Plan Your Trip
Information you need to know
Advance visas are required for all foreigners wishing to enter Saudi Arabia. The only significant exception is citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council nations.
Saudis prefer not to grant visas to unaccompanied women, but work permits are common in some fields especially nurses, teachers, maids and possible for anyone if your sponsor has enough connections. However as a female traveler to Saudi Arabia, it is easier for females over 30 years of age to obtain a visa.
All business travellers require a business visa for entry into Saudi Arabia. Business visas are issued to the following individuals: business people, investors, representatives of companies, managers, sales managers, sales representatives, accountants, production managers, administrative managers, and consultants.
Visitors to Saudi Arabia who arrive on business visas also require an invitation from the local sponsor, Reed Sunaidi, who will issue you with an invite letter. You then need to take the letter along with your passport to the Saudi embassy or consulate in your country. If you would like to access the list of relevant embassies and consulates, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. Once this invitation is secured and certified, the actual process of issuing the visa is relatively fast and painless, taking anything from 3 days to two weeks.
Saudi Arabia is four hours ahead of UTC (Co-ordinated Universal Time – formerly known as GMT) and there is no daylight saving.
Riyadh has a sub-tropical, arid climate. Temperatures range from a low of around 13°C (50°F) on a winter's night, to a high of around 42°C (118°F) on a summer's day. The cooler months, November to April, are the most pleasant time to visit, when temperatures are around 24°C (75°F) during the day and 13°C (56°F) at night.
The official language of the country is Arabic, although English is the official business language. English is widely used and most road and shop signs, restaurant menus, etc. are in both languages.
Business Hours & Social Hours
Government offices: 07:30am to 04:00pm (Sunday to Thursday) Private sector: 09:00am to 06:00pm can vary (Sunday to Thursday) Embassies and consulates: 08:00am to 04:00pm (Sunday to Thursday) Banks: 09:00am to 04:00pm (Sunday to Thursday) Shopping Malls: 10:00am to 10:00pm Friday 17:00pm to 22:00pm Petrol stations: 24 hours (Daily)
The monetary unit is the "Riyal"
The currency is also referred to as SAR (Saudi Arabian riyal).
The Riyal has been tied to the US dollar at a mid-rate of US $1 – SAR 3.75
Exchange rates of all major currencies are published daily in the local newspapers.
Banks & ATM's
Banks offer the full range of commercial and personal banking services.
Banking hours: Sunday to Thursday 08:00hrs - 13:00hrs, Friday - CLOSED
Most banks operate ATMs, also known as Cash Points or Service Tills, which accept a wide range of cards. Common systems accepted around Riyadh include American Express, Cirrus, Global Access, MasterCard, Plus System and Visa. ATMs can be found in all shopping malls, at the airport, at petrol stations and at various street-side locations.
Money exchanges are available all over Riyadh, offering good services and reasonable exchange rates, which are often better than the banks. Additionally, hotels will usually exchange money and travelers cheques at the standard hotel rate.
Most shops, hotels and restaurants accept the major credit cards (American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, and Visa).
Tipping practices are similar to most parts of the world.
Normal tourist photography is acceptable; it is courteous to ask permission before photographing people especially local women. In general, photographs of government buildings, military installations, ports and airports should not be taken.
Riyadh's culture is firmly rooted in the Islamic traditions of Arabia. Among the most highly prized virtues are courtesy and hospitality; visitors are sure to be charmed by the genuine warmth and friendliness of the people. Visitors should be aware of local sensitivities and customs.
Islam is the official religion of KSA.
Food & Drink
Riyadh offers pretty much every type of international cuisine imaginable. Whilst restaurants located in hotels can be expensive, some of the best places to eat are the small street side stands around town.
Many fine dining and high end restaurants may add a service charge (usually around 10%) and a tourism levy of 6% (in hotel restaurants only) to your bill. These charges are often included in the menu prices and the menu will denote when they are. You may choose to reward your waiter directly with a tip – the usual is 10%.
Personal effects entering Riyadh are not liable to a customs levy. It is strictly forbidden to import drugs and pornographic material and items. Punishment is severe for offenders.
The importation of alcohol into the KINGDOM of SAUDI ARABIA is NOT PERMITTED.
Health certificates are not required for entry to the KSA except for visitors who have been in cholera or yellow fever infected areas. However, it is always wise to check health requirements before departure as restrictions may vary.
Hotels and Residential Apartments
There is a wide choice of hotels in Riyadh ranging from small boutiques to 5 star luxury properties.
The larger hotels all offer an airport shuttle bus service.
A cheaper alternative to staying in a hotel is to rent furnished accommodation. This can be done on a daily/weekly/monthly or yearly basis and there are a number of agencies offering this service. The apartments come fully furnished, and include a maid service. Additionally there may be sports facilities such as a gym and swimming pool in the building. For more information contact the Official Travel Agent.
Shopping in Riyadh is an enjoyable experience! Prices are competitive in many products from gold to carpets, textiles or designer labels. The key to shopping here is to bargain where possible since prices, especially in the souks, can drop quite substantially.
The attractive and often imaginatively designed, modern shopping malls in Riyadh are one of the highlights of shopping in KSA, and are generally spacious and fully air conditioned.
Most international brands and high street shops can be found in the shopping malls. Most malls have a food court, which offer a variety of types of cuisine.
On the Road
Drivers and their passengers in the front and back seats of a vehicle must by law wear seatbelts. Failure to do so will result in a heavy fine.
It is an offence to drive and use a mobile telephone unless it is hands free.