10 Most Common Questions & Answers on Traveling Alone to Saudi Arabia

One of my favorite things about traveling is the opportunity to experience life through my own personal experience, rather than living through the media and the biased opinions of others.

Saudi Arabia has always been one of those taboo places that, until now, has been impossible to visit for tourism purposes.

However, with the new revolutionary changes that have taken place in 2019, Saudi Arabia has now opened their doors, allowing for people to travel and discover their country and culture from all across the globe.

I was one of the very first travelers to visit KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) on the new tourist visa.

Just a side note: my trip was self organized and 100% paid on my own. No one paid me to give an opinion on Saudi Arabia. 

During my stay I was able to explore the country alone for over three weeks and have an experience that was unlike any other that I have had across over 108 countries across the world.

Saudi Arabia has not had the best reputation in the world over the years and many travelers claim that they would never feel safe traveling there.

When I mentioned to the public that I was going to travel in Saudi, I received hateful messages and warnings that I would not come out alive.

Traveling through Saudi Arabia in person is completely opposite than what you see or hear about in the media.

It may be a surprise to you, but I actually I felt safe.

VERY safe….

Okay, that is everything except for the drivers, but that is something that I will discuss later.

Not only did I feel safe, but I truly met some of the kindest and most caring people that I have ever met.

In this article I wanted to talk about and answer the 10 most common questions I received during my solo trip in Saudi Arabia. 

1. Do you have to fully cover yourself up or wear the typical black abaya?

The rules in Saudi Arabia have drastically changed, and one of these rules is not obligating women to wear the black abaya.

It is mandatory that you abide by a very conservative dress code:  covering your shoulders, chest, legs, etc. 

Your clothes should not be transparent or have any inappropriate words or pictures on them.

It is not necessary for tourists to wear a headscarf, unless they are visiting a mosque or a holy place.

I traveled throughout the country with my hair showing. The most important thing here is not about covering your hair, it’s about covering your body.

If you dress appropriately and conservatively, people will respect you and most likely you will have no problem.

My local Saudi host does not cover her head unless she goes into a formal meeting or mosque. This is very common for Saudi women, especially those who have lived or traveled abroad.

It is not mandatory now for local Saudi women to dress with the black abaya like they used to either. Women are free to wear colorful and stylish clothes, but always conservative.

2. Can women travel alone and freely in the country?

Absolutely!

You can travel and drive alone as a tourist and a local. No one gave me a hard time at all as a solo traveler in any part of the country. I met many local girls that travel throughout Saudi and internationally on their own.

After 21 years old women are free to do whatever they want without the approval of their family.

Tourists are free to visit most places, but it is prohibited to travel to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. This is only open to Muslims.

People have been known to sneak in, but I highly discourage this.

3. How can I get around Saudi Arabia?

The bus system is not excellent and it’s quite difficult and time consuming to get around the country.

For example, if you want to travel by land from Riyadh to Jeddah, you will need to go to a bus station that is over an hour away from Riyadh (way more with traffic)!

The worst part is that there is no public transportation that can take you there, so you must have a car or taxi. It is not always easy to find a person with a car that will go one hour there to drop you off and one hour back home again.

There is the option for UBER and Careem, but the distances are very far in the cities, so the price will be quite expensive, especially to the bus station.

There is a train from Riyadh to Dammam, but it’s outside of the city as well, but not as far. This is a good option if going east, but there are no trains to Jeddah.

Without a doubt, the best way to get around is by car.

And yes, local and foreign women can drive!

Riding through Dammam, Saudi Arabia in a Classic Car

If you are not a good or confident driver, it is best to be a passenger. Saudi drivers are some of the worst drivers I have ever seen (if you ask any Saudi person they will most likely agree to this statement).

You truly need to have confidence in order to rent a car here, because it’s a huge risk.

I saw multiple hit and run accidents and totaled cars on the highway. That is not to scare you, but just to be honest.

If you decide to rent a car, the prices will range around $25-$40 per day and a maximum mileage of 300km.

If you are on a time crunch or want the most convenient way to get around, flying is the best option.

The airport in Riyadh and Jeddah are centrally located and will take you anywhere in the country for a low price.

Most airlines will allow you 7 kg of weight with no extra cost. The flight times are short and the prices are excellent. You can fly anywhere between $25-$100 most days of the week.

Thursday and Friday tend to have the highest prices due to it being weekend.

I try to fly as little as possible while traveling, but in Saudi Arabia it is nearly impossible going for long distances without an airplane.

For example, to go from Dammam (in East Saudi) to Jeddah (in the west), it takes 23 hours by bus (only 2 hours by plane)! The price is not much different between flying and the bus, plus the bus station is outside the city and you will need a taxi to get there (it might cost your more for the taxi than the flight).

Keep in mind that a new metro is currently being built in Riyadh and it should be finished in the next couple of years. This will be one of the best thing that will ever happen to the city and it will take more cars off the roads.

4. I am a solo traveler, what is the best way to meet people there?

Without a doubt, Couch Surfing was my favorite way to meet people in Saudi Arabia.

For those of you that are wondering, Couchsurfing is not just for staying with people in their home.

The cell phone app has a feature called “hangouts” where you can find people within your area that are available to hang out in the time you are interested. You can meet up to have dinner, coffee, visit the mall, a short trip and share an experience together.

Hangouts is very quick, easy, convenient and I use it ALL of the time.

The Couchsurfing community is huge in Saudi Arabia and full of kind people. I met some girls, but I have to admit that the majority are men.

I had absolutely no problem with any disrespectful men during my stay. Always read your references and choose wisely and you should have no problem.

5. Is it safe to visit Saudi Arabia?

The news will tell you NO, but the reality is YES.

Like anywhere in the world, there are dangers, so I am NOT saying this is a country that is 100% safe. However, from my experience I never ran into any problems while being there and traveling alone.

The most unsafe part of the country is on the highway. They are known to have many underage kids driving cars or people without a proper license and they can be reckless (this is becoming more controlled).

Just like any place, it’s not always the safest to be outside alone at night by yourself.

As a solo traveler, you will meet people that might stop you, ask questions, and want to hear your story, but I only found very curious and interested people throughout my stay.

6. Are men and women allowed to get hotel rooms without being married?

Yes, you can!

There are no problems for tourists or local people to travel within the country and stay with each other in the same hotel room.

All you need to do is provide your documentation and you can stay together.

Keep in mind that this change is very new and in the more conservative areas you may have someone that tries to give you a hard time, but stand your ground and know that the new rule states that you can share a room.

There are people that are still hesitant and resistant to the change happening in the country, so just be patient with people if they question you or are hesitant to give you a room.

Keep in mind that the rules are still in place for separating men and women in some public places, such as restaurants and sporting events. If you are traveling with the opposite sex there are family sections that you will be able to sit in with separate entrances from the male public.

7. Is alcohol allowed in the country?

Alcohol is prohibited in Saudi Arabia. It is very important that you do not try bringing in alcohol or drugs into the country.

Even if you go to a 5 star hotel, they will not serve you alcohol.

It is possible to get alcohol in more private places, especially being a foreigner.

My suggestion is to give alcohol a break during your trip and don’t go searching for it. And SERIOUSLY don’t mess around with drugs in Saudi. They take this very seriously!

8. Do places really close 5x/day for prayer.

Yes, mostly everything closes in the city (except airports, hospitals etc) 5 times a day during prayer time, lasting about 25-45 minutes each time.

During this time it is important to respect the norms of the culture, such as turning off your music in your car or home and not making loud noise.

This is their time of prayer and we must show our respect.

9. How can I get a visa to travel to Saudi and how long does it last?

I wrote an article on the process of getting a visa. You can click here to read more.

The multiple entry visa costs around $125 and is valid for one year. You can stay in Saudi Arabia for 90 days during the one-year time frame, but if you want to stay longer, you will need a different type of visa.

The visa process takes about 20 minutes to fill out and 1-5 days to receive it by email.

10. Is it expensive to travel inside the country?

Saudi Arabia is not the cheapest country. The official currency is the Saudi Rial, but it’s very easy to pay with a card in most places, especially inside the major cities.

Hotels room can range from $30+

I didn’t see many options that were lower than that price anywhere. For budget travelers, keep in mind that there are no hostels, but Airbnb is available in many places.

If you plan on getting around by Uber, instead of renting a car, this will be one of your highest costs. Just a short taxi ride can cost you $10 and this only goes up in the night time.

Food: eating out in restaurants each day can get expensive. A normal meal will cost you anywhere from $10+ in a mid range restaurant. There are cheaper places, typically ran by Indians, where the price is a bit lower. If you are on a budget, the cheapest way to spend money is to share a local meal at home with other people.

Flights: Skyscanner is the best website in my opinion for finding good prices on flights.

The two budget airlines that I used in Saudi are: Flynas and Flyadeal

Coffee Shops: Saudi people love their coffee shops. A regular medium size ice coffee will cost you around $4.

That is probably one of the lowest priced items on the menu. The more specialized coffee will be almost double the price.

On most days I got invited to coffee shops up to 3-5 times a day.

That would’ve been over $ 400 during my whole trip if I would’ve accepted all of those invitations!

 

 

Don’t forget to check out:

EVERYTHING YOU SHOULD KNOW FOR OBTAINING THE NEW SAUDI ARABIA EVISA

MOST COMMON TRAVEL MISTAKES: PART 3

SUAN MOKKH: 10 DAY SILENT & MEDITATION RETREAT IN THAILAND

 

 

 

Do you have any questions about Saudi Arabia That I did not mention in this article?

Connect with me on Instagram and asked me anything that you are curious about!

Instagram: 1nomadicdreamer

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Everything you Should know for Obtaining the New Saudi Arabia eVISA

Over the last couple of years, rumors have spread across the media talking about Saudi Arabia opening their doors for travelers to freely visit their country for tourism. Multiple media sources have written about specific dates indicating when this change would be made, but in the end, the doors still remained closed.

However, earlier in August 2019, more and more new sources started to write and speak out about a revolutionary change that would take place in Saudi Arabia in September 2019.

This captured my attention, so I decided to follow the news regarding this topic on a weekly basis.

In September, more articles started confirming a set date of a new eVISA that would shortly become available.

This time, it was more than just a rumor!

On September 27th, there was an official confirmation that stated that many nationalities from all across the world would be able to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on a new, easy to obtain EVISA.

Photo: Dammam, Saudi Arabia

Photo: Dammam, Saudi Arabia

 

As soon as this news was released, I instantly bought the new EVISA and started planning my solo trip there.

I can tell you from first-hand experience that getting a visa and traveling there is easier than ever!

In this article I wanted to give you a bit of information and answer some questions that people have asked me every day through social media on obtaining a visa for Saudi Arabia.

Who is elegible for the new EVISA?

  • USA
  • All European counties
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Canada
  • Asía (Japan, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan)
  • South Africa

Where do I obtain the eVisa?

The whole entire visa process is done 100% online.

There is no physical place that you will need to go and it is NOT necessary to send your passport or documentation to any place.

There are many different websites that you can apply, but the one that I chose and trust is:

visa.visitsaudi.com

What documentation do I need to present?

You will need to fully complete your application and submit a photo.

It is VERY important that your passport will not expire with 6 months of applying for the visa. You will also need a full page or two for the entry and exit stamp.

Necessary information:  profession, city/country of birth, current address, passport information/expiration date, purpose of visit.

Towards the end of the application it will ask you for your address in Saudi Arabia. It will give you the option for a “residential or relative” or a “commercial accommodation.”

I just put the number and name of a friend in Saudi Arabia, but you can just put a hotel with a contact number. If you plan to travel around a lot within the country, just put the name/number of the first hotel that you are planning to stay in. This name and number does not appear anywhere on the visa and you will not be required to stay at this place during your whole stay.

How long does the visa process take?

The application took me less than 20 minutes to fill out and I received my visa within 24 hours by email.  However, other people have told me that it has taken up to five days to process everything.

The process was SUPER easy. As soon as you receive it by email, just download it (along with your required Saudi health insurance) and take it with you.

Can I use the visa at both land/air borders?

The eVISA is eligible for both land and air crossings. I entered into Saudi Arabia from Dubai and also took a trip to Bahrain by land. Entering and exiting the country was very simple.

The immigration officers will stamp your passport and then you are free to enter and exit the country as you wish.

You do not need to travel with any extra passport photos. You will be required to give your finger prints, take a picture and that is it!

There are no additional costs at the border.

Is this visa multiple entry?

Yes, the visa is valid 1 year and you can enter and exit all you want.

However, you have to be very careful that you do not exceed more than 90 days in one year without an additional visa.

Cost of Visa and Mandatory Insurance

Everything for my visa cost me around US$125, payable by credit card.

When you are getting ready to check out on the visa website, it will take you to a page giving you options for medical insurance. It is required that you have medical insurance during your stay.

I chose the Arabian Shield Insurance, which cost me 35 USD.

On the website you can download a printable version of your policy, including details of your full coverage. Take this with you just in case of emergencies.

Important Reminder

You must show a yellow fever vaccine if you are traveling from high risk countries. There are multiple websites that can show you which countries are considered “high risk.”

 

 

Honestly, it is quite incredible to look back and see how easy this process was! Without a doubt, it was one of the easiest countries to get an online visa that I have ever been to!

My solo trip to Saudi Arabia was absolutely fantastic and I felt VERY safe traveling there. I will share many of my experiences in the weeks to come, so stay tuned!

 

Don’t forget to also check out:

OVERLAND TRAVEL TO LIBERIA, AFRICA: A COUNTRY OF LONG STANDING RESILIENCE

THE ONE THING THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER TRAVEL WITHOUT

SUAN MOKKH: 10 DAY SILENT & MEDITATION RETREAT IN THAILAND

 

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