Traveling Luck for Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is located in Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, north of Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has borders with United Arab Emirates for 457km, Iraq for 814km, Jordan for 744km, Kuwait for 222km, Oman for 676km, Qatar for 60km and Yemen for 1458km.

Land in Saudi Arabia is mostly uninhabited, sandy desert.

Saudi or Saudi Arabian land covers an area of 1960582 square kilometers which is slightly more than one-fifth the size of the US

As for the Saudi or Saudi Arabian climate; harsh, dry desert with great temperature extremes.

Saudi(s) speak Arabic.

Saudi or Saudi Arabian National Map

Saudi or Saudi Arabian Map

Regions of Saudi Arabia

In 1902, ABD AL-AZIZ bin Abd al-Rahman Al Saud captured Riyadh and set out on a 30-year campaign to unify the Arabian Peninsula. A son of ABD AL-AZIZ rules the country today, and the country's Basic Law stipulates that the throne shall remain in the hands of the aging sons and grandsons of the kingdom's founder. Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia accepted the Kuwaiti royal family and 400,000 refugees while allowing Western and Arab troops to deploy on its soil for the liberation of Kuwait the following year. The continuing presence of foreign troops on Saudi soil after Operation Desert Storm remained a source of tension between the royal family and the public until the US military's near-complete withdrawal to neighboring Qatar in 2003. The first major terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia in several years, which occurred in May and November 2003, prompted renewed efforts on the part of the Saudi government to counter domestic terrorism and extremism, which also coincided with a slight upsurge in media freedom and announcement of government plans to phase in partial political representation. As part of this effort, the government permitted elections - held nationwide from February through April 2005 - for half the members of 179 municipal councils. A burgeoning population, aquifer depletion, and an economy largely dependent on petroleum output and prices are all ongoing governmental concerns.


Saudi Arabia Country Profile

This is an oil-based economy with strong government controls over major economic activities. Saudi Arabia possesses 25% of the world's proven petroleum reserves, ranks as the largest exporter of petroleum, and plays a leading role in OPEC. The petroleum sector accounts for roughly 75% of budget revenues, 45% of GDP, and 90% of export earnings. About 40% of GDP comes from the private sector. Roughly 5.5 million foreign workers play an important role in the Saudi economy, particularly, in the oil and service sectors. The government is encouraging private sector growth to lessen the kingdom's dependence on oil and increase employment opportunities for the swelling Saudi population. The government has begun to permit private sector and foreign investor participation in the power generation and telecom sectors. As part of its effort to attract foreign investment and diversify the economy, Saudi Arabia acceded to the WTO in 2005 after many years of negotiations. With high oil revenues enabling the government to post large budget surpluses, Riyadh has been able to substantially boost spending on job training and education, infrastructure development, and government salaries.

Saudi or Saudi Arabian natural resources include petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, copper

extensive coastlines on Persian Gulf and Red Sea provide great leverage on shipping (especially crude oil) through Persian Gulf and Suez Canal

Saudi or Saudi Arabian religion is Muslim 100%.

Natural hazards in Saudi Arabia include frequent sand and dust storms.

Travel Advice on Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Local Laws & Customs section.  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • There is a continuing high threat of terrorism in Saudi Arabia.  We continue to believe that terrorists are planning further attacks, including against Westerners and places associated with Westerners in Saudi Arabia. We believe aviation interests and oil infrastructure remain possible terrorist targets.

  • You should take all necessary steps to protect your safety and should make sure you have confidence in your individual security arrangements.  You should maintain a high level of vigilance, particularly in public places.  You should avoid any large gatherings or demonstrations.

  • You should remember that Islamic law is strictly enforced in Saudi Arabia.

  • Around 125,000 British nationals visit Saudi Arabia each year to perform the Hajj or Umrah.  A significant proportion of consular problems occur during these visits, in particular from disputes and dissatisfaction with tour operators (see Pilgrimage section of this Travel Advice).

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see Travel Insurance.


SAFETY AND SECURITY

Terrorism/Security

There is a continuing high threat of terrorism in Saudi Arabia. We continue to believe that terrorists are planning further attacks in Saudi Arabia, including against Westerners and places associated with Westerners.  We believe aviation interests and oil infrastructure remain a possible terrorist target.

The Saudi security forces are maintaining enhanced security measures and have succeeded in disrupting terrorist operations, killing and capturing many terrorists and seizing arms and vehicle bombs.

This continuing success should not give rise to complacency:  as terrorist networks are disrupted, there are grounds for believing that remaining terrorists may resort to opportunistic attacks on western targets.

Terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia have taken various forms.  At their height in 2003 and 2004 they included kidnapping; large-scale truck bombings of residential compounds and Saudi government offices; an attack on the US Consulate in Jeddah; targeted shootings of individuals; small-scale car bombings; parcel bombings; and bombing of shopping areas. Most recently, on 24 February 2006, terrorists attacked an oil processing centre in Abqaiq, EasternProvince, detonating two car bombs, but were prevented from doing serious damage.  In a related operation three days later, the Saudi security forces raided a house in Riyadh, during which five terrorists were killed.

There were a number of clashes between security forces and terrorists during 2005 and the first half of 2006, including a two-day siege by Saudi security forces in Al Dammam (Eastern Province) in September, during which at least five terrorists and four police officers were killed; and a three-day siege by Saudi security forces in Al-Rass, a town 340 km north west of Riyadh, in April 2005, in which 15 terrorists were killed and six detained.  Most recently on 23 June 2006, police arrested one militant and killed a further six in a Riyadh suburb.

You should take all necessary steps to protect your safety and should make sure you have confidence in your individual security arrangements.  You should maintain a high level of vigilance, particularly in public places.  You should take sensible precautions for your personal and vehicle safety.

British residents in Saudi Arabia are given specific guidance by our mission, including through Wardens notices.  Advice is available to visitors from the British Embassy in Riyadh, the British Consulate General in Jeddah and from the Embassy website:  http://www.britishembassy.gov.uk/saudiarabia (click on "Consular").

Please read "Security and General Tips" and "Risk of Terrorism when Travelling Overseas".  You should follow news reports and be alert to regional developments.  Any increase in regional tension might affect travel advice.

Political situation

Saudi Arabia Country Profile.

Developments in Iraq and on the Middle East Peace Process continue to have an impact on local public opinion in the region.  You should be aware of local sensitivities on these issues.You should follow local news reports and be alert to local and regional developments, which might trigger public disturbances.   You should take sensible precautions for your personal safety and avoid public gatherings.

Pilgrimage

Saudi government regulations stipulate that British pilgrims performing Umrah and Hajj can only travel with UK travel agencies accredited with the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia.  You should confirm the full itinerary for your pilgrimage before departing the UK.  If you find yourself in difficulties during your pilgrimage, you or your relatives should contact the British Consulate-General in Jeddah (tel: +966 2 622 5550/5557/5558).  Further information can be obtained from the FCO Know Before You Go Campaign web page (Hajj), this page contains practical advice and explains what services the British Hajj Delegation can offer British Pilgrims should you choose to travel to Saudi Arabia.

In recent years, pilgrims have been killed due to over-crowding.  There was a stampede at the 2006 Hajj which resulted in the death of over 400 pilgrims, including three British Nationals.

There has been an increase in the number of reported cases of pickpocketing and other forms of theft in Mecca, particularly in the region of the Grand Mosque and in Medina.  You should take additional care with travel documents, tickets and other valuables while visiting these two areas.  We also recommend that you should make a copy of your passport before you travel, and keep it in a safe place.  (Also see the section on Health below.)

Crime

The crime rate is low and is not usually a problem for travellers in Saudi Arabia.  However, petty crime does occur especially in crowded areas.  Occasionally, British nationals have been the victims of more serious crimes such as assault and robbery, the latest being a British national who was stabbed in Jubail, Eastern Province on 20 November 2006.

Sea Safety

Shipping serving the oil installations should be aware that oil infrastructure remains a possible terrorist target. Shipping must ensure that their SSPs are fully and robustly implemented while operating in the area. All ships are to maintain a high state of vigilance while in Saudi Arabian ports and report anything suspicious to the appropriate authorities.

There have been acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships in and around the Red Sea.  Mariners should take appropriate precautions.

Many areas of the Gulf are highly sensitive, including near maritime boundaries and the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in the southern Gulf.  Vessels entering these areas have been detained and inspected; and there have been occasional arrests.  Mariners should make careful enquiries before entering these waters or considering visiting ports.
On 30 March 2006, a Dhow capsized in Bahrain. There were 58 fatalities, including 12 British nationals. You should exercise care when travelling by Dhow, as the safety of these vessels may not be up to UK standards. You should also ensure that life jackets are available.


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country in which Islamic law is strictly enforced.
The public practice of any form of religion other than Islam is not permitted; nor is an intention to convert others.
The Saudi authorities do accept the private practice of religions other than Islam, and you are allowed to bring a Bible into the country as long as it is for your personal use.  However, importing larger quantities can carry severe penalties as it will be viewed that it is your intention to convert others.
Islamic codes of behaviour and dress are also enforced rigorously.  You should respect them fully.
Homosexual behaviour and adultery are illegal and can carry the death penalty.
The penalties for the possession of, or trade in, alcohol are severe. Both result in prison sentences.  The punishment for importing drugs includes the death penalty. You should not arrive in Saudi Arabia under the influence of alcohol: the consequences could be serious.  You should carry with you a doctor’s prescription for any medication you have with you.  The importation of pork products is also forbidden.
The possession of pornographic material, or of illustrations of scantily dressed people, especially women, is prohibited.
The Saudi legal system differs in many ways from the UK.  Suspects can be held without charge and those detained have in the past not been allowed legal representation.  The Saudi authorities have detained witnesses and victims of crimes.  If you require consular assistance our staff will seek to visit you as soon as they are aware of the case.  However, in some instances they have not been permitted to do so immediately or have had limits applied to access once granted.  We have raised our concern about reports of mistreatment of some suspects during their detention.
Photography of government buildings, military installations and palaces is not allowed.  You should avoid photographing local people.
It is illegal for women to drive.
Anyone involved in a commercial dispute with a Saudi company or individual may be prevented from leaving the country pending resolution of the dispute.
Passports are often retained by sponsors or government bodies for official purposes.  You should carry a photocopy of your passport.  Make sure you have included in your passport details of those who should be contacted in an emergency.
It is illegal to hold two passports in Saudi Arabia: second passports will be confiscated by the immigration authorities if they are discovered.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

All visitors, including pilgrims, require a visa to enter Saudi Arabia.  These should be applied for through visa agencies accredited to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia.  Details of how to apply can be obtained from the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia: Saudi representation in the UK.
British residents in Saudi Arabia should remember that they require a valid exit/re-entry permit from the Saudi Ministry of Interior in order to leave the country.
On occasion, Saudi visas have been refused when passports have reflected travel to Israel or indicated an Israeli birthplace.
Women visitors and residents are required to be met by their sponsor upon arrival.  Women travelling alone, who are not met by sponsors, have experienced delays before being allowed to enter the country or to continue on other flights.
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country, or in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.  For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration please contact:  Saudi representation in the UK.
Foreign women married to Saudi nationals require permission from their husbands for themselves and their children to leave Saudi Arabia.


HEALTH

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance for the whole duration of your proposed trip before travelling.  Many hospitals may refuse treatment unless they receive payment, or an assurance of payment, in advance.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see Travel Insurance

Healthcare facilities in major cities in Saudi Arabia are of a high standard.  Outside these major cities most towns have a health centre or basic hospital.  Serious cases generally necessitate ambulance/air transfer to hospitals in a major city that might be some distance away.

There have been cases of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) in south-west Saudi Arabia, mainly in the Jizan area.  There have also been cases of cerebral malaria but only in Jizan itself.  The outbreaks of cerebral malaria are local and do not affect Jeddah or any other areas of Saudi Arabia.  If you intend to visit the Jizan region should you seek medical advice on Rift Valley Fever and cerebral malaria before travelling.  There have been a number of isolated cases of dengue fever in Jeddah over the last year.  You should take sensible precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Particularly during Hajj and Ramadan, contagious diseases spread quickly, and pilgrims should take basic medicines with them and consume adequate liquids and salts.  Saudi government regulations set out that ACWY quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine is mandatory for people travelling to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj and Umrah.

You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.  Further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at www.dh.gov.uk


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas, please see:  What We Can Do To Help
Residents and longer-term visitors are strongly advised to register with the British Embassy in Riyadh (tel:  +966 (0) 1 488 0077), or Consulate-General in Jeddah (tel : +966 (0) 2 622 5550).