Your first trip to Saudi is booked, you’ve secured your tourist visa, and your flight day is fast approaching. How exciting!
Whether you’re flying into King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, the newly expanded King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah or another international airport in Saudi, what do you need to know before you continue on to your destination? Here’s a quick to-do list with some key information regarding travel in Saudi.
That’s internet connectivity, to be exact. Although you’ll find plenty of places in Saudi that provide free Wi-Fi, you’ll still want to make sure you have sufficient data on your phone for those times when free Wi-Fi is unavailable, recommends Lina Khan, assistant marketing manager at the Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh.
If you don’t have enough data on your plan, you can buy a SIM card at the airport. Another option available for purchase at the airport is a “pocket Wi-Fi,” a mobile hotspot that enables you to avoid expensive data roaming charges.
And if you haven’t already, be sure to download ride-sharing apps, such as Careem or Uber, Khan says.
Mirroring local behavior is encouraged and taken as a gesture of appreciation, so it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the local customs.
One subtle but meaningful gesture is that people in Saudi start with their right hand or foot, says Saleh Khalaf, an Airbnb Superhost in Jeddah. “We always hand things with our right hand, and if we’re waiting for an elevator, the person on the right always enters first. When we enter a mosque, we enter with our right foot first.”
If you’re the type of person who likes to document your travels with plenty of snapshots, keep in mind that it’s considered disrespectful to photograph people without their permission. “I would avoid taking any pictures of people without asking them directly first,” Khalaf says.
While English serves as an informal second language in the country and is spoken by a large portion of its society, it’s a good idea to know how to say a few words in Arabic. These are the words and phrases that are most likely to come in handy during your trip
● Hello — Salam alaykum
● Please — Min fadlak
● Thank you — Shukran
● You’re welcome — Afwan
● Yes — Aiwa
● No — La
● My name is “X” — Ismii “X”
● I don’t understand much Arabic — Ma afham Arabi
● Do you speak English? — Tetkalam Engleezy?
—Donna Behen is a health and lifestyle writer and editor who has previously written for The New York Times, Real Simple, Parents, Parade and more.