The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a state in South-West Asia covering the major part of the Arabian Peninsula, some coastal islands in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. The capital city is Riyadh. It shares its borders with Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Yemen, and Oman. The south-western and western parts of the country are washed by the Red Sea and the eastern coast is washed by the waters of the Persian Gulf.
The climate in the northern part is subtropical and on the south, the climate is tropical, dry and hot. In July, the temperature can reach +30°C -+40°C and in winter, the average temperature is +8°C. The best time for travelling to Saudi Arabia is from September to October and from April to May.
The dominant religion is Islam. The official language is Arabic.
Saudi Arabia is a spiritual centre for the Muslims throughout the world. Thousands of the Muslims make Hajj to Mecca. The non-Muslims tourists are forbidden from entering the city. In Mecca, there is the Kaaba Great Mosque. The city of Medina gave Islam to the world.
The lovers of city entertainments should visit Riyadh. Here religious traditions harmoniously exist with the modern way of life. The tourists can visit the Musmak Castle and the Riyadh Musmak Museum. In the centre of Al Faisal, the first skyscraper was built. The skyscraper opens an amazing view over the city.
The beaches are found in the main port Jeddah. Here you can see the highest fountain Fahd.
The lovers of out-of-town holidays should visit the Asir National Park and see the ruins of two ancient cities.
There are no direct flights from Russia and CIS countries to Saudi Arabia.
Royal Jordanian offers transit flights with a transfer in Oman to Jeddah and Qatar Airways offers the flights to Riyadh.
Air France, Alitalia, British Airways, and Lufthansa offer the flights from Moscow, Almaty, Kiev, and Minsk with a transfer in Paris, Cairo, Istanbul, Doha, Dubai, Frankfurt, and Larnaca.
There is a ferry route between Saudi Arabia, Iran, Eritrea, Sudan, and Egypt.
One can get to Saudi Arabia from one of the neighbouring countries by bus (except Iraq). International buses run every day from El Kuwait, Manama, Doha, and Dubai to Jeddah, Mecca, and Riyadh.
The CIS and EU citizens must obtain a visa to travel to Saudi Arabia.
There are group visas issued for the pilgrims heading to Mecca. Such Hajj tours are arranged by certified travel agencies.
Visitor visas for both group and individual are not given.
There are certain restrictions concerning transit visas as well. A woman will be denied a visa if she is travelling alone without a man (husband, father or brother).
People who have any marks confirming their visits to Israel (entry stamp, visa, etc.) are almost always denied an entry to Saudi Arabia.
The Customs legislation of Saudi Arabia does not have any restrictions concerning the import or export of foreign currencies. Money, precious metals, and securities in the amount of 60.000 riyals must be declared.
The import and export of Israeli currency is prohibited.
Adult tourists can import the following goods duty-free:
- tobacco and perfume;
- pearl jewellery;
- personal belongings.
It is prohibited to import:
- any medications (except those prescribed by the doctor);
- religious books (except Quran);
- books, are written in Hebrew and any other goods with Israeli symbols;
- foods, soda drinks, and baby foods;
- palms and their fruits.
Any effort to bring in Saudi Arabia alcoholic drinks lead to immediate deportation from the country.
It is not allowed to bring in pets. The exception is guide dogs and hunting dogs have an international vet certificate.
The authentic cuisine of Saudi Arabia was formed under the influence of natural conditions and historical events.
The Muslims do not eat pork. They prefer mutton, beef, poultry, and fish.
Typically, they roast the meat on the red-hot pan without oil or any fat and over charcoal which gives a unique taste to the meat. In Saudi Arabia, you should definitely try Kultra (lamb), kebab Tikka, famous Shawarma, mutton or beef kebab and Kofta (small minced meat kebabs). The foodies will surely like the taste of Mezze, pilaf Maklube, Meshui (a whole lamb prepared in a clay oven), Kebbe (meat mutton balls), Yahni (meat and vegetable stew), and Guzi (lamb bread with nuts and rice).
The local chefs like to make poultry dishes. Order Dadjadj in tomato sauce, Al-mandi (chicken with honey), Hariss (chicken casserole) and poultry kebab Tika Dadjadj. On the East, people especially love Kibda-fireh (poultry liver pate) and Sammian (chicken or duck stew with vegetables and rice).
A typical side dish is rice and vegetable salads. Any tourists should try the most popular salads such as Fatush, Couscous, and Humus.
Those who have a sweet tooth will get a great pleasure. They can treat themselves to Rahat lokum, rice pudding, Megli, baklava, sherbet and sweet cheesecake Aysh-saraya.
Drinking alcohol is strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia. The most popular drinks here are coffee and tea.
The national currency is the Saudi Riyal (SAR). In circulation are the banknotes from 1 to 500 SAR and coins (halala).
We recommend exchanging the currency at banks, in bank offices, exchange offices, large stores or in money changers. The exchange rate in Saudi Arabia is stable.
In the hotels, malls, and in public transport, the tourists can pay with Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club or American Express. Cirrus and Plus are accepted in ATMs and in Saudi Cairo Bank.
There are ATMs in large malls and banks.
It will be a problem to cash traveller’s checks.
In Saudi Arabia, commercial, regional, and local taxes are not collected.
Details of interest
Customs and traditions in Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a state with Islamic law traditions. Sharia law is applied in this country.
- It is prohibited to discuss the religious and political system of Saudi Arabia.
- It is prohibited to take pictures of the military and state objects, the elements of infrastructure, people without their permission.
- In Riyadh, men over 16 years old can go to a large supermarket only accompanied by a woman.
- Men and women must wear clothes covering their legs and arms. Women must cover their heads with. The tourists are not allowed to wear the national clothes.
- Women are not allowed to drive a car.
Sightseeing in Saudi Arabia
- Mecca is a sacred and a spiritual centre of Islam, the place where Prophet Mohammed was born.The city is situated on the El Saravat. Those tourists who can enter the city will see the most important building here. This is the Great Mosque. Not far from mecca, there is the city of Taif, a summer capital of Saudi Arabia. This city is open for everyone who came for holidays to Saudi Arabia disregarding their religious beliefs. Taif is one of the main resorts of the Kingdom famous for its rosaries and gardens. The tourists can visit the Shubra Palaces, the King Fahd Park, the old Okaz Market, and the Wadi Ikrimah Embankment. The stones of the embankment are decorated with hieroglyphs of pre-Islamic period.
- Medina is the first city in the Muslim world which followed the testaments of the Prophet. This is the second important sacred city for the followers of Islam.
- Jeddah is the main trading and political centre of the western part of the Kingdom and also the major port in the Red Sea. This city is a gate for thousands of pilgrims. The must-see places in Jeddah are the Crystal Resort, the Durrat Al-Arus, and Al Nakheel Village where you can see the coral reefs of the Red Sea. In Jeddah, there is one of the largest systems of coral reefs in the world. If you stay in this city, you should definitely visit the Historic District of Al Balad. The Historic Jeddah is a UNESCO site.
- Your trip to Riyadh will be incomplete without an excursion to the Al Musmak castle, the Al-Faisaly tower, the Al Mady Mosque, the Historic Center of Riyadh, and the Park of King Abdul Aziz. The At-Turaif District in Ad-Dir’Iyah is under UNESCO protection.
- The Archaeological Site of Al-Hijr is the largest of all survived monuments of the ancient Nabataean civilisation. This is a UNESCO site.
- You will be impressed by the Archaeological Sites Mada’in Saleh in the province of Al Madina.
- In the city of Dammam, the tourists can visit the Dammam Heritage Museum, the Dammam National Museum or take a walk in the wonderful King Fahd Park.
- In the Asir National Park, there are the ruins of ancient cities Timna and Shiban. The Dhira Park and the local TV Tower are also of a great interest.
- In Najran, there is a magnificent Al An Palace and the Najran Fortress, the Najran Fortress Mosque and the Najran Museum.
Souvenirs in Saudi Arabia
- Souvenir Kaaba, prayer rugs, strings of beads, frankincense can be bought in Mecca and Medina.
- In Jeddah, Taif, and Riyadh the tourists can buy dates and Oriental sweets.