Saudi Arabia will soon be introducing the Saudi Arabia eVisa for those wishing to travel to the country. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has long been notorious for being one of the most difficult places in the world to visit. The eVisa is part of the Saudi Vision 2030 initiative which looks to diversify the economy. Promoting tourism in the kingdom is part of the approach and the eVisa will be key to implementing this. Potential tourists will just have to fill in a simple, quick eVisa application form and they’ll have taken their first step to enjoy Arabian nights.
Saudi Arabia has long been a place of pilgrimage for devout Muslims traveling to Mecca, but the country also has other attractions for non-Muslims to enjoy, with the added sense of adventure offered by such an uncommon holiday destination. These attractions include beautiful beaches in the Farasan Islands, Mada’in Saleh, an ancient city carved into the rock, and excursions into the vast desert of Rub’ al Khali (The Empty Quarter) to name just a few.
But before you start packing your bags it is worth asking some basic questions about safety in Saudi Arabia and things to keep in mind.
Saudi Culture: Religious and Traditional
As most people will be aware, Saudi Arabia is a deeply conservative and religious country. Islamic law, known as Sharia, governs most aspects of daily life and is strictly enforced by the omnipresent Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. Tourists should take simple steps to avoid problems, including:
- Make sure that you are dressed appropriately. For women, this will mean being fully covered and in the case of men, it is advised to cover up as much as possible
- Overt displays of affection in public are heavily frowned upon, especially in the case of gay and lesbian travelers
- Alcohol consumption is strictly forbidden in the Kingdom. The authorities are much more lenient with foreign workers and tourists, but you should not be seen drinking in public or appear drunk
- Caution should be exercised when taking pictures, especially if photographing locals or government buildings
- Criticism of the Saudi royal family is not permitted under any circumstances. Do not assume that locals will not understand you if you have such conversations in English
Conflict and Terrorism: Exercise Caution
Saudi Arabia has for some years taken a prominent role in the civil war across the border in neighboring Yemen, offering military support to the Yemeni president against a rebel uprising. It has received widespread international condemnation for allegedly targeting civilians in the conflict. The Yemeni rebels have retaliated, striking Saudi targets close to the border. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that foreign visitors avoid any areas close to the Yemeni border.
Saudi Arabia has also been a terror target and is likely to see further terror attacks in the foreseeable future. Historic sites and places frequented by Westerners are especially likely to be chosen for such attacks. Travelers are therefore advised to always be vigilant and to follow safety warnings issued by their government.
Despite the above, the vast majority of visitors to Saudi Arabia have an enjoyable stay without any problems and find the locals to be friendly and welcoming, as is typical of Arab countries.