Top of the list is choosing your trip. Whether you’re planning to head south down the Red Sea coast or to cruise between cities, you’ll want a rough schedule to your days. Plot your route around where you’ll sleep each night and any anchor sights – think famous landmarks or must-see spots – and leave the rest of your trip free for spur-of-the-moment detours. If something catches your eye, veer off your intinerary and explore it. Some of the best adventures are unplanned.
Renting a car is the easiest way to get on the road. Saudi has a range of car hire companies and the process of renting is straightforward. Drivers need to be 25 or over, and to have held their licence for more than a year. Saudi residents will need to bring along a valid driver’s licence and ID, and tourists will also need their passport. Rules vary with foreign renters, so check ahead with the hire firm to confirm the paperwork you’ll need. If you plan to drive in shifts, make sure the insurance policy covers multiple drivers, and consider a 4WD if offroad jaunts are on the cards.
Comfortable cruising needs a well-serviced car. If you plan to take your own ride, ensure the battery, brakes, lights and engine are in good working order, and check your oil and tire pressure (not forgetting the spare). An in-car emergency kit is also worth considering: spare keys, jump cables and a battery charger could mean the difference between a short stop, and a derailed day.
Less time behind the wheel means more time to explore. An early morning start allows you to beat the traffic, spend the day sightseeing, and to be off the road after dark. Break up long stretches with fuel stops or take it in turns to get behind the wheel. And if you’re planning to head off the main routes, take backup directions. While GPS is great for directions, it may not always work in remote or offroad areas. Have an offline map or print map on-hand, just in case.
Packing light means more room in the trunk to stow souvenirs, and less luggage to carry each night. Keep a bag of essentials within reach for the journey: antibacterial wipes, face masks and gloves, sunglasses, sun cream, a first-aid kit, a cooler with snacks and water, and a phone car charger for the ride. We’d also recommend a bathing suit and towel for any spontaneous swims.
Saudi’s captivating landscape means you’ll never be bored, but a well-crafted playlist adds to the view. Depending on tastes, throw in some podcasts and audiobooks alongside the music to keep you interested. Download them rather than relying on mobile data, for uninterrupted listening.
Successful road tripping with kids requires planning. Having a list of games and other entertainment can go a long way towards helping the miles fly by and avoiding a constant refrain of ‘are we there yet?’ In addition to music, tables, audiobook stories and boardgames, classic road games are a great way to pass the time. From 21 questions and the alphabet game, to name that song and I spy, family members of any age can play along. If all else fails, pass the snacks.
Whether it’s for unexpected stops in rural villages, or snack stops at roadside stalls, carry enough cash to see you through between ATM visits and in case of emergencies.
Reviews are good, but local recommendations are better. There’s no better way to uncover a magical vista or stumble on a hidden gem of a restaurant then by asking a local resident. Saudis are famously friendly and hospitable so don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation. It could lead to the most rewarding stop of your trip.
Being on the road is an adventure in itself. Make the most of the journey: stop for photo ops, swing through small villages or stop to enjoy the mountains. There’s so much to see and explore, and road trips give you the flexibility to do so. Equally, be respectful when passing through. Show courtesy to other road users, don’t litter and be mindful of local culture and communities.
Be prepared in the event of an emergency by carrying these essential numbers with you