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Travel Advice for Females in Saudi Arabia

Dress Code, Culture & More

Top Tips for Females Travelling to Saudi Arabia

If you're interested in visiting Saudi Arabia, but unsure about travelling there as a female, read our reassuring guide below that covers all the important factors to consider, including dress code, local customs, safety and security, and the best attractions for females to visit in Saudi Arabia.

Woman hiking in the desert of NEOM, Saudi Arabia

Visas, logistics and entry for female travellers

Visa application:
As a woman, you're eligible for a Saudi Arabian e-visa (online) if your nationality is on the approved list. The application process is simple - you can fill out the online form, provide your passport details and pay an application fee. The processing time is usually quick but we recommend planning ahead if you are flying to Saudi Arabia in the peak seasons.

Specific requirements:
No age restrictions apply, but solo female travellers under 30 years of age will need additional documentation. Some nationalities may require a mahram (male guardian) escort for unmarried women under 30. Always check with the embassy for the latest updates.

Customs:
When visiting Saudi Arabia as a female, you will need to dress modestly (shoulders and knees covered) and be prepared for potential body scans. You might also experience separate male and female queues at immigration. Declare any restricted items, including medication.

A long road in AlUla desert, Saudi Arabia

Transportation for female travellers in Saudi Arabia

Taxis are readily available and ride-sharing apps are gaining popularity. It's worth noting that public transport options are limited for women in some cities - consider private drivers or pre-arranged tours for longer journeys.

If you're planning to visit multiple cities in Saudi Arabia, domestic flights can connect you. Many popular Saudi airlines operate domestic flights in Saudi Arabia including Saudia, flynas, Flyadeal, Riyadh Air and Nesma Airlines.

Woman wearing modest clothing while in Saudi Arabia

Dress code and cultural etiquette in Saudi Arabia

Dress modestly:
This means wearing loose-fitting clothing that covers your shoulders and knees, such as maxi dresses, long skirts with loose blouses, or tunics with leggings. Headscarves aren't mandatory, but we recommend bringing one as a sign of respect and for certain situations. Avoid wearing tight or revealing clothing, such as short skirts, even on beaches or resorts.

Gender segregation:
Though gender segregation isn't everywhere, you might come across it in some restaurants, public transport or government offices. Look out for "families" or "women only" sections. It's also important to respect designated waiting areas or sections.

Greetings:
A simple handshake with same-sex individuals is common, but avoid initiating physical contact with the opposite sex - a nod and a smile will do.

Public behaviour:
Avoid public displays of affection, loud speaking and excessive gesturing.

Two women looking at a rocky cliff in Saudi Arabia

Safety and security

Saudi Arabia has a low crime rate, making it generally safe for solo female travellers. However, cultural differences still exist, so awareness and common sense are key. Be mindful of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas. It's also best to avoid isolated places at night and trust your gut if you feel unsafe.

Before you arrive in Saudi Arabia, you might want to save emergency numbers (police and tourist police) on your phone. It's also a good idea to familiarise yourself with local women's support groups or organisations that offer assistance for females travelling alone in Saudi Arabia.

For extra reassurance, share your plans for your trip with trusted contacts and consider joining guided tours or group activities, especially if you're going to visit less touristy areas in Saudi Arabia.

Top attractions for solo female travellers in Saudi Arabia:

Al-Balad, Jeddah

Al-Balad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated in Jeddah that is a must-visit for any traveller in Saudi Arabia. Al-Balad was founded in the 7th century and was once the centre of trade and commerce for the city. It is well-known for its traditional architecture, narrow streets and colourful souks (markets).

Tips for female travellers:

  • Visit during the day - if you choose to visit Al-Balad at night, stick to well-lit areas and join a guided tour if possible.
  • Hire a guide - this is especially handy if you want to learn more about the history of Al-Balad, and you're sure to have a positive experience.
  • Be prepared to bargain - this is common practice in souks so don't be afraid to haggle for a good price. It goes without saying that you should still be respectful and avoid being aggressive.

Floating Mosque, Jeddah

The Floating Mosque, officially known as the Al Rahma Mosque, is a beautiful white mosque situated on the edge of the Jeddah Corniche in Saudi Arabia. It was built in 1985, appearing to "float" above the Red Sea waves at high tide due to its stilted foundation and unique location.

Tips for female travellers:

  • Remember to dress modestly - cover your shoulders and knees, and wear loose-fitting clothing made of natural fabrics.
  • Wear a headscarf - it's not mandatory but it's a sign of respect. Scarves are often available at the mosque if needed.
  • If you're visiting during prayer time but don't plan to pray, you might be asked to wait in a designated area until prayers are finished. Men and women typically pray in separate sections within the mosque.

Jeddah Historical Museum, Jeddah

The Jeddah Historical Museum, situated in a former Ottoman palace, showcases the rich history and culture of Jeddah through exhibits on archaeology, ethnography and maritime heritage. When visiting this museum, you'll get a glimpse into the city's development from its early days as a trading port to its modern transformation.

Tips for female travellers:

  • Entrance fees are nominal and apply to everyone, regardless of gender
  • The museum is open daily from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, except on Fridays when it opens at 2:00 PM.

Nabataean Tombs, Mada-in Saleh

The Nabataean Tombs in Mada-in Saleh are a fascinating collection of over 130 rock-cut tombs carved into sandstone cliffs around 2,000 years ago. Here, you'll learn about the artistry and engineering of the Nabataean civilisation. This site has often been compared to the famous city of Petra in Jordan.

Tips for female travellers:

  • The site is still under development for tourism - organised tours are the only way to visit Nabataean Tombs as of February 2024.
  • Some of the tombs require climbing stairs or uneven terrain - wear comfortable footwear.

Maraya, AlUla

Maraya, meaning "mirror" or "reflection" in Arabic, is a magnificent architectural marvel located in the Ashar Valley of AlUla, Saudi Arabia. It is currently the world's largest mirrored building, with over 9,000 mirrored panels covering its exterior, creating an optical illusion that reflects the surrounding desert landscape. Maraya serves as a multi-purpose venue, hosting cultural events, art exhibitions and fine dining experiences.

Tips for female travellers:

  • Check the Maraya event calendar for upcoming concerts, art exhibitions or other cultural events you might be interested in.
  • Be mindful of noise levels and follow any posted guidelines.

Farasan Islands

The Farasan Islands are a small archipelago of coral islands situated approximately 40 km off the coast of Jizan in the Red Sea. It's a hotspot for tourists and is known for its natural beauty, rich biodiversity and historical significance. The Farasan Islands are perfect for swimming, snorkelling and diving. The islands are home to a variety of migratory birds including flamingos, ospreys and sooty falcons. You can also discover ancient ruins and settlements dating back centuries here.

Tips for female travellers:

  • Decide which of the three main islands you want to visit - Farasan, Sajid or Zuqar. Choose your accommodation and activities in advance, especially during peak season.
  • Hire a local female guide who can provide valuable insights on the islands.
  • If you're planning to swim, snorkel or dive, wear appropriate swimwear that covers the skin.

Kingdom Centre Tower, Riyadh

The Kingdom Centre Tower, formerly known as the Kingdom Tower, is a 99-story skyscraper located in the al-Olaya district of Riyadh. The tower features an inverted parabolic arch that is topped by a public sky bridge, offering breathtaking panoramic views of Riyadh. It is also home to a five-star hotel, luxury apartments and a shopping mall.

Tips for female travellers:

  • The Sky Bridge and shopping mall are open from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM - the mall features a variety of luxury brands including Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton.
  • If you're looking for a luxurious experience, consider staying in the tower's five-star hotel.

Before you fly...

Before visiting Saudi Arabia, it's important to research cultural sensitivities, dress modestly, respect alcohol regulations and be aware of gender segregation practices. You can find out more information about this in our blog - Saudi Arabia Travel Advice.

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FAQs

Is it safe for women to travel to Saudi Arabia alone?

Yes! Travelling solo as a woman in Saudi Arabia is generally safe, with significant improvements in recent years. However, cultural norms and dress code expectations still exist.

Be mindful of local customs, dress modestly and research regulations for specific destinations. With awareness and planning, you can have a rewarding solo experience in Saudi Arabia.

What are the visa requirements for female travellers?

Visa requirements for female travellers to Saudi Arabia are the same as for all genders. Most nationalities can apply for an e-visa online, covering tourism, business and pilgrimage visits.

You'll need a passport valid for at least 6 months, travel insurance and confirmed accommodation. Dress code expectations and cultural norms still apply, so be sure to research and dress modestly. Read our blog post on all travel advice when visiting Saudi Arabia for more information.

What is the dress code for female travellers in Saudi Arabia?

While there's no strict dress code, you should always respect local customs by dressing modestly in Saudi Arabia. Aim for loose-fitting clothes covering shoulders and knees, and wear natural fabrics in warm weather. Headscarves are not mandatory but are recommended in some conservative areas.

Are there any cultural norms or etiquette I should be aware of?

As a female traveller in Saudi Arabia, here are some key cultural norms to remember:

  1. Dress modestly - this means you need to cover your shoulders and knees in loose-fitting clothing, especially outside major cities. Choose clothes made out of natural fabrics like cotton or linen. Scarves are not mandatory but welcomed in some conservative areas.
  2. Mindful greetings - avoid physical contact with strangers, and instead go for a nod or smile. Greetings for women differ slightly; use "Marhaba" for hello and "Shukran" for thank you.
  3. Public behaviour - be mindful of noise levels and public displays of affection. In some areas, women and men have separate seating sections.
  4. Photography - always ask for permission before taking photos of people, especially other women. Be respectful of religious sites and avoid photographing them during prayer times.
  5. Local sensitivities - be aware of local customs during Ramadan, where eating and drinking in public during the day is prohibited. Respectful clothing and behaviour are especially important during this time.

These are general guidelines and specific situations may vary. By being mindful and respectful, you can have a smooth and safe travel experience in Saudi Arabia.

What currency is used in Saudi Arabia and how can I access it?

The official currency of Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Riyal (SAR). It is denoted by the symbol ﷼ or SR. You can easily access Riyals before your trip by exchanging your home currency at banks or currency exchange offices. ATMs are also widely available in major cities and tourist areas, allowing you to withdraw Riyals using your debit or credit card.

What are the transportation options available for women travellers?

Female travellers in Saudi Arabia have various transport options:

  • Ride-sharing apps like Uber and Careem: Popular, convenient and often preferred by women for added security.
  • Taxis: Metered taxis are readily available, but you should always agree on the fare beforehand and aim for female drivers if available.
  • Public buses: Separate sections for women exist on some routes, but availability and comfort can vary.
  • Private tours: Consider pre-booked tours with female guides for personalised experiences and secure transportation.

Remember, dress modestly while using any public transport in Saudi Arabia.

What are some common scams to be aware of?

While travelling alone in Saudi Arabia, be wary of:

  • Overpriced goods and services. Haggling is a common practice, especially in souks, but it's a good idea to research fair prices beforehand.
  • Fake tours and transportation. Try to stick to licensed operators and avoid deals that seem too good to be true.
  • ATM scams. Use reputable ATMs and be cautious of strangers offering help.
  • Fake currency exchange. Only exchange currency at official kiosks or banks.

Remember, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is! Trust your gut and be cautious.

What is the emergency number in Saudi Arabia?

The main emergency number in Saudi Arabia is 112. This will connect you to a dispatcher who can direct you to the appropriate emergency services, such as police, ambulance or fire department.

You can also reach specific emergency services directly:

  • 999 for police
  • 997 for ambulance
  • 998 for fire department

It's always best to call the main emergency number (112) first and let them assess the situation.

Are there any hotels or hostels specifically for women?

There aren't currently women-only hotels in Saudi Arabia, however, many hotels offer female-only floors or wings with separate entrances and facilities. Hostels are less common, but some cater to both genders or offer private rooms for solo travellers.

Are there any activities or tours that are restricted to women in Saudi Arabia?

In Saudi Arabia, most activities and tours are open to both men and women. However, there are a few exceptions:

  • Mosques - women can visit most mosques but may have separate prayer areas or designated prayer times.
  • Mada'in Saleh - currently, female travellers can only visit the Nabataean tombs as part of a guided tour with a male guide.
  • Thumamah National Park - as of now, female visitors are not allowed to enter the park.

Regulations can change so it's always best to check for the latest updates before your trip.

What are the laws and regulations regarding alcohol and drugs in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia strictly prohibits the possession, consumption, sale and manufacture of all alcoholic beverages and illicit drugs. This applies to both residents and visitors, and violations can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment and deportation.

Be aware that even small amounts of alcohol or drug residue can lead to legal trouble.