• Search Please fill out this field.
  • Manage Your Subscription
  • Give a Gift Subscription
  • Newsletters
  • Sweepstakes
  • Travel Tips

Here’s What You Need to Know Before Visiting Saudi Arabia

For the first time in its history, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced that will be opening its doors for tourism by issuing an electronic visa for visitors coming from 49 countries — including the United States.

Anyone over the age of 18 can apply for an eVisa . It costs approximately $120 and is valid for a period of one year with an option for multiple entry, and permits a maximum stay of 90 days in the country. Previously, the Kingdom issued only visitor visas for religious pilgrimage and business visas. This monumental announcement is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reform program, Vision 2030 , which aims to reduce the country’s reliance on oil and diversify its economy by way of tourism and entertainment.

Over the past two years, the government has also announced the launch of several ambitious projects, including an entertainment mega-city in Riyadh (reportedly, twice the size of Orlando’s Disney World ), a futuristic beach destination along the coast of the Red Sea, and restoration of UNESCO World Heritage sites. By 2030, the government expects 100 million annual visits, increased foreign and domestic investment in hotels and associated amenities, the creation of million jobs, and an increase in tourism revenue from the current 3% to 10% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, according to Reuters.

To attract Western tourists and market itself as a tourist destination — on par with neighboring Gulf states— Saudi Arabia has eased some of its conservative restrictions, like granting women rights to drive and travel without a guardian, curbing the powers of the moral police, permitting unmarried tourist couples to rent hotel rooms, and relaxing dress codes.

Within the first 10 days of the introduction of the eVisa 24,000 visitors entered the Kingdom, according to Arab News . Although there is a lack of adequate tourism infrastructure, those curious to learn about and experience the country will find Saudi’s natural landscape and its welcoming locals incentive enough to visit.

If you find yourself heading to Saudi Arabia to explore the land uncharted to tourists, here are a few basic and cultural tips for first-time travelers to the Kingdom.

With this news, people are asking: Is Saudi Arabia Safe for tourists? Yes, Saudi Arabia is safe for tourists. As with travel to any other country in the world, be respectful of local rules and customs, be mindful of your surroundings, and carry out due diligence before traveling. Be sure to consult travel advisories before your trip.

Public spaces

Public spaces may be segregated, and you will find separate entrances or seating areas for men and women. Refrain from public displays of affection.

Seek permission before photographing locals. Under the public code of conduct , it is a punishable offense. Other offenses include vandalism of public property, playing music during prayer times, and dress code violations.

Female tourists are not required to wear the abaya (a cloak, previously mandated by the government). However, both men and women should dress modestly, avoiding tight fitting and revealing clothes in public. The official Visit Saudi tourism website provides further details on what this entails.

Stores and restaurants close during prayer times, five times a day. To make the most of your trip, plan your itinerary according to these times.

Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country. While non-Muslims are welcome and permitted to practice their religion in private spaces, preaching in public forums or on social media platforms is prohibited. Malicious propaganda against the country, government, and religion is a severe offense.

The sale, purchase or consumption of alcohol and drugs is illegal in the country.

Social customs

You will find locals to be hospitable, generous, and as equally curious about you as you may be about them. It is not uncommon to be invited to share a meal or a cup of gahwa (Arabic coffee) and dates. Your hosts — and even strangers — will want to extend their welcome and offer a token of their hospitality, like food or even a small gift. It is considered rude to refuse such an offering. Just remember, always accept and consume food and beverages with your right hand.

If you are invited into a Saudi house, remove your shoes, unless your host insists you keep them on. In a traditional Majlis, (a sitting hall with floor cushions) you are expected to sit on the floor. If hosted elsewhere, you can expect a modern setup with armchairs and other furniture.

Saudis encourage and welcome Westerners asking questions about their culture. To avoid offending local sensibilities, it's best to steer clear of political or religious topics of conversation.

Familiarizing yourself with Saudi rituals like greetings and handshakes will always make a favorable impression with your hosts. “Marhaban!” (Welcome) is a common way of greeting and you may respond with “Marhabtain” (I give you two welcomes).

Men shouldn’t extend a handshake to a Saudi woman, unless she does so first. To err on the side of caution, place your hand over your heart and greet with a hello.

Related Articles

Matador Original Series

How to get a visa to visit saudi arabia and what to do once you get there.

I n 2019, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia officially opened its doors to international travelers, issuing tourist visas for the first time in history. Previously, only those traveling to Saudi Arabia for work or Muslim pilgrims were permitted to enter the country. Today, citizens of 57 nations, including the United States, can obtain an eVisa to travel to Saudi Arabia — and the application process is simple, fast, and relatively cheap.

Do US citizens need a visa to visit Saudi Arabia?

How to get an evisa for saudi arabia, can you get a visa on arrival in saudi arabia, saudi arabia visa fees, transit visa for saudi arabia, i’m not a citizen of any of the 57 nations that can obtain an evisa, can i still visit saudi arabia, can tourists in saudi arabia visit mecca and medina, the best places to see in saudi arabia.

US citizens need a visa to visit Saudi Arabia. They can choose between applying for an eVisa online or obtaining a visa on arrival.

To qualify for an eVisa or a visa on arrival to Saudi Arabia, US citizens must be at east 18 years of age (or accompanied by a relative who is over 18 years old), and have a valid passport. Citizens of other nations may have different requirements, however.

If you meet the requirements for an eVisa (for US citizens, they are: Being at least 18 years old or accompanied by a relative who’s over the age of 18, and having a valid passport), you can apply for an eVisa for Saudi Arabia online at Visit Saudi . Completing the application only takes a few minutes. Standard eVisa processing is about 72 hours, but can take longer.

Once you have obtained an eVisa for Saudi Arabia, you can stay in the country for up to 90 days. The visa remains valid for one year from its issue date and allows for multiple entries.

Saudi Arabia’s eVisa program is for tourists and Muslim pilgrims only, not for those who wish to work or study in Saudi Arabia.

US citizens can get a visa on arrival in Saudi Arabia if they meet the necessary requirement: Being at least 18 years old or accompanied by a relative who’s over the age of 18, and having a valid passport.

Applying for a visa on arrival in Saudi Arabia is very simple: Upon their arrival at the airport, travelers can use the self-service machine or talk to a border agent. The process takes between 10 and 30 minutes.

Once you have obtained a visa on arrival for Saudi Arabia, you can stay in the country for up to 90 days. The visa remains valid for one year from its date of issuance.

Saudi Arabia’s visa on arrival program, like the eVisa program, is for tourists and Muslim pilgrims only, not for those who wish to work or study in Saudi Arabia.

Applying for an eVisa for Saudi Arabia costs $142 (SAR 535) and includes the application fee and the mandatory medical insurance fee.

Applying for a visa on arrival costs $80 (SAR 300), but you need to add a mandatory $48 (SAR 180) medical insurance fee, making for a total of $128 (480 SAR).

Saudi Arabia offers transit/stopover visas for those who are only passing through the country. The application for a transit/stopover visa takes around three minutes and the visa is issued instantly. Transit/stopover visas for Saudi Arabia are valid for 96 hours from the time of arrival into the country. Transit/stopover visas are free but administrative fees incur and there is a mandatory medical insurance fee to pay.

Airlines Saudia and Flynas offer deals for travelers who are only passing through. You may get a free transit/stopover visa and even a free one-night hotel stay. Check out the offers on the Visit Saudi website .

It’s possible for nationals from outside the 57 eVisa eligible countries to get a tourist visa , though they’ll need to apply in person at a Saudi embassy or consulate and provide additional information. Visit the Saudi Visit website and select your country of citizenship in the drop-down menu to obtain all the necessary information about how to get a visa to visit Saudi Arabia.

No matter their country of origin, non-Muslim travelers are still prohibited from entering Mecca and Medina. Although the two holiest cities in Islam are off limits to non-pilgrims, know that there is a lot more for travelers to see in Saudi Arabia.

Mada’in Saleh (also known as Hegra or the Hegra Archaeological Site), AlUla

@matadornetwork #Hegra is Saudi Arabia's first #UNESCOWorldHeritage site IG: @thelosttwo & @Adrian Baias #ancientruins #travelsaudiarabia #bridgertonscandal ♬ original sound – ℎ

Often referred to as the “Petra of Saudi Arabia,” Mada’in Saleh is a 2,000-year-old site comprised of monuments carved in sandstone rocks, including 110 tombs, many of which are intricately decorated. This archaeological wonder and desert city became the first ever Saudi UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.

Mada’in Saleh is located less than 40 minutes away from the city of AlUla , where outdoor adventures , including stargazing , are second to none.

The Sky Bridge at Kingdom Centre Tower, Riyadh

The Sky Bridge at Kingdom Centre Tower, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Photo: Fedor Selivanov /Shutterstock

If there is one building that distinguishes Riyadh’s skylines from that of other cities around the world, it’s the Kingdom Center Tower — the one with the semi-circle-shaped hole near the top. The Sky Bridge, open Saturday until Thursday from 12 PM to 10:30 PM and Friday from 4:00 PM to 10:30 PM, is the tippy-top of the tower. For about $18 (SAR 69), you’ll speed up two elevators to the top of Riyadh’s most famous landmark. (Children under the age of 10 pay $6, and children under the age of two enter for free.) For the best views of the entire city, go a little before sunset to catch daytime colors and night lights. The first three floors of the building consist of a shopping mall, while the 77th floor is home to the King Abdullah Mosque, the highest mosque in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Al-Ahsa Oasis, Eastern Province

The Al-Ahsa Oasis is the largest desert oasis in the world thanks to its 2.5 millions date palms. But the grounds of this UNESCO World Heritage site includes more than just crops. There are archaeological sites, old fortresses, canals, mosques, and other traces of human settlements that date back as far as the Neolithic period. The diversity of rock formations and water systems is complemented by the ancient sea port of Al-Uqair, and the breathtaking Al-Shu’ba Mountain.

The Saudi National Museum, Riyadh

The most renowned museum in the Kingdom, the Saudi National Museum is ideal for a rainy day or anytime you are looking to escape the dry heat if you’re visiting outside of winter. Displays and installations in all eight galleries incorporate the latest technology, and all descriptions are presented in both Arabic and English. Exhibitions focus on the history of the nation with the pre-Islamic era, the Hajj, the Two Holy Mosques, the Unification of Saudi Arabia, etc. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better collection of Saudi artifacts anywhere else.

The museum is open from Saturday to Wednesday from 9 AM to 8 PM, and on Thursday and Friday from 2 PM to 10 PM.

King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (also known as Ithra), Dharan

Located next to the larger city of Dammam, Dharan accommodates a world-class center of culture. Saudi Aramco, the country’s massive oil company, runs the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), which comprises a library of over 325,000 books, an auditorium, a museum, a children’s museum, a movie theater, restaurants, cafés, and more. The center, whose architecture is striking, was designed by Norwegian architectural firm Snohetta.

Ithra is open from Thursday to Saturday from 4:00 PM to 11:00 PM.

Wahba Crater, Medina Province

Wahba Crater, Medina Province, Saudi Arabia

Photo: Ajmal Thaha /Shutterstock

Wahba Crater is a volcanic crater of 10,000 feet in diameter and 1,250 feet in depth. Contrary to the surrounding desert landscape, the volcanic crater’s rim is home to shrubbery and other plants during the rainy season. And in the summer, the water that fills the crater evaporates to give way to a salt field. Wahba Crater is an incredibly unique site to visit and hike around, especially with the recent construction of roads and access points. Despite these recent developments, ensure that you take proper gear like extra water, hiking boots, and sun protection to withstand the elements. There is a visitor center nearby.

Scuba diving the Red Sea, Jeddah

Saudi Arabia has the longest coastline of the Red Sea and is famous for its colorful coral reefs, World War II shipwrecks, and biodiversity. Although year-round diving is possible, the best time of year to go is November to January when visibility is better and there’s an increased likelihood of seeing sharks and dolphins. Many scuba agencies and dive shops offer certification and tours with tons based out of Jeddah.

Al-Tayebat International City, Jeddah

Al-Tayebat International City, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Photo: Rahul D Silva /Shutterstock

how to visit saudi arabia from usa

More like this

Trending now, saudi arabia launches a new, alcohol-free cruise line, discover matador, adventure travel, train travel, national parks, beaches and islands, ski and snow.

We use cookies for analytics tracking and advertising from our partners.

For more information read our privacy policy .

Matador's Newsletter

Subscribe for exclusive city guides, travel videos, trip giveaways and more!

You've been signed up!

Follow us on social media.

Security Alert May 17, 2024

Worldwide caution, update may 10, 2024, information for u.s. citizens in the middle east.

  • Travel Advisories |
  • Contact Us |
  • MyTravelGov |

Find U.S. Embassies & Consulates

Travel.state.gov, congressional liaison, special issuance agency, u.s. passports, international travel, intercountry adoption, international parental child abduction, records and authentications, popular links, travel advisories, mytravelgov, stay connected, legal resources, legal information, info for u.s. law enforcement, replace or certify documents.

Share this page:

Saudi Arabia Travel Advisory

Travel advisory january 24, 2024, saudi arabia - level 3: reconsider travel.

Updated after periodic review to provide information on the risk of arrest due to social media use and the importation of prohibited items.

Reconsider travel to Saudi Arabia due to  the threat of missile and drone attacks.   Exercise increased caution in Saudi Arabia due to  terrorism, the risk of arrest based on social media activity, and importation of prohibited items.  Some areas have increased risk.  Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Do not travel to the following locations due to the threat of  missile and drone attacks  and  terrorism :

  • Within 50 miles of the Saudi-Yemen border, as well as the cities of Abha, Jizan, Najran, and Khamis Mushayt;
  • Abha airport;
  • Qatif in the Eastern Province and its suburbs, including Awamiyah.

Country Summary : U.S. government personnel under Chief of Mission responsibility must adhere to the above travel restrictions.  As such, the U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in these locations.

Missile and drone attacks perpetrated by Iran and Iran-supported militant groups have occurred as recently as September 2023.  The Islamic Republic of Iran has in the past supplied Yemen-based Houthis and regional proxy groups with weapons to conduct destructive and sometimes lethal attacks using drones, missiles, and rockets against a variety of Saudi sites, including critical infrastructure, civilian airports, military bases, and energy facilities throughout the country, as well as vessels in Red Sea shipping lanes.  Past attacks were aimed at targets throughout Saudi Arabia including Riyadh, Jeddah, Dhahran, Jizan, Khamis Mushayt, the civilian airport in Abha, Al Kharj, military installations in the south, as well as oil and gas facilities.

Debris from intercepted drones and missiles has also represented a significant risk to civilian areas and populations in the recent past.  Militant groups have threatened to conduct attacks against locations in Saudi Arabia.  U.S. citizens living and working near military bases and critical civilian infrastructure, particularly near the border with Yemen, are at heightened risk if missile, drone, or rocket attacks reoccur.

Terrorism continues to be a concern in Saudi Arabia.  Attacks can occur with little or no warning.  Past attacks have targeted tourist locations, large gatherings, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities.  Terrorists are also known to time attacks around major holidays and/or in response to military operations.  Terrorists have targeted both Saudi and international interests, mosques and other religious sites (both Sunni and Shia), and places frequented by U.S. citizens.

Be advised that social media commentary – including past comments – which Saudi authorities may deem critical, offensive, or disruptive to public order, could lead to arrest .  This may include posting, re-posting, or liking comments about Saudi institutions, policies, and public life.  U.S. citizens have been convicted for social media activity under Saudi laws concerning cybercrime, terrorism, and disrupting public order.  Punishment for social media activity has included prison sentences of up to 45 years in some cases.  Saudi courts do not necessarily consider the timeframe of the posts or the location from which they were made to be material to these cases.

The importation of drugs (including marijuana), drug paraphernalia, alcohol, weapons, pork, or any materials that could be considered pornographic or suggestive, is prohibited.   Penalties for drug possession, consumption, and trafficking are severe by U.S. standards.  An extensive list of banned items is available on our Saudi Arabia country information page .

Due to risks to civil aviation operating within the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman region, including Saudi Arabia, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an advisory Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM).  For more information U.S. citizens should consult the  Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices .

Read the  country information page  for additional information on travel to Saudi Arabia.

If you decide to travel to Saudi Arabia:

  • Visit our website for information on  travel to high-risk areas .
  • Stay alert in large crowds and/or locations frequented by foreign nationals.
  • Obtain comprehensive medical insurance that includes medical evacuation.
  • Review local laws and conditions before traveling, including our Saudi Arabia country information on arrest notification and the Department of State’s general information on arrests of U.S. citizens abroad .
  • Enroll in the  Smart Traveler Enrollment Program  ( STEP ) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on  Facebook  and  Twitter .
  • Follow the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia on  Facebook  and  Twitter .
  • Review the  Country Security Report   for Saudi Arabia.
  • Visit the CDC page for the latest  Travel Health Information  related to your travel.
  • Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the  Traveler’s Checklist .

Yemen Border, Abha airport, and Qatif in the Eastern Province and its suburbs, including Awamiyah – Level 4: Do Not Travel

Militants in Yemen have attacked Saudi border towns and other sites in Saudi Arabia with armed drones, missiles, and rockets .  Civilians that are near the border with Yemen are especially at risk.   Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Saudi Arabia, including in Qatif.

The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens within 50 miles of the Saudi-Yemen border as U.S. government personnel and their families are restricted from travel to this area.

Visit our website for information on  travel to high-risk areas

Travel Advisory Levels

Assistance for u.s. citizens, saudi arabia map, search for travel advisories, external link.

You are about to leave travel.state.gov for an external website that is not maintained by the U.S. Department of State.

Links to external websites are provided as a convenience and should not be construed as an endorsement by the U.S. Department of State of the views or products contained therein. If you wish to remain on travel.state.gov, click the "cancel" message.

You are about to visit:

View from the Al-Faisaliah  (Globe) tower, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Getty Images

Saudi Arabia

If there is a final frontier of tourism left, it's Saudi Arabia. The birthplace and spiritual home of Islam, Saudi Arabia is rich in attractions and stirring symbolism. For Muslims, the cities of Mecca and Medina, rich in Prophetic significance, have no equal, while the carved temples of Madain Saleh, known as the second Petra, and the sophisticated rock art at Jubbah are the Kingdom's greatest pre-Islamic treasures.


Must-see attractions.

Prophet’s Mosque

Prophet’s Mosque

One of only two mosques in the world that can accommodate a million people, the Prophet’s Mosque holds deep significance for Muslims all over the world…

Al Masjid Al Haram

Al Masjid Al Haram

The focal point for every Muslim and the biggest mosque in the world, Al Masjid Al Haram is able to host a million worshippers and covers an area of 356…

Jubbah Rock Carvings

Jubbah Rock Carvings

This is arguably the Kingdom's premier pre-Islamic site and open-air art gallery. Covering an area measuring 39 sq km are some of the most impressive…

Masmak fort in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Masmak Fortress

Surrounded by sand, this squat fortification was built around 1865 and is like a scene out of the movies: a big fortress representing an empire. It was…

Pearl Merchants' Neighbourhood

Pearl Merchants' Neighbourhood

Staring at the mesmerising geometric and floral designs of the carved patterns that adorn the houses and arched gateways of Farasan's former pearl…

Students in square at National Museum, Riyadh, Riyadh Province, Saudi Arabia

National Museum

This state-of-the-art museum is one of the finest in the Middle East. Encased within modernist architecture, its two floors contain eight well-designed…

Empty Quarter

Empty Quarter

The 'Abode of Silence', or the Empty Quarter, covers almost 655,000 sq km and evokes all that was romantic and forbidden for European adventurers, such as…

Al Ula Viewpoint

Al Ula Viewpoint

The views as you wind your way up to this gem of a spot offer glimpses of what's to come. At the top, the road plateaus through a windswept, lunar…

Latest stories from Saudi Arabia

Filter by interest:

  • All Interests
  • Adventure Travel
  • Art & Culture
  • Beaches, Coasts & Islands
  • Food & Drink

A handout picture provided by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah on October 4, 2020, shows Saudis and foreign residents circumambulating the Kaaba (Tawaf) in the Grand Mosque complex in the holy city of Mecca, as authorities partially resume the year-round Umrah for a limited number of pilgrims amid extensive health precautions after a seven-month coronavirus hiatus. (Photo by - / Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umra / AFP) (Photo by -/Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umra/AFP via Getty Images)

Jan 25, 2021 • 3 min read

With strict COVID protocols for 2021, here's what you need to know about the Hajj, Islam's most important religious pilgrimage.

how to visit saudi arabia from usa

Nov 20, 2020 • 2 min read

how to visit saudi arabia from usa

Nov 1, 2019 • 2 min read

how to visit saudi arabia from usa

Sep 24, 2019 • 6 min read

how to visit saudi arabia from usa

Sep 20, 2019 • 6 min read

how to visit saudi arabia from usa

Sep 6, 2019 • 5 min read

how to visit saudi arabia from usa

Aug 26, 2019 • 6 min read

how to visit saudi arabia from usa

Aug 9, 2019 • 5 min read

how to visit saudi arabia from usa

Aug 6, 2019 • 4 min read

how to visit saudi arabia from usa

Feb 28, 2019 • 2 min read

in partnership with getyourguide

Book popular activities in Saudi Arabia

Saudi arabia and beyond.

Madain Saleh

The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia


Personal Visit Visa


  • Original passport valid for no less than six (6) months, with at least two (2) successive empty visa pages. 
  • To fill your online application and make a visa payment, please log on to  https://visa.mofa.gov.sa .  ( Guideline for Enjaz )  Health insurance must be purchased from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Options for local health insurance providers will appear upon processing your Enjaz form.
  • A visa referral note: indicating number and date of visa, issued by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs or either of its branches in Jeddah or Dammam.
  • Minors (under 18 years) travelling alone, or with one parent, must submit a notarized letter in Arabic or English signed by a parent or a legal guardian.
  • For non-U.S. citizens, copy of green card or document confirming legal residence in the U.S.  

You May Also Apply For the Visa by: 

  • Applying in person at the embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
  • Via Mail to the Embassy's address: 601 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington DC, 20037.
  • Through the Embassy's authorized travel agencies .

Tips and how to travel to Saudi Arabia in 2024

By Joan Torres 100 Comments Last updated on May 8, 2024

Saudi Arabia travel guide

Skip all content and get ExpressVPN

Get unrestricted access with the fastest VPN for Saudi Arabia country.

Once one of the most difficult countries to visit, Saudi Arabia is finally issuing visas for tourism purposes and independent travel.

Before, the only way to travel to Saudi was on a business visa, via a strong local connection who could sponsor your visit, or by getting a pilgrimage visa to visit Mecca and Medina (only for Muslims).

Therefore, the fact that all of a sudden, Western tourists can visit Saudi Arabia on their own, with a backpack, both men and women, is a very radical change.

This incredibly big change, however, didn’t come alone. 

During the last couple of years, a lot of their super strict Islamic laws have been softened or, at least, they have become more flexible. For example, allowing women and men to hang out together in public spaces was one of the most significant changes.

All these small changes will make things easier for future international visitors.

Despite everything that you may have read in the media, Saudi Arabia is an incredible country. There is just so much to do and see, a country filled with loads of stunning sites, both natural and archaeological, hugely contrasting landscapes and some extremely hospitable people that could easily rival my beloved friends from Afghanistan , Pakistan and Iran .

I strongly believe that this is the most underrated country on this planet, and here I have compiled a comprehensive travel guide to Saudi Arabia packed with tips and everything you need to know to travel to the Kingdom.

travel to Saudi Arabia

In this Saudi Arabia travel guide you will find:

Table of Contents

  • Travel Insurance
  • Best time to visit
  • Top experiences
  • Getting to Saudi
  • Tourism in Saudi Arabia
  • Is it ethical?
  • Blocked websites
  • How to behave
  • Rules to follow
  • Misconceptions
  • Saudi people
  • Solo female travel
  • Moving around Saudi
  • Internet and SIM Card
  • Accommodation
  • More information

🪪 How to get a visa for traveling to Saudi Arabia

For visiting Saudi, you can either apply for an e-visa or get a visa on arrival.

Which countries are eligible to visit Saudi with tourist e-visa?

All EU countries + Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Australia, Brunei, Canada, China, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Ukraine and the United States,

How to apply for Saudi tourist e-visa 

You can easily apply for it through visitsaudi.com

This is what the tourist visa for Saudi looks like.

Just follow the steps, and you will be on the way.

How much does the Saudi e-visa cost?

The total visa price is 535 Saudi Rials, which is around 142 US Dollars.

From that amount, 180 Saudi Rials refer to the Saudi travel insurance, a COVID-related requirement.

How long is it valid for?

The visa allows you to stay in Saudi for 90 days, and it has a 1-year validity from the issuance date.

It’s also valid for multiple entries.

This means that, within a year, you travel to Saudi as many times as you want with the same visa, as long as your stay doesn’t exceed more than 90 days.

visa for Saudi Arabia

How to get a visa on arrival (VOA) for Saudi Arabia

In 2023, they also introduced a VOA regime, valid for any entry port into Saudi Arabia.

The VOA on arrival costs 300 Saudi Rials, but they also make you buy travel insurance, which costs an additional 180 Saudi Rials.

The total cost is 480 SR, cheaper than the e-visa.

As of today, nobody understands why should someone go through the hassle of applying for an e-visa, when the VOA costs 55 SR less.

Can single women apply for a Saudi visa?

Yes, they certainly can, no restrictions for being a female.

What about the rest of the nationalities, can they travel to Saudi?

Actually, yes, they can.

A fellow traveler with an Argentinian passport told me that she applied at the embassy in Buenos Aires and managed to get her visa in only 1 week.

She had to present things like a payslip, vaccines, return flight ticket, and things like that.

Also, travelers with valid US and Schengen visas – and that includes Indian and Pakistani citizens – can also get a visa for Saudi on arrival.

Don’t forget to read my 2-week itinerary in Saudi Arabia .

Visit Saudi Arabia

Get this epic travel guide to Saudi Arabia!

My friends Sian & Bob have recently published a full guidebook to Saudi Arabia, containing loads of actionable advice and a great overview of each one of their regions. A great introduction to the country, this must be the only available travel guide to Saudi Arabia !

traveller's guide to Saudi

🚑 Travel Insurance for Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia the Health Care System is private and crazy expensive, so do get proper travel insurance. I strongly recommend IATI Insurance because:

  • It covers up to 5 million € of medical expenses
  • Covers senior citizens too
  • Readers of this blog can get a 5% exclusive discount

tourism Saudi Arabia

⛅ Best time to visit Saudi Arabia

The best time to visit Saudi Arabia is during the cooler months, from November to February .

March, April and October could be bearable but outside this ”winter season”, the country could be too hot to enjoy.

By the way, note that the north of Saudi Arabia can be extremely cold in winter, with temperatures below 0ºC in transited regions such as Al-Ula and Tabouk.

🛖 5 Top things to experience in Saudi Arabia

Visiting mada’in saleh, like petra but more epic.

Mada’in Saleh is an archaeological complex composed of hundreds of tombs carved out from rocks and scattered across the desert. Mada’in Saleh was founded by the Nabateans, the same civilization that built Petra.

mada'in Saleh, Saudi Arabia

Being one of the first tourists to ever visit Medina, the second holiest city in Islam

The city of Medina had remained off-limits to non-Muslims for decades but from 2022, Western tourists are allowed to visit the city, as long as you stay just at the entrance of the Holy Mosque, the place where Prophet Mohammed is buried.

Medina Saudi Arabia

Exploring Fayfa, a region of Saudi Arabia with Yemeni-like culture

Fayfa is a southern region bordering Yemen that historically, had been part of Yemen, so several aspects of their culture – including the way they dress and their cuisine – have remained.

how to visit Jizan

Discover the natural wonders from Tabouk region

Tabouk is a northern region bordering Jordan home to incredible wadis, rock formations, deserts and Bedouins.

Wadi Disah Saudi Arabia

Snorkelling in the Read Sea

Everybody knows about the beauty of the Red Sea, the reason why Egypt has become a prime diving destination. However, few people know that the same coral reefs can also be found along the Saudi Arabia coast, and I particularly like the area between Yanbu and Umluj.

visit Yanbu

🛫 How to get to Saudi Arabia

Remember to get travel insurance for Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia’s health care is extremely expensive, so insurance is a must. IATI Insurance offers different plans, for all budgets. Get your 5% exclusive discount if purchasing via this link

How to travel to Saudi Arabia by air

The easiest way to travel to Saudi Arabia is by flying in. There are loads of international flights, especially to Jeddah and Riyadh .

Saudia Airlines has many direct flights from Europe and other destinations, while other airlines like Pegasus or Emirates fly there via Istanbul and Dubai, respectively,

How to travel to Saudi Arabia by land

As long as you have a valid visa for traveling to Saudi, getting in to the country by land is totally doable.

Saudi Arabia shares a border with:

  • United Arab Emirates – Easy to cross.
  • Oman – The desert road that goes through the Empty Quarter, linking Oman and Saudi was recently open. This border crossing can be quite an adventure. Read my Oman travel guide .
  • Qatar – Should be easy to cross, now that the displomatic relations between both countries have normalized.
  • Bahrain – Easy to cross.
  • Iraq – Since March 2021, it’s now possible to travel to Iraq , so overlanding into Saudi shouldn’t be a big issue.
  • Jordan – Easy to cross.
  • Yemen – Not possible to cross. Read my Yemen travel guide

Read: A guide to finding the best area to stay in Dubai

how to visit how to go to Saudi Arabia

🚶‍♂️ Tourism in Saudi Arabia, what is it like

Interested in off-the-beaten-track countries? Check: Somaliland travel guide Eritrea travel guide

As you may imagine, tourism in Saudi Arabia is in a very embryonic stage.

Random Saudi: Where are you from? Me: Spain Random Saudi: Where do you live, in Jeddah or Riyadh? Me:   Nowhere, I am just visiting 🙂 Random Saudi: No, I mean where in Saudi are you working?

I had this conversation over and over. They still don’t know that foreigners can now travel to Saudi Arabia.

When I was exploring the southern part of the country and was walking around the souk with my big backpack, people were asking me if I was carrying a parachute and one even said if it was an inflatable boat.

This was back in 2019, when I visited the southern part of the country. When I came back in 2022, the country had massively changed, so I didn’t really experience any of the above conversations, but that’s partly because I explored the northern part, which is far more developed and receives more international visitors.

Saudi Arabia travel tips

So yeah, the idea of having international visitors who are not expats or workers is still a concept they aren’t familiar with.

However, there is a relatively developed domestic tourism infrastructure, so you can find hotels pretty much everywhere, even though they tend to be expensive.

Moreover, as per things to do, you should know that there are loads, loads of things to do in this country.

I mean, just check its size and you will see that it is bigger than any European country. Here you can check my complete Saudi itinerary .

tips for Saudi Arabia

Is it ethical to travel to Saudi Arabia?

When I came back from Saudi Arabia, I received many, many messages from very upset people who claimed that traveling to Saudi Arabia implicated collaborating with a regime that doesn’t respect basic human rights. 

Some messages were from friendly, skeptical people who wanted a response, while others were from really extreme haters who I blocked right away.  

Well, let me tell you something: like in any place around the world , you find good and bad people and, when I travel, I don’t meet with Prime Ministers but I visit places and hang out with humble locals. 

This is a very long and controversial topic, so I recommend you read my article:

Is it ethical to travel to Saudi Arabia as a tourist?

people Abha, Saudi Arabia

🔓 How to access blocked sites in Saudi

Something you should know is that, in Saudi, the internet is censored .

This means that some websites might be blocked and inaccessible for regular internet users.

Moreover, because of this censorship and, since there is no freedom of speech, the Government reserves the right to monitor your internet activity.

Therefore, if you want to access blocked sites and navigate anonymously, you will need something called a VPN (Virtual Private Network) .

There are several VPNs in the market but the one I personally use and recommend is ExpressVPN , the fastest and the one that works best for Saudi.

If you have no clue about VPNs, read my tutorial: What is it and how to find the right VPN for Saudi Arabia

🚫 Tips on how to behave when you travel in Saudi

Saudi Arabia is the most religious country I have ever been to.

In fact, this is the most religious Muslim country in the world. Everybody knows that. 

Most Saudis follow a branch of Islam named Wahhabism , which is characterized for having the most conservative interpretation of Islam and the law of Saudi Arabia strictly follows it.

This means that their penal code includes some very hardcore punishments such as public beheading or getting flogged. This is their country and we are not here to judge and unless you plan to kill someone, smuggle drugs or have sex in public, you shouldn’t be afraid of traveling to Saudi Arabia as a tourist.

Seriously, it is not even close to what you may think.

Saudis prefer to be called Salafis, instead of Wahabis. In their eyes, Wahabism is a few steps ahead than Salafism when it comes to conservatism, meaning that it is really extreme, a term usually used to designate Islamic terrorists. Whereas Salafists are really, really conservative in nature, it is more socially accepted.  Thank you, Graham, from Inside Other Places for the clarification

religion in Saudi

Some rules you need to follow when you travel to Saudi Arabia

Women need to wear an abaya – The abaya is a local dress that covers your body (not your head).

Some public spaces are segregated by sex –  You will figure it out by yourself but some restaurants or cafés are still composed of two areas: men and family section. Women or men that go with women need to sit in the family section. This kind of segregation is slowly disappearing, especially in Jeddah and Riyadh.

Depending on where you are, during prayer time, you can’t be inside shops or restaurants – To be honest, this rule has become more flexible but, outside of Riyadh and Jeddah, they kicked me out from shops during the prayers and I could not even stand in front but I had to walk away. A very weird rule.

Don’t drink alcohol – Drinking alcohol in Saudi Arabia is not legal, not even in 5-star hotels.

Seriously, stay away from drugs – Drugs may lead to death sentence, so don’t play with them.

No public shows of affection – Same as when you travel to Dubai or Qatar.

Don’t say you are an atheist – Even if you were, say you are a Christian or any major religion in your home country. Being an atheist can be considered as blasphemy and this is a very serious crime in Saudi. Moreover, you came to Saudi to meet people and make local friends, so saying you are an atheist won’t help you at all.

On Friday, everything is closed until Asr prayer, which is around 4 or 5pm – Not everything will be closed but some restaurants may open in the morning. However, at noon, during Dhuhr prayer, absolutely everything is closed.

Eat with your right hand, always – This is a generic Muslim rule but in Saudi is particularly strict. If you are sharing a meal with more traditional people, try to always eat with your right hand. I am actually left-handed and sometimes I forget about it and Saudi has been the only place where the locals got a bit upset when they saw me eating with my left hand.

things to know about saudi arabia

Misconceptions about Saudi Arabia – Things you can actually do

Like I said before, in the last couple of years, the laws of Saudi Arabia have become more flexible. Well, this is not entirely right. According to my local Saudi friends, some laws haven’t been changed but the religious Islamic police (mutaween) has lost power, so they aren’t controlling what people do anymore.

Men and women who aren’t family related can hang out together, in public – Some years ago, you couldn’t go to a restaurant or a café with a friend from the opposite sex but now you can do it normally, like in any other country.

Foreign women can travel around the country independently, and alone – I have already lost count of all the women who asked me if they can go there by themselves. Yes, you can travel to Saudi Arabia as a woman, by yourself. Would it be challenging? It would be different from being a man, indeed, but it is definitely legal.

Single foreign women can also visit Saudi on a tourist visa – You can travel to Saudi with your unmarried boyfriend and even if you are single, no problem.

Women don’t need to wear hijab – You don’t need to cover your head but, like I just said, you must cover your body with an abaya. If you travel to Iran , you will see that the clothing rules are even more strict.

Women can drive, including renting a car – From June 2018, women can finally drive and, as a female tourist , you can also rent it.

Men can wear shorts – Nobody will say anything to you.

can women travel to Saudi

🕌 The people and the culture – The Saudis

Like in many countries in the Middle East , in Saudi, you find loads of particularly kind people.

Typically, Saudis are so easy to recognize because they wear the thawb , which is the white traditional dress. They also cover their heads with the ghutrah , which can be of different colors but red & white seems to be the most commonly used.

Saudi people

Language in Saudi Arabia

Arabic is the official language. English can be a sometimes problem when you travel in Saudi Arabia, as most people don’t speak it but you will always find someone who does.

Religion in Saudi Arabia

According to the Saudi Government, 100% of the Saudis are Muslim, the large majority being Sunni Wahabbis. There is a large Shia population, as well. Remember that Saudis are very conservative, so try to be respectful and sensitive.

Hospitality in Saudi

Before traveling to Saudi Arabia, I knew a lot of people who had been there on a business visa and the truth is that I am extremely disappointed with all of them because they had told me:

  • Saudis are arrogant
  • Saudis are racist to anyone who is not from the Gulf
  • There is nothing to do in Saudi

Seriously, I don’t know where they have been but, from the moment I met the immigration officer who stamped my passport with a big smile while he tried to improve his Spanish, I have just had positive experiences with Saudi people.

Saudi people are extremely hospitable. From endless coffee and meal invitations to random people who insisted on showing me around the city, I seriously met some incredible locals, some of whom I can call now friends.

Honestly, the experience was no different from the blessings of hospitality in Pakistan , Oman or Iran , no kidding. I shared many short moments with so many locals but there were two Saudis in particular who really changed the perspective of my trip.

First, I met Abdullah, an English teacher from Kharj. He picked me up when I was hitchhiking and drove me to a city that was 80km away (and it was not his way). There, we met with one of his friends, we had lunch at his house and then we visited his camel farm.

Abdullah taught me many interesting things about Saudi culture, especially their interpretation of Islam.

Do you like extreme destinations? Read: How to travel to Syria

Saudi Bedouin milking a camel

A few days after, I met Ibrahim, a real Saudi from Abha. We met at the souk of Abha and, after having a chat, he invited me to his famous village named Rajal Alma.

We had dinner, stayed at his friend’s house and showed me around on the day after. Ibrahim comes from a very traditional Saudi family (his father was actually a famous Imam from the region) but he married a Filipina girl, something quite unheard of from Saudis with a similar background.

Seriously, don’t trust anyone who has just been to Jeddah or Riyadh for business. First of all, you can’t judge a country by the inhabitants of a several-million people city.

And second of all, don’t trust the judgment from someone who has traveled to Saudi Arabia for business because he hasn’t seen much beyond the office, the fancy restaurant, and the hotel.

Saudis are not happy about how the Western media portraits them

Our media doesn’t really do justice to Saudi people, as they portray them as religious fanatics who force women to submit to their Sharia rules.

The reality is miles away from this stereotype.

Like in any country, there are loads of awesome people and, like in any off the beaten track Muslim country, most of them are extra-nice with foreigners.

Local Saudi women

Most women in Saudi wear the black niqab, which covers the whole face except the eyes.

The reason they wear it is that, according to their interpretation of the Quran, women can’t show their face to any man who isn’t their dad, uncles, grandfathers, sons, and husband, of course.

For years, many pro-feminist groups in Europe have been claiming that the use of niqab is sexist, against the women’s rights and they wear it against their will.

Whereas I fully understand their point, I think that their argument is quite simplistic and it just lets you see one tiny side of the whole picture.

Please note that I am not trying to justify the use of the niqab but I just wanted you to know that many Saudi women actually choose to wear it. Really.

They choose to wear it because they think that this is the right thing to do because the Quran says so. They believe they need to wear it as much as men believe it.

Obviously, there will be many cases of liberal Saudi women who will tell you a different story but I am just talking in generic terms.

My point is that this topic is way more complicated than we think and, as tourists, we shouldn’t be talking or trying to change it because you are traveling to Saudi Arabia to learn about their culture and visit beautiful places.

How to deal with women in Saudi

Now that every day you see more and more women working in public spaces, you are likely to talk to quite a few Saudi women who wear the  niqab .

If you are a man, don’t try to shake hands and keep a reasonable distance with them but you can talk to them freely and you will see that they are as lovely women like any other.

If you are a foreign woman, they will definitely be extra nice to you and, if you are on the countryside, expect them to invite you to their house.

When I visited Al-Jawf, 1,000km north of Riyadh , I went there to work on an assignment for a local company and I was very lucky to be received by two super nice ladies wearing niqab . I spent the whole day with them.

They showed me around their province, we went to have some coffee and I even went to their house where they fed me until I exploded. They were as hospitable as any Muslim man I had met before and the only difference is that I didn’t see their faces. It was an enriching experience.

local womej Saudi

Saudis are multi-ethnic

For centuries, Muslims from all over the world came to Saudi on their journey to Mecca and, at some point, decided to settle there.

Over time, they became Saudi citizens and that is why, today, you find Saudis from all types of ethnicities.

From Bedouin to East-African-looking people and even the cultural-Yemeni-like people from the south of the country, in Jizan, Saudi is the most multi-ethnic Arab country.

For me, this was one of the most surprising things about the country.

people in Fayfa

🍲 Food when visiting Saudi Arabia

The food was another extremely surprising thing about traveling in Saudi.

Before visiting Saudi, I was traveling in Oman for 1 month. In Oman, I felt that, after day 2, I had already tasted all the local food, which was always simplified to different variations of rice with meat, chicken or fish.

Then, I tasted one or two different local dishes in some houses and the rest was all Indian food.

Saudi, however, is a different story. Since it borders with so many Arabic countries, its huge dimensions with many different geographical areas and its multi-ethnic population, the food in Saudi Arabia is a real blend of all the Arabic food you can think of .

From the Yemeni food-like dishes from the south to the olive oil-rich food from the north of the country, Levantine Arabic dishes such as vine leaves and makluba, foul and hummus for breakfast and, of course, the classic Gulf food that includes all sorts of rice with meat, the cuisine of Saudi Arabia also shows the cultural richness of the country.

By the way, traditionally, Saudis eat on the floor and use their right hand to eat. Eating like them is a sign of respect but if you are struggling, you can always help yourself with a spoon.

food in Saudi Arabia

💃 Solo female travel in Saudi

Since I left Saudi Arabia, I have been bombed with tons of questions from many women who are skeptical about traveling to Saudi.

Sure, Saudi is an extremely patriarchal country, so this kind of reaction is perfectly understandable. However, let me tell you that, as a woman, Saudi Arabia is much safer than you could ever think.

I am perfectly aware that, since I am not a woman, my opinion doesn’t really count here but, luckily, during my journey, I met Nada al Nahdi , a Yemeni / Indonesian girl who was born in Saudi, so she knows the people and culture very well and has traveled around the country extensively.

Nada wrote an article about this topic on my site, so if you want to know more, read:

9 misconceptions about traveling to Saudi Arabia as a woman .

wabha crater saudi arabia

⚠️ Is it safe to travel to Saudi Arabia?

From a crime perspective, Saudi Arabia is just another very safe place to visit in the Middle East . I mean, you should always be aware of your belongings but pickpocketing or being robbed is quite unheard of.

As per terrorism threat, I will not deny the fact that there have been some one-off terrorist attacks but even  UK travel advice says that, except for the areas close to the Yemeni border, all Saudi Arabia is safe to visit. 

However, I also went to Jizan, the region bordering Yemen and everything was extra peaceful. The war is happening on the other side of the border, not in Saudi.

In my opinion, the only actual threat when traveling in Saudi Arabia are the extremely crazy drivers. Seriously, after all my years of travels, I can now confirm that Saudi people are the most insane people on wheels.

For a more detailed analysis, read this article from Joao Leitao: Is Saudi Arabia a safe country to travel?

hanging out with locals near Riyadh

💰 Money, budget and costs in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Rial is the official currency and:

1 USD = 3.75 SAR

Exchanging money

Euros, United States dollars or British Pounds are widely accepted. You can even exchange Indian and Pakistani rupees and other Asian currencies, as there is a large Asian population living in Saudi.

Of course, the currencies from other Gulf countries, such as Omani Rials or UAE Dirhams are also accepted.

ATM and credit cards

ATMs are available pretty much everywhere and credit cards are accepted in most modern cafés, restaurants, and hotels. However, bring always some extra cash, as the Indian-run cafés and other more local places don’t accept cards.

How much does it cost to travel in Saudi Arabia?

These are the prices of the most typical things:

  • Budget Hotel – Double room from 100 to 150SAR
  • Breakfast in Indian-run café – 5 to 10SAR
  • Breakfast in local Saudi eatery – 10 to 15SAR
  • Lunch in Indian-run restaurant – 10 to 15SAR
  • Lunch in local Saudi eatery – 15 to 20SAR
  • Lunch in mid-range restaurant – From 30-35SAR
  • Short taxi ride in Riyadh – 15 to 25SAR

🛺 Transportation: How to move around when visiting in Saudi Arabia

Something you need to know: Saudi Arabia is the least walking-friendly place I have ever been to. That being said, here is what you need to know regarding moving around the Kingdom:

Moving inside cities

Public transportation in Saudi cities is awful and, except in some parts of Jeddah, you must drive with your own car or by taxi. You can’t seriously walk.

If you aren’t self-driving, I recommend you download Uber or Careem, so you won’t have to deal with negotiating a price with a taxi.

Domestic flights

Another problem of Saudi Arabia is that distances are ridiculously huge and the nice places to visit in Saudi are scattered all around the country.

For example, Al-Ula is nearly 1,000km north of Jeddah and Jizan is another 1,000 south of Jeddah. If you are short of time, a very good alternative is taking domestic flights.

I recommend you check on Saudia Airlines , as they have the largest number of domestic connections in the country.

For cheaper flights, check Flyadeal .

Actually, the most effective way to travel in Saudi Arabia would be taking a domestic flight and then renting a car in the destination itself.

Renting a car in Saudi Arabia

Road tripping around Saudi Arabia is the best way to enjoy the country, and I strongly recommend you do that.

Gas is cheap, so are the daily rental rates. However, all companies offer limited daily mileage , around 250-300km a day I think, so if you drive to faraway places like Al-Ula or Jizan, it can get expensive for solo travelers.

By the way, most rental companies won’t rent you a car if you don’t have an international driving license, so remember to convert it before leaving your country.

Saudi road trip

Moving around Saudi Arabia by bus

You can also move by bus between cities. They are very cheap but the problem is that you will have to rely on taxis once you get to any destination. There is not a single city in Saudi which is walking friendly.

You check all bus schedules and buy tickets on this website .


As crazy as it may sound, I hitchhiked all across Saudi Arabia .

I actually hitchhiked from Riyadh to Jizan, 1,300km. I had some really good experiences but, at the same time, I had not so good experiences.

On the one hand, it is relatively easy to get a ride and, normally, Saudis will be extremely helpful and, if you are lucky, they will invite you to their house.

On the other hand, most places in Saudi are connected with highways where people drive extremely fast and, sometimes, they overtake cars by the shoulder of the road, which is extremely dangerous if you are waiting there.

Moreover, many Saudis are crazy drivers, more than in any other country I have been to. On one occasion, I refused to continue with a man because I was seriously afraid of dying. When I finally reached Jizan, I decided not to hitchhike anymore. It was too intense.

Hitchhiking in Saudi Arabia

💻 Internet and SIM Card

Esim for browsing, calling and traveling in saudi arabia.

Basically, an eSIM is a regular SIM card with a digital format that works like a normal physical SIM card, with the added benefit that you can buy it from home before the beginning of your trip, hence avoiding the hassle of buying it at your destination. 

With Holafly , you can get a SIM Card for a wide range of destinations, including Saudi Arabia . 

Moreover, you can benefit from a 5% discount with the following code:  AGAINSTTHECOMPASS

Connecting to Wi-Fi in Saudi

Saudi is a modern country, with pretty good Wi-Fi in most places.

Getting a SIM Card in Saudi

I got ZAIN which, according to locals, has the worst network but it was the only company I found which you could buy just 1 or 2GB. Mobily is the most popular one but they asked me to buy 10GB, at least, which was around 150SR (40USD). With ZAIN, I think I just paid around 30SR for the SIM Card plus 1GB worth of data.

Remember that, in Saudi, the internet is censored and, if you want to access blocked sites, you will need a VPN. Read: How to find the right VPN for Saudi Arabia

🏨 Accommodation: where to stay in Saudi

In Saudi Arabia, there is plenty of accommodation options.

Typically, budget hotels will be apartment-style hotels , which tend to be a very good value-for-money option when you are two people or more.

In Jeddah and Riyadh, good but basic apartment-style hotel will start at 50-60USD a night, approximately, while in smaller towns, you can find for 30USD.

Read: How to find the right accommodation in Riyadh

Like in any Gulf country, luxury hotels abound in Saudi, especially in big cities.

❗ More information for traveling to Saudi

📢 In my Travel Resources Page you can find the list of all the sites and services I use to book hotels, tours, travel insurance and more.

All guides and articles for traveling in Saudi Arabia destination

  • Travel Guide to Riyadh
  • Where to Stay in Riyadh
  • Solo Female Travel Guide to Riyadh
  • Is it Ethical to Visit Saudi Arabia as a Tourist
  • Hitchhiking and Backpacking in Saudi Arabia
  • VPN for Saudi Arabia
  • Saudi Arabia Itinerary

Travel guides to other countries in the Middle East

  • Iran Travel Guide
  • Iraq Travel Guide
  • Travel Guide to Oman
  • Travel Guide to Lebanon
  • Syria Travel Guide
  • Palestine Travel Guide
  • Yemen Travel Guide

You will also be interested in: Where in the Middle East is safe? and The most beautiful places in the Middle East .

Traveling to Saudi Arabia


Very nice article. I love the way you describe everything to know before going to saudi arabia. It was a pleasure to meet you again and hang out with you for a couple of days. After Iran we met in Saudi… Morocco next meeting. I’m also going to publish an article about Saudi Arabia soon. Big hug all the way from Ouarzazate.

Cheers man! and where is going to be the next after Morocco 😀 ?

Great introduction thanks, hope I can go in the not too distant future. You should appreciate that no Muslim would refer to themselves as a Wahabi as it is an insulting term, albeit deserving for some more extreme believers. Saudis who follow the state approved version of Islam will probably call themselves Salafis, although this term can have a broader meaning elsewhere it is always conservative in nature.

Hey Graham, for some reason I had missed this comment. Thank you for the clarification. I have added a note in the respective section with a link to your blog

Saudi is up for big change. And it is going to be a positive change. It is slowly opening its door for the outside world for them to know more about saudi arabia and its rich cultural heritage and religion. The vision 2030 will have the world see a modern, welcoming, more hospitable and economically stronger Saudi Arabia. I have been living in this country for well over 10 years and I can attest with certainty that this is one of the most family friendly countries in the world. Everything in moderation and the laid back lifestyle will have you a lot of time to contemplate what really matters to you. You will always have a lot of “me time” since there aren’t too much of distraction around. The country is quiet, slow paced, and friendly. Recently, women are able to drive, cafes can have live performances in the form of bands or theatre. Men and women can now congregate in public. Cross my finger, in a few years time we will be seeing hundreds of thousands of tourists to experience Saudi Arabia…and we will be glad to welcome you all. By the way I am a filipino expat in this country.

thanks for your positive feedback!

I wanted to vist my friend in Saudi Arabia. Is it possible?

Hola, Me ha encantado tu artículo, explicas muchísimos detalles interesantes y creo que es un sitio grandioso para visitar. Me encantaría si pudiese ser que nos pongamos en contacto ya que quisiera preguntarte alguna cosa más vía mail.

Hola Lara, si es una pregunta sobre viajar a Arabia Saudita, mejor si lo preguntas aquí mismo, en comentarios. Pero este es el artículo en inglés, así que mejor publícalo en el link en español: https://againstthecompass.com/es/viajar-a-arabia-saudita/

Thank you so much for this … look forward to visit8ng next year after Mada’in Saleh opens up to visitors.

I wish it opens soon as well 🙂

One of my biggest issues as a female living for two years now in Saudi Arabia is that it is practically impossible as a western woman to go outside alone. Men will come up to you and see you as a free ticket to sex. It even happened that a complete stranger started kissing me. Saudi Arabia is not as bad as the media is saying, but please if you’re a woman still be on your guard and do not go outside alone. If you’re accompanied by a male nobody will come talk to you, at most you’ll have people stating at you for being different.

Hi Joan. You’re really giving us the useful info. Thanks a lot. I just wondering if you’re still keeping updated about that e-visa. Is it still available? And does this visa have limit country? Thank you.

Hi Jina, yes, the post contains the latest traveling information. Unfortunately, they stopped issuing visas… Perhaps, they will renew the process in winter

Thank you for the tips. You may need to update the part of the post about men wearing shorts, because that’s now illegal in public (unless you’re at a pool or a gym) pursuant to a new public decency law and you could get fined for it. You might have some leeway if you’re a white foreigner, though.

So it’s mostly walking the streets and malls and shops and stuff where you’re not allowed ot wear shorts. But it may target Saudi men more than anyone else.

so are you saying they changed this law recently, so they are going backwards?

On this particular issue they are going backwards unfortunately. I thought I included a link to the news, but I don’t know if it got posted with my previous post and I’ll try it again. If it doesn’t work, you can just Google “Saudi Arabia shorts stepfeed” and check the news on Stepfeed’s website. Either way, I’d hate for a would-be tourist to read your post and think it’s all right to wear shorts only to go there and get fined the equivalent of $1,500.

Hi Nayef, I delete all links posted because many of them end up being 404, which is not good for my SEO

It’s disappointing to read people from other cultures with other worldviews speak of different dress codes as “going backwards.” Even if it’s a Western value that more dress code freedom is “moving forward,” speaking about this kind of value as if it were a moral fact others are obliged to recognize is very often counterproductive. Different countries, different perspectives, different rules.

Thanks to Joan for an otherwise fun, informative article.

thanks for your comment. However, going backwards refers to the fact that they force you wearing certain clothes. If they forced you wearing a bikini at the office, it would also be going backwards. Not being free to choose whether wether shorts or not is dictatorial

Joan, thanks for being polite in your reply. I respectfully disagree. There are all sorts of opportunity costs to apparently free choices. That a culture considers some effects of freedom acceptable is no reliable litmus for what is “forward,” only what’s acceptable to most in the culture. Every government forces citizens to do many things. It’s an arbitrary decision that some freedoms (like the freedom to verbally bully people online or to operate grisly slaughterhouses) are “forward” while the prohibition of others (like wearing shorts in schools or in public) is “backwards.”

I respect you have your own perspective. We’ll just have to respectfully disagree. Cheers.

Please come on, don’t compare wearing shorts with bullying people online. Wearing shorts doesn’t produce any harm to anyone.

Joan, I appreciate a fair exchange. 🙂 The comparison between the prerogative to wear shorts and the prerogative to bully people online is valid because both the judgment of either as right or wrong is rooted in changing cultural values. In the US, the cultural perception of freedom of speech takes priority over the documented harms of verbal (and online) bullying. Other countries limit harmful speech freedoms, something many US citizens find unforgivable. Very different Western cultural responses to the question of permissible freedom.

While many Westerners don’t see any problem with people wearing whatever they want, other cultures don’t agree. All that says is that a majority of people in a culture feel some way. There’s nothing objective to validate claims of moving forward or backward. I’m not trying to be argumentative. I agree with what you wrote above in your blog, “This is their country and we are not here to judge.” So I was disappointed to read the judgment of the Saudi culture as (moving) “backwards” because it has different dress code rules than our cultures do.

Thanks for the polite exchange and the fun read on Saudi Arabia.

I completely agree with what you said — we should not refer to this change as moving backwards, and the point you made about online bullying was spot-on! Saudi Arabia has a different culture than the Western world and it sounds like they’ve been changing a lot of their rules to make it more liberal lately. Asking people to cover up is not harming anyone, it is just asking that people remain respectful of their culture and the prevailing religion there. I think that as Westerners, we should understand that they want to protect their culture as they begin allowing tourists into their country, and this is a very reasonable law in the grand scheme of things.

can i go to Saudi Arabia with a business visa in july? i was told i may not be allowed in during the period of hajj. i need answer to make some business decisions. thanks

Hi Malik, this is a tourism-related blog. For business visas contact, better contact your embassy

Saudi Arabia e-visas are finally available again 🙂 Read the visa section of this post!

I know Saudi arabia is very nice cantry I was there for about 5 years. in Riyadh. but the problem is I can not go back to Saudi. I ask the Embassy of Saudi arabia here in Addis Ababa but the Answer is No They say to me if you have family only you can visit they say to me.

I want visit visa

Hopefully this doesn’t sound like a silly question, but it is a concern for me. I have travelled to the UAE and to Lebanon, with no issues, other than lots of stares, but I pretty covered in tattoos. Full sleeves on both arms, chest is completely covered and am working on both legs. I have the utmost respect for the culture and faith of Muslim people. I’m assuming that I’d be expected to be covered while there? I would happily wear a thawb or kandoora but I hope it would not be seen as mockery. I’ve worn a kandoora when visiting mosques. Help!!!

Hey Todd, are you asking whether wearing tattoos are illegal or not in KSA? From a legal point of view, I doubt you need to be covered but yeah, if you do, you will definitely avoid continuous stares.

Hola Joan! Thank you for this amazing post. I am planning a trip to Delhi and I found many well-priced tickets with a loooong layover in either Jeddah or Riyadh. Any comments or suggestions about the airports? Same dress code applies inside the airport or covering my head would suffice? Thanks a lot 🙂

Hi Ani, in Saudi, the only compulsory thing is wearing an abaya to cover your body (not your head). Not sure how is it in the airport, but bring one just in case

hi joan, do you know if its going to be a problem travelling to saudi with a iran-visa in the passport? thanks

There are still no tourist visas available for non-religious travel. There were temporary visas issued corresponding to specific events for which they wanted to attract foreigners. Good luck traveling with an unrelated member of the opposite sex!

The issue here is that Vision 2030 and all of their current projects are taking place while there is a law that allows the government to declare just about anything a threat to its existence and allows them to whisk you off the street and keep for as long as they want.

Do not be fooled by the work of countless foreign consulting firms. Women are in jail being sexually abused. Other people have simply disappeared since 2015. Saudi Arabia has not just suddenly transformed, no matter what the under-informed believe.

Good news: e-visa for Saudi Arabia is finally available. The system still has a few bugs and I was not able to apply, but they just launched a few days ago, so we will have to wait.

I have updated the article accordingly. Your experiences are very welcome 🙂

Hi. Do you know if it’s OK to travel with your own car? If so, can you go in from one country and then out to another country?

Yes, it is OK, as long as you have valid visas for your next country

Do you know whether you’ll be denied entry if, like Lebanon, one has an Israeli stamp/visa in your passport? I’m an American but live in Israel.

In the past for sure (even though they could be kind of flexible with resident expats). Now, with the tourism boom that the country will suffer, let’s see how it goes

In the past for sure (even though they were be kind of flexible with resident expats). Now, with the tourism boom that the country will suffer, let’s see how it goes. I am not certainly sure

Juan.. Greetings. Travellinandi from Sudan and Iraq.

So I got my visa….yeah…note to appliers that when you load your foto, it doesn’t show up til the end!! And when you do your bday, after clicking a few hundred times, hold the status bar and a decade year range will show up..

Question.. How much time does one need I. SAYDI.. Jeddah, AL ulra, abha and mountains.. .. As a budget backpacker, seems a bit expensive to hang around.. I have researched internal flights and C-Surfing is possible…. Any sites for 4*4 rental….cheaper to book in country r out of country.. Is a 4*4 needed to go into AL ulra…

Yeah, Saudi is expensive indeed, but there are ways to get around. Couchsurfing in Jeddah and Riyadh is really easy, and I assume in other big cities as well but I couldn’t find a couch in Jizan and Abha.

Distances are huge. For example, Jeddah to Jizan via Abha is around 900km and if you want to go to Al-Ula, then you have to go back to Jeddah and Al-Ula is another 670km (one way). I hitchhiked from Riyadh to Jizan. Hitchhiking to get out of Riyadh was tough but then it was so easy. It took me 3 days to get to Jizan (1100km)

Also bear in mind that cities in Saudi are like in Dubai or Oman. Not walking friendly at all, meaning that once you reach the city, you will have to hitchhike again, or take a taxi, but the locals are generally helpful.

A 4×4 is not needed but the problem with car rental is that you are only allowed to drive X km a day, and then they charge you per km, so doing a loop around the country can turn expensive. I think it would be cheaper if you take a flight to Abha and you rent the car at the airport and explore the Abha & Jizan for a few days. Same with Al Ula.

How many days you need, maybe 3 days in Jeddah, 3 days Abha & Jizan, 2 days in Al Ula + traveling time. Did you check my itinerary? https://againstthecompass.com/en/places-visit-saudi-arabia-itinerary/

Anything you need, let me know!

There is no need women to cover their body with an abaya, any more… Please update your information given

Hi! Thanks for all this. When we apply for the VISA, do we have to tell them where we are going to sleep or can we couchsurf ior choose a place as soon as we arrive? Thanks!

Hey Pedro, I seriously doubt they will ask you for this information but the best way to know find it to test it by yourself and see 🙂 !

Hi, we are Belgian citizens and got our visa very easy online through http://www.visitsaudi.com We fly return with Pegasus from Brussels, Istanbul to Kuwait for 250 euro. For Kuwait we got a single visa only, I called their embassy in Brussels and they told us that we can cross land border in either direction and we can apply our second Kuwait visa at the border coming back from KSA. Hope this was useful. We fly soon.

thanks for the info 🙂

I was totally unaware that Saudi Arabia has so much To offer the adventure crazy traveler. However for acquiring a visa, the procedure seems fairly easy. Hope to visit in 2020.

Hola Joan. He leído que obtuviste una sim Card en KSA. Yo estoy ahora por aquí y se niegan a servirmela porque dicen que necesitan mi huella dactilar, la cual no figura en el pasaporte. Me pregunto como la obtuviste

Hi. I’m a filipino guy working here in Riyadh KSA. I have a girlfriend here in Riyadh also and of course we’re not yet married. My question is, can we sleep on a hotel together? Thank you.

Wonderful article! Question for you – If you had only 4-5 days to spend in Saudi, where would you go?

Jeddah, definitely, and then Riyadh, where you can do a a few day trips t natorual places nearby

Hi, do you know if Australians are elible for the tourist visa. You don’t mention it in visa info section and couldn’t find it online.

Never mind, we can 🙂

I lost a friend there. Is tracing possible there?

Wow, You killed it.. One of the best experience of travel I read. I am living in Saudi Arabia and know most of the things you said, So, I know most of the information you expressed in your blog.

Hi Joan! Thank you so much for this! I would love to travel to KSA and this makes it so much simpler. Any place where we can listen to or learn the local musical instrument – ‘oud’ ? Thanks in advance.

really love all your posts man. Though basically i belonged to Pakistan, yet I love your enlightened posts about Saudia. Really love that one day, all those misconceptions about Saudi people also removed, and I wish they also get their true representatives one day. i mean, i am not against any family, nor I am talking about near past history, yet Saudi people really love others, they also deserve rightly representations one day. I wonder one day, people will get what they actually deserve. And exploring the holy land, well you will definitely get the signs of greatness of ALLAH too, so i think that policy of current Saudi givernment is really worth appreciatable, though many of its policies still needs open arms and thinking. stay bless people of whole Saudia Arabia (both Hijaz and Najd), amen! and thanks for such great and informative vlog. Peace!

Type here..Am so much happy for the wonderful information you give out about the culture and law operating in Saudi Arabia God bless, my dream is to be in Arabia one day not just for anything but to understand the language of Arabia to promote and advance the level of my education even if am to get someone who I will work with in any of his local company , May Allah help us all.

You will just have to secure a visit visa from saudi embassy in the country where you are in right now. Once visa is issued for you, you can enter Saudi Arabia.

I’ve been living in Saudi only since February 2019 (Eastern Province) but the drivers have definitely gotten better over that time. Every day more speed cameras and signalling on changing lanes has become much more of a thing. 😉

That’s very good to know 🙂

Amazing Photos,

Glad you love Saudi Arab and Thanks you share the real experience with your readers because most people things negatively about Saudi Arabs.

Another very insightful and interesting article. Thank you!

Look forward to visiting Saudi Arabia as soon as I can. I have loved Pakistan and Iran where I have studied and worked. Any country that can be compared to these in term of hospitality has to be remarkable.

Hi Joan, Same name with my elder sibling☺️. I’m living here in saudi for two years now. Worked here as a nurse. I stumble on your blog as I am searching on updates regarding saudi (it’s good to be mindful of your surroundings and be updated) and about where I wanna be after my contract here if I still wanna be in saudi. As I read your blog, I am reminded of when I first stepped my foot out of the airport. “Dessert, two years what you will bring to my first tiptoeing”. Here’s really my msg…Reading your blog gave me a new perspective.

Thank you! ᒪᑌᑎᗩ

great article about my beloved country

i suggest to you to redo it again. we had huge changed here in Saudi Arabia.

i would like to clarify some points for you on Friday it is consider as religious holiday as Sunday for Cristian. so the majority of locals and resident sleep till noon and the pray take only one hour so it will be ended before 13:00 afternoon then life start.

normally in Saudi Arabia locals don’t prefer to go out between 12:00 till 4:00 due to the hot weather

Saudi citizen get upset of any person use his left hand due to we are using this hand for dirty stuff (WC and such) so they prefer not to put this hand in the food or even to handle anything with another person ( it is respect and cleanness perspective)

the women traveling alone in Saudi Arabia are more safe than a local person walking alone ( it is 100% safe) Ramadan month is fasting (we don’t eat from Sunrise till sunset ) month and the whole country will be different in good way as the local will start their day from 3 or 4 pm till Sunrise. it is great experience don’t miss it even if you are non Muslim.

The abaya is not mandatory anymore.

about shops during pray time it is not big issue anymore but the locals didn’t get use of it yet so you may face something like what you mention.

i hope you will visit again and we can meet to show you different Saudi Arabia even more extreme than you imagine

best wishes to you

I love your blog and I visit and revisit every time to get information for my own round the world trip.

The only thing is that I sometimes miss information about how countries react to people with a sexual orientation other than heterosexual.

I understand that as a straight man you have no experience with these issues, but I think that since it is possible to bring a point of view about being safe to travel as a woman alone, maybe a note or two about the attention LGBTQIA+ people need when visiting certain places would be interesting too.

I know I can’t visit, for example, Iran and just say I’m gay, but that doesn’t stop me from getting to know the country, right? The information about Saudi Arabia here in America turns out to be very negative and it is difficult to distinguish between what to believe and what not.

Anyway, just a suggestion. ^^

Anticipate visiting Saudi Arabia straightaway. I have cherished Pakistan and Iran where I have considered and worked. Any country that can measure up to these in term of cordiality must be surprising.

Hi all, where is it possible to hire a 4×4 for self-driving through the country? Christian

anywhere, at the airport, 5-star hotels… All major car rental companies are there

Thanks for sharing! The country has long been closed to tourism, so it’s great that we can finally visit the place. Definitely on my list once all the restrictions ease up.

If you’ve been to IRAN and your passport has been stamped in Iran, you might want to check from reliable source if you can enter saudi arabia with such passport with iranian stamp. They don’t allow that here as far as I know.

What site would you recommend for asking the visa ? Is it also a problem between iran and Saoedi Arabia ? Cause I want to go to iran First but don’t want any issues between pasport stamps

The site where you can ask for the visa is linked in the visa section of this blog.

No problem between Iran and Saudi from a traveling perspective

Hello, I want to travel to Saudi Arabia from Slovenia ( Eu country ) by car .Is it possible and which route you suggest? Where I can get more information? Slavko

Hi, you can do Turkey-Iraq-Saudi or Turkey-Iran-UAE (ferry)-Saudi

Hi Thank you for your answer. I’m not a world traveler and I don’t know where to get more information. Can you suggest a kind of forum or something similar where I could find out more about how to plan my trip. Slavko

Cheers everyone! I really like the detailed article as always on this great blog.

It also states that entering KSA from Jordan by land border would be easy to cross – is that information still current as of now?

Anyway I hope you or one of the readers can help me with my questions on crossing the border from Jordan to Saudi Arabia as it’s kind of hard to find any information on that. I’ve already tried several FB groups, TripAdvisor forums, iOverlander and even contacting some travel agencies as well as visitsaudi.com but was not able to get a clear statement (if any).

My questions would be: – Is it possible to cross from Jordan to Saudi Arabia at Al Muddawarah border crossing with a Saudi Arabian eVisa or would I need another type of visa (e. g. from an embassy)? – Are there any restrictions or special requirements on exiting Jordan at the named border (e. g. special visa type needed etc.)? – Are there any public transportation services (at least to the Jordan side of the border and then from the Saudi Arabian side to Tabouk) as I’m not travelling by own vehicle?

For the record, I’m a EU citizen with respective passport and no Israeli stamps, if that’s of concern for my request.

I really would appreciate any hint on the issue. Thank you so much in advance!

Best, Philipp

Hi Phil, I don’t know about public transportation options but I’d certainly try to hitchhike in that area. It will be an adventure.

Cities in Saudi are not meant to walk at all, and Tabouk is so spread out that in the best case, your bus will drop you in the middle of nowhere, having to either hitchhike or taxi a pricey taxi to your hotel or next destination.

The border is fully open with the evisa, as I’ve been told.

Dear Joan, thanks for your advice on that. In the meantime I have also received a statement from http://www.visitsaudi.com on the land border/eVisa question and they confirmed that it should be possible to enter KSA that way. Next step is to check if Jordan let’s us leave via that border with a regular visa ;). Best, Phil

Hi Philipp, I lived in Tabuk (the city) in 2009/10. We often took a taxi from the bus stand (in advance, usually a big people carrier as there were 4 of us) to the border and cross with our multi-exit visas. On return, we’d call the driver and he’d pick us up. One time, he didn’t come and so the 2 of us got a lift on an empty coach to Tabuk, for which we gratefully paid a fee. There was absolutely no public transport on that route; only single cars and trucks and the odd train of camel.

Cheers Justin, weirdly only now I was notified of your comment, so sorry for the late reply. Thanks for sharing your experience!

To whom it may concern: We’ll actually do the tour from Aqaba to Tabouk on 13th of November with just the standard eVisa and hopefully a shared taxi. It’s not clear yet how and where to find them but the tripadvisor forum says they exist as of July 2022: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g293991-i4477-k13850870-Hotel_in_Haql_and_shared_taxi_from_Haql_to_Tabuk-Saudi_Arabia.html#115457755 . Otherwise we’ve found a couple of agencies/drivers who offer the trip at a comparatively high rate of 1000 SAR after negotiation but therefore in a huge Chevy Escalade…

Thank you a interestingly objective current read ( which is very hard to find) A mixed group of us are travelling to Riyadh from England in Dec and this has answered a few of my concerns ( female married westerner )

Excellent, thanks!

Hi Joan, I fly to Riyadh in a week. I read that evisa costs 535 SAR and visa on arrival 480 SAR. The only difference I can see is that evisa includes a medical insurance for Saudi Arabia. Since most of us travel with insurance, is there any reason to go for the evisa instead of the visa on arrival? Thank you!

Hello Bego! They just changed the rules recently, thanks for pointing that out 🙂

Hi, does the mileage limit for rental cars still apply in 2023?

I’m really struggling to find information about Ramadan in KSA. It’s the only time I can go next year and don’t know what challenges and possible benefits it might have

KSA is a tough place for Ramadan… Everything will be closed during the day. Benefits? Nightlife and joining iftars but Saudi isn’t like Syria or Jordan, where people are walking and shopping along markets…

I am planning to go to Saudi Arabia alone in the next February. But it is very expensive to join a local tour. For example, if I go to moon crater from Jeddah, it costs me US$900. Madly expensive! Can I rent a taxi /uber to get to tourist spot? Do you have any information about any reliable tour agents?

Hi Wilson, things in Saudi are getting tremendously expensive. You can travel on your one by renting a car, just on rentalcars.com

Thanks for all your posts about Saudi ,that helped me on my two weeks trip from Jeddah to dammam. Very interesting country; Al Ula is excellent 👌 and Riyadh a good surprise ; but in general not easy to travel without a car (saptco national bus company ceased operations oct2023) and little info available. The high speed cars are really everywhere.

thank you for the update Cyril!

Do you have to to provide proof of accommodation on arrival at the airport?

No, you don’t have to

Are there many shared taxis in Saudi?

there are, but they aren’t as common or easy to find as in other countries. I remember taking one from Abha to Jizan

Leave a Comment Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  Notify me when new comments are added.

Join our Expeditions

From Syria to Iraq in Pakistan, Against the Compass is finally running expeditions to the most epic and off-the-beaten-track countries.

We have scheduled expeditions for every month of the year.

Latest posts

  • How to Travel to Libya in 2024
  • Backpacking Venezuela Travel Guide (2024)
  • How to travel to Afghanistan during Taliban rule (2024)
  • How to visit Los Llanos in Venezuela
  • How to visit Angel Falls and Canaima National Park
  • Latest News
  • Jawazat and MOI
  • Driving in KSA

Life in Saudi Arabia

  • Travelling from KSA
  • Passport & Visa Issues
  • Travelling from KSA to USA

Apply for USA b1/b2 visit visa from Saudi Arabia

Navigate here 👇

USA is a dream country for many expats. In order to visit it, you need to apply for a USA b1/b2 visit visa from Saudi Arabia. Here is the complete process;

Fill in the DS-160 form

This long form can be filled out online at https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/ . As the DS-160 form is lengthy and requires a lot of specific information, make sure you are equipped with all the required information. Allocate an hour or so to fill in the DS-160 form with the correct information. If it is not possible to fill it all in once, you can log in again to complete it.

In such a case you will be given an Application ID, which is valid for 30 days only: once expired, a new application will have to be filled all over again.

Retrieving a previous application requires accessing through Application ID along with answering certain security questions. The following information is required to be entered in the DS-160 form to apply for U.S. Visa (B1/B2) from Saudi Arabia.

  • Your personal information.
  • In case traveling with family, you must have their full names and personal information like Passport number, Iqama number, Date of birth, etc
  • Name and complete information of the place/organization you shall be residing in such as an address, postal code, email, relationship, etc.
  • A photo that shall abide by the rules specified here https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/photos.html

how to visit saudi arabia from usa

Review the DS-160 Form

When you are done with filling in the DS-160 form along with uploading the photograph, you will be asked to give it a review. Go through the DS-160 form very carefully and make sure all the information is correct. 

Submit the DS-160 Form

After this, you will be asked to confirm all the information via electronic signature. Once done with all these formalities, you will be receiving a confirmation email. 

There will be an attached confirmation page with the email, make sure to save it and take a print of it! This page will be required on the day of your interview.

Register at CGI website

Now you have to fill out a form for CGI which is quite similar to the previous DS-160 form.  The CGI form shall be attained from the web link https://cgifederal.secure.force.com/ . 

As you complete it, you will be given a confirmation email. You are also required to save the confirmation page and take its print. When heading towards the bank for paying your visa fees, CAREFULLY note the CGI reference number from your CGI form. This is an important requirement.

Pay the fee

Now you are required to visit a SAMBA bank and deposit visa fees amounting to $185 or SR 700. To be clear this is a non-refundable fee that can be deposited in SAMBA bank only.

The bank shall provide you with carbon paper, fill it properly. Where it asks for a reference code, jot down the CGI reference number.  Do not write the DS-160 form number here!

how to visit saudi arabia from usa

Book the Appointment

After 24 hours of fee submission, check the CGI website for fee confirmation.  Now you will be asked to select a date and time for the appointment. Once done with this, head forward for completing all your documents. This is a preferable checklist:

  • The DS-160 form confirmation page is inclusive of the barcode confirmation number.
  • A photograph with a white background sized 5cm x 5cm. make sure it is no older than 6 months. Men should make sure their head is uncovered while women shall take along a photograph in which their hairline and jawline are visible.
  • Current and previous (if any) passports.
  • Letter from employer confirming the length of job, job title, and salary. We have provided a Sample Introduction Letter for Visa Processing.
  • Bank certificate or bank statement holding data of past 6 months. (Although it is not stated anywhere I personally believe that you should maintain at least a $10,000 minimum balance over a period of 6 months).

Arrival at the US Embassy

Appointments are catered for daytime only. The following guidelines will be useful for you:

  • Arrive half an hour earlier than the scheduled time.
  • Do not carry your mobile phone along with you.
  • Bags and purses are not allowed.
  • Do not carry any sort of electronic gadget.
  • Keep away all your valuables in the car or at home; do not bring them along with you!

U.S Visa Interview

Your documents will be briefly looked and you shall be asked certain questions. Given below are certain standard questions. It is very important to prepare yourself for these questions.

  • 10 Tips for U.S visa interview in Saudi Arabia

For the latest updates, you can join our ✅ WhatsApp group or ☑️ Telegram Channel .

Never pay the full price🏷️; join  the 📢 Saudi Coupon Codes group and get sales updates and discount codes in one place.


How to apply for a uk eta, st kitts and nevis citizenship opportunities for investment immigrants, apply for morocco visa from saudi arabia, navigating the luxembourg visa process: a comprehensive guide to a smooth application, saudi visa stamping 2023: process, documents & status check, apply for japan visit visa from saudi arabia.

Is this your first time applying for a visa and/or visiting our site?

Yes    No

تغيير اللغة : Change to Arabic

Apply for a U.S. Visa

In saudi arabia.

(Updated: October 11, 2023)

All receipts for payment of Machine-Readable Visa (MRV) fees issued before October 1, 2022, expired September 30, 2023. There will be no extensions of fee validity. Applicants must have scheduled an appointment or submitted an interview waiver application before September 30, 2023 to avoid paying a new fee. If you paid the MRV fee on or after October 1, 2022, you must have scheduled the appointment within one year of your MRV payment date. Please note that the interview itself does not need to take place within one year, but an interview appointment needs to be made in the system, even if it is scheduled months into the future. Furthermore, applicants using MRV fees paid before October 1, 2022 to book an appointment are cautioned not to attempt to change their appointment dates on or after October 1, 2023. Doing so will result in forfeiture of both the original appointment slot and the MRV fee receipt. The applicant will be required to pay a new fee and submit a new application package.

In 2020, the U.S. Department of State amended its regulations concerning B visas. U.S. consular officers overseas will deny any B visa application from an applicant whom the consular officer has reason to believe is traveling for the primary purpose of giving birth in the United States to obtain U.S. citizenship for their child. The full text of the 2020 announcement can be found here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/20200123_birth-tourism-update.html . See also https://help.cbp.gov/s/sidebar-all-travel?language=en_US for additional information from U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the admission of international travelers (including those who are pregnant) to the United States.

Select here to learn more about an important update on waivers of the interview requirement for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants.

Please ensure that all personal (full name, passport information, etc.) and contact information (phone number, email, etc.) provided is for the applicant requesting a visa and reflects the information exactly as is in the passport. The failure to provide the correct personal and contact information will result in the delay or cancellation of your visa application process and the delay in the return of your passport.

Please list your mobile number as your primary phone

Mount Rushmore - South Dakota

Welcome to the U.S. Visa Information Service for Saudi Arabia. On this website you can find information about U.S. immigrant and nonimmigrant visas and the requirements to apply for each. You can also learn how to pay the required visa application fee, and book an interview appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and the Consulates in Dhahran and Jeddah.

This is the official visa information website of the U.S. Mission in Saudi Arabia.

Nonimmigrant Visa Information

  • Payment Options
  • DS-160 Information
  • Appointment Wait Times
  • Photos and Fingerprints
  • Visa Waiver Program
  • Security Regulations

Nonimmigrant Visa Application

  • Apply for a Visa
  • Pay My Visa Fee
  • Complete My DS-160
  • Schedule My Appointment
  • Document Delivery Options
  • Track and Retrieve My Passport
  • Apply for Expedited Visa Processing
  • Applying for a Visa without an Interview
  • Application Refused under INA 221(g)

Immigrant Visa Information

  • Visa Information
  • Check My Immigrant Visa Petition Status
  • Immigrant Visa Wait Times
  • Select Document Delivery Address

Local Visa Programs

  • Travel Coordinator
  • Group Appointments
  • Diplomatic and Government Officials
  • Visas for Children & Seniors
  • U.S. Embassy and Consulates
  • Passport/Visa Collection Locations
  • Document Drop-Off Locations
  • Bank Locations

General Information

  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Holidays and Closures
  • Rights and Protections
  • Helpful Links

© CGI Federal Inc.

Department of State

  • usvisas.state.gov

how to visit saudi arabia from usa

Find cheap flights to Saudi Arabia from $398

This is the cheapest one-way flight price found by a kayak user in the last 72 hours by searching for a flight from the united states to saudi arabia departing on 8/7. fares are subject to change and may not be available on all flights or dates of travel. click the price to replicate the search for this deal., search hundreds of travel sites at once for deals on flights to saudi arabia.

Save 21% or more Compare multiple travel sites with one search.

Track prices Not ready to book? Create a price alert for when prices drop.

Filter your deals Choose cabin class, free Wi-Fi and more.

Bundle and save Save money when you bundle your flight + hotel.

Best Saudi Arabia Flight Deals

Cheapest round-trip prices found by our users on KAYAK in the last 72 hours

Good to know

Faqs - booking saudi arabia flights, what are the visa and passport requirements for landing in saudi arabia.

When flying to Saudi Arabia, you need to have a passport with a minimum of six months validity beyond the date of travel. The passport should have at least one blank page for entry stamps. As for visa requirements, you do need to have a valid visa, which you can apply for at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia.

What routes can travelers use from Saudi Arabia's King Abdulaziz International Airport to get to Jeddah's city center?

King Abdulaziz Airport to Jeddah transportation options include bus, taxi, vehicle, and town car. Taking a bus is the most affordable way to go from King Abdulaziz Airport to Jeddah. The bus ride takes 45 minutes and costs about 3 SAR ($1 USD) to get from the airport to the city center. A taxi or town car will take you to Jeddah from King Abdulaziz Airport in 17 minutes and will cost you about 244 SAR ($65 USD).

What are the stopover options when flying to Saudi Arabia?

Your stopover options are highly dependent on the airline you’re traveling with. For instance, when you fly with Egypt Air, you’ll probably stop at Cairo, while the most likely stopover city when traveling with Emirates is Dubai. When you fly with KLM, you’ll likely stop in Amsterdam.

Which airport sees the most volume of travelers from America to Saudi Arabia?

Most American vacationers who are traveling to Saudi Arabia prefer to fly out of Salt Lake City International Airport. Even though Denver International Airport (DEN) and Las Vegas Airport (LAS) provide equivalent flights to Saudi Arabia from the USA, many tourists choose to depart from Salt Lake City International Airport due to its prime location near public transportation, which lowers their travel expenditures.

Which is the best airport to land at in Saudi Arabia?

Most airports in Saudi Arabia have amazing facilities and friendly staff. The best criteria to use when choosing an airport is the geographical location. If you prefer landing in the capital, then King Khalid International Airport (RUH) is perfect for you. However, if you would much rather land in Jeddah, you should book flights that land at King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED).

After arriving at King Abdulaziz International Airport, which other nearby cities can I visit?

You may travel to a variety of places close to King Abdulaziz International Airport by traveling to Saudi Arabia from the US. Flights from this airport also serve such cities as Mecca, Ta'if, and Al Bahah in addition to Jeddah. You have the choice of taking a bus, cab, or renting your own car to get to these places after arriving at King Abdulaziz International Airport.

Which airline has the best amenities?

When flying to Saudi Arabia, there is no doubt that Fly Emirates ranks very highly among the best airlines to fly with. They have a wide range of amenities on offer, including meals, seatback on-demand, and live TV. They also offer great customer service.

Is there a nearby hotel that provides a complimentary airport shuttle service to visitors arriving at King Abdulaziz International Airport?

It would be beneficial if you didn't worry in case you intend to lodge at a hotel that offers a free airport shuttle when you arrive at JED Airport. Several hotels offer free airport services to travelers from JED Airport. Consider reserving a room at a hotel that provides a free airport shuttle if you want to avoid the hassle of paying the high costs of taxis to get to your preferred hotel.

Which city has the best access to other Middle Eastern countries?

To get the best access to other Middle Eastern countries, you can book flights that land at either Jeddah or Riyadh. This way, you will have easy access to neighboring countries like Qatar and Abu Dhabi.

How long is the flight to Saudi Arabia?

An average nonstop flight from the United States to Saudi Arabia takes 19h 22m, covering a distance of 7133 miles. The most popular route is Washington, D.C. - Jeddah with an average flight time of 11h 50m.

What is the cheapest flight to Saudi Arabia?

The cheapest ticket to Saudi Arabia from the United States found in the last 72 hours was $243 one-way, and $716 round-trip. The most popular route is Washington, D.C. Dulles Intl to Jeddah King Abdulaziz Intl and the cheapest round-trip airline ticket found on this route in the last 72 hours was $846.

Which airlines fly to Saudi Arabia?

SAUDIA & Kuwait Airways fly the most frequently from the United States to Saudi Arabia.

What are the most popular destinations in Saudi Arabia?

Based on KAYAK flight searches, the most popular destination is Jeddah (58% of total searches to Saudi Arabia). The next most popular destinations are Riyadh (18%) and Medina (15%). Searches for flights to Dammam (6%), to Taif (0.6%) and to Tabuk (0.5%) are also popular.

How does KAYAK’s flight Price Forecast tool help me choose the right time to buy?

KAYAK’s flight Price Forecast tool uses historical data to determine whether the price for a given destination and date is likely to change within 7 days, so travelers know whether to wait or book now.

Top tips for finding cheap flights to Saudi Arabia

  • Enter your preferred departure airport and travel dates into the search form above to unlock the latest Saudi Arabia flight deals.
  • If you’re looking for direct flights to Saudi Arabia, you should know that Saudia Airlines is the only airline that offers non-stop flights to the kingdom. Furthermore, they aren’t common and are mostly found once a week.
  • Those who love shopping excursions while visiting Saudi Arabia from the USA could consider flying into King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED). Because there are numerous upscale shopping centers nearby that frequently have sales deals with discounts, shopping near this airport is simple and enjoyable.
  • If you’re considering traveling to Saudi Arabia during Ramadan, be aware that airfares can change dramatically during this period.
  • The majority of people who travel with their children to Saudi Arabia from the USA prefer flying with American Airlines. Kids can comfortably stream live versions of their favorite movies, songs, or even TV shows to Saudi Arabia from the USA with this airline's complimentary in-flight Wi-Fi.
  • If you want to visit various other cities while in Saudi Arabia, you should book flights that land in King Khalid International Airport (RUH), which is in Riyadh. For starters, it is the capital and therefore provides easy access in terms of infrastructure and facilities. Secondly, you’ll be centrally located and can easily move in any direction.
  • Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) has a variety of amenities that are accessible to people with disabilities issues going to Saudi Arabia from the USA. Every terminal at this airport's parking garage has special parking areas and amenities just for people with disabilities.
  • On the day you are supposed to travel to Saudi Arabia, you should get to the airport a couple of hours before your flight’s departure time. By doing so, you’ll have more than enough time to get cleared for your flight by airport authorities.
  • Consider booking a hotel near King Abdulaziz International Airport if your flight to Saudi Arabia from the United States is scheduled to arrive late at night. The Clarion Hotel Jeddah Airport is one of the most convenient places for passengers to stay overnight after arriving at King Abdulaziz International Airport late. You can walk to this accommodation in less than five minutes.
  • In Saudi Arabia, the law requires that children up to the age of four be seated in appropriate child safety seats when in a car. As this is the case, if you plan on flying to Saudi Arabia with a child younger than four, it’s in your best interest to carry your own car seat.
  • Airport lounges are a good spot to unwind while waiting for a flight to Saudi Arabia from the United States. The Delta Sky Club is a popular lounge among travelers flying from SLC in economy classes. Those who require premium-class lounge services should think about stopping by the Centurion lounge.

Top 5 airlines flying to Saudi Arabia

Besides the flight cancellation, everything else was prefect. Kudos to Malaysian Airlines.

Operated by American Airlines. Very chaotic and the crew was bit rough responding any enquiries. Restricted leg space.. Qatar would have been better

Qatar airways from Doha to guangzhau was excellent big bird Boeing 777 more room and smoothly flight, I Love it

It was good no problems made it on time for the next flight overseas!

The made us waiting and held our passports and boarding pass making us miss our flights

Not impressed. Only allowed one carry on on such a long flight.

The flight was good but my neighbor had the vent open full power for the whole flight and because the air was blowing from the side instead of from the top and I got very cold and ended up with a sore throat.

Bad experience with the delay n long wait time for connecting flight after missing the connection flight from Doha.

Wore experience due to delay and took me 3 days to reach my destination.

All over with Qatar airlines my experience was really bad due to delays and then putting me on different airlines and after 8 hours of wait I had to listen to their is no plane to fly for another 24 hours. Wore experience ever.

Very friendly and efficient staff. Would definitely fly Saudia again.

Entertainment on all 4 business class seats were terrible audio and could barley hear. The 11 hour layover in Riyadh was a nightmare and no one told us that nightmare matter what we do or what we were willing to pay there were no places to rest or sleep and nine of the lounges allow you to enter them no matter what unless you are 4 hours or less from flight time. With a 78 yearold mother with me this is ridiculous. The employees of the airline in Riyadh and of the lounge treated us like servants or lower class people. Never again

I wonder why checking carry on bags while the checking process was done by Moroccan security. Is it question of trust or Morocco security system is not qualified enough?

J’ai mon carte de fidélité Sky team gold À Dubaï je me sui présenté avec mon carte je sui rentré dans le louange Maintenant arrivé à Riyadh on m’a refusé que je rentre que parce que c’est la carte de Air France Et pourtant il y’a le partenariat bon brefs Tout ça c’est du racisme parce que je suis un africain

Thw pla e was freezing by dar the cildest flight i’ve been on. The seats are comfortable the leg room is spacious and the seat is in leather very confy. Unfortunately old plane so no plugs the entertainment is limited the inflight internet is very expensive 20$ per hour for 50mb on a 17h you will take 2 times to contact your family and work. At this cost it goes very quick very high. The food is very mediocre A breakfast tastless A snack A meal super spicy A lot of improvement are to be made

The seats’ reclined like premium economy seats, ie, not much.. but leg space was a lot l, so it did not feel cramped. Crew was very friendly and helpful.

Route from DC was ok nothing special or bad From Jeddah to cairo horrible First flight got delayed by 3 hours no explanation so what ever Arrived in cairo to find lock on my bag Saudia crew in cairo didn’t know who did could not open had to break my bag zipper to open my luggage

Flight was delayed, but there was no explanation why. Seats were comfortable and service was good. Food was good and there were more snacks than I expected.

my screen did not work properly. I couldn't watch any movies nor the flight information. I can see the flight info on the remote only. the toilet is very small and tight actually it is the smallest toilet I've ever seen in a business class. ( I'm not a big body person) in Jeda airport the first bus broke down so we transferred to a second bus and it took a long time to move. the seat spacing was good in 2 by 2 configuration. the food and the service was OK for a short flight.

My baggage was not with the same flight I travelled

Overnight flight in the old style Business class, but still very good.

I was in business class, without the business class amenities. Large seat with lots of legroom, but no TV or bed. Food was okay, but I did enjoy the Turkish red wine.

Excellent service and comfort from the moment you check in. Flight crew is hyper focused on making passengers comfortable and at ease. It’s like a flying hotel!

Only chicken as a meat dish through out the flight

Nothing really was great as such. Seen other no name airlines perform better.

Quality of service on board was very inconsistent. FA service primarily seemed robotic and they barely engaged with passengers

I’m unclear why I had to pay extra for assigned seats as Turkish airlines did not honor the seating. We were placed across the aisle from each other on TK 34, and were seated behind one another on TK 694. Because my name was misspelled on e-ticket (Klawiter, instead of Klawitter) I could not log onto website to get the connection gate number in Istanbul. The monitors in the airport were a jumbled mess 1/2 Arabic and 1/2 English.

On line check in needs a lot of improvement. I tried and gave up.

Food not good, flight attendants not the best, not accommodating very ruff

the female flight attendant was racist towards me. I could tell she treated the two other passengers next to me with more softness.

Boarding was a nightmare. Still the B773s don’t have WIFI and are a something from the 90s in terms of comfort.

Cairo airport has probably the most stressful and overcomplicated security system in the world. Can't really blame Egypt Airlines.

I have been traveling for over 30 years, and this was THE worst experience ever. The guy that was checking in at Dubai, didn’t have any professionalism or curtesy. During the flight, You had to wait a while just to get something to drink. They didn’t transfer all my luggage, even after they made me pay $155 extra for one small gallon of Zamzam water, and that luggage is still missing after three days of my arrival. NEVER AGAIN..,

The flight was cancelled with very little info at the airport. Absolutely mess with no option to reschedule flights without paying fortune for business class.

On time, smooth flight… very old and run down aircraft

The seats were broken, crew didn’t really care about service, boarding was not priority for business class, my bags arrived last

Comfortable flight, departed and landed on time, crew were polite and courteous. The food was really good considering it was an aeroplane meal. I would travel on Egypt Air, again

Chaotic boarding began 5 minutes before departure without any announcements explaining the delay. Once on board, an outdated 737 greeted me, without of WiFi. The crew hastily placed trays in front of passengers without any interaction or smiles, only to swiftly retrieve them and vanish for the remainder of the flight. The food provided was inedible, but there were decent juice options like guava and strawberry. The only reason I chose this flight was because of its schedule; otherwise, I would have opted for a different airline.

The bathroms were disgusting by the end of the fight.

The crew in Business class for me departure and return were very pushy and rude. They would place the food in front of you and majority of the time remove your meal and toss it without asking if you were done. At one point on the return flight one of them crew members completely missed my sister and when I told another crew member who told that person in their language, she got an attitude and didn't offer her some of the other options they had like yogurt. They need to also take into account that not everyone can eat nuts and that shouldn't be on everyone's plate. Also the plane is dirty! I had to thoroughly wipe down every inch of my area and it was just nasty. The reclining seat struggled to fully extend. For the amount of money I paid for business class I expected better.

No Wi-Fi 50% of headphones handed out do not work. Otherwise pleasant.

Very nice staff. organized check in and good food. Bit cramped and tired looking plane inside

Was so surprised that for a short flight we were served a sandwich lunch

In business class and attendants acted like bothering them when asking for water. Which they didn’t even offer at all during the flight.

Worst flying experience ever. Both kids fell sick from food afterwards. In flight Service was missing. Same food served for all meals and that too stale which made us sick.

I had bad experience, this flight from Amman to Detroit was delayed for 40 hours!!!! The staff are rude & the food was not good at all.

I had bad experience, the first flight was delayed for 4 hours & the second flight was delayed for 40 hours!!!!! The staff on the flight from Amman to Detroit are rude . The food was not good at all.

Regarding the boarding: it needs more efforts to make it more convenient

Entertainment content is outdated. Food; I chose the chicken meal with rice, I would like to know the thought process of serving rice and chicken to be eaten with only a fork?! I don't eat spicy food for health reasons, I found out that the rice is very spicy after the first bite, so I didn't eat.

It was operated by Oman Air . So old airplane so dirty and so hot till we were flown We paid a full price for this flight but it’s not acceptable The plane was parked in cargo parking it was very far from the airport

Book Cheap Saudi Arabia Plane Tickets

Recent round-trip flight deals, search by stops, search by airline, search by price, recent one-way flight deals, last minute flights to saudi arabia, last minute flight, train and bus deals, flights to saudi arabia, return flight deals:.

Saudi Arabia - United States

Cabin classes:

Browse origins:.

  • Flights  » 
  • United States

Browse destinations:

  • Worldwide  » 
  • Middle East  » 
  • Saudi Arabia

We’re sorry, this site is currently experiencing technical difficulties. Please try again in a few moments. Exception: request blocked

how to visit saudi arabia from usa

  • Online check in
  • Manage booking
  • Flight status
  • Contact us and FAQs
  • Travelling with animals
  • Travel requirements

Cathay Pacific

No messages.

The fast-changing Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, is a thriving, sprawling city that blends ancient heritage with a futuristic vision.

Under the Vision 2030 reforms spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country has opened its doors to the world, inviting international tourists to explore the kingdom’s once-hidden treasures.

The result? A flood of five-star hotels and top-tier international restaurants, transforming the kingdom into a must-visit destination for luxury seekers and culture enthusiasts alike.

From essential travel tips and what to pack, to must-see attractions and the best places to dine, here’s how to make the most of your time in Riyadh.

People walking through King Khalid International Airport.

Credit: Ayman Zaid/Getty Images

STC counter at King Khalid International Airport.

Credit: winhorse/Getty Images

What to know about visiting Saudi Arabia

The currency used is the Saudi Riyal (SAR), and it typically hovers around SAR2 to the Hong Kong dollar. Cash and credit cards – including Visa, Mastercard, and American Express – are widely accepted, and many retailers take Apple Pay and Google Pay.

You’ll be able to pick up a SIM card at one of the booths in King Khalid International Airport or visit an STC , Mobily , or Zain store once you're in the city to get connected. Riyadh also has widespread 5G connectivity, and most hotels, restaurants, and cafés offer fast, free Wi-Fi.

In Saudi Arabia, the workweek kicks off on Sunday and wraps up on Thursday. If you’re visiting during the Holy Month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, expect shorter working days, and remember that eating or drinking in public during daylight hours is strictly forbidden. Dates change each year depending on moon sightings.

Aerial view of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia

Credit: adz nano/Getty Images

How to get into Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia significantly relaxed its visa rules for business travellers in 2018, opening online applications for dozens of nationalities. All you need to do is submit an invitation letter from the company you’re visiting along with a recent passport photo, and you’ll hear back with the result within a few days.  Tourist visas follow a similar process, although you won’t need an invitation letter to apply.

Immigration lines at King Khalid International Airport can appear dauntingly long, but they generally move quickly. For a swifter arrival, executives can sign up for an Al Tanfeethi membership (SAR26,000/HK$54,100 annually). Passengers using this service are picked up at the airport gate and ferried by buggy to a private terminal, where all the formalities are completed in minutes.

Different vehicles docked at King Khalid International Airport

Credit: Sergey Strelkov/Getty Images

Signage for the pickup area at King Khalid International Airport.

Credit: Ahmed Fahmi/Getty Images

How to get around Riyadh

While taxi drivers hustle for fares at the arrivals hall of King Khalid International Airport, Uber , Bolt , or local ride-hailing app Careem are the best bets for a reliable ride. Order early during peak hours, as long waits and sluggish traffic are not uncommon.

Riyadh’s metro system is nearing completion and will soon provide speedy connections from the airport to key business areas like King Abdullah Financial District and Olaya.

A man helps a couple of tourists to take photos in front of Salwa Palace.

Credit: xavierarnau/Getty Images

What to wear in Saudi Arabia

When packing for Riyadh, opt for modest yet comfortable clothing. While Saudi Arabia has eased its dress restrictions, it’s still wise to respect local customs — particularly in malls, where the rules are a little stricter. Women should opt for long sleeved tops and trousers or skirts that fall below the knee.

Loose-fitting tops and maxi dresses are ideal for staying cool and comfortable while adhering to the dress code. An abaya, the traditional cloak, is not mandatory. 

Photos of the exterior of AI Faisaliah tower

Credit: Max shen/Getty Images

A photograph showing the edge of the world

Credit: AFZALKHAN M/Getty Images

Photos of the exterior of a historic Diriayh in Riyadh

Credit: Hussein Abdullah/Getty Images

What to see and do in Riyadh

Riyadh is a city of contrasts, blending the ultra-modern with the deeply traditional. Whether you’re a history buff, a shopping enthusiast or an outdoor adventurer, there’s something here for you.

Start your journey at Al Masmak Palace , an ancient fortress that’s symbolic of Saudi Arabia's unification. Wander through the museum to get a sense of the city’s rich history, then step outside to the lively Deerah Souq, where you can haggle for spices, incense, and traditional crafts.

For a taste of modern Riyadh, head to the towering Kingdom Centre . Here, the Sky Bridge offers stunning views of the cityscape, especially at sunset. Nearby, the Al Faisaliah Centre combines luxury shopping with dining options that range from casual eateries to gourmet restaurants.

Nature lovers shouldn’t miss the Edge of the World , around an hour’s drive outside of the city. This dramatic cliff top serves up panoramic views that seem to stretch on forever. The trek to the top is an adventure in itself, offering visitors a chance to experience the rugged beauty of the Saudi desert.

An aerial photograph of Bujairi Terrace3.

Credit: Diriyah Gate Development Authority

People walking on Bujairi Terrace3.

Credit: VIA Riyadh

Where to eat in Riyadh

The upscale Via Riyadh Mall is a gourmet haven, home to renowned restaurants from around the world. The local branch of Michelin-starred London restaurant Gymkhana brings modern takes on flavours from across India, while ultra-trendy Wagyumafia — a former street food spot — celebrates Japan’s most famous beef with dishes including the brand’s famous Chateaubriand Katsu Sando.

Over in the King Abdullah Financial District , among the gleaming skyscrapers, you’ll find culinary gems that cater to high-end tastes. Il Baretto brings Italian classics in a stylish dining room, plus excellent non-alcoholic cocktails , while the city’s glitterati can be found brunching on healthy stacks of pancakes under floral canopies at AOK Kitchen . Head to Jones the Grocer for laid-back, Australian-style lunches, or Black Tap for exceptional burgers in a neon-clad industrial space. 

The city’s most unique dining destination is Bujairi Terrace , an atmospheric collection of traditional sandy-coloured buildings among winding tree-lined paths in the Unesco World Heritage site of Diriyah. Flamingo Room , the Riyadh branch of a perennial Dubai favourite, dishes up contemporary African fare, while Villa Mamas evokes the feeling of a traditional Arabian home with local ingredients and cosy vibes.

A woman sitting in the lounge area at the pool of Four Seasons Riyadh receives a drink from the waiter.

Credit: Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh

Interior photos of the dining area of JW Marriott Hotel Riyadh

Credit: JW Marriott Hotel Riyadh

Where to stay in Riyadh

Riyadh's hospitality scene is nothing short of spectacular, with a range of luxurious options to suit every taste. The big three classics – Four Seasons Riyadh , the Mandarin Oriental at Al Faisaliah, and The Ritz-Carlton – offer guests impeccable service and opulent accommodation in some of the city’s most iconic buildings. But the hotel landscape is evolving rapidly, and a swathe of new luxury properties have opened in recent months.

The airy St. Regis Riyadh at Via Riyadh Mall offers easy access to the city’s top restaurants, while JW Marriott Riyadh , housed in a stunning glass-fronted high-rise tower, boasts breathtaking city views. Mansard Riyadh, with its French Renaissance-style sloped roofs and cream-coloured facade, exudes old-world charm.

To explore more options for places to stay in Riyadh, visit Cathay Holidays . 

Surprising, Unsettling, Surreal: Roaming Through Saudi Arabia

To witness the kingdom’s profound transformation and assess its ambitious tourism projects, a Times journalist spent a month on the road there. Here’s what he saw.

Stephen Hiltner

By Stephen Hiltner

An editor and photojournalist for the Travel section, Stephen Hiltner drove 5,200 miles and visited all 13 of Saudi Arabia’s provinces while reporting and shooting this story.

Wandering alone along the southern fringes of Saudi Arabia’s mountainous Asir Province, some eight miles from the Yemeni border, in a nondescript town with a prominent sculpture of a rifle balanced on an ornately painted plinth, I met a man, Nawab Khan, who was building a palace out of mud.

Actually, he was rebuilding the structure, restoring it. And when I came across him, he hadn’t yet begun his work for the day; he was seated on the side of the road beneath its red-and-white windows — cross-legged, on a rug, leaning over a pot of tea and a bowl of dates.

Two weeks earlier, on the far side of the country, a fellow traveler had pointed at a map and described the crumbling buildings here, in Dhahran al-Janub, arranged in a colorful open-air museum. Finding myself nearby, I’d detoured to have a look — and there was Mr. Khan, at first looking at me curiously and then waving me over to join him. Sensing my interest in the cluster of irregular towers, he stood up, produced a large key ring and began opening a series of padlocks. When he vanished through a doorway, I followed him into a shadowy stairwell.

This, of course, was my mother’s worst nightmare: Traveling solo, I’d been coaxed by a stranger into an unlit building in a remote Saudi village, within a volatile border area that the U.S. Department of State advises Americans to stay away from .

By now, though, more than halfway through a 5,200-mile road trip, I trusted Mr. Khan’s enthusiasm as a genuine expression of pride, not a ploy. All across Saudi Arabia, I’d seen countless projects being built, from simple museums to high-end resorts. These were the early fruits of an $800 billion investment in the travel sector, itself part of a much larger effort, Vision 2030 , to remake the kingdom and reduce its economic dependence on oil.

But I’d begun to see the building projects as something else, too: the striving of a country — long shrouded to most Westerners — to be seen, reconsidered, accepted. And with its doors suddenly flung open and the pandemic behind us, visitors like me were finally beginning to witness this new Saudi Arabia, much to Mr. Khan’s and all the other builders’ delight.

how to visit saudi arabia from usa

Few countries present as complicated a prospect for travelers as Saudi Arabia.

Long associated with Islamic extremism, human rights abuses and the oppression of women, the kingdom has made strides in recent years to refashion its society and its reputation abroad.

The infamous religious police, which upheld codes of conduct based on an ultraconservative interpretation of Islam, were stripped of their power. Public concerts, once banned, are now ubiquitous. Women have been granted new rights — including the freedom to drive and to travel without permission from a male guardian — and are no longer required to wear floor-length robes in public or to cover their hair.

These changes are part of a broad set of strategies to diversify the kingdom’s economy, elevate its status in the world and soften its image — the last of which is a tall order for a government that has killed a newspaper columnist , kidnapped and tortured dissidents , precipitated a humanitarian crisis in Yemen and imprisoned people for supporting gay rights , among a number of other recent abuses .

Central to the transformations led by 38-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, is a major push for international visitors. It represents a sea change in a country that, until 2019, issued no nonreligious tourist visas and instead catered almost exclusively to Muslim pilgrims visiting Mecca and Medina, Islam’s two holiest cities. In February, by contrast, my tourist e-visa was approved online in minutes.

Saudi Arabia has already transformed one of its premier destinations — Al-Ula, with its UNESCO-listed Nabatean tombs — from a neglected collection of archaeological sites into a lavish retreat with a bevy of activities on offer, including guided tours, wellness festivals, design exhibitions and hot air balloon rides.

Another project will create a vast array of luxury resorts on or near the Red Sea.

Still more projects include the development of Diriyah , the birthplace of the first Saudi state; the preservation and development of the coastal city of Jeddah ; an offshore theme park called the Rig ; and Neom , the futuristic city that has garnered the lion’s share of attention.

All told, the country is hoping to draw 70 million international tourists per year by 2030, with tourism contributing 10 percent of its gross domestic product. (In 2023, the country logged 27 million international tourists, according to government figures , with tourism contributing about 4 percent of G.D.P.)


At-Turaif, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was the birthplace of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is now the centerpiece of the $63 billion Diriyah project, a new center of culture just outside Riyadh.

Nujuma, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve on a remote island in the Red Sea, opened in late May. (A one-bedroom villa costs about $2,500 per night, excluding taxes and fees.) It is one of 50 properties scheduled to open in the area by 2030.

The preservation and development of Jeddah, a coastal city famous for its historic district built largely from blocks of coral, comes with a price tag of some $20 billion.

Al-Ula is a cornerstone of Saudi Arabia’s tourism ambitions. Part of the city’s Old Town, long crumbling in neglect, has now been painstakingly restored.

To get a sense of these projects and the changes unfolding in Saudi society, I spent a month exploring the kingdom by car. I traveled alone, without a fixer, driver or translator. Per New York Times ethics guidelines, I declined the government’s many offers of discounts and complimentary services.

Much of the time I felt I’d been tossed the keys to the kingdom. But there were moments, too, when I faced a more complicated reality, one epitomized by a road sign that forced me to abruptly exit the highway some 15 miles from the center of Mecca. “Obligatory for Non Muslims,” it read, pointing to the offramp.

To me, the sign broadcast the lines being drawn to compartmentalize the country, which is now marketing itself to two sets of travelers with increasingly divergent — and sometimes contradictory — expectations: luxury tourists at ease with bikinis and cocktails, and pilgrims prepared for modesty and strict religious adherence. It’s hard to know whether the kingdom can satisfy both without antagonizing either.

My trip began in Jeddah, where, after spending two days exploring its historic district, I rented a car and drove eight hours north to Al-Ula, a benchmark for the new Saudi tourism initiatives.

how to visit saudi arabia from usa

Saudi Arabia

Reporter’s route

Dhahran al-Janub

how to visit saudi arabia from usa

Wadi al-Disah

Red Sea Resort

The name Al-Ula refers to both a small city and a broader region packed with attractions: Hegra , the kingdom’s first UNESCO World Heritage site and its biggest archaeological draw, is a 30-minute drive north of Old Town, a maze of crumbling mud-brick buildings now partly restored. Between the two, and fanning out to the east and west, are several other archaeological sites, as well as a smattering of resorts, event spaces and adventure outfitters. Farther northeast, beyond Hegra, is the Sharaan Nature Reserve , a vast protected zone used for conservation efforts.

My first priority during my five-day stay in Al-Ula was a visit to Hegra.

Like Petra , its better-known counterpart in Jordan, Hegra was built by the Nabateans, an ancient people who flourished 2,000 years ago. The site contains more than 100 tombs that were carved from solid rock, their entrances adorned with embellishments. Most impressive among them, set apart and standing some 70 feet tall, is a tomb colloquially called the Lonely Castle.

Not long ago, visitors could hire private guides and wander the area on foot, climbing in and out of — and no doubt damaging — the many tombs. Not anymore: I boarded an air-conditioned tour bus and zipped past most of them, stopping at just four locations.

At the penultimate stop, we exited the bus and trudged several hundred feet along a sandy path to the front of the Lonely Castle. Even in the late afternoon, the heat was stifling. I craned my neck to take in the details of the sculpted facade, which emerged like a mirage from one side of a massive boulder: its four pilasters, the rough chisel marks near the bottom, its characteristic five-stepped crown. Ten minutes evaporated, and I turned to find my group being shepherded back onto the bus. I jogged through the sand to catch up.

A few miles north of Hegra, I hopped in the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser — accompanied by an Italian graduate student and his mother — for a drive through the sandy expanse of the Sharaan Nature Reserve.

The scenery was sublime: Slipping through a narrow slot canyon, we emerged into a vast, open desert plain, then settled into a wide valley enclosed by an amphitheater of cliffs. Occasionally our guide stopped and led us on short hikes to petroglyphs, some pockmarked by bullet holes, or to lush fields of wildflowers, where he plucked edible greens and invited us to sample their lemony tang.

Gabriele Morelli, the graduate student, had first come to Al-Ula a few years ago — a different era, he said, given how quickly the place had transformed. He described a version that no longer exists, rife with cheap accommodation, lax rules and a free-for-all sensibility.

Some of the changes, of course, have been necessary to protect delicate ecosystems and archaeological sites from ever-growing crowds. But several people I met in Al-Ula — Saudis and foreigners alike — quietly lamented the extent of the high-end development and the steady erosion of affordability. Many of the new offerings, like the Banyan Tree resort, they pointed out, are luxury destinations that cater to wealthy travelers.

These hushed criticisms were among my early lessons on how difficult it can be to gauge the way Saudis feel about the pace and the pervasiveness of the transformations reshaping their society.

I got a taste of Al-Ula’s exclusivity — and of the uncanniness that occasionally surfaced throughout my trip — at a Lauryn Hill concert in an event space called Maraya . To reach the hall, I passed through a security gate, where an attendant scanned my e-ticket and directed me two miles up a winding road into the heart of the Ashar Valley, home to several high-end restaurants and resorts.

Rounding the final bend, I felt as if I’d stumbled into a computer-generated image: Ant-size humans were dwarfed by a reflective structure that both asserted itself and blended into the landscape. Inside, waiters served hors d’oeuvres and brightly colored mocktails to a chic young crowd.

The surreality peaked when, midway through the show, I left my plush seat to join some concertgoers near the stage — only to turn and see John Bolton, former President Donald J. Trump’s national security adviser, seated in the front row.

Where else, I wondered, could I attend a rap concert in the middle of the desert with a longtime fixture of the Republican Party — amid a crowd that cheered when Ms. Hill mentioned Palestine — but this strange new corner of Saudi Arabia?


The mirrored facade at Maraya, a vast event space in Al-Ula, warps and reflects the surrounding desert landscape.

The building is in some ways a precursor to the kingdom’s most ambitious architectural design: the project at Neom called the Line, a 106-mile linear city that will also feature a mirrored surface.

Lauryn Hill performing in front of a large crowd at Maraya.

After Al-Ula, I drove to another of the kingdom’s extravagant schemes: the Red Sea project, billed as the “world’s most ambitious regenerative tourism destination.” After weaving through a morass of construction-related traffic, I boarded a yacht — alongside a merry band of Saudi influencers — and was piloted some 15 miles to a remote island, where I disembarked in a world of unqualified opulence at the St. Regis Red Sea Resort .

I was chauffeured around in an electric golf cart — past 43 beachside “dune” villas and onto two long boardwalks that connect the rest of the resort to 47 “coral” villas, built on stilts over shallow turquoise water. Along the way, I listened to Lucas Julien-Vauzelle, an executive assistant manager, wax poetic about sustainability. “We take it to the next level,” he said, before rattling off a list of facts and figures: 100 percent renewable energy, a solar-powered 5G network , plans to enhance biologically diverse habitats.

By 2030, he said, the Red Sea project will offer 50 hotels across its island and inland sites. Citing the Maldives, he mentioned the kingdom’s plans to claim a share of the same high-end market.

Another prediction came by way of Keith Thornton, the director of restaurants, who said he expects the resort to legally serve alcohol by the end of the year. (While a liquor store for non-Muslim diplomats recently opened in Riyadh, the Saudi government has made no indication that it plans to reconsider its broader prohibition of alcohol.)

The hotel was undeniably impressive. But there’s an inescapable irony to a lavish resort built at unfathomable expense in the middle of the sea — with guests ferried out by chartered boat and seaplane — that flaunts its aspirations for sustainability.

Toward the end of my several-hour visit, I learned that every piece of vegetation, including 646 palm trees, had been transplanted from an off-site nursery. Later, reviewing historical satellite images, I found visual evidence that the island — described to me as pristine — had been dramatically fortified and, in the process, largely remade. Its footprint had also been significantly altered. It was, in a sense, an artificial island built where a smaller natural island once stood.

Something else struck me, too: The place was nearly empty, save for the staff and the Saudi influencers. Granted, the resort had just opened the month before — but the same was true at the nearby Six Senses Southern Dunes , an inland Red Sea resort that opened in November. Fredrik Blomqvist, the general manager there, told me that its isolated location in a serene expanse of desert — part of its appeal — also presented a challenge in drawing customers. “The biggest thing,” he said, “is to get the message out that the country is open.”

Since the country began issuing tourist visas, influencers have been documenting their experiences in places like Jeddah and Al-Ula, their trips often paid for by the Saudi government. Their breezy content contributes to the impression that the kingdom is awaiting discovery by foreign visitors with out-of-date prejudices. To an extent, for a certain segment of tourists, that’s true.

For many travelers, though, the depiction of the kingdom as an uncomplicated getaway could be dangerously misleading.

Speech in Saudi Arabia is strictly limited; dissent is not tolerated — nor is the open practice of any religion other than the government’s interpretation of Islam. In its travel advisory , the U.S. Department of State warns that “social media commentary — including past comments — which Saudi authorities may deem critical, offensive, or disruptive to public order, could lead to arrest.” Punishment for Saudi nationals has been far worse: In 2023, a retired teacher was sentenced to death after he criticized the ruling family via anonymous accounts. As of late 2023, he remained in prison.

Other restrictions are harder to parse. L.G.B.T.Q. travelers are officially welcome in the kingdom but face a conundrum: They might face arrest or other criminal penalties for openly expressing their sexual orientation or gender identity. As recently as 2021, an independent U.S. federal agency included Saudi Arabia on a list of countries where same-sex relationships are punishable by death , noting that “the government has not sought this penalty in recent years.”

When asked how he would convince a same-sex couple that it was safe to visit, Jerry Inzerillo, a native New Yorker and the group chief executive of Diriyah, said: “We don’t ask you any questions when you come into the country or when you leave.”

“Maybe that’s not conclusive enough,” he added, “but a lot of people have come.”

Female travelers might also face difficulties, since advancements in women’s rights are not equally distributed throughout the kingdom.

The changes were more visible in big cities and tourist centers. Ghydda Tariq, an assistant marketing manager in Al-Ula, described how new professional opportunities had emerged for her in recent years. Maysoon, a young woman I met in Jeddah, made extra money by occasionally driving for Uber. Haneen Alqadi, an employee at the St. Regis Red Sea, described how women there are free to wear bikinis without fear of repercussions.

Outside such places, though, I sometimes went for days without seeing more than a handful of women, invariably wearing niqabs, let alone seeing them engaged in public life or tourism. My photographs reflect that imbalance.

As an easily identifiable Western man, I moved through the country with an array of advantages: the kindness and cheery curiosity of strangers, the ease of passage at military checkpoints, and the freedom to interact with a male-dominated society at markets, museums, parks, restaurants, cafes. Not all travelers could expect the same treatment.

Roaming in the far north and south, I often found the earlier version of the kingdom — with lax rules and less development — that had been described to me in Al-Ula.

I trekked to the northern city of Sakaka to see an archaeological site promoted as the Stonehenge of Saudi Arabia: a set of monoliths called the Rajajil Columns thought to have been erected some 6,000 years ago but about which little is definitively known.

My heart sank when I pulled into the parking lot after a five-hour drive and found the columns blocked by a tall fence. Approaching on foot, though, I noticed that a section of the fence had been peeled back and that visitors were wandering freely among the stones, which protruded from the earth like isolated clusters of crooked teeth. I joined the small crowd, if hesitatingly, and was surprised to find no footpaths, nor anything to keep us a safe distance from the columns. In the end I wondered if our access had been officially approved or informally arranged.

My travel experiences were sometimes awkward in other ways, too.

Standing just outside the grounds of the central mosque in Medina, where the Prophet Muhammad is buried, I was detained by a stern member of the Special Forces. (Even after 2019, non-Muslim tourists remained barred from Mecca and Medina, Islam’s two holiest cities. The ban was relaxed in parts of Medina in 2021.)

The guard interrogated me and, after calling a colleague to confer, demanded that I leave the area. “Go,” he said threateningly. Another traveler who witnessed the encounter scurried away to avoid a similar fate.

The unsettling exchange cast a pall over my time in the city, which few non-Muslims have seen. As far as I knew, I’d abided by the rules by staying outside the grounds of the Prophet’s Mosque — a boundary line that I’d confirmed with tourism officials beforehand.


Peering through the perimeter fence — the boundary line for non-Muslims — at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.

The Mosque of Al-Ghamamah, one of the oldest in the holy city.

A sprawling maze of ramshackle residential buildings sits less than a mile from the Prophet’s Mosque.

A guide speaking to a group of visitors near the Hejaz Railway Museum, visible in the distance. (The museum was closed for renovations at the time.)

A group of young men, most of whose families emigrated from Sudan, playing soccer in a field just outside the center of Medina.

More than anything, family and friends wanted to know if I felt safe on my trip — and I did, almost without exception. Petty crime in Saudi Arabia is exceedingly rare. And while parts of the country are under a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory , even my rambling itinerary was approved by a security expert.

Instead of fearing for my safety, I was often preoccupied with how I’d fairly portray a place that elicited such a range of conflicting emotions: joy and distress, excitement and apprehension, sincerity and doubt. So much lay hidden from public view — like the collective anguish over the war raging in Gaza . And so little was easy to categorize, in part because the warmth of everyday Saudis was strikingly at odds with the ruthlessness of their authoritarian government.

In Riyadh, a young man warned me not to speak openly with strangers. “People get arrested here for a tweet ,” he said. “Can you imagine?”

I could, actually. The Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi had chronicled his government’s increasingly draconian responses to criticism. “Repression and intimidation are not — and never should be — the acceptable companions of reform,” he wrote in The Washington Post in 2018, just months before he was killed and dismembered at his country’s consulate in Istanbul.

Video player loading

Were we to travel only where we feel comfortable and unchallenged, we’d all be poorer for it. But the question of whether to travel to Saudi Arabia is thornier than that.

It’s easy to see one response, “No,” as yielding to closed-mindedness at the expense of ordinary people — like the kindly vendor Abdullah, who served me local honey at his shop in the southern mountains.

But it’s easy, too, to see “Yes” as an affirmation that might makes right, that amusement outweighs morality, that princely wealth can wipe a stained slate clean.


Sunrise over the mountainous village of Fayfa, some six miles from the Yemeni border.

Abdullah Ghaleb Zaid, a honey vendor, at his shop atop a mountain pass near the southern city of Abha.

Sunset near Jabal Soudah, the kingdom’s highest peak.

Ten days into my trip, I ventured to Wadi al-Disah, a steep-walled valley where I’d booked a tent at a campsite I found on Airbnb. For an additional 300 riyals ($80), my host, Faisal, led me on a four-wheel-drive tour, departing the paved road and weaving through a path along the bed of an ephemeral river. Continually jolted by the uneven terrain, we eased past thick reeds, lofty palms and small bands of visitors who’d nestled into clearings.

As we left, I met a group of young men gathered for a picnic, their sandals scattered around a carpet on which they were preparing their dinner. Delighted to meet an American with a camera, they asked if I’d take a group portrait, then exchanged information with me so I could send them a copy — a scenario by then so familiar that I hardly thought anything of it.

A full day later, some 200 miles away, I was cruising along a lonely highway near the Jordanian border when a Land Cruiser blew past me at an astonishing speed. I felt my compact car rock from its turbulence — and then I watched with a twinge of dread as the car abruptly braked, slowing hard in the left lane until our front ends were aligned. It held steady there.

For a moment I stared straight ahead, hoping to avoid a confrontation. When I finally turned to look, I saw a group of boys grinning wildly and waving through an open window. Then I realized: Improbably, it was three of the young men I’d met the day before. Somehow we’d all followed the same route. And somehow, in the split second it took them to fly past, they’d recognized me. I lifted my camera from the passenger seat and snapped a photograph.

The picture shows three young Saudis on a precipice: endearing, erratic, captivating. I have a sense of where they came from but no certainty about where they’re going. Two are flashing peace signs, and none appears to be wearing a seatbelt. No one is watching the road as their car drifts out of its lane, careening a little recklessly into a hopeful and uncertain future.

Stephen Hiltner’s recent work includes a photo essay about his childhood in Budapest , an examination of A.I.-generated guidebooks and an investigation into the deaths of Russian soldiers in Ukraine . You can follow his travels on Instagram .

Got a question about this story? Drop a note in the comments section. Got a tip? Send him an email .

Stephen Hiltner is an editor, writer and photographer for the Travel section of The Times. More about Stephen Hiltner

Open Up Your World

Considering a trip, or just some armchair traveling here are some ideas..

52 Places:  Why do we travel? For food, culture, adventure, natural beauty? Our 2024 list has all those elements, and more .

The Alaska Highway:  On an epic road trip, a family plots a course from Alaska to the Lower 48, passing through some of Canada’s most spectacular scenery .

Minorca:  Spend 36 hours on this slow-paced Spanish island , which offers a quieter and wilder retreat than its more touristy neighbors.

Japan:  A new high-speed train stop unlocks Kaga, a destination for hot springs, nourishing food and traditional crafts , as an easy-to-reach getaway from Tokyo.

London:  The Victoria and Albert Museum is a treasure trove of art and design. Here’s one besotted visitor’s plan for taking it all in .


Clock ticks on U.S.-Saudi deal as election and Gaza war threaten to derail landmark agreement

Jeddah Security and Development Summit in Jeddah

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Despite the United States and Saudi Arabia reaching the final stages of a landmark trade and defense deal , the culmination of such a milestone agreement is far off, with Israel’s war in Gaza and the timing of the American presidential election stalling negotiations.

A senior White House official said last week that there was a “near-final” set of arrangements for a bilateral deal that would help boost the Gulf kingdom’s military defenses against traditional arch-rival Iran, would provide U.S. help with Saudi civilian nuclear infrastructure, and would increase ties between the two countries’ tech industries.

On May 2, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the details on a U.S.-Saudi part of the deal could be finalized “in very short order.” 

“We’re very close to reaching an agreement,” he said.

But the clock is ticking.

While some Republicans are also pushing for a U.S.-Saudi bilateral defense agreement, Democrats in Congress are very unlikely to approve such a deal without having concrete assurances about a future Palestinian state .

“There is probably an eight-week window to get something done before elections get in the way,” a Republican congressional aide told NBC News last week. “The security piece would have to pass the Senate, but the civilian nuclear piece would require House and the Senate consideration. Maybe something could pass with a clause adding Israel later, but political support for that would be difficult at this time.”

Paul Salem, the president of the Washington-based Middle East Institute think tank, was also pessimistic about the chances of an overarching deal involving the normalization of relations with Israel being reached before November’s presidential election. Instead, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia could sign a series of smaller deals that did not require approval from Congress or the Senate, he said.

The Saudi kingdom is looking for “a deeper security assurance and relationship with the U.S.,” Salem said, perhaps in the form of arms purchases and “a strategic treaty, something that clarifies U.S. commitment to Saudi Arabia if it is attacked.” 

More controversially for some in the U.S., as well as for some of the kingdom’s neighbors, the Saudis are looking to boost their civilian nuclear sector. 

“They have made it clear they would prefer to do that with the U.S., rather than look elsewhere, whether that be Europe or South Korea or China and Russia,” Salem said. 

A Palestinian man pulls a cart on a road lined with destroyed buildings in Gaza.

Both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia wanted to solidify tech industry relationships. While the kingdom is spending big as it tries to build a tech industry to complement its oil dominance, Salem said the U.S. has been pressuring it not to take technology from China but “the Saudis are saying they need it.”

“The U.S. is seeking Saudi investment in the tech sector , so there are all sorts of wins for them there,” Salem said, adding that it would also benefit economically from the sale of arms and by underwriting its nuclear program.

After meeting with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan last week, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wrote on X that “the semi-final version of the draft strategic agreements” between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia were “almost being finalized.”

He added that they had also discussed “a credible track towards the two-state solution in a way that meets the aspirations of the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights.” 

After Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks killed 1,200 in Israel and triggered the war in Gaza, where Israel has killed more than 36,000 people, bin Salman “is thinking about his broader legitimacy and legacy, and being able to deliver something more meaningful for the Palestinians would be helpful,” said Sanam Vakil, the director of the Middle East and North Africa program at the London-based think tank Chatham House. 

Saudi Arabia’s population “is quite young and they are being quite radicalized or politicized,” she said. “There is no real avenue to express dissent beyond channeling some frustration on social media and then also maybe fundraising for Gaza. The level of fundraising is quite high and that’s an indication that people care.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. , who has traveled to Saudi Arabia several times in the last 12 months, is a supporter of an overarching deal with Saudi Arabia.

He has heaped praise on Mohammed bin Salman as pushing forward with a “vision for the region” despite the hurdles. But in an interview with the Jerusalem Post earlier this month, Graham made it clear there would “not be 67 votes in the United States Senate for a defense agreement between Saudi Arabia and the United States that doesn’t have an Israeli component.”

NBC News reached out to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Mike Johnson in order to gauge wider GOP support for a pact, and did not immediately receive a reply.

And on Tuesday the gap between Saudi Arabia and Israel appeared to widen, when state media reported that the kingdom’s foreign ministry had denounced what it called the “continuous genocidal massacres committed by the Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinian people” in Rafah .

As long as war rages in Gaza, Vakil said it was “unrealistic” to expect Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel in a manner similar to the Abraham Accords of 2020 , which established relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.  

Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took much of the credit for helping integrate his country into the region when the accords were signed, the war in Gaza, the extreme-right stance of the Israeli government and the public sentiment have dramatically changed the equation.

“It seems unrealistic that this can be achieved in a trilateral sense before the (American) election,” she added. “It would really require a cease-fire in Gaza and beyond that, the Israeli political leadership to be willing to engage on this issue and right now Israel’s strategy is nonexistent.” 

For Salem, of the Middle East Institute, “the logic is there” for smaller deals between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. 

“I think that would naturally put pressure on the Israeli government,” he said. “It would indicate that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are already there and they are waiting for the Israelis.”

He added that each side “wants something from the other but not all sides are willing to make concessions, because after Oct. 7 the price of the deal went up.”

Keir Simmons reported from Dubai and Henry Austin from London.

how to visit saudi arabia from usa

Keir Simmons is chief international correspondent for NBC News, based in London.

Henry Austin is a senior editor for NBC News Digital based in London.

The Saudi Deal the U.S. Actually Needs

The United States and Saudi Arabia seem fated to deepen their partnership. We should make that partnership as functional as possible.    

A man stands under American and Saudi flags

Listen to this article

Produced by ElevenLabs and News Over Audio (NOA) using AI narration.

A long-rumored deal to form a strategic partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia looks doomed to fail because of Israel’s inability to accept a path toward Palestinian statehood in exchange for normalized ties with Saudi Arabia.

As the deal collapses, though, it is worth asking: What kind of relationship should the United States and Saudi Arabia aspire to? What is reasonable for each side to ask of the other?

On a recent trip to the kingdom, I spent a week speaking with Saudis from various backgrounds: wealthy businessmen from the eastern province, young Saudi women starting out in careers unimaginable to their mothers, senior government officials responsible for topics including privatization and foreign policy, and young Saudi men doing everything from starting their own law firm to driving for Uber after their government job had ended for the day.

Beyond their usual warm hospitality, and their patience with my rusty Arabic, I was struck by two things in conversations with Saudis: First, it is hard not get caught up in the infectious confidence they have about the direction their country is headed in. They feel like they are building something new—and judging by the innumerable construction cranes on Riyadh’s skyline, they are.

Andrew Exum: A peace deal that seems designed to fail

Second, there is deep frustration and even disillusionment with the United States. As a former government official, I am used to the regular complaints, such as the tiresome allegations that the United States is “abandoning” the region (despite the tens of thousands of troops that continue to garrison the Persian Gulf). But I heard newer, more disturbing concerns. At dinner with a dozen or so older Saudi men one night—almost all of whom had a degree from a U.S. university—I heard real reservations about sending their children and grandchildren to the United States to study: Gun violence, societal divisions, and populist politics in America were all cited as reasons to send their children to the United Kingdom or Europe instead. One Saudi who had gotten his Ph.D. in the United States worried that “the America I love is tearing itself apart at the seams.” And for what it’s worth, I heard something very similar from a group of businessmen in Singapore two weeks later.

Yet I also found Saudis eager for a closer partnership with the United States. No country on Earth can match the United States when it comes to our technology, military power, and dynamic economy. (Joe Biden’s campaign would love for American voters to see our economy the way the rest of the world does.)

But is it in America’s interest to forge a closer relationship with Saudi Arabia? As unpopular as the idea may be with many progressives, I think it is. Exciting changes are taking place in Saudi Arabia, and we should want to help advance them. Besides, in the Middle East, you tend to have either countries with a lot of people but not broad wealth, such as Egypt, or countries with a lot of wealth but few people, such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the region that has both, which is what makes it such an attractive market for American firms. And it’s also what makes Saudi Arabia so tantalizing as a strategic partner: If Saudi Arabia could ever get its act together militarily, for example, it could be a valuable partner for the United States in the region and abroad.

The Saudis have a long list of things they want from the United States. They want investing here to be easier, for example. They complain about the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which scrutinizes foreign investment in sensitive technologies or crucial infrastructure. The process is necessary, but it could arrive at decisions faster, something Democratic administrations in particular have trouble making it do. And the Saudis also rightly complain that investments with no obvious national-security angle are heavily scrutinized. I spoke with many Saudis, from the most senior princes to ordinary businessmen, who took offense that the Saudi investment in golf, of all things, had become the subject of a Senate investigation. And really, who can blame them? Calm down, senators, it’s golf .

The Saudis also want access to more sensitive U.S. technologies, and there is a deal to be done here. The U.S. government paved the way for a substantial Microsoft investment in the UAE’s G42, a large AI firm, on the condition that the UAE would divest from problematic technological partnerships and investments in China. You “have to make a choice” between the United States and China, G42’s CEO, Peng Xiao, lamented . The United States and Saudi Arabia can and should strike a similar deal.

Security is a trickier matter, and here the United States should demand as much as it offers. The Saudis want a Japan-like security guarantee from the United States, but the United States should not offer this until the Saudis can meaningfully contribute to a military coalition.

The good news for both the United States and Saudi Arabia is that some of the reforms initiated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—and not ones aimed at the military, interestingly—could allow the Saudis to develop military capabilities that have heretofore escaped them.

There is no reason, for example, that Saudi Arabia—a nation whose entire economy depends on the ability to move oil and gas over sea lanes—has no real navy to speak of. But training a navy is hard when sailors cannot be away from their families for more than a day or so at a time. Successful navies live at sea, and that’s not an option when the wives men leave at home cannot drive themselves to the grocery store or their children to school. That’s now changing, and it could be that we someday trace the development of Saudi Arabia’s independent naval capabilities back to its decision to grant greater independence to its women.

Saudi Arabia’s ground forces are likewise woeful. Developing competent ground forces involves deeply unsexy work—as far from a bright, shiny fighter jet sitting on a runway as possible. Infantry units must be physically fit and well drilled. I have yet to see a Saudi unit that is either. But it’s clear to me that young Saudi men and women are up for a challenge, and the Saudis should do as some of their neighbors have done: Build best-in-class special-operations forces from recruits who genuinely want to be part of such units and are willing to put in the hard work and pain required. Competent Saudi special-operations units that could function as true peers alongside U.S. units would do a lot to change the perception of Saudis among their counterparts in the U.S. military.

Once Saudis have proved their ability to work alongside the U.S. military—and their ability to share the burden of clearing and defending the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb waterways—the United States should consider extending security guarantees. But not before.

Read: The Israeli-Saudi deal had better be a good one

Even if the United States and Saudi Arabia fail to conclude an agreement during the Biden administration, however, I am still bullish about the future of relations between the two countries. I speak to U.S. companies on an almost-weekly basis that are interested in investing in Saudi Arabia or partnering with Saudi companies. And despite reservations about the direction in which America is headed—many of which I share, as an American—the Saudis can’t take their eyes off us. I noted on my trip that many Saudis excitedly asked me about the pro-Palestinian protests taking place on our college campuses. They devour our films and media and political news, all of which are much more accessible than the same from, say, China.

The United States and Saudi Arabia seem fated to deepen their partnership. We should make that partnership as functional as possible.


  1. Shipping to Saudi Arabia from USA

    how to visit saudi arabia from usa

  2. The Best Advice On Travel To Saudi Arabia From USA

    how to visit saudi arabia from usa

  3. How to Visit Saudi Arabia

    how to visit saudi arabia from usa

  4. Places to visit in Saudi Arabia

    how to visit saudi arabia from usa

  5. Travel Special: 5 Best Places To Visit In Saudi Arabia

    how to visit saudi arabia from usa

  6. Best places to visit in Saudi Arabia

    how to visit saudi arabia from usa


  1. Saudi Arabia & USA were behind regime change against PTI #sherafzalmarwat #headlines #saudiarabia

  2. Russian President Putin in Saudi Arabia

  3. Saudi Arabia welcomes positive outcomes in Yemen peace talks

  4. Saudi Arabia vs USA

  5. kindom tower saudi arabia #subscribe #kingdomtower #vairal

  6. ِAdvantages of visiting Saudi Arabia


  1. Saudi Arabia Visa Requirements

    Here's all the visa information you need to access Saudi. Review visa requirements for your specific traveling needs and have a seamless journey.

  2. Saudi Arabia International Travel Information

    U.S. Consulate General Dhahran Off King Saud bin Abdulaziz Road, at the corner of Salaheddin al Ayoubi Street and Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Street, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia Telephone: (966) (13) 839-5700 Emergency Telephone: (966) (13) 839-5700 Fax: (966) (13) 330-6816 [email protected].

  3. Here's What You Need to Know Before Visiting Saudi Arabia

    For the first time in its history, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced that will be opening its doors for tourism by issuing an electronic visa for visitors coming from 49 countries. Here's what ...

  4. Tourist Visa

    For more information about the Tourist Visa and how to apply, please, Visit Saudi website. The only verifiable source for the tourist visa is the link provided on the Embassy's website. ... Contact. The Embassy of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 601 New Hampshire Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20037. Regular Business Hours Monday - Friday 9:00am-5 ...

  5. KSA Visa

    KSA Visa is the official website for applying for a visa to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. You can find information about the visa types, requirements, fees and procedures, as well as submit your application online and track its status. Visit KSA Visa today and plan your trip to the land of history, culture and hospitality.

  6. Travel Advisory: Updated Travel Advisory for Saudi Arabia (May 18, 2022)

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined Saudi Arabia has a low level of COVID-19. Visit the CDC page for the latest Travel Health Information related to your travel. If you decide to travel to Saudi Arabia: Read the Department of State's COVID-19 page before planning any international travel and see the Embassy ...

  7. Saudi eVisa

    Country of Nationality*. Select. In case your nationality country is not eligible for eVisa, please contact the nearest embassy of Saudi Arabia. Sign in to your existing account. Activation link not received? Resend Activation. Apply now for an Electronic Tourist Visa to visit Saudi Arabia in 3 simple steps from the Official eVisa Portal.

  8. Everything You Need to Know About Getting a Saudi Arabia Visa

    I n 2019, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia officially opened its doors to international travelers, issuing tourist visas for the first time in history. Previously, only those traveling to Saudi Arabia for work or Muslim pilgrims were permitted to enter the country. Today, citizens of 57 nations, including the United States, can obtain an eVisa to travel to Saudi Arabia — and the application ...

  9. Saudi eVisa

    Apply now for an Electronic Tourist Visa to visit Saudi Arabia in 3 simple steps from the Official eVisa Portal Visit Saudi Visa (current) English العربية 简体中文 français Deutsch русский español Türkçe

  10. Important Visa Information

    U.S. Embassy Riyadh: The U.S. Embassy is located in Riyadh in the Diplomatic Quarter. For assistance, please contact us through one of the following: Non-immigrant Visa: [email protected]. Immigrant Visas: [email protected]. Visa Interviews: Non-Immigrant Visa interviews are conducted from 8:00-11:00am.

  11. Saudi Arabia Travel Advisory

    Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory. Do not travel to the following locations due to the threat of missile and drone attacks and terrorism: Within 50 miles of the Saudi-Yemen border, as well as the cities of Abha, Jizan, Najran, and Khamis Mushayt; Abha airport; Qatif in the Eastern Province and its suburbs ...

  12. Saudi Arabia travel

    Saudi Arabia. Middle East. If there is a final frontier of tourism left, it's Saudi Arabia. The birthplace and spiritual home of Islam, Saudi Arabia is rich in attractions and stirring symbolism. For Muslims, the cities of Mecca and Medina, rich in Prophetic significance, have no equal, while the carved temples of Madain Saleh, known as the ...

  13. Personal Visit Visa

    For non-U.S. citizens, copy of green card or document confirming legal residence in the U.S. You May Also Apply For the Visa by: Applying in person at the embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Via Mail to the Embassy's address: 601 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington DC, 20037. Through the Embassy's authorized travel agencies.

  14. Tips and how to travel to Saudi Arabia in 2024

    The VOA on arrival costs 300 Saudi Rials, but they also make you buy travel insurance, which costs an additional 180 Saudi Rials. The total cost is 480 SR, cheaper than the e-visa. As of today, nobody understands why should someone go through the hassle of applying for an e-visa, when the VOA costs 55 SR less.

  15. Saudi Arabia Travel Advice: What To Know Before You Go

    When people ask Kami Turky about his travels to Saudi Arabia, he has two pieces of advice: Don't miss traditional food like Kabsa, a mixed rice dish, and Tharid, a lamb and vegetable stew, "which ...

  16. Apply for USA b1/b2 visit visa from Saudi Arabia

    The following information is required to be entered in the DS-160 form to apply for U.S. Visa (B1/B2) from Saudi Arabia. Your personal information. In case traveling with family, you must have their full names and personal information like Passport number, Iqama number, Date of birth, etc. Name and complete information of the place/organization ...

  17. Apply for a U.S. Visa

    Current Consular Exchange Rate. : 3.80 SAR = 1 USD. Current Rate Valid Through. : 07/06/2024. Welcome to the U.S. Visa Information Service for Saudi Arabia. On this website you can find information about U.S. immigrant and nonimmigrant visas and the requirements to apply for each. You can also learn how to pay the required visa application fee ...

  18. Cheap Flights to Saudi Arabia from $299

    The cheapest ticket to Saudi Arabia from the United States found in the last 72 hours was $243 one-way, and $723 round-trip. The most popular route is New York John F Kennedy Intl to Jeddah King Abdulaziz Intl and the cheapest round-trip airline ticket found on this route in the last 72 hours was $760.

  19. Visas

    Non-immigrant Visa to the United States for citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia are processed at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and at the Consulates in Jeddah and Dhahran. Please visit our Global Support Services (GSS) website for complete information on applying for a nonimmigrant U.S. visa, including a directory of nonimmigrant visa categories.

  20. A guide to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for first time visitors

    Book now. The fast-changing Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, is a thriving, sprawling city that blends ancient heritage with a futuristic vision. Under the Vision 2030 reforms spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country has opened its doors to the world, inviting international tourists to explore the kingdom's once-hidden ...

  21. Saudi Arabia Tourism: Surprising, Unsettling, Surreal

    An editor and photojournalist for the Travel section, Stephen Hiltner drove 5,200 miles and visited all 13 of Saudi Arabia's provinces while reporting and shooting this story. June 5, 2024 ...

  22. Clock ticks on U.S.-Saudi deal as election and Gaza war threaten to

    On May 2, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the details on a U.S.-Saudi part of the deal could be finalized "in very short order.". "We're very close to reaching an ...

  23. Saudi Arabia to United States

    Rome2Rio makes travelling from Saudi Arabia to United States easy. Rome2Rio is a door-to-door travel information and booking engine, helping you get to and from any location in the world. Find all the transport options for your trip from Saudi Arabia to United States right here.

  24. The Saudi Deal the U.S. Actually Needs

    00:00. 08:39. Produced by ElevenLabs and News Over Audio (NOA) using AI narration. A long-rumored deal to form a strategic partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia looks doomed to ...

  25. CDC urges meningococcal disease vaccination ahead of Hajj travel

    The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging doctors to be on the lookout for potentially deadly meningococcal disease linked to travel to Saudi Arabia.. Since April, there have ...

  26. US, Saudi Arabia on verge of 'historic' deal: Senior American diplomat

    3 min read. Washington's envoy to Riyadh said that the US and Saudi Arabia were on the verge of a historic agreement, which, if completed, would see a path to Palestinian statehood as well as ...