While the country is quickly modernizing and moving towards relaxing some of its most conservative rules as it opens up to Western travelers, Saudi Arabia is still a kingdom governed by Islamic law, and certain cultural norms and policies may conflict with Western perspectives. Indagare Founder Melissa Biggs Bradley and I felt completely safe and comfortable while we were traveling in the kingdom in January 2022; however, there are a few key points to consider before deciding to travel:
- Travelers to Saudi Arabia must apply for an e-visa online, prior to departure. The process is straightforward and should not take more than 20 minutes. Proof of full vaccination against coronavirus is required for approval.
- While you are in Saudi Arabia, you must download the government-sponsored Tawakkalna app to show your vaccination status if asked when traveling within the country or entering certain public spaces. The app will ask for access to your location services when in use. Masks may be required in some spaces. Saudi Arabia has high vaccination rates among its population.
- Both men and women, but especially women, are required to dress modestly while in Saudi Arabia. Non-Muslim women are no longer required to wear a headscarf or abaya, but they should keep their chests, arms and legs covered (with hemlines reaching generally to the wrists and ankles). Clothing should not be too form-fitting or see-through. A long-sleeve, crew-neck maxi dress and espadrilles or jeans with a t-shirt, kaftan-style jacket and sneakers are perfectly acceptable outfits for women; prior to departure, our team will send a detailed packing list. Men should refrain from wearing shorts or revealing shirts like tank-tops.
- Alcohol and drugs of any kind are strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia (possession or consumption of either is considered a serious crime). Personal, doctor-prescribed drugs (with proper documentation) are permitted; tobacco and caffeine are both legal and easily accessible.
- Non-heterosexual, non-cisgender identity expression is prohibited in Saudi Arabia. Homosexual activity is criminal in Saudi Arabia.
- Public expression (including language, behavior, clothing or social media activity) that is deemed offensive is criminal in Saudi Arabia and can result in fines or detention depending on the severity. Offensive actions include, but are not limited to: expression/consumption of pornographic or sexual material; profane language/slogans; public indecency or intoxication; public displays of affection or close physical touch (including holding hands or hugging) between the sexes; criticism or defiance of the Saudi Arabian royal family, law enforcement, government and its laws and politics; and criticism of Islam or promotion of religions that contradict Islam (religious symbols such as the Star of David or the Crucifix should not be worn or shown publicly).
- The Saudi government may monitor your social media and Internet activity while you are in the country; appropriate precautions should be taken in consideration of the above points.