Useful information for travellers to Saudi Arabia

 

Etiquette

There are social expectations for interactions between unrelated men and women, which is polite to follow when visiting Saudi Arabia. Businessmen should wait for a woman to offer her hand to shake in a meeting. In other situations, keep a respectful distance. Handshakes between men are common. Saudis pride themselves on their hospitality, and it is impolite to begin business without engaging in small talk first. In formal meetings it is common to be offered a small cup of qahwa (Arabic coffee). One should accept the first cup, but have no more than three before indicating you have had enough by rocking the cup from side to side. To avoid offence, one should use the right hand when receiving gifts, eating and drinking.

Visas

Nationals of non-GCC countries and some Arab nations need visas. Business visas require a letter of sponsorship from the firm being visited. The Saudi counterpart lodges an application and is issued a receipt, which is forwarded. The applicant presents this receipt, along with two passport-sized photographs, a completed application form, a copy of the letter of sponsorship and a fee to their local embassy or consulate. The process varies by country, and an electronic application code from the Ministry of Interior’s website may be required. Check with your local embassy or consulate in advance as to variations. Single-entry, as well as three- and six-month multiple-entry visas can be issued. Work and residence visas are also available, as are visas for family members. The Kingdom is also now issuing tourist visas for some countries in the form of e-visas or visas on arrival. A single-entry tourist visa allows a stay of up to one month, while a multiple-entry visa allows stays of up to three months.

Currency

The Saudi riyal is pegged to the US dollar at SR3.75:$1. Credit cards are accepted across the Kingdom, and ATMs can be found even in more remote areas. It is possible to withdraw riyals from foreign bank accounts from ATMs. A local bank account is needed to change currency, but many hotels will exchange cash.

Communications

All three of the Kingdom’s mobile operators – Saudi Telecom Company, Mobily and Zain – as well as Virgin Mobile and Lebara offer pre-paid SIM cards, which are easily obtained. Domestic calls and those within the GCC region are relatively inexpensive. Internet connection quality is variable. Wireless hotspots are available in most cities.

Language

Arabic is the official language. English is widely spoken, but a grasp of basic Arabic salutations will be useful. Signs are in Arabic and English.

Electricity 

There is a mix of UK-style, three-pin, two-pin and US-style plugs, as well as both 120 V and 220 V. Electric adaptors and converters are essential.

Transport

Taxis are metered and plentiful in most larger cities, and transport apps Uber, Careem and Easy Taxi are also widely available. Domestic flights are offered by Saudi Arabian Airlines and low-cost provider Flynas. Both airlines provide internet booking. There are trains connecting Riyadh to the Eastern Province, as well as a high-speed rail service connecting Makkah, Medina and Jeddah. The Saudi Public Transport Company also provides local bus services.

Business Hours

The working week is Sunday to Thursday, but some companies are open on Saturday morning as well. Public sector hours are approximately 7.00am to 3.00pm. Private sector hours vary, and businesses often close at 1.00pm and reopen from 4.00pm to 8.00pm. It is useful to note the short closing periods during prayer times. There are a total of five calls to prayer each day, with four taking place during business hours. Businesses will close briefly during prayer times, which last up to 30 minutes. Prayer times vary throughout the Kingdom and from day to day, but exact times are listed daily in local newspapers.

Health 

A full range of medical services is available in all major cities. Foreigners should take out health insurance, as it is unlikely their home country will have reciprocal relations with Saudi Arabia. Foreigners who seek to reside permanently must have health insurance.

Share

You have reached the limit of premium articles you can view for free. 

Choose from the options below to purchase print or digital editions of our Reports. You can also purchase a website subscription giving you unlimited access to all of our Reports online for 12 months.

If you have already purchased this Report or have a website subscription, please login to continue.

Previous article from this chapter and report
Rest easy: Hotels in popular cities
Next chapter from this report
Table of Contents, from The Report: Saudi Arabia 2020
Cover of The Report: Saudi Arabia 2020

The Report

This article is from the The Guide chapter of The Report: Saudi Arabia 2020. Explore other chapters from this report.

Covid-19 Economic Impact Assessments

Stay updated on how some of the world’s most promising markets are being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and what actions governments and private businesses are taking to mitigate challenges and ensure their long-term growth story continues.

Register now and also receive a complimentary 2-month licence to the OBG Research Terminal.

Register Here×

Product successfully added to shopping cart