Now that you can travel to Saudi Arabia with reasonable accommodations you just need to prepare for your holiday. But what do you need to take care of first?
Saudi Arabia is still a difficult country to enter, and you should expect a bit of pushback. You'll need to study the culture, and prepare for the logistical aspects of travel as well.
Be aware also that many people may attempt to persuade you to change your travel plans. But, if you keep up on current events, understand the customs and behave respectfully, as you should when travelling to any foreign country, you will make many memories.
1. Get Your Passport and Visa
When travelling to Saudi Arabia from the United Kingdom, you must have a visa as well as a passport that is valid for 6 months after your date of entry.
The visa is the most crucial logistical aspect of your travel when it comes to entering Saudi Arabia. Muslim's making their pilgrimage must also possess a visa. However, it is much easier for a Muslim to obtain a visa for entry than a non-Muslim.
Non-Muslims will likely go through a series of interview-style questions to explain their purpose in going to Saudi Arabia. If you are a non-Muslim and attempting to enter Hass or Umrah, you may need to reach out to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, located in London.
2. Gather Other Necessary Documents
The logistics of travel never seem to end, but these steps are essential. In addition to your passport, and visa you need a Yellow Fever Certificate and emergency travel documents.
It is illegal to enter Saudi Arabia with more than one passport, but Emergency Travel Documents are great for travelling within Saudi Arabia. Emergency Travel Documents are also useful for exiting Saudi Arabia if you're making multiple stops during your holiday.
To obtain a Yellow Fever Certification requirements, you must go through the National Travel Health Network.
3. Pack With Purpose
Knowing the weather is important, but you should also check the customs and preferred dress for the area you're visiting. If you're visiting any of the major cities, the dress code may be more forgiving. However, most regions of Saudi Arabia require very conservative clothing choices for both men and women.
Be sure that when you pack you choose fabrics that fit the season rather than cuts. During dry season you'll want light and breezy fabrics. During the wet season, you'll want something that will wick away moisture.
4. Learn the Local Customs and Understand Restrictions
Aside from the standard customs that come with a new country, when you're on holiday in Saudi Arabia, you should also be aware of photo restrictions. Because there are so many religious places in Saudi Arabia, taking photos is very restricted.
Other common customs include not gesturing, or generally using, your left hand. It’s best to politely walk up to someone and in a low voice communicate. Saudi Arabia takes great pride in their quiet demeanour and it’s important to respect that.
5. Get the Right Amount of Money, in the Correct Denominations
Many places in the world look down on the United States for the tipping culture present in restaurants, and throughout the transportation services. However, Saudi Arabia also has a tipping culture. When you take a taxi or dine in at a restaurant expect to leave a 10% tip. This 10% goes a long way, but, there are a few important things to take note of.
Most restaurants don’t have the option to tip on a card, and tipping in traveller’s checks is difficult at best. Always carry cash, U.S. dollar is one of the most common currencies, but you can also tip in local tender if you’re familiar with the exchange rate.
It’s essential that you have small denominations. Unless you’re in a fine dining establishment you probably won’t be tipping 10 or 20 dollars at every meal, and it’s hard to find someone that can make change easily. It’s always best to carry a number of singles or 5 dollar bills that are in good condition. When handling cash in foreign countries many people, street vendors included, refuse to take old or weather-worn bills.
This is a collaborative post.