When people ask Turkish Cami about his travels to Saudi Arabia, he has two tips: Don’t miss traditional food like Kabsamixed rice platter, and porridgeLamb and vegetable broth, “yummy”.
“Bring your sunglasses, because it’s always hot and sunny,” says Turki, head of logistics for an aquarium supply website in Flint, Michigan.
There has been a lot of curiosity about traveling to Saudi Arabia recently. Authorities unveiled a bold plan to build a skyscraper 75 miles taller than the Empire State Building this summer. The country’s Minister of Tourism, Ahmed Al-Khatib, has announced that the government will spend a staggering $1 trillion in the tourism sector over the next decade. New luxury hotels are opening their doors in a hectic region of Saudi Arabia. But questions also remained about the safety of visiting the kingdom, even as the country opened to foreign visitors.
Sean Foley, an expert on Saudi Arabia at Middle Tennessee State University. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an easy country to visit and a rewarding experience for travelers. Obtaining an entry visa takes just a few minutes and can be done online. The country boasts many unique UNESCO World Heritage sites and modern infrastructure.”
Tourism in Saudi Arabia accounts for less than 10% of the economy, says Frank Harrison, director of regional security for North America and the United Kingdom at Global Travel Protection.
“Most of the tourism is focused on the pilgrimage, the pilgrimage to Mecca, and there are very controlled expectations about how long pilgrims can stay in the country,” he says. “For those who travel to tourist destinations, there are great snorkeling and coastal adventures in the inland desert.”
Visitors who have stayed in some of the areas that are being developed for tourism, such as Riyadh and Jeddah, have reported that their trips to the kingdom have been great experiences. Turki says he felt safe and welcome during his visit to Saudi Arabia.
“People are kind and helpful,” he recalls.
I contacted Saudi officials earlier this week to get details about their plans to fund tourism. I also asked about some of the recent changes in Saudi regulations that have made it easier to visit, the types of tourists they want to attract, and public safety. One representative said the organization would try to respond, but that approvals from the Saudi Tourism Authority “might take a little longer.”
Is it safe to travel to Saudi Arabia?
Experts say Saudi Arabia is fairly safe.
The crime rate in Saudi Arabia is low, according to official sources. The main risks for tourists are petty crimes, such as pickpocketing and bag snatching, which mainly occur in crowded areas.
This spring, the Saudi Ministry of Tourism quietly ordered the removal of all security checkpoints for vehicles and guests at its tourist accommodation facilities, according to Michael O’Rourke, CEO of Advanced Operational Conceptsa security consulting firm.
“This imposed change was not the result of an improvement in the security situation or a decrease in the threat of terrorism,” he says. “Removing these defenses created a security hole through which you can drive a loaded truck.”
Last month, the US State Department issued an advice urging US citizens to do so Reconsider traveling to Saudi Arabia Because of the threat of missile and drone attacks on civilian facilities. The government advised Americans not to travel within 50 miles of the Saudi-Yemeni border. The cities of Abha, Jizan, Najran and Khamis Mushait were placed on the banned list, as well as Abha and Qatif airports in the Eastern Province and its suburbs.
The country is also known for its surveillance of telephone and electronic communications, says Dale Buckner, travel security expert and CEO of global keeper.
“Travelers should assume that communications are monitored at all times,” he says. Hotel rooms may also be monitored and may be accessed without guest consent. Electronic devices may be checked by customs officials upon arrival and departure.
Even if you ignore all the current security issues, visitors still have concerns stemming from many other recent events. These include Mass execution of 81 people this spring The dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in 2018.
Saudi Arabia is changing – slowly
The Saudi government has taken great steps to welcome tourists to Saudi Arabia. Earlier this month, tourism officials Edit their entry conditions In a move aimed at encouraging more visitors. The new regulations provide residents of Gulf countries an option to apply for an electronic visa through Online portal. Residents of the UK, US and EU can also apply for a visa on arrival.
“Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, there have been many moves to modernize, and attracting Western tourists appears to be a top priority,” says John Goebbels, director of operations at Air Medical Transport and Travel Security. Medjet. “But that doesn’t mean that things have changed overnight. Failure to respect their laws and ethical rules still has serious repercussions, and people need to take that very seriously into consideration before making the decision to travel there.”
Shelley Ewing, President First class travelNot all visitors are welcome in Saudi Arabia, he says.
“Saudi Arabia has a strict rule banning all LGBTQ+ activities. For your own safety, it is not recommended to travel to Saudi Arabia if you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community,” she says.
Ewing says there are potential risks for women visiting Saudi Arabia, especially if they do not abide by the strict Saudi moral codes, which include wearing modest clothing at all times, covering shoulders and knees, and wearing a robe-like garment, called an abaya, when entering mosques.
Travel tips for visiting Saudi Arabia
If you are interested in visiting Saudi Arabia, here are some expert tips.
There are rules – Lots of the rules
Narendra Khatri, School Principal says: InsupboyTravel insurance company. “Also, you must remember to dress modestly, with loose-fitting clothing that does not reveal your knees and shoulders. Dressing like a normal Western can attract unwanted attention from the authorities.” He says that while some of these laws may only result in fines or warnings, the Saudi legal system can result in accused individuals being held without charge for extended periods of time, with limited access to legal representation.
Take care of your medication
Dan Richards, CEO of global rescueProvider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. “Travelers should carefully research the laws of Saudi Arabia before their trip. Even if the medication is legal, always keep it in the original container and get a copy of the prescription.”
Visit November to March
Mahmud Khan, professor of tourism at Virginia Tech. During the summer, high daytime temperatures routinely reach 120 degrees, making it impossible to do anything outdoors. It also helps if you like staying up late. Saudi Arabia comes alive after sunset. Khan says the best time to shop is late at night.
Should you visit Saudi Arabia?
Should you visit Saudi Arabia? The answer is complicated. The kingdom is literally investing trillions of dollars to attract tourists like you.
Tiffany Bowen, founder of Lounge CoutureLuxury travel agency. “If you’ve been trying to see a place before it gets built and commercialized, now is the time. It’s not yet ready for the masses. Once you’ve increased the infrastructure a bit, more hotels and tourism support services will catch up, be prepared for all kinds of travelers.”
I’ve traveled a lot in the Middle East, and whenever I mention Saudi Arabia, I get a curious response – a mixture of admiration and hesitation. The admiration part is easy: any country with a trillion-dollar tourism budget and 75 miles of skyscrapers she has to look at her.
Much of the hesitation is Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, which the Saudi government is clearly hoping the new hotels and mega projects will make us forget. It remains to be seen if this works.