From the majestic deserts to bustling cities, this Saudi Arabia travel guide serves as your gateway to discovering the Kingdom’s hidden treasures. With insights on accommodations, budget-friendly tips, local delicacies, and memorable souvenirs, you’re equipped for an unforgettable journey through Saudi Arabia’s diverse landscapes and fascinating culture.
Fast Facts About Saudi Arabia
- Climate: Experience extreme temperatures, from scorching summers reaching 122°F (50°C) to milder winters around 59°F (15°C).
- Local Currency: The Saudi Riyal (SAR) is the official currency. Currency exchange is available at airports and banks, and credit cards are widely accepted.
- Power Voltage: Saudi Arabia uses a standard voltage of 230V. Don’t forget plug adapters and voltage converters for your devices.
- Language: Arabic is the official language. While English is spoken in urban areas, basic Arabic phrases can be helpful.
- Religion: Islam is deeply rooted in Saudi culture. Respect local customs by dressing modestly and adhering to Islamic practices.
- Safety: Saudi Arabia emphasizes safety, with low crime rates. Follow local laws and customs to ensure a smooth visit.
- Cultural Etiquette: Observe conservative dress codes, especially in public places. Avoid public displays of affection and dress modestly.
- Tipping: Tipping isn’t mandatory, but it’s appreciated. At restaurants and for services, around 10% is customary.
Best Time to Visit Saudi Arabia: Seasons and Festivals
- Fall (October to November): Enjoy cooler temperatures and explore historic sites like Diriyah and Al-Ula.
- Winter (December to February): Experience mild weather, perfect for exploring cities, like Riyadh and Jeddah.
- Spring (March to April): Witness the beauty of desert blooms and attend festivals like the Janadriyah National Heritage and Culture Festival (February/March).
- Summer (May to September): Despite extreme heat, this is when Umrah and Hajj pilgrimages take place. Coastal cities like Jeddah offer relief from the heat.
- Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha: Celebrate these Islamic holidays with prayers, feasting, and festive events. Dates vary based on the Islamic calendar.
- Janadriyah National Festival: Immerse yourself in Saudi culture at this annual event featuring traditional arts, crafts, and performances.
- Al-Qatt Al-Asiri Festival: Experience the artistry of Asiri women in Abha, showcasing vibrant mural paintings and cultural exhibits.
- Riyadh Season: Attend diverse entertainment and cultural events in the capital city during this festival held in October.
- Jeddah Season: Enjoy a mix of cultural, entertainment, and sports events in Jeddah during this lively summer festival.
Top Attractions and Things to See and Do in Saudi Arabia
- Al-Ula: Immerse yourself in history at this UNESCO site, known for the ancient Nabatean city of Madain Saleh and stunning rock formations.
- Riyadh: Explore the capital’s blend of modern skyscrapers and historic landmarks like the Masmak Fortress and King Abdulaziz Historical Center.
- Jeddah: Wander through the city’s historic district, Al-Balad, with its traditional architecture, bustling souqs, and the iconic King Fahd Fountain.
- Medina: Visit the second holiest city in Islam, where the Prophet’s Mosque is a serene and spiritually significant site.
- Riyadh Gallery Mall: Indulge in shopping, dining, and entertainment in Riyadh’s largest mall, a modern hub for leisure and retail therapy.
- Red Sea Beaches: Relax on pristine beaches in Jeddah or Al Khobar, enjoying clear waters and vibrant coral reefs for snorkeling and diving.
- Edge of the World: Venture to this natural wonder near Riyadh, a stunning cliff formation offering breathtaking views of the desert.
- Asir National Park: Hike amid lush greenery and terraced fields in Abha, enjoying cooler temperatures and striking landscapes.
The Best Ways To Get Around Saudi Arabia
- Domestic Flights: For covering long distances, opt for domestic flights, connecting major cities like Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam.
- Public Buses: Economical and comfortable, public buses are available for travel between cities and within urban areas.
- Taxis and Ride-Sharing: Taxis and ride-sharing apps like Uber provide convenient door-to-door transportation in cities.
- Metro System: Riyadh’s metro system (under construction) and Jeddah’s planned metro will provide efficient urban travel options.
- Renting a Car: Renting a car offers flexibility, ideal for exploring remote areas and embarking on road trips.
Accommodation Tips: Saudi Arabia
- Luxury Hotels: Indulge in lavish stays at iconic hotels like the Burj Rafal in Riyadh or the Ritz-Carlton in Jeddah.
- Business Hotels: Opt for well-appointed business hotels in major cities, offering modern amenities and convenient locations.
- Boutique Resorts: Experience personalized service and unique charm at boutique resorts, such as the Al Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh.
- Traditional Guesthouses: Immerse yourself in local culture by staying at traditional guesthouses in historic areas like Al-Balad.
- Agritourism: Escape the city and enjoy a serene stay on a working farm, offering a taste of rural life in places like Al Kharj.
Saudi Arabia Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
- Free Museums: Explore cultural treasures without spending a riyal at museums like the National Museum in Riyadh on Fridays.
- Public Parks: Enjoy leisure time in public parks like King Abdullah Park in Riyadh, providing free access to green spaces.
- Heritage Sites: Visit heritage sites such as Al-Turaif District in Diriyah, offering insight into Saudi Arabia’s history and architecture.
- Local Eateries: Savor budget-friendly and delicious meals at local eateries serving shawarma, falafel, and other Saudi delights.
- Travel Passes: Invest in travel passes like the “Riyadh Xpress” card, providing discounted rates for public transportation.
Culinary Delights and Traditional Cuisine in Saudi Arabia
- Kabsa: Relish Saudi Arabia’s national dish, Kabsa, a flavorful rice and meat dish infused with aromatic spices.
- Mutabbaq: Enjoy these savory pastries filled with spiced meat, vegetables, or cheese, a popular street food.
- Harees: Delight in this comforting dish of slow-cooked wheat and meat, often enjoyed during Ramadan.
- Sambousek: Indulge in crispy, savory pastries filled with minced meat or cheese, commonly served as appetizers.
- Qursan: Treat your sweet tooth with Qursan, a traditional dessert made from dates, flour, and ghee.
Souvenir Ideas: Bringing a Piece of Saudi Arabia Home
- Oud Perfume: Bring back the captivating scents of Saudi Arabia with locally crafted oud-based perfumes.
- Traditional Coffee Set: Invest in a traditional coffee set, including a dallah (coffee pot) and small cups, reflecting Saudi hospitality.
- Islamic Art and Calligraphy: Purchase intricate pieces of Islamic art and calligraphy, showcasing the country’s cultural heritage.
- Dates and Sweets: Share the sweetness of Saudi Arabia by bringing back delicious date varieties and traditional sweets.
- Arabian Spices: Pack your suitcase with aromatic Arabian spices like saffron, cardamom, and sumac, adding a taste of Saudi cuisine to your meals.