Single woman visiting saudi arabia
A guide to independent female travel in Saudi Arabia, solo or otherwise. Includes cultural tips, advice on what to wear, things to be careful of, and more! However, times are changing. Figuring out what is and is not okay as a woman traveling Saudi Arabia is tricky, especially given these rapid changes. My female Couchsurfing host in Riyadh dishing out karak shay at a cafe.
SEE VIDEO BY TOPIC: VISITING SAUDI ARABIA!Content:
- What are women banned from doing in Saudi Arabia?
- Single Women Can Now Book Hotel Rooms in Saudi Arabia
- 9 Misconceptions about traveling to Saudi Arabia as a woman
- Visa policy of Saudi Arabia
- Women Traveling in Saudi Arabia
- Here’s What You Need to Know Before Visiting Saudi Arabia
- Laws for Tourists in Saudi Arabia
- Saudi Arabia tourist visa for solo women at least 25 years - Saudi Arabia Forum
What are women banned from doing in Saudi Arabia?
For me, a solo, female, non-Muslim traveler allergic to guided tours, Saudi Arabia was a non-option for years. In recent decades, non-Muslims could enter only on business or transit visas. Muslim pilgrims could transit only through major cities to Mecca and Medina. Women had to be accompanied by male guardians. Years-old rumors of tourist e-visas became reality for 49 nationalities. Traveling women no longer needed male guardians, and women could drive cars as of Suddenly, the idea of women traveling in Saudi Arabia went from laughable to very, very plausible.
My time had come. I was on the e-visa portal in a hot second and received my e-visa via WhatsApp 15 minutes later. No exaggeration. In November, I began my three-week journey, both solo and with friends, through Saudi Arabia. Here's what it was actually like. I'm a something American solo traveler and blogger passionate about traveling to countries most tourists overlook.
Too many people form opinions about countries and their citizens based on exaggerated news; I prefer to come to my own conclusions. I disagree. There are ways to support people over governments. I traveled independently not on a government-sponsored trip, like many others , stayed with locals and at local hotels, and spent my money at small businesses. Governments and people are separate entities — especially in a totalitarian monarchy like Saudi Arabia — and I don't believe in holding an entire population accountable for the acts of a corrupt few.
Riyadh felt Floridian: wide boulevards with shiny skyscrapers and palm trees, malls and luxury shopping as primary entertainment, development concerned more with image than substance.
Think historical ruins being demolished to be replaced by chic cafes with faux-historic feels. The major difference is that in Florida you see people outside walking, cycling, and running. Riyadh is not for pedestrians — cars only. As I racked up Uber bills, I noted that streets were often devoid of life.
In recent years, the Saudi government made many liberal changes to the law of the land. Public concerts and cinemas became legal. Unrelated men and women can now mix in public.
Rules about abayas, the long and traditionally black robe previously required by law, were relaxed. In practice, the changes were less clear. They clearly were intended to present the country as liberal and tolerant to the international community. There were events and concerts all over Riyadh, including shows with Western women performing in form-fitting clothes and parties with well-known international influencers dancing seductively.
But at Riyadh Season, a young Saudi woman in a headscarf and face veil who was dancing was arrested. At MDL Beast Fest, dozens of local men and women were arrested, accused of wearing indecent clothing. The first time I drove out of the city with a CouchSurfing host — a traveler I met on the platform connecting travelers with locals who can host them in their home or show them around — and some friends, my eyes were glued to the window.
Skyscrapers gave way to sand dunes. Small towns and abandoned mud villages replaced apartment complexes. Some of the villages, such as Ushaiger and Shaqra, are being restored as "heritage villages" for tourists. Even there, it was common to see buildings consumed by time next to manicured mud facades.
Driving in Saudi Arabia was relaxed at times, terrifying at others. Main roads were immaculate, perfect for cruising.
But several Saudis drove at concerningly high speeds, with a healthy dose of drastic, last-minute maneuvers. They also didn't seem to enjoy being overtaken by a woman — I was regularly playing leapfrog with fellow drivers. Signs of car crashes were everywhere, and even the fanciest cars on the road were covered in dents and scratches.
Many of us associate Saudi Arabia with sand dunes as far as the eye can see. Though those do exist in Saudi Arabia, there's far more diversity to the desert. From sudden bursts of green palm trees among desert sands to rocky Martian mountain ranges, the scenery in Saudi was far less mind-numbing than I expected. Would you expect to see misty green mountains blanketed in clouds in Saudi Arabia?
Yeah, me neither. Steep switchbacks took us through villages scattered across mountaintops and around terraced hills of coffee, vegetables, and khat, a plant chewed by men in the region. Despite the stimulant's illegal status, officials choose to overlook khat cultivation and consumption; it's too ingrained in the local social culture.
In most of Saudi Arabia — but particularly in the southern Jazan province — I rarely saw women outside. When I did, they were fully covered in hijabs and niqabs face veils. The lack of women in public made things difficult for me. Men and women are highly segregated in Saudi Arabia.
Local men didn't want to speak to me and often ignored me completely when I spoke to them, especially when I traveled with white friends. I wanted to meet women, but I didn't know where! My luck didn't improve. During more than three weeks in Saudi Arabia, I spoke with women a total of five times.
Restaurants were one challenge. Most restaurants in Saudi Arabia are divided by gender or for men only. Family sections in restaurants are usually divided into cubicles with walls or curtains to hide women from view.
Cheap restaurants are usually only for "singles" — men. I often had to look hard to find places where I could sit and eat. If I couldn't find anything, I'd ask to sit in the men's area. Sometimes people said yes; mostly they said no. Clothes were another concern. Though foreign women are no longer required to wear an abaya robe by law, I was uncomfortable not wearing one. Outside of Jeddah and diplomatic areas of Riyadh, I did not see any women without abayas.
Most women also wore hijabs and niqabs. In villages and towns, despite wearing a hijab, I still stood out because I didn't fully cover my face. The soon-to-be Unesco-listed stone fortresses of Rijal Alma were once home to wealthy traders and fearsome fighters — but they felt more like an Instagrammable backdrop than a historic site.
Visitors can enter only one or two of the buildings to see very modest museums. Most buildings are empty. That's not to say the site isn't significant. Local villagers were commendably proactive about preserving the heritage of the area. People pooled family heirlooms for the museums and made efforts to restore the buildings. The government noticed and has since taken over. Now the site embodies what I saw in many tourist destinations in Saudi Arabia: overdevelopment, a loss of atmosphere to Disney-fied luxury, and not much consideration of anything in the surrounding area.
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia's most liberal city, is a major seaport and gate to the holy city of Mecca, so people from all over the world have passed through Jeddah for centuries.
Unlike in other places in the country, in Jeddah I saw plenty of people enjoying themselves outside. Young men and women mixing together. Families picnicking and playing on the corniche boardwalk. Tall mud and coral merchant houses loom over alley mazes in the Unesco-listed old city.
Some of the "Roshan towers" are in dangerous states of disrepair — many have collapsed from neglect in recent years — but slowly they're being repaired. Whereas restoration efforts felt contrived in other parts of the country, in Jeddah the splendor of restored houses added to the atmosphere.
It helped that the old city streets are abuzz at all times, with chatting shop owners, roaming street vendors, hole-in-the-wall eateries, and souqs catering to international pilgrims passing through. Though diving is somewhat popular in Saudi Arabia, most beaches are neglected. Rules about modest dress are one deterrent, and concerns about the immodesty of swimming are another. People come to the beach to picnic, and that's about it. Drive a bit, and it's possible to have an entire beach to yourself well, yourself and the coast guards.
Local women told me you could even get away with wearing swimwear when no one is around. Not that I'd ever test that myself. Cough cough. Saudi Arabia felt eerily apocalyptic at times. Sprawling parks and playgrounds were devoid of playing children. Streets were empty of people, despite the cars and houses.
Abandoned villages were everywhere, as though there used to be a thriving society and then everyone simply Despite being by far the best-known and -promoted tourist attractions in the country, the Nabatean tombs at Madain Saleh and the Al Ula area were closed to tourists so they could be "prepared for tourism.
The tombs are not open to the public until October. Only those with tickets to a luxury festival were allowed access to the tombs — just one of many instances showing Saudi Arabia's desire to attract luxury tourists, not budget tourists like myself.
Single Women Can Now Book Hotel Rooms in Saudi Arabia
In the last few years, I have been traveling extensively across the Middle East and other Muslim countries, so it is not surprising at all that, every week, I receive tons of requests and questions from kick-ass women who wish to travel to the same places. Since I am a man, all my articles tend to be kind of male-oriented, not on purpose though, but it is just that, sometimes, I forget that the experience for women may be totally different. When I was posting all the photos and videos from my visit to Saudi Arabia on my Instagram Stories , people were actually amazed at all the places I visited and the people I met, as they were so many miles away from all the stereotypes the media has been showing us during the last decade. Those images really triggered the interest of many travelers who would have never thought of going there, and that included many women as well.
O pening her veil to the rest of the world for the first time, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is now showing up on travel lists. With the recent series of measures aimed at empowering women and opening Saudi society, Saudi Arabia finds itself on the global map. Unbeknownst to many, Saudi Arabia is also home to phenomenal unspoilt natural beauty. About metres above sea level, smack bang at the centre of the Arabian Peninsula, Riyadh is on the Eastern edge of the mountain-studded Najd plateau.
9 Misconceptions about traveling to Saudi Arabia as a woman
Since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman came to power in Saudi Arabia in June , the kingdom has hit the headlines for a string of surprising reforms. In late , the crown prince introduced new freedoms on females travelling alone, allowing them to get passports and travel abroad without the consent of male guardians. Many of these campaigned for the right to drive or gain equal rights to men. Women still cannot marry or leave prison or a domestic violence shelter without the consent of their male guardians. So, despite the seemingly cosmetic reforms, women in Saudi Arabia are still subject to a myriad of restrictions on everyday life. Yet women in Saudi Arabia are still subject to a myriad of restrictions on everyday life. Here are some of them:. The dress code for women is governed by a strict interpretation of Islamic law and is enforced to varying degrees across the country.
Visa policy of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is to allow women who are at least 25 years old to visit the kingdom without the need to be accompanied by a family member. Interesting article. But it doesn't mention if men can also get a visit visa. Have the Saudis gone too much the other way lol?
Travel to Saudi Arabia is about to become much easier with the introduction of the online Saudi Arabia visa. The Saudi eVisa allows eligible citizens to obtain a tourist visa for Saudi Arabia exclusively online, eliminating the need to apply for a visa from a Saudi embassy or consulate. This new system to make it easier for foreign travelers to visit the country is being implemented as part of Vision , an initiative spearhead by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in order to boost tourism in the country.
Women Traveling in Saudi Arabia
The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage announced in early October that single women can rent hotel rooms by themselves in the Kingdom. The new rule applies to both local and foreign women. It not only allows greater freedom to its female citizens but also shows the intention to welcome foreign citizens who may wish to visit Saudi Arabia for tourism of business purposes. For the first time in history, the Kingdom has also recently implemented a new electronic visa system that allows foreign nationals to obtain a travel permit for Saudia Arabia online in minutes.
Member State of the Arab League. Visitors to Saudi Arabia must obtain a visa unless they come from one of the visa exempt countries. Some visitors are eligible to obtain a visa online or on arrival while others needs to apply at one of the Saudi diplomatic missions in advance. All visitors must hold a passport valid for six months. Nationals of the following four countries do not require a visa to visit Saudi Arabia and may use national ID Cards to enter the country: . Visa exemption also applies to holders of diplomatic and official passports of France.
Here’s What You Need to Know Before Visiting Saudi Arabia
Not known for being the most female-friendly country in the world, I honestly had no idea whether I could even board the plane, let alone transit in the country. So, I set about doing my online research and actually found it incredibly hard to get many details — what was it going to be like and what would I need to prepare for this voyage? This page contains affiliate links meaning Big World Small Pockets may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you. Information given in this post is correct at time of publication and is based on my personal experience as a British passport holder. From here, the plan was that I would fly internationally to Riyadh airport the capital of Saudi Arabia , waiting in transit there for 5 hours before continuing on with the same airline to Jakarta, Indonesia. Saudi Airlines were by far the cheapest airline for this journey and, as such, I was keen to make it work if at all possible.
Saudi Arabia was unified in Saudi Arabia is a wealthy country with a well-developed infrastructure. The country's facilities for travelers can be quite lavish, but women planning to travel in Saudi Arabia need to be aware that social practices and customs here are conservative and based on Islamic law.
Laws for Tourists in Saudi Arabia
Now that tourist visas are available to citizens in 49 countries, travel to Saudi Arabia is more exciting than ever. While any visit to the Middle East is thrilling, it can also look different than sightseeing in European, Asian or American countries. Just remember, embracing Saudi traditions and culture is part of the adventure!
Saudi Arabia tourist visa for solo women at least 25 years - Saudi Arabia Forum
Saudi Arabia remained closed to most tourism for years. In the past, the only way of traveling to Saudi Arabia was a special business visa or by family invitation. The process is easy and everyone is extremely welcoming. I even met a few businessmen in Saudi and none of them could grasp the fact that I was visiting as a tourist.
Business Traveller. Facebook Twitter Email. CNN — Last month, the Saudi Kingdom announced the launch of a new tourist visa program , opening up the country to mass tourism for the first time. And now, Saudi Arabia has gone one step further in its bid to encourage international tourists. Unmarried couples will now be allowed to share rooms while on vacation in the country.
It was Daylight was a different story. Dressed in the unsightly combination of a loose dress and jeans, brightly coloured sarong slung awkwardly over my shoulders, I emerged in the glitzy hotel lobby. One glance at the male receptionist scurrying towards me suggested that my eggs benedict would have to wait for another day. Arab Fashion Week Riyadh — the reason why I was in the city — would have been unimaginable two years ago, but was now welcoming designers such as Jean-Paul Gaultier. From this summer onwards, the Kingdom is planning to ease the visa regulations that currently restrict visitors to pilgrims or those with a formal business invitation.