Travelling to Saudi Arabia: 7 Things to Keep in Mind
Saudi Arabia (officially known as the ‘Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’) is the second-largest among all the Arabian countries. It is the only country that shares a coastline along the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. A large part of Saudi Arabia’s terrain consists of desert, mountains, steppe, and lowland. Also, it is the holy ground of Mecca and Medina.
Thanks to its coastline, Saudi Arabia boasts of a rich and diverse marine ecosystem with over 1200 species of fish thereby making it attractive for scuba diving. Having one of the largest sand dunes in the world gives rise to many adventure sports, including mountain climbing, desert safari, dune bashing and sandboarding. If you wish to have a relaxed time with your family, you can visit Al Ahsa, one of the biggest oases on earth or go camping on the golden sands.
However, unlike other Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia follows strict rules in accordance with their religion and tourists are expected to follow the same. Failure to do so can invite penalties and punishment. Therefore, if you are planning a trip to this country from India, we suggest you opt for travel insurance from India to Saudi Arabia. In case you fail to adhere to any of the Saudi laws, the travel insurance for Saudi Arabia can save you a lot of money in terms of penalty.
Hence, we have listed 7 things to keep in mind while travelling to Saudi Arabia:
Visa and Documents
Saudi Arabia has opened up to tourists since September 2019. This is a landmark decision which allows travellers from across the world to experience the unique offerings of the kingdom. Visitors can get a multiple-entry visa with a validity of a year, allowing them to stay for up to 90 days.
If you are an Indian passport holder, you will need to apply for a consulate visa at the Saudi Arabian embassy. The below pointers need to be kept in mind while applying for a visa to visit Saudi Arabia:
- You need to have completed 18 years of age
- Minors need to be accompanied by guardians who are 18 years or older
- The validity of your passport must be for six months at least while entering Saudi Arabia
- Visa fees are non-refundable in case of rejection
- Documents required for the visa processing include:
– Proof of stay
– Return ticket
– Proof of employment
– Bank statement
– Flight details
– Complete personal information including home address
All airlines conduct visa pre-checks prior to boarding flights to Saudi Arabia.
Though Saudi Arabia has relaxed some of its stringent rules in recent times, it is still a fairly conservative country and tourists are expected to abide by the sartorial dos and don’ts. Since it houses the two religious cities of Mecca and Medina, it is advisable to pack modest clothing. Loose-fitting outfits in breathable fabrics will keep you covered and shielded against the harsh desert sun. Women no longer need to wear an abaya or headscarf in most parts of Saudi; however, you may throw in a few scarves, stoles and shawls. Men need to also be dressed properly, so opt for long pants and full sleeves. Most importantly, carry a good sunscreen lotion and sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sand. In case you are visiting the country during any festival, avoid wearing the colour red.
While the monarchy may have relaxed a few rules for citizens and tourists, there are still a lot of dos and don’ts that one needs to bear in mind while visiting the kingdom. Some of these prohibitions include:
- Display of pornographic material, images or symbols of any other religion
- Consumption of drugs and alcohol (including importing, brewing and selling)
- Wearing clothes in public that bear the language, images, or symbols encouraging discrimination or racism or promoting porn or drug use
- Taking pictures or videos of people, traffic accidents, crimes, other incidents or even religious places without permission
- Indecent behaviour, including those of sexual nature
- Playing music during prayer times
If found guilty of violating any of these prohibitions, tourists could be penalised or even imprisoned. The official website of Saudi Arabia has listed the ‘Violations to Public Decency and Penalties’, and it is advisable to download the same before travelling. Bear in mind that fines in Saudi can be very high and may disbalance your trip’s budget. Therefore, purchasing Saudi travel insurance becomes all the more important for Indian tourists.
Spring and Winter are the best seasons to visit Saudi Arabia as the weather is much bearable compared to the scorching summers.
- Spring (middle of March to the middle of June) – North witnesses temperatures dropping below 15 degrees Celsius at night whereas the central and southern regions average around 20 degrees after night. However, this period also has the highest rainfall, particularly in the central and southwest regions.
- Summer (middle of June to the middle of September) – temperatures soar to around 45 degrees Celsius. With the early mornings and late evenings being more bearable, this season is ideal for scuba diving, sailing and snorkelling.
- Autumn (middle of September to the middle of December) – cool breezes and gentler weather across the southwestern highlands and the northern regions mark the onset of this season. You can venture out for some strolling along the waterfront, dining al-fresco or visiting the cool desert springs.
- Winter (middle of December to the middle of March) – this is the best time to explore Saudi Arabia. The temperature is ideal for camping, rock climbing, visiting the emerald highlands and exploring the local cuisine and culture. If you are lucky, you might even see snowfall in the northern mountains blanketing the slopes and desert sands in a sheet of pristine white.
Saudi cuisine is an interesting confluence of the Gulf region as well as its Bedouin legacy. Some of the must-try dishes include kabsa, shakshuka, matabaq, jareesh, thareed, falafel, and shawarma. Some of the dishes tend to be spicy and can be followed with a glass of laban (buttermilk), kahwa or the famous Arabic coffee. For those with a sweet tooth, do try Umm Ali and ma’amoul. Almost all dishes are accompanied by an assortment of bread, cheeses, dates, fresh fruits and dry fruits.
Travelling Within Saudi Arabia
Saudi is well connected with four international airports and 15 domestic airports. Most reputed airlines fly to Saudi Arabia. Apart from this, you can also avail of local buses, ride-hailing apps like Uber and Careem and car rentals to ensure an easy commute within the country.
Protect Yourself With an International Travel Insurance
An international travel insurance policy is a must-have before you book your tickets. A good travel insurance Saudi Arabia policy will not only help you in case of any medical exigencies but will also serve as identity proof. When you decide to buy a travel policy, compare travel insurance on the Tata AIG website and choose one that best suits your requirement.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a lot to offer to tourists, right from the warm hospitality of its people to its rich and vibrant heritage, awe-inspiring landscapes, and eclectic cuisine. Time to say Salam Alaykum, Saudi!