Saudi Arabia was one of the countries that as always remained unwelcoming towards tourists and visitors. However, recently, the country has started becoming more open to visitors. The change occurred in 2019, and now non-Muslims can also visit the largest country in the Middle-East. Tourists have also remained curious about entering the gates of the country, but the thought of the strict rules and rigidity of the country are still common. If you do not follow the popular belief, and still want to visit the country, here is everything you need to know before you book your flight.
The Purpose Of Your Visit
Saudi Arabia is a country that doesn’t compromise on anything. If you think that opening up for tourism can help you get away easily, you are mistaken. You must have every document prepared that proves your visiting purpose in the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. If you are a recent convert and want to perform Umrah, you must have contacts with Umrah travel agents and they will guide you about all the documents you should have. If you are on a business trip, make sure you have a permit from your company along with all the other documents and the confirmation from the Saudi company where you are awaited for a meeting. As a tourist, you must have a permit for tourism from your home country.
Visa Processing Takes Time
Understand that getting a visa can take time. You will need to apply at least 6months before you plan to visit Saudi Arabia. Some countries get an instant visa while some don’t even need a visa such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, UAE. If you have an Israeli stamp on your passport, you will be instantly rejected for a visa to Saudi Arabia. You get a 1-year visa on which each visit can be for 90days.
The temperature in Saudi Arabia can rise above 50 in summers, which means you will have to stay indoors all the time. The heat limits your mobility, and you cannot enjoy the beauty of the places you want to visit. You can only visit markets and shopping malls that are fully air-conditioned. If you want to enjoy your stay in the country, you should visit between November and February when the weather is cold and pleasant.
Non-Muslims Cannot Travel On Bus
You may feel dishearten or discriminated by reading this, but non-Muslims are not allowed to travel on buses. There is no subway or tram system in the country and the routes are so long. There is a train from Dammam to Al Hasa and between Dammam and Riyadh that you can use. You will need to book a flight to travelling to any other city. For daily commute in the city where you are staying, you must book a car because you do not have any other option.
Be Careful In Public Spaces
If you are a couple visiting the country, you will first have to prove your marriage. Other than that, you will find a lot of segregation between both genders. There will be separate lines for entrance and separate seating for men and women. Do not show any sort of affection when you are in public and make sure you are wearing decent clothing. Non-Muslim female tourists are required to at least wear a cloak over their clothes. Do not make your visits to the stores or supermarkets during the times of prayers. If you want to perform your religious activities, do it in private, and do not try to preach your beliefs. Consumption of drugs and alcohol is illegal in the country, and you can go to jail for breaking this law.
The Social Customs
The customs and ways to welcome any guests is as warming as in your country. For people who think that Saudis are inhospitable, you should surely visit the country to see for yourself. Locals are generous and curious about outsiders. You will see people inviting you to share a cup of Kahwa (Arabian coffee) or to join them in their Majlis (social gathering) so that they can ask more about you and guide you about their country. Their gatherings are quite appealing with tents, floor cushions, and a centre table where people sit and discuss many things. Men can shake their hands with each other as a gesture of greeting. Refrain from doing so with a woman. Instead, place your hand on your heart to greet.
Saudi Arabia is a safe country to visit because there are extremely strict rules and punishments for crimes. You cannot leave your shop for one second in your country, but you will see all the shops open and empty whenever the Azan calls. No one is worried about their open shops because the theft rate is zero in the country. Other crimes are also not commonly seen. However, you still need to be careful while visiting a deserted area.