When I recently got the opportunity to visit Saudi, I was super thrilled cos its a destination that has been high on my bucketlist due to its epic landscapes, rich heritage and vibrant culture. From the commercial centre of Jeddah – home to the UNESCO Old Town and one of the world’s few Formula 1 tracks – to the breathtaking Red Dunes and mesmerizing Diriyah in the capital, Riyadh, Saudi – to the magnificent desert and history in Al Ula – Saudi has so much to offer in terms of tourism.
I spent my week in Riyadh and Jeddah so I will only be covering these two destinations in my blog post. However if you are planning a trip I would highly recommend you add Al Ula, its so high on both mine and Anush’s bucketlist, we will definitely be planning a trip back to visit the Al Ula!
So without further adieu here is my quick travel guide to Riyadh and Jeddah.
Do you need a visa to go there ?
In 2019, Saudi opened its borders to tourism for the first time ever with the launch of their E-Visa program. Open to 49 countries in markets including North America, Europe and Asia, the E-Visa allows citizens of these countries to apply for a 90-day tourist visa. If you are not from any of the eligible countries you can get a visa on arrival (if you hold a multiple entry US, UK or Schengen visa in the tourist or business category) or apply at your local consulate prior to your trip.
How many days ?
1 week minimum to 10 days – you can split your time across Riyadh, Jeddah and Al Ula. All these destinations are accessible by a quick domestic flight.
How to get around ?
We got around using pre arranged taxis with drivers. Go Zahid arranges this all over Saudi.
Things to know :
- Dress code for women : Saudi does not require you to wear a hijab, it is optional. It is only mandatory when you are entering mosques. Modest dress code is advisable wherein you are expected to cover your chest, shoulders, midriff. Anything below the kneees is acceptable length wise. I packed a ton of maxi dresses, abayas, loose trousers and blouses, kaftans, scarves. Its a great idea to always have a scarf on you – both for the weather as well as incase you want to visit a mosque.
Some of my Saudi outfits :
- No alcohol is served anywhere in Saudi.
- Language : Arabic is the official language of Saudi Arabia and the primary language used in all dealings and public transactions.English serves as an informal second language in the Kingdom and is spoken by a large section of its society.
- Saudi Arabia’s national currency is the Saudi riyal (SAR).
- Local delicacies to try – Shakshuka, Kabsa, Hummus, etc. Kabsa is considered the national dish of Saudi. The flavorful rice is topped with roast chicken, meat, or even fish, and a tomato and chili salsa is often served on the side to brighten it up.
Riyadh is the birthplace of modern Saudi Arabia, where old- world charm meets 21st-century vision. Riyadh translates to “the Gardens,” a reference to the area’s past that dates to the 14th century, when the land was revered for its fertile soil, many canals and trees.
Today, Riyadh Province, also known as Al Wosta, is home to the country’s capital: a modern metropolis with a thriving financial and business center and a growing cultural scene. Riyadh’s blend of medieval and millennial makes for a beguiling cultural union — one where Arabia’s first roots can be traced, and where its bold future can be envisioned.
The city’s fascinating, centuries- old history can be found within its atmospheric souqs, compelling museums and ancient architecture, but it’s also a modern metropolis, with glittering high-rises and a burgeoning contemporary art scene.
Where to stay in Riyadh ?
Things to do in Riyadh
1 ) catch the sunrise at Red Dunes in Riyadh. Also go dune bashing & sandboarding here!
2 ) enjoy a traditional family style Saudi meal at Najd Village.
3 ) visit the historical Diriyah – the birthplace of Saudi! Diriyah was the capital of the Kingdom in the 15th century.
4 ) enjoy an epic view of Riyadh city from the Sky Bridge.
5 ) spend an evening at the Boulevard Riyadh.
6) visit Masmak Fort – a clay and mudbrick fort in the old city of Riyadh.
7) stroll around the ultra modern King Abdullah Financial District and also visit the Grand Mosque here.
8) go abaya shopping!
Where to eat in Riyadh ?
- Al Nakheel
- Najd Village
- La Gais
They say “Jeddah’s different.” And its so true, I absolutely loved it! The Red Sea is still central to it all – for trade, for diving among pristine reefs, and for fishing for Jeddah’s legendary seafood.The city where Eve was laid to rest (according to local lore) is a beguiling mix of old and new, and one that remains gloriously different
Historic Al Balad in Jeddah with its charming traditional architecture is currently a UNESCO heritage site. The structures, which are characterized by Roshans (large protruding wooden windows) and lower coral stone houses, are among the rare vestiges of this style of architecture found in the world. The city’s heart is still intact in Al Balad, the magical historical quarter that has undergone a renaissance in recent years. The historic downtown area of Jeddah originally built in the 7th century.
Where to stay in Jeddah ?
Things to do in Jeddah
1) explore the historic Al Balad in Jeddah – the magical historical quarter that was originally built in the 7th century. Catch the sunset at Historical Nights Cafe!
2 ) visit the Al Tayebat city museum to admire the buildings, all constructed using elements of traditional Hejazi architecture.
3) stroll along the beautiful waterfront of Jeddah along the Red Sea – the Jeddah Corniche.
4) visit the stunning Al Rahma floating mosque in Jeddah.
Where to eat in Jeddah
- Angelina Cafe
- Restaurants at the House Hotel Jeddah
Thanks for stopping by! xoxo