The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is known to the outside world as a hub for Islamism, particularly because Islam was born and “bred” here before it spread to the world. But the kingdom is more than that. For starters, Saudi Arabia is among the top 18 top economies in the world and the biggest economy in the Middle East. It is a prominent country with a rich history for adventurers and historians to explore. The ancient cultures and modern civilization associated with this country is both mind-blowing and mind-boggling.
Without a doubt, Saudi Arabia is a good place to travel. It has a lot to offer visitors and very hospitable people to make your stay there comfortable. However, this country isn’t your ordinary travel destination. People here are extremely religious and highly conservative, so there are things you normally do in the western world that will be considered outrageous in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is also under the monarchical rule, so you can expect many unfamiliar restrictions and political interference even in what you would consider “personal business”.
The Visa policy of Saudi Arabia
Now that you have an idea of what to expect when visiting Saudi Arabia, let’s take a step back and look at how you get to the kingdom in the first place. You will only be allowed into Saudi Arabia upon producing a valid visa, not unless you are a citizen of KSA’s visa-exempt countries. You also need a passport that’s valid for at least 6 more months from the day you enter KSA.
Depending on your parent country, you can obtain a visa online or apply for one upon arrival. Citizens of some selected countries aren’t eligible for this provision and are required to apply for and obtain a visa from the Saudi diplomatic mission based in their homeland. US citizens, among other 50+ nations, are eligible for a Saudi Arabia eVisa that was introduced in 2019. Holders of this visa are allowed to be in Saudi Arabia for a maximum of 90 days, after which they have to obtain a new visa for a fee.
Things you should never do in Saudi Arabia
You now know enough to get started in the KSA. To help you settle in easily upon arrival, we have prepared a shortlist of the things that you should never, ever do when visiting Saudi Arabia. Don’t:
1. Drink alcohol
If you are caught by Saudi authorities being drunk or intoxicated in any way, you will be looking at possible imprisonment, hefty fines, or even deportation. Don’t even risk drinking on your way to Saudi Arabia as you will be flagged off at customs.
2. Watch porn
Before touching down in Saudi Arabia, make sure that you’ve deleted all the porn if any, that you’ve saved on your mobile device. And speaking of porn, images of scantily dressed people are deemed to be porn, particularly images of women. If the Saudi authorities find porn on your phone or tablet upon scanning, they can confiscate it right away.
3. Eat pork
Eating pork here is an abomination. Remember the kingdom is almost 100% Islamic and eating pork isn’t allowed in Islam. And in case you are thinking you can get away with breaking this rule just because you don’t subscribe to Islam beliefs, well, think again.
4. Defame Islam
This is a no brainer: Defaming Islam in Saudi Arabia is tantamount to insulting someone in their own home. As much as you love your religion and would want to convert a few locals, please refrain from practicing your religion in public. Simply put, keep your faith to yourself.
5. Celebrate Valentine’s
If you are probably planning to spend Valentine’s day in the KSA, that will be okay except that you won’t be allowed to celebrate the lovers’ day in the literal sense of it. You won’t, for example, buy flowers, carry heart-shaped gifts, wear red, or do anything that could give your intentions away. Valentine’s is considered ungodly here.
A good traveler understands the importance of respecting the cultures, beliefs, and rules that define a person, even as much as he/she disagrees with them. That is why you should try your level best to respect Islam and the people of Saudi Arabia when you visit their country. Don’t try to break any rules, don’t get too comfortable with their women, and don’t dress inappropriately. When the locals offer you food, please don’t be rude to them. They are very welcoming and hospitable people.