Saudi Arabia, one of the most hermetic countries in the world for non-Muslims seems that it is finally changing and opening its borders to international tourists.
Let me tell you something:
Saudi is a great country, composed of lovely people, extremely hospitable, and home to some stunning natural sites, as well as jaw-dropping archaeological sites that you would never imagine.
It is really one of those countries which requires a couple of months to discover because, given its dimensions, there are loads, loads of things to see.
Seriously, I can’t recommend Saudi enough.
For all the practical information, including visas, don’t forget to read how to travel to Saudi Arabia in 2019
Capital – Riyadh
Population – 33 million (40th)
Language – Arabic
Visas – Since December 2018, they are issuing tourist visas only if you attended one of the many sport & cultural events that they occasionally celebrate. My practical guide to Saudi contains the latest information regarding this topic.
Ethics – Unlike what you may have read in the Western media, Saudi people are seriously great and there is absolutely nothing wrong with visiting the country independently. For more information, read: Is it ethical to visit Saudi?
Internet – Remember that in Saudi, the internet is censored, which means that some websites are blocked. If you want to access them, you will need a VPN. Read: How to find the right VPN for Saudi
Women – Saudi is very safe for solo women. Read: 9 Misconceptions about solo female traveling in Saudi.
When to visit – If you don’t want to melt, avoid coming here from end May till end of September, when temperatures average around 45ºC.
Travel Insurance – The health care system in Saudi Arabia is crazy expensive for foreigners, so travel with the proper travel insurance. I recommend World Nomads:
- The only company that offers unlimited medical coverage
- You can hire it while on the road
- It covers the largest amount of adventure activities
5 Tops experiences in Saudi – My favorites:
- The Old City of Jeddah – Built in the 7th century as a gateway for Muslims going to Mecca
- Explore the green mountains of Jizan – Dramatic landscapes and Yemeni-like culture
- See the sunset in the deserts around Riyadh – Ancient camel trails and breathtaking cliffs
- Get blessed by the local’s hospitality – Saudis are some of the most hospitable people on Earth
- Travel back in time in Madinah Saleh – A replica of Petra but even more remote
For more information, don’t forget to check my Saudi Arabia 2-week itinerary
Transportation in Saudi – Public transportation is really bad, so ideally:
- By plane – Given the big distances, taking domestic flights would save you a lot of time. Flyadeal is a local airline with pretty economical flights. Tip: There is no city made for walking in Saudi, so even if you fly, you will have to rent a car.
- Car – Feasible, assuming that you don’t mind driving long distances. I recommend booking it via Rental Car, a search engine that finds you the best deals all around the world.
Accommodation – There is no actual budget accommodation in Saudi and, for the cheapest deals, you will have to book a room through Airbnb. Remember that, if you create an account through my link, you will get up to 35€ in FREE credit.
Otherwise, apartment-hotels are a big deal in Saudi and they tend to be the most economical option.