect for the local culture and may help you avoid confrontations.
Men should wear full-length trousers. All shirts should have sleeves, though men can wear short sleeves. While dressing conservatively is more important for women, men should observe the local dress codes as well.
Understand and Respect Local Customs
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Though it may seem strange to a foreigner, there are many restrictions placed on women in Saudi Arabia. Women cannot travel alone. It’s advisable for all visitors to travel with a friend or partner. Women may not drive, either. Men and women are kept separate in many social situations and women aren’t permitted to enter certain establishments. Prepare yourself for these restrictions ahead of time and research the locations that you plan to visit.
As you approach various locations, keep in mind that there are often separate entrances for men and women. Locations such as beaches and amusement parks may keep different hours for men and women, so plan accordingly.
Know the Photographing Restrictions
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You’ll encounter some restrictions on the things you can photograph in Saudi Arabia. Items that you may not take pictures of include:
- Government buildings
- Muslim women
- Military installations
Interact Politely With Locals
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It’s appropriate to shake hands in greeting and as a farewell with locals. Kissing while greeting, as Europeans often do, isn’t permitted. Saudis stand very close to each other when in conversation, particularly when the people are the same sex. Don’t back away while others are speaking to you, or they may perceive the distance as an insult.
Watch How You Interact With Your Party
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It’s important to note that Saudis don’t hold hands, link arms, or take part in public displays of affection between individuals of opposite sexes. Maintain the appropriate distance, even if you’re traveling with your spouse or partner. Homosexual relationships are forbidden in this country, so homosexual couples should be particularly careful when traveling in this country.
Keep an Eye on the Weather
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Heavy rains and flooding, likely between November and February, have caused serious damage in recent years. If you’re planning to visit during this time, keep a close eye on the weather reports and follow any precautions provided to you when facing an impending storm.
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Tipping is a considerate practice in Saudi Arabia. It’s generally recommended that you tip about 10 percent for waiters, taxi drivers, and other service professionals. Your hotel may have a service charge included so you don’t always have to tip for room rental in Saudi Arabia.
Watch the Water
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You should avoid tap water for any kind of internal use in Saudi Arabia. Use bottled water for drinking, brushing your teeth, and cooking. Hotel pools are a safe place for a swim, but you should avoid freshwater pools, since they may contain Bilharzia — a parasite.
Arrange for Travel Insurance
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Healthcare in Saudi Arabia is generally good, but you’ll incur major expenses if you’re not properly insured. Talk to your insurance provider before you leave to determine if you have any coverage outside the country. Most travelers find that they need to get travelers insurance for adequate coverage.
Plan appropriately, with an understanding of the unique culture of Saudi Arabia, and you can enjoy a memorable visit to this destination. Saudi Arabia has much to offer to respectful visitors who prepare for everything this distinctive culture has to offer.