Travelers enjoying the beach in Umluj, Saudi Arabia. (photo courtesy of Saudi Tourism Authority)
Planning a trip to Saudi Arabia with your family may seem especially daunting, but you should know that travel to the Kingdom is a lot like visiting anywhere else. To get started, you’ll want to research destinations in Saudi Arabia so you can plan your hotel stays and flights accordingly. In the meantime, reading up on the country’s UNESCO World Heritage sites can give you an idea of the best places to visit and how long you need to stay.
Other than that, you need to know the basic rules to follow during trips to Saudi Arabia, as well as how to get around. Before you plan an epic journey to Saudi Arabia with your family in tow, here’s a rundown of everything you need to keep in mind.
You Need a Visa to Visit Saudi Arabia
First off, you should know that individuals from the 49 eligible countries approved for travel to Saudi Arabia need to apply for a visa before visiting the Kingdom. Fortunately, the country has made it easy to apply for a visa before traveling online, and their portal lets you get an online visa (eVisa) for everyone in your family or traveling party.
The visa you receive for travel to Saudi Arabia is good for one year as well, so you don’t have to know exactly when you’re planning to visit over the next 12 months. You can also use the visa for multiple entries of up to 90 days each time.
Once you’re ready, you can apply for the Saudi visa on the Visit Saudi website.
Following Formal Dress Rules in Saudi Arabia Is a Breeze
While Saudi Arabia does have a dress code for tourists to follow, dressing appropriately in the Kingdom requires very little work or planning. Both men and women need to keep their shoulders and knees covered and dress modestly, and that’s about it.
Female tourists no longer need to wear the long abaya robe when visiting Saudi Arabia, nor do they need to cover their heads. The only exception applies when women decide to visit a mosque, in which case they’ll need to cover their heads with a headscarf.
Saudi Arabia Boasts Luxury Hotels Galore
While Saudi Arabia has plenty of boutique hotels and unique local properties, you won’t have any trouble booking a stay with a hotel brand you already know and trust. This is especially true if you’re hoping to enjoy a luxury stay in the Kingdom. For example, Riyadh has The Ritz-Carlton Riyadh, as well as the Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Centre, the Hotel Fairmont Riyadh, a JW Marriott Ryadh and Le Meridien Riyadh, just to name a few options.
In the historical city of Jeddah, you’ll find many more options like The Ritz-Carlton Jeddah, the Park Hyatt Jeddah and the Waldorf Astoria Jeddah – Qasr Al Sharq.
Jeddah Corniche, Saudi Arabia. (photo via Matthew Starling / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Alcohol Is Currently Illegal
Drinking alcohol is currently illegal in Saudi Arabia, so you won’t be able to have wine with dinner or a few cold brews at the end of a long travel day. That said, many restaurants in Saudi Arabia do have extensive menus with fun mocktails you can try out. These drinks won’t give you a buzz, but they can be delicious and worth a try if you’re in the mood.
There are also some rumors that the tides may be changing regarding alcohol in the Kingdom in the near future. For example, The Times of Israel just reported that Saudi Arabia plans to offer alcohol in one of the new megaresorts set to open next year.
Get Around with Taxis or Uber
Just like with many other destinations in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia’s major cities aren’t very pedestrian friendly. There are areas where tourists and locals alike wander together outdoors, such as the corniche in major destinations like Jeddah, but most people actually travel from place to place using other means.
In fact, most travelers in Saudi Arabia get around cities with taxis and even Uber. The Kingdom also has another Uber-like rideshare app called Careem that is just as easy to use.
Guided Tours Are Available
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed with your trip plans to Saudi Arabia, it’s important to know you have another option. You can book a guided tour throughout the Kingdom, which will let you actually enjoy your trip without worrying about most of the logistics.
Several tour companies offer guided tours around Saudi Arabia with various itineraries, including Abercrombie & Kent. As just one example, this company offers an eight-day guided tour of Saudi Arabia that starts in Riyadh and ends in Jeddah. This tour includes hotel stays and meals, as well as guided tours through ancient Riyadh, the UNESCO-listed site of Jubbah, UNESCO-listed Madain Saleh and more.