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What to pack when flying to Saudi Arabia

Grab your sunglasses and sun tan lotion! (Leave the ski boots and parkas at home.)

Riyadh skyscrapers

Since 2019, when they reopened their airways to tourism, Saudi Arabia has experienced a 156% increase on the number of tourists that have decided to explore their rich cultural roots at the heart of the Gulf Peninsula. Many western countries have seen a large influx of passengers jetting off to chart the Arabian sands and experience the futuristic skylines that Saudi Arabia offers.

But do us westerners actually know what to pack? We all know we'll need our sun screen and our beach towels, but when travelling in the Middle East, there are a few other items which are worth packing to make the most of your adventure.

Open suitcase with clothes inside


In Saudi Arabia, there are some strict laws surrounding dress code, which are enforced by local police, and could end up causing trouble for the unprepared traveller. Modesty is an important virtue within Saudi Arabia which is enforced for both sexes, however women are expected to take extra precautions.

Long trousers are a must, as well as upper body wear which covers the shoulders and chest completely. Head coverings are no longer required except when venturing into places of worship, and Abbayas (Full body coverings for women) are no longer required. We recommend long sleeved shirts made from a light material to beat the heat while avoiding trouble.

Open suitcase with clothes inside


When travelling to Saudi Arabia, its worth considering the amount of luggage you will want to bring. Most airlines will allow you to bring one full size suitcase, as well as one handbag or rucksack as a carry on. So how can we maximise the utility we get out of this allowance. Firstly, as usual you will want to pack your travel essentials in your case. Stuff like your clothes, electronics and toiletries form the foundation of your necessities when travelling. You should also include a bottle of sunscreen for good measure.

In your carry on rucksack or purse, we recommend including a smaller bottle of sunscreen to keep with you throughout your travels, a bottle of water to stay hydrated as well as things to keep you entertained during the flight, such as a book or electronic device. (Which can enter flight mode as required.)

When you arrive at your hotel room and no longer need to lug around your larger suitcase, you can empty all non essentials from your carry on into your room, and use it as a travellers pack. This should contain sun tan lotion, a bottle of water, as well as sunglasses and a sun hat to help you defeat the heat that Saudi Arabia has in abundance.

sandals sitting on a sandy floor


An often overlooked but nevertheless important decision to make when travelling is what footwear is appropriate for the journey ahead. If you are venturing east in the pursuit of adventure, to summit the highest dunes and survey the deepest gorges that the Arabian Desert has to offer, then its a worthy consideration to add hiking boots to your list, so that you can keep going regardless of rocky or difficult terrain. If you prefer tycoons to dunes, and want to spend your holiday exploring the unrivalled nightlife of Riyadh, then consider bringing a pair of classier kicks. Oxfords or Stilettos never fail to disappoint.

Regardless of your choice however, one pair of footwear stands resolute among the rest. Sandals are an absolute must. Saudi Arabia has a reputation for its cosy position right on the equator, and boasts temperatures exceeding 43 degrees centigrade in the peaks of the summer. Sandals are an essential weapon to combat the heat and keep you cool and comfortable as you navigate while the sun is high.

A man carrying a laptop and rucksack looks at announcement boards within an airport

Travel Insurance Documents & a Tourist Visa

When travelling we want to chill out and turn off while we cruise through the clouds and explore distant lands. In order to achieve this relaxed state of mind its important that we take total care with our preparations, a major part of which is organising proper travel insurance. We never want to think about something going wrong on our trip, and with properly organised travel insurance, we can rest assured that we are covered in case of emergencies. Travel Insurance coverage varies from provider to provider, but generally you can get coverage in the case of injury as well as loss or theft of property while you are abroad. Ensuring you set this up through a reputable provider before you jet off lets you know you are covered on all fronts.

Equally Important is ensuring you have made proper reservations to enter the county. Saudi Arabia requires travellers to register and then apply to get a visa with The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Visas are valid for up to 1 year after they were issued, so you can get your insurance and your visa early during your planning, and then feel good knowing that the baseline documents are sorted for your grand adventure ahead.

An airport security guard watches people unpack baggage

What Can't I bring?

Saudi Arabia has incredibly strict laws about what items are prohibited from going through their airports. This might not come as a surprise to people who have travelled before as most airports have a pretty airtight policy on items that are banned. Typical things like blades, toxic liquids, compressed gas, firearms, explosives, et cetera.

We all know those, but did you know that Saudi Arabia has restrictions on other items that westerners might consider mundane? It is prohibited to bring any kind of food or drink with you into the country, including seeds from any plant. This is to prevent the spread of bacteria, microorganisms and invasive species of plants.

Saudi Arabia also prohibits a traveller from bringing devices such as cameras or even phones! This is because Saudi Arabia is one of few countries which does not mandate free access and usage of the internet. If you do want to bring a phone or other electronic device which can go online you will need to register it with the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) before you travel, and present the appropriate document to the airport security guard.

Alcohol is also prohibited in any capacity. Locals who are caught drinking within the country are fined or jailed, and travellers caught drinking will usually be deported. This is because Saudi Arabia is a dry nation, with a strict alcohol ban.

Woman hiking in the desert of NEOM, Saudi Arabia

In Conclusion

Packing our bags correctly when visiting abroad allows us to maximise the amount of enjoyment and relaxation we get from our journey, by ensuring that we are fully prepared in any scenario. There are many factors to consider when doing our packing from luxuries to necessities, and striking a good balance between what we need and what we can leave at home is essential. (Sorry snow boots.) There are also important, strictly enforced rules when it comes to what is and is not allowed through security. If you are ready to start planning your Middle Eastern getaway, then why wait? Your Arabian adventure awaits.

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Who needs a visa to enter Saudi Arabia?

All travellers seeking entry into Saudi Arabia will need a visa to enter Saudi Arabia. Since the newest wave of changes to the tourism mandate by the Saudi Arabian Government, 243 nations are permited to enter under the condition of having a tourism visa.

What clothes are best to adhere to the dress code?

Typically shirts that reach the elbow or lower on the arm are acceptable. Local guides recommend long baggy tops as well as long trousers or loose fitting skirts that reach to the ankle. The only time this rule should be disregarded is in designated areas where less modest clothing are permitted, such as on certain beaches. Avoid wearing shorts, tight t-shirts or sleeveless articles in open areas.

Can Non-Muslims visit Mecca?

No. Mecca and Madinah as well as the surrounding areas are prohibited access to Non-Muslims. Attempting to enter regardless can result in harsh punishments such as direct deportation from the country as well as being banned permanently. In some cases this is also corroborated by a large fine.

Does business class travel to Saudi Arabia get more luggage?

Yes. Typically travelling in business class allows you to check in two bags, rather than the one you are allowed in economy.