Driving Guide

Saudi Arabia Driving Guide

Saudi Arabia is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit.

2021-08-06 · 9min read

Saudi Arabia

Assalamu Alaikum!

Explore the sandy terrains and historic cities of Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and its founder, Prophet Muhammad. Saudi is also the home of Mecca, the holiest city in Islam, which is constantly flocked by its pilgrims each year.

The country is rich in history and culture, for you can find ancient structures over 7,000 years old and museums that relive the past. It is full of obscure and unexplored wonders waiting to be discovered as it slowly starts to open its tourism to both local and foreign visitors.

Spanning at around 2.15 km², it is the largest country in the Middle East, with Arabs constituting 90% of its population and Afro-Asians constituting the remaining 10%. The locals mainly speak Arabic, but English is still a widely spoken language, making travel and business in the country easy.

How Can This Guide Help You?

Traveling is never easy if you’re unfamiliar with the country you're going to, especially if strict rules and regulations are implemented. This guide can help you with the necessary information you might need when traveling to Saudi Arabia. It provides you with facts about the country, renting a car and driving in the country, and the top road trip destinations you could visit. If you have a change in plans and choose to stay in the kingdom, this guide can also help you with that.

General Information

Saudi Arabia is located in Western Asia and is the largest among all Arab nations. The country predominantly practices Wahhabism, a form of Sunni Islam, and religion heavily influences the laws. Non-Muslims are banned from publicly practicing other faiths, especially non-Wahhabi sect Muslims. Saudi Arabia’s capital is Riyadh, the largest city in the Arabian Peninsula, and the home of much of the kingdom’s culture and heritage.

Geographic Location

Founded in 1932, Saudi Arabia is a country that stretches over most of the northern and central Arabian Peninsula. Iraq, Jordan, and Kuwait borders it up the north; UAE, Qatar, Oman, and the Persian Gulf to the east; the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba to the west; and Yemen down the south. Saudi Arabia is also very rich in oil, typically extracted from the vast deserts that make up the majority of the country.

Languages Spoken

Arabic is the official language of Saudi Arabia. It is one of the oldest languages globally and was used by the inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula pre-Islamic. Today, Arabic is one of the most widely-spoken languages, with around 200 million speakers in over 20 countries.

Land Area

Saudi Arabia has a land area of around 2.1 million sq. km. This makes the sparsely populated nation the largest in Western Asia and the second largest in the Arab world. Compared to the USA, Saudi Arabia may only be a fourth of its size, yet it’s incredibly rich in natural resources like gas, minerals, and oil.

History

Saudi Arabia is a very old country. However, Saudi’s history begins on September 23, 1932, when the kingdoms of Hejaz and Nejd were united into one nation, which is now known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. After the establishment of the royal family, no further attempts to overrule their authority occurred. And the king of Saudi Arabia thus held supreme authority over the kingdom.

The country is also particularly known for its strict rules due to the Sharia. This has led to numerous criticisms over the years because of men and women’s supposed unequal treatment. According to the Quran, women are subordinate to men and must follow many regulations that include dress codes and limited access to education, employment, and even transportation. It wasn’t even until recent years that women were allowed to drive.

Women to Drive Movement

In 1957, women were banned from driving by the Saudi Arabian government. And in the 1990s, protests regarding the driving ban on women started to arise. On November 6, 1990, 47 women activists drove through Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, as a form of protest against the unreasonable law. This resulted in their imprisonment, passport confiscation, and even the loss of their jobs.

By 2010, the protest has been brought to social media, and the campaign called #Women2Drive started trending on Facebook. It was made to urge Arab women and people worldwide to speak up about women’s unequal rights in the Kingdom. All these efforts were fruitful because, on June 24, 2018, the ban was officially lifted. This means that a woman can finally apply for a driving licence in Saudi Arabia.

Government

The kingdom has a population of around 34.8 million people, and it is currently being governed by an absolute monarchy ruled by King Salman. Its primary source of legislation is Sharia or Islamic law, which is derived from the Quran, the central text of Islam, and from fatwas or the rulings of Islamic scholars. This law is responsible for the various restrictions and punishments imposed upon the country’s citizens and visitors. One of these restrictions included banning women from driving in Saudi Arabia.

Women’s rights are already quite controversial in the country, so if you’re a female driver and wish to know more about this, there are many essays online about the state of women driving in Saudi Arabia. If you’re a first-time traveler to the kingdom, it’s best if you familiarize yourself with the different restrictions of the country so you won’t commit any offenses.

Tourism

Tourism in Saudi has just recently been introduced in 2019. Many people think that since the bulk of Saudi Arabia are deserts, there isn’t much to see, but the country itself is not only rich in natural wonders but history and culture as well.

Most of Saudi’s visitors each year tend to be pilgrims who visit the country to celebrate Hajj, an annual pilgrimage in Mecca. By 2019 alone, there were around 2.5 million pilgrims, and the numbers are expected to increase each year.

After introducing tourist visas last year, Saudi Arabia is developing its Giga projects that include high-tech cities, theme parks, and luxury islands to boost the country’s tourism for Vision 2030.

IDP FAQs

If you plan on driving in Saudi Arabia, you would need to comply with some requirements for a smooth trip. One of these is the International Driver’s Permit (IDP), which is also unofficially called the international driver’s license. You would need this in order to drive and rent a car. Read ahead if you want to learn more about an IDP and how to apply for one.

Is an International Driving Licence Valid in Saudi Arabia?

Aside from their native driver’s licence, tourists will also need an international driving licence to drive in Saudi Arabia. Whether they’ll be entering the Kingdom by car or renting a vehicle after they arrive, border officials and rental companies will look for an international driver’s permit, especially if the licence is not in English.

The International Driver’s Association issues IDPs that are translated in twelve languages and accepted in 165 countries. If your licence has no Latin alphabet characters, don’t worry about language barriers and miscommunications involving your licence, as IDA will back you up with an international driver’s permit.

Can Female Tourists Drive in Saudi Arabia

Before September 2017, driving right of women in Saudi Arabia were practically non-existent. Decades before this, Saudi women had to be driven around by chauffeurs or male guardians. This is all because of the Islamic law (laws of the religion). And since Saudi is an extremely religious country, its citizens tend to stay faithful to this movement. It wasn’t until June 2018 that a woman can finally issue a driving licence in Saudi Arabia.

Although there is no formal law banning women from driving in Saudi Arabia, they can still be penalized for violating this rule. This has caused women's rights activists to protest on the lifting of the driving ban by taking videos of themselves behind the wheel, resulting in their detention. This is a huge step to assert the rights of Saudi Arabian women to drive a car like their male colleagues. In the end, all of their actions have paid off as the ban has officially been lifted, and women can finally drive.

Even if you can still find many essays and articles online about how the women protesting through driving in Saudi Arabia were treated in the past, do know that women can already drive in the country. If you are a female tourist, make sure to have a driver’s licence and an international driver’s permit to drive in the Kingdom. Remember, it’s required to have an IDP, especially if your licence isn’t in English or does not have any Latin alphabet characters.

How Can I Get an International Driving Licence in Saudi Arabia?

Note that you cannot get an international driving licence from Saudi Arabia. However, you may still order one after arriving in Saudi. If you are applying for an IDP from IDA, remember that you can get it anywhere and anytime since it will be mailed to the specific address you provided.

Make sure to visit the website’s main page to be directed to the application form. The steps in getting your IDP are simple and easy. And you won’t be inconvenienced by having to go out of your home just to obtain an IDP. After completing the form, you’ll be asked to submit a copy of your driver’s licence and a passport-sized photo of yourself.

Renting a Car in Saudi Arabia

The best way to get around Saudi Arabia is by car. Not only do you get to see the country’s bustling city life, but you also get to experience the culture and beauty of the land. From incredible rock formations to golden dunes, most of the top road trip destinations are hidden gems outside the city. Here are a few things you need to know about renting a car in Saudi Arabia.

Car Rental Companies

Saudi Arabia offers multiple car rental companies. Some popular companies are Avis, Europcar and Budget Rent a Car. You also have the option to rent a car online out of convenience or in-person after arriving at your destination.

Budget Rent a Car is Saudi Arabia’s leading car rental company and offers a wide array of automobiles, from family-friendly compact cars to SUVs and luxury cars. If you want a more eco-friendly journey, companies like Europcar and Avis have the option of renting environmentally sustainable vehicles.

Documents Required

If you wish to rent a car in Saudi Arabia, the documents you’d need are your local driver’s licence and your international driving licence, which would serve as its translation if not in English. If you plan to rent after you have arrived, make sure to prepare your passport for additional identification and your debit card for payment.

Vehicle Types

If you still don’t know what type of car to rent, you don’t have to worry because car rental companies offer a wide variety of cars. The most common type of rental car in Saudi Arabia is the economy car, which is also the cheapest. However, if you plan on having off-road activities like dune driving, then a 4x4 SUV would be the best car for you.

Car Rental Cost

Car rental companies would allow you to pick up your car at the airport, at a given address, or at the car rental company itself. Keep in mind that there may be additional fees if you would pick up your car outside the company location or if you plan on dropping your car off somewhere else from its original site.

Estimated car rental prices in Saudi Arabia without availing other products and accessories are as follows:

  • Economy - $25/day
  • Compact - $29/day
  • Intermediate - $36/day
  • Standard - $40/day
  • Full-size - $54/day
  • SUV - $64/day
  • Full-size SUV - $140/day
  • Mini - $18/day
  • Premium - $76/day
  • Passenger van - $119/day
  • Luxury - $172/day
  • Pickup truck - $117/day
  • Premium SUV - $108/day
  • Compact SUV - $45/day
  • Intermediate SUV - $74/day
  • Standard - $168/day
  • Standard SUV - $279/day
  • Supplier choice sedan - $279/day
  • Luxury SUV - $552/day

Age Requirements

The minimum age to rent a car in Saudi Arabia is 21 years old. However, some companies may differ, and the minimum age requirement may range from 23-25 years. Typically, even if you have reached the minimum age requirement, rental companies will require you to have some driving experience. So if you are below 25 years (or any age required by the company), you will have to pay a Young Driver surcharge. .

Car Insurance Cost

Remember that car insurance costs may vary depending on the car rental agency or the insurance company. Insurance policies also have different inclusions that can contribute to the different prices. Lastly, when purchasing car insurance, make sure to be aware of its coverage so you won’t end up buying duplicates in case you’ve already bought them before. Not only are you saving money, but you’re also sticking to your budget.

Car Insurance Policy

Sometimes, driving in a foreign country may have a few bumps in the road as accidents or car troubles could occur, and buying car insurance would save you a lot of money. In Saudi, there are car rental agencies and separate insurance companies that offer various car insurance programs to tourists. Some of the insurance policies may cover:

  • Collision Damage Waiver
  • Vehicle Replacement
  • Maintenance and Tech Support
  • Personal Accident Insurance
  • Natural perils/disasters
  • Emergency medical expenses
  • Age Restriction Extension
  • Geographical Extension
Road Rules Saudi Photo by: Mishaal Zahed

Road Rules in Saudi Arabia

Driving in Saudi Arabia may be a bit hectic and intimidating for first-timers as locals are known to be wild drivers. In this guide, you’ll learn about the country’s various road rules and how a woman driving is finally permitted in Saudi Arabia. It's important to follow these motorway instructions to avoid accidents and delays.

Important Regulations

Road accidents are common in the Kingdom, so Saudi officials have implemented strict rules to reduce accidents and casualties. Read on to know about the different traffic laws to avoid driving violations in Saudi Arabia for a stress-free trip.

Drunk-Driving

Saudi Arabia has rigid guidelines involving alcohol, and although it is prohibited, drink-driving laws are in full effect. So if you are caught driving under the influence, expect to be given severe punishments. Fines can exceed $10,000, and violators can be imprisoned for up to ten years.

Saudi borders are very strict, and guards will check your belongings thoroughly to ensure you do not carry illegal items. So it’s best if you don’t try to smuggle any alcohol with you due to the risk of getting caught and penalized. Make sure to read about other restricted items that you can’t bring to Saudi Arabia for a smooth and stress-free trip.

Hands-free Driving

Texting while driving is a big no in many countries, and Saudi Arabia is not an exemption. Because of the country’s high accident rate, authorities try to implement rigid traffic rules and regulations, which include the use of mobile phones. If you are caught texting while driving, you will be fined SAR 150 ($40) for your first offense, this may increase to SAR 300 ($80), and you can be detained for 24 hours.

Besides texting while driving, touching your phone or any Bluetooth device is also prohibited, and you will be fined if you’re caught doing so. To prevent this, keep your phone out of sight so you won’t be accused of violating traffic rules and regulations.

Preparations Before a Trip

Before getting ready for a trip, check your vehicle to avoid any inconveniences along the way. Make sure the dashboard indicators, wipers, and lights are functioning properly, and don’t forget to pack emergency devices like a warning triangle and fire extinguisher. Adjust your mirrors and check if your doors would close. Clean your vehicle’s windows and windscreen surfaces, and make sure your seatbelts and tires are in good condition.

Don’t forget your documents such as your passport and visa, local driver’s licence, IDP, and car insurance. A visa is not required for car driving in Saudi Arabia, but it’s advised to bring all your documents in case authorities want to check them.

Things to Remember While Driving

When you’re finally on the road, keep enough distance between your vehicle and those ahead of you. Give way to other cars, and don’t forget that pedestrians have the right to cross the road, particularly children, persons with disabilities, and the elderly.

Always control your emotions and avoid confrontations on the road no matter what. Don’t make the unnecessary shifting of lanes, and when you’re driving in single lanes, make sure to keep at the extreme right when driving through elevated roads, curves, and intersections.

Animals crossing highways are not uncommon, so always pay attention. If the weather is bad and there are sand storms, slow down your vehicle and flash your headlights to avoid accidents. Always drive with caution to ensure a safe trip.

Parking

If you want to park your car, you can leave your vehicle in designated parking areas. Metered car parks are common in the city and cost around SAR 2 per hour. If you don’t want to spend, there are a lot of on-street parking areas available. Just remember that Saudi Arabia has numerous car owners, so finding a free parking space may get competitive. Lastly, make sure to not leave any valuables behind once you leave your car.

General Standards of Driving of Driving

Due to the high rate of accidents and conditions that may bring about hazards, Saudi Arabia observes certain driving standards for the general public’s safety. Typically, these common road rules or standards are ignored by locals. However, foreigners are very much required to observe them.

In Saudi, you have the option to drive either a manual or an automatic car. If you’ll mainly be road-tripping or driving through cities, it’s best to rent an automatic car, especially since Arabian highways can become a pain when the traffic is bad. On the other hand, if you’ll be exploring the more obscure regions of the Kingdom and you have plans to do some off-roading activities, then it’s best to rent a manual car.

Speed Limit

No matter how careful you are when driving along Saudi Arabia’s highways, you still have to be cautious of the drivers who tend to overspeed. Many of these drivers are young adults or teenagers who love to get frisky on the road and race one another. Many of the road accidents that occur within the country are caused by overspeeding; hence, it is crucial to implement speed limits.

The speed limits usually differ, with urban speed limits being 45 kph while rural speed limits usually being 80 kph. On the other hand, motorway speed limits are higher, typically ranging from 120-125 kph.

Seatbelt Laws

Wearing a seatbelt is a must to lower the risk of injuries and fatalities caused by car accidents. Saudi Arabia has a national seatbelt law that enforces the use of seatbelts to both front passenger seat and rear-seat occupants, as well as a national child restraint law. This law states that children four years of age and below must use a car seat, while children below ten years are banned from using the front seat.

However, even if there are such laws, many Arab drivers do not practice them. Yet this must not stop foreign drivers and emigrants from practicing proper seatbelt and child restraint laws if they plan on driving around Saudi Arabia.

Driving Directions

It’s important to know the protocols if you’re driving in Saudi, especially since it’s not exactly easy navigating the country’s highways. In intersections with no traffic control, note that you must give way to vehicles from the right. And if you encounter roundabouts, you must yield to those vehicles inside the roundabout.

When it comes to overtaking, make sure that it’s safe and necessary to perform the maneuver. And since you drive on the right in Saudi Arabia, know that you’re going to overtake or pass vehicles on the left.

Traffic Road Signs

When driving, it is important to pay attention to road signs to avoid accidents or violations, especially in countries like Saudi Arabia, where lax enforcement of traffic rules leads to overzealous drivers. Each country may have traffic signs unique to them, and Saudi is no different.

There are Regulatory signs which indicate traffic regulations, prohibitions, and restrictions that a driver must follow. Under this category, there are prohibition signs and mandatory signs.

Prohibition signs are circular white signs that have red frames. Examples of these signs are:

  • No entry from this side
  • No U-turn
  • No left turn
  • No waiting area
  • No parking and No waiting area

On the other hand, mandatory signs are round blue signs that instruct a driver to perform certain actions. These signs include

  • Mandatory forward or Go straight
  • Mandatory left or Go left
  • Mandatory right or Go right
  • Mandatory direction or Turn right
  • Mandatory direction go straight or U-turn

Other mandatory signs can have different appearances, such as the yield the right-of-way sign, which is a plain white triangle with a red border.

Another type of sign are the warning signs that are white triangles with red frames, indicating specific warnings or hazards. These signs are:

  • Camel crossing
  • Road works
  • Traffic light
  • Dangerous curves - first right sharp bends
  • Dangerous curves - first left sharp bends
  • Dangerous curve sharp bend to the left
  • Pedestrian crosswalk
  • Road narrows both side

There are also guide signs which guide drivers to towns and other establishments along the journey. These signs are rectangular and have different colors. Some examples of these signs are:

  • Signs indicating cities and villages
  • Restaurant
  • Hospital
  • Gasoline station

The last kind of signs are special signs. They may appear different from one another but hold the utmost importance. They are the:

  • Speed limit signs - White circular signs with a red frame and a speed limit written in the middle in black
  • Stop signs - Red eight-sided signs with ‘stop’ written in the middle in white
  • Yield signs
  • No entry signs - Red circular signs with a white horizontal line in the middle

What Happens if I Lose My IDP?

If you lost your international driving license, you don’t have to worry as the International Driver’s Association can resend you a replacement free of charge. All you have to do is pay for the shipping fees.

Simply provide the details of your IDP, such as your name and IDP number, as well as your complete address and zip code in Saudi Arabia. IDA would then send you a link where you can pay for the shipping fees.

Renting a Car in Saudi Arabia

The best way to get around Saudi Arabia is by car. Not only do you get to see the country’s bustling city life, but you also get to experience the culture and beauty of the land. From incredible rock formations to golden dunes, most of the top road trip destinations are hidden gems outside the city. Here are a few things you need to know about renting a car in Saudi Arabia.

Car Rental Companies

Saudi Arabia offers multiple car rental companies. Some popular companies are Avis, Europcar and Budget Rent a Car. You also have the option to rent a car online out of convenience or in-person after arriving at your destination.

Budget Rent a Car is Saudi Arabia’s leading car rental company and offers a wide array of automobiles, from family-friendly compact cars to SUVs and luxury cars. If you want a more eco-friendly journey, companies like Europcar and Avis have the option of renting environmentally sustainable vehicles.

Documents Required

If you wish to rent a car in Saudi Arabia, the documents you’d need are your local driver’s license and your international driving license, which would serve as its translation if not in English. If you plan to rent after you have arrived, make sure to prepare your passport for additional identification and your debit card for payment.

Vehicle Types

If you still don’t know what type of car to rent, you don’t have to worry because car rental companies offer a wide variety of cars. The most common type of rental car in Saudi Arabia is the economy car, which is also the cheapest. However, if you plan on having off-road activities like dune driving, then a 4x4 SUV would be the best car for you.

Car Rental Cost

Car rental companies would allow you to pick up your car at the airport, at a given address, or at the car rental company itself. Keep in mind that there may be additional fees if you would pick up your car outside the company location or if you plan on dropping your car off somewhere else from its original site.

Estimated car rental prices in Saudi Arabia without availing other products and accessories are as follows:

  • Economy - $25/day
  • Compact - $29/day
  • Intermediate - $36/day
  • Standard - $40/day
  • Full-size - $54/day
  • SUV - $64/day
  • Full-size SUV - $140/day
  • Mini - $18/day
  • Premium - $76/day
  • Passenger van - $119/day
  • Luxury - $172/day
  • Pickup truck - $117/day
  • Premium SUV - $108/day
  • Compact SUV - $45/day
  • Intermediate SUV - $74/day
  • Standard - $168/day
  • Standard SUV - $279/day
  • Supplier choice sedan - $279/day
  • Luxury SUV - $552/day

Age Requirements

The minimum age to rent a car in Saudi Arabia is 21 years old. However, some companies may differ, and the minimum age requirement may range from 23-25 years. Typically, even if you have reached the minimum age requirement, rental companies will require you to have some driving experience. So if you are below 25 years (or any age required by the company), you will have to pay a Young Driver surcharge.

Car Insurance Cost

Remember that car insurance costs may vary depending on the car rental agency or the insurance company. Insurance policies also have different inclusions that can contribute to the different prices. Lastly, when purchasing car insurance, make sure to be aware of its coverage so you won’t end up buying duplicates in case you’ve already bought them before. Not only are you saving money, but you’re also sticking to your budget.

Car Insurance Policy

Sometimes, driving in a foreign country may have a few bumps in the road as accidents or car troubles could occur, and buying car insurance would save you a lot of money. In Saudi, there are car rental agencies and separate insurance companies that offer various car insurance programs to tourists. Some of the insurance policies may cover:

  • Collision Damage Waiver
  • Vehicle Replacement
  • Maintenance and Tech Support
  • Personal Accident Insurance
  • Natural perils/disasters
  • Emergency medical expenses
  • Age Restriction Extension
  • Geographical Extension

The Road Rules in Saudi Arabia

Driving in Saudi Arabia may be a bit hectic and intimidating for first-timers as locals are known to be wild drivers. In this guide, you’ll learn about the different road rules in the country, and how a woman driving is finally permitted in Saudi Arabia.

Important Regulations

Road accidents are common in the Kingdom, so Saudi officials have implemented strict rules to reduce accidents and casualties. Read on to know about the different traffic laws to avoid driving violations in Saudi Arabia for a stress-free trip

Drunk-Driving

Saudi Arabia has rigid guidelines involving alcohol, and although it is prohibited, drink-driving laws are in full effect. So if you are caught driving under the influence, expect to be given severe punishments. Fines can exceed $10,000, and violators can be imprisoned for up to ten years.

Saudi borders are very strict, and guards will check your belongings thoroughly to ensure you do not carry illegal items. So it’s best if you don’t try to smuggle any alcohol with you due to the risk of getting caught and penalized. Make sure to read about other restricted items that you can’t bring to Saudi Arabia for a smooth and stress-free trip.

Hands-free Driving

Texting while driving is a big no in many countries, and Saudi Arabia is not an exemption. Because of the country’s high accident rate, authorities try to implement rigid traffic rules and regulations, which include the use of mobile phones. If you are caught texting while driving, you will be fined SAR 150 ($40) for your first offense, this may increase to SAR 300 ($80), and you can be detained for 24 hours.

Besides texting while driving, touching your phone or any Bluetooth device is also prohibited, and you will be fined if you’re caught doing so. To prevent this, keep your phone out of sight so you won’t be accused of violating traffic rules and regulations.

Preparations Before a Trip

Before getting ready for a trip, check your vehicle to avoid any inconveniences along the way. Make sure the dashboard indicators, wipers, and lights are functioning properly, and don’t forget to pack emergency devices like a warning triangle and fire extinguisher. Adjust your mirrors and check if your doors would close. Clean your vehicle’s windows and windscreen surfaces, and make sure your seatbelts and tires are in good condition.

Don’t forget your documents such as your passport and visa, local driver’s license, IDP, and car insurance. A visa is not required for car driving in Saudi Arabia, but it’s advised to bring all your documents in case authorities want to check them.

Things to Remember While Driving

When you’re finally on the road, keep enough distance between your vehicle and those ahead of you. Give way to other cars, and don’t forget that pedestrians have the right to cross the road, particularly children, persons with disabilities, and the elderly.

Always control your emotions and avoid confrontations on the road no matter what. Don’t make the unnecessary shifting of lanes, and when you’re driving in single lanes, make sure to keep at the extreme right when driving through elevated roads, curves, and intersections.

Animals crossing highways are not uncommon, so always pay attention. If the weather is bad and there are sand storms, slow down your vehicle and flash your headlights to avoid accidents. Always drive with caution to ensure a safe trip.

Parking

If you want to park your car, you can leave your vehicle in designated parking areas. Metered car parks are common in the city and cost around SAR 2 per hour. If you don’t want to spend, there are a lot of on-street parking areas available. Just remember that Saudi Arabia has numerous car owners, so finding a free parking space may get competitive. Lastly, make sure to not leave any valuables behind once you leave your car.

General Standards of Driving of Driving

Due to the high rate of accidents and conditions that may bring about hazards, Saudi Arabia observes certain driving standards for the general public’s safety. Typically, these common road rules or standards are ignored by locals. However, foreigners are very much required to observe them.

In Saudi, you have the option to drive either a manual or an automatic car. If you’ll mainly be road-tripping or driving through cities, it’s best to rent an automatic car, especially since Arabian highways can become a pain when the traffic is bad. On the other hand, if you’ll be exploring the more obscure regions of the Kingdom and you have plans to do some off-roading activities, then it’s best to rent a manual car.

Speed Limit

No matter how careful you are when driving along the highways of Saudi Arabia, you still have to be cautious of the drivers who tend to overspeed. Many of these drivers are young adults or teenagers who love to get frisky on the road and race one another. Many of the road accidents that occur within the country are caused by overspeeding; hence, it is crucial to implement speed limits.

The speed limits usually differ, with urban speed limits being 45 kph while rural speed limits usually being 80 kph. On the other hand, motorway speed limits are higher, typically ranging from 120-125 kph.

Seatbelt Laws

Wearing a seatbelt is a must to lower the risk of injuries and fatalities caused by car accidents. Saudi Arabia has a national seatbelt law that enforces the use of seatbelts to both front passenger seat and rear-seat occupants, as well as a national child restraint law. This law states that children four years of age and below must use a car seat, while children below ten years are banned from using the front seat.

However, even if there are such laws, many Arab drivers do not practice them. Yet this must not stop foreign drivers and emigrants from practicing proper seatbelt and child restraint laws if they plan on driving around Saudi Arabia.

Driving Directions

It’s important to know the protocols if you’re driving in Saudi, especially since it’s not exactly easy navigating the country’s highways. In intersections with no traffic control, note that you must give way to vehicles from the right. And if you encounter roundabouts, you must yield to those vehicles inside the roundabout.

When it comes to overtaking, make sure that it’s safe and necessary to perform the maneuver. And since you drive on the right in Saudi Arabia, know that you’re going to overtake or pass vehicles on the left.

Traffic Road Signs

When driving, it is important to pay attention to road signs to avoid accidents or violations, especially in countries like Saudi Arabia, where lax enforcement of traffic rules lead to overzealous drivers. Each country may have signs unique to them, and Saudi is no different.

There are Regulatory signs which indicate traffic regulations, prohibitions, and restrictions that a driver must follow. Under this category, there are prohibition signs and mandatory signs.

Prohibition signs are circular white signs that have red frames. Examples of these signs are:

  • No entry from this side
  • No U-turn
  • No left turn
  • No waiting area
  • No parking and No waiting area

On the other hand, mandatory signs are round blue signs that instruct a driver to perform certain actions. These signs include:

  • Mandatory forward or Go straight
  • Mandatory left or Go left
  • Mandatory right or Go right
  • Mandatory direction or Turn right
  • Mandatory direction go straight or U-turn

Other mandatory signs can have different appearances, such as the yield the right-of-way sign, which is a plain white triangle with a red border.

Another type of sign are the warning signs that are white triangles with red frames, indicating specific warnings or hazards. These signs are:

  • Camel crossing
  • Road works
  • Traffic light
  • Dangerous curves - first right sharp bends
  • Dangerous curves - first left sharp bends
  • Dangerous curve sharp bend to the left
  • Pedestrian crosswalk
  • Road narrows both sides

There are also guide signs which guide drivers to towns and other establishments along the journey. These signs are rectangular and have different colors. Some examples of these signs are:

  • Signs indicating cities and villages
  • Restaurant
  • Hospital
  • Gasoline station

The last kind of signs are special signs. They may appear different from one another but hold the utmost importance. They are the:

  • Speed limit signs - White circular signs with a red frame and a speed limit written in the middle in black
  • Stop signs - Red eight-sided signs with ‘stop’ written in the middle in white
  • Yield signs
  • No entry signs - Red circular signs with a white horizontal line in the middle

Right of Way

The right of way is a driver’s right to proceed first, and as a foreign driver, it is necessary to know the set of rules imposed in the country you’re visiting, so no disagreements would ensue.

When entering the main road, you must first give way to other vehicles on the main road. And when exiting, you must give way to those on the service road. At intersections, you should yield to vehicles inside the roundabout, and if traffic control is absent, the right of way goes to the cars coming from the right. Lastly, if there are any emergency vehicles on the road, you must also give way to them.

You can start driving in Saudi Arabia once you’ve turned 18 years old. But don’t worry if you think you are too inexperienced or unconfident in driving Arabian roads. You can always opt to hire a driver or someone more experienced to drive for you.

Laws on Overtaking

Saudi Arabia is one of the countries with the most cases of car accidents, so you must always be cautious when attempting to overtake or ‘pass’ cars. Because if traffic rules aren’t observed, accidents may occur. When overtaking vehicles, make sure that there’s a safe distance between your car and the car you intend to overtake and that there aren’t any vehicles in the lane you’re moving to.

Always check at the traffic behind your car and use your left or right signals to indicate your intent of overtaking. Look over the blind areas around your car to confirm that there aren’t any other vehicles.

Overtaking is prohibited when:

  • There is poor visibility
  • Safe passing is not ensured due to incoming traffic that stems from the opposite direction
  • There are intersections, railroads, bridges, and pedestrian lanes
  • There are curves, hills, slopes, squares, and slippery roads
  • The vehicle you plan to overtake is going at a higher speed than your vehicle
  • You are in an area where overtaking is illegal
  • The vehicle you intend to overtake is overtaking another vehicle
  • The vehicle behind you is attempting to overtake
  • There are lanes with a continuous line
  • Children are boarding or leaving school transportation

Driving Side

Roughly two-thirds of all the countries drive on the right side of the road. So if you’re coming from one of those countries, you’re just in luck as Saudi Arabia also operates on the right side. If you’re used to driving on the opposite side, it might take some getting used to. Keep in mind that driving on the wrong side of the road is one of the causes of traffic accidents, so you should be extra cautious if you’re not yet that confident in navigating Arabian highways.

Don’t forget to stay calm and relaxed as you’re slowly getting used to your car and driving on the opposite side of the road. Make sure to keep a clear mind and to take it easy, for you'll surely get the hang of it in no time.

Driving Etiquette in Saudi Arabia

Prevention is always better than cure. Sometimes, the unimaginable may happen during road trips, so it's best to know what to do in unfortunate scenarios like car troubles or accidents to prevent them from happening or from worsening if they do occur.

Car Breakdown

Sometimes things don’t go as planned, and your worst-case scenarios might just come to life. So it’s better to know what to do in certain situations such as car troubles. If your car breaks down, make sure to pull your vehicle to the far end of the road to stay clear of other cars. If you have passengers, remain inside your car to not cause any disturbance to the traffic.

Turn off your vehicle’s ignition and use your hazard lights to signal other vehicles of your situation. If you have a safety triangle, put it 3-5 meters behind your car. Don’t forget to save details of roadside assistance if your car breaks down in a deserted area.

In case of other emergencies, here are some important hotlines you must know about if you plan to drive in Saud Arabia:

  • Police, fire, traffic police, security patrols, and other emergencies - 999, 911
  • Ambulance - 997

Police Stops

Security in Saudi Arabia is quite strict, especially during Hajj, the Muslims’ annual pilgrimage to Mecca. If the police were to stop you while you’re driving, stay calm, and make sure you have all your documents with you in case they would ask to see them. It’s always good to check that the people you’re presenting your documents to are actual police officers, so wait until they show you a badge for verification.

The documents you must always have with you in case you get pulled over are your license, IDP, passport, and visa, as well as your car rental documents and insurance papers. If you get fined due to violating any traffic rules and regulations, be prepared to pay the fines.

Asking Directions

It would seem like a map is all you’d need to navigate the roads of Saudi Arabia. However, only highways and well-known routes would reflect on maps, so it would be better to ask the locals for specific driving directions. Sometimes, they might even have different names for certain establishments or routes, and the only takeaway would be landmarks.

Arabs are very welcoming and helpful people, and although Arabic is the national language, many locals can speak in English, so the difficulty in communication is relatively uncommon. Nonetheless, they would still appreciate it if you could use basic words and phrases in Arabic. Some Arabic words are:


Also, remember that shaking hands isn’t customary in the country since the Saudis have a conservative culture. Just make sure you’re polite before asking for help from someone. Here are some Arabic words and phrases that you might use during your stay in the country:

  • naäam - Yes
  • laa - No
  • min faDlik - Please
  • Shukran - Thank you
  • äafwan - You're welcome
  • aläafw - Excuse me
  • arjuu almaädhira - I am sorry
  • hal tataHaddath al'ingiliiziyya? - Do you speak English?
  • hal yuwjad aHad hunaa yataHaddath al'ingiliiziyya? - Does anyone here speak English?
  • Anaa ataHaddath faqaT qaliil min aläarabiyya - I only speak a little Arabic.

Checkpoints

Checkpoints are quite common in Saudi Arabia, and you may seem intimidated by the armed, uniformed men at first, but just present to them the documents you have with you to ensure a hassle-free stop. Sometimes the police or military might check your car to see if you’re bringing illegal items such as pork and other pork goods, alcohol, drugs, pornographic materials, and weapons.

If you’re not bringing any of the restricted items, then you’re good to go. However, if Saudi authorities happen to catch you with them, you may be fined or imprisoned depending on the punishment’s severity. Make sure to read and note the restricted items before entering Saudi Arabia for a hassle-free trip.

Other Tips

Accidents are pretty scary, especially if you get into one abroad. Saudi Arabia is an accident-prone nation, so you must know what to do in case of one. Make sure to continue reading to be fully prepared when you arrive in Saudi.

In Case of Accidents

If you are involved in an accident, the first thing to do after ensuring you and your passenger’s safety is to call the police by dialing 999. Give them your location and the full details of the accident. Under no circumstances are you to ever accept the responsibility of the accident before authorities arrive at the scene. Give your report calmly but firmly to the officer.

Saudi is strict when it comes to particular traffic violations, and if you are found to be at fault, you will be held under their custody until you can fully pay the damages. Thus, it is important to have car insurance as accidents are unpredictable but not impossible in Saudi Arabia.

Driving Conditions in Saudi Arabia

Driving in Saudi Arabia may be different from driving in your home country, and this might take some getting used to. Here are some of the driving situations and conditions in the kingdom, so you’d know what to expect before you hit the road.

Accident Statistics

Vehicular accidents are quite common in Saudi Arabia. There is an average of one crash per minute, with roughly 70% of the accidents taking place in rural areas, while the remaining 30% are in urban areas. Many of them are caused by reckless driving as young locals love to get frisky on the road.

Even if the statistics of accidents in the country are high, don’t let this stop you from driving in Saudi Arabia, as the best way to experience and get lost in the country is by car. In recent years, Saudi officials have implemented stricter rules and higher fines for drivers who violate traffic laws, resulting in fewer accidents than before, making Saudi roads safer than they used to be.

Common Vehicles

There are around six million cars that roam the highways of Saudi Arabia. The most common type you’d see are sedans since they are spacious and easy to maintain. As for the second most common cars are the SUV due to its engine, passenger capacity, and its advantage for off-road driving activities.

Toll Roads

Saudi Arabia does not have any toll roads, so tourists can enjoy driving on the Arabian highways without paying anything. In the past, the government has expressed its interest to introduce toll roads. However, current officials have stated that they don’t have plans to create toll roads yet. So if you plan to drive in Saudi Arabia, be sure to make the most of its roads at the moment.

Road Situations

The majority of the roads and highways in Saudi Arabia are in good condition. Most of them are paved, and the government takes extra precautions in preserving and maintaining these roads. You may also encounter gravel roads situated near small streets or the deserts. Saudi Arabia has many double roads, ring roads, and tunnels in the cities as well as bridges and even hill roads in mountainous areas.

The routes within the country are divided into three categories: Main roads that start with a single or two digits and connect regions to large cities, secondary roads that are assigned with three digits and connect medium-sized cities to the main roads, and sub roads that are assigned with four digits and connect villages, farms and other smaller regions.

Driving Culture

Saudi Arabia is one of the countries with the highest rates of vehicular accidents. Many of which are caused by reckless driving, overspeeding, and running the red light. It is also not uncommon for minors to drive as many drivers do not practice the road rules and regulations. Also, you'll find more male drivers on the roads and sometimes a Saudi woman behind the wheel.

The fatalities caused by car crashes in 2017 alone have reached 7,000. However, this is smaller than the 9,000 recorded in 2016. By 2018, the death rate caused by motor accidents has dropped by 33%. Implementing stricter laws and higher fines has helped Saudi drivers in being more cautious and driving more responsibly.

Things To Do in Saudi Arabia

If you’ve decided to extend your stay and move to the country, here are some things you should know prior to relocating to Saudi Arabia. Certain rules apply differently if you’re from other countries, so it’s important to know what they are.

Other Tips

Besides the road conditions and the local drivers, It’s also good to know other things in relation to driving in the country. Here are other tips and tricks you must know about Saudi if you want a safe trip.

Are They Using KpH or MpH?

Roughly 81% of the world uses KpH as their unit of speed. Saudi Arabia, just like the majority of the countries, also uses this unit. When looking at your speedometer, you may note that KpH would appear higher than MpH. If you’re from a country that uses this unit, it might be a bit intimidating to see such a high number on your speedometer, but don’t let this confuse you as speed limit signs are installed on roads to guide you as you drive.

What are the Rules for Driving During Sandstorms?

Like other Arabian nations, Saudi Arabia has its own fair share of sandstorms. For foreign drivers that never experienced them, sandstorms can get quite intimidating. Thus, every motorist must know what to if they ever encounter one. Here are some things you should do during sandstorms to ensure a smooth drive:

  • Before you set off, make sure to check the weather predictions if there would be sandstorms; knowing the probable situation will help you prepare in case the visibility gets bad
  • Turn on your hazard lights when driving
  • Don’t stop your car in the middle of the road
  • Keep your windows locked

Things To Do in Saudi Arabia

If you’ve decided to extend your stay and move to the country, here are some things you should know prior to relocating to Saudi Arabia. Certain rules apply differently if you’re from other countries, so it’s important to know what they are.

Drive as a Tourist

Saudi Arabia has one of the craziest roads in the world, but that’s what makes driving in the country so interesting. Before you hit the road, make sure you have all the important documents to avoid violations and detentions, as Saudi police are found everywhere and are quite strict. Some of these requirements are your passport, visa, driver’s licence, IDP, and car documents.

Remember that your IDP will serve as your licence’s translation if it isn’t in English. The International Driver’s Association translates IDPs in 12 languages and is accepted in 165 countries. So before you go to Saudi Arabia, make sure you get your international driver’s permit from IDA now.

Work as a Driver

If you want to work in Saudi Arabia, you must first have an employment visa. To obtain this, you should have a sponsoring employer responsible for most of the visa application process. Just make sure to supply all the requirements necessary, and you’re good to go.

There are numerous job openings for drivers in the country which you can choose from, including being a company driver, cargo driver, private chauffeur, and more. But for you to work as one, you should first have a Saudi Arabia driver’s licence. If you want to be a self-employed driver, you must first possess a trade or business licence before you can finally hold a self-employed status.

Work as a Travel Guide

Saudi Arabia isn’t known for its tourism despite the many stunning sites in the country. However, the government is slowly making Saudi a tourist-friendly nation, and tourist visas were finally made possible. If you’ve fallen in love with Saudi’s charm and uniqueness, you probably might think about applying as a tour guide.

Unfortunately, travel guides in the country must be Saudi nationals, and citizenship is rarely ever granted to foreigners. But don’t lose hope about being unable to work in the Kingdom. Do know that Saudi has many in-demand jobs in different industries like engineering, medicine, IT, and more. So if you really wish to work in the country, you’d still most probably land a job.

Apply for Residency

Applying for residency in Saudi Arabia is possible if you possess a work or employment visa. Your employer must first apply for a block visa to the Ministry of Labor and Social Development. If the ministry chooses to issue a permit, which typically lasts for a year, your employer may now acquire a Visa Authorization number and a Power of Attorney.

Other requirements for your residency permit or “Iqama” are your passport and two passport-sized pictures. A medical exam is also required. If you want to relocate your family with you, you can apply for their Iqamas once your Iqama application is successful. Keep in mind that their Iqamas would not be tied to your employer’s but to you. Thus, it would be stated on their permits that they are dependent residents.

Other Things to Do

If you’ll be staying in Saudi Arabia much longer than you intended to, note that there may be other documents you’d want to obtain. One example would be the driver’s licence. Here are all the basic things you need to know about obtaining a driver’s licence in Saudi Arabia.

Can I Convert My Local Driver’s Licence into a Saudi Driver’s License?

Your driving licence’s validity in Saudi Arabia is only three months. If you are a foreigner from the US or the UK, you can convert your licence after its expiration. But if you’re from other countries, you would have to apply for a new one.

To convert your local licence to a Saudi licence, you would need:

  • An application form that you can get from the Saudi Ministry of Transport office, or from its website, which is only in Arabic.
  • Your original Iqama, passport, and visas with copies of each
  • Your local driver’s licence and your IDP
  • ID pictures (preferably four passport-sized copies)
  • Medical and eye test
  • Receipt of your payment (A five-year licence costs around SAR 200, while a ten-year licence costs around SAR 400)

Given that you are from the US or the UK, you can get a driving licence in Saudi Arabia without any test.

How Do I Apply for a Saudi Driver’s Licence?

Applying for a driver’s licence is a huge feat for women’s driving rights in Saudi Arabia. Now both men and women can freely drive in the country. If you are from countries other than the US/UK, you are required to apply for a new licence, so make sure to have the complete requirements before applying for a driving licence in Saudi Arabia.

Do note that you would need to visit driving schools to complete your application, as well as your mandatory driving test in Saudi Arabia. Dallah Driving Company is the leading driving school in the country and has multiple branches. Some applicants also shared that their experience with driving schools in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia is easier than in other cities. Besides your licence fee, you would also spend around SAR 100 for your training fee.

Lastly, if you’re still confused and wondering what age can you start driving in Saudi Arabia, remember that the legal age of driving is 18. It is only for car rentals that most rental companies would require you to be 21 years old.

How Do I Pay for Driver’s Licence Fees in Saudi Arabia?

licence fees can be paid online or through an ATM. Read on if you want to know how to pay for your driving licence fee in Saudi Arabia:

  1. Log in to your bank account.
  2. Click on the Payments tab.
  3. Select “SADAD;”
  4. Click on “MOI Payments;”
  5. Click on “Driving licence;”
  6. Under Transaction Type, select “Payments,” and under Application Type select, “Issue licence;”
  7. Type your Iqama number for the Beneficiary ID, and choose “Private” for the licence Type;
  8. Choose the duration of your driving licence. The fees for these are:
    1. Two years - SAR 80
    2. Five years - SAR 200
    3. Ten years - SAR 400
  9. Once all the correct details have been input, you will be directed to a page that shows your driving licence details.
  10. Confirm your transaction.

Once you’re done, don’t forget to print your receipt, as you will attach this to your driving licence application form.

How Do I Renew a Saudi Driver’s Licence?

Firstly, remember that your licence cannot be renewed if its remaining validity is more than 180 days. Renewal of driving licences in Saudi Arabia is also not possible if there are unpaid traffic violations. If you have passed all these criteria, then you can renew your driving licence online by logging in to the Absher portal. The Absher portal is an application where you can pay for various government services.

The steps of renewing one’s driving licence in Saudi Arabia are as follows:

  1. Log in to the Absher portal.
  2. Select e-services.
  3. Click on “Traffic.”
  4. Click on “Renew Driving licence.”
  5. Confirm Renewal Process.

If you want to know more about how to renew your driving licence in Saudi Arabia, you can visit www.my.gov.sa/wps/portal/snp/main, the website for the Unified National Platform for all Government services in the Kingdom.

Top Destinations in Saudi Arabia

If you want to immerse yourself in culture and tradition, or simply escape from the busy city life, exploring the top road trip destinations in Saudi would already give you a lot of variety. From natural wonders to heritage sites, Saudi Arabia is known for its deep-rooted history and has a lot to offer to its visitors.

Saudi Aribia Photo by: Khalid Elkady

At-Turaif District

Experience the rich culture of Saudi Arabia by exploring the ancient district of At-Turaif. At-Turaif, also known as Al-Turaif, was the first capital of the Saudi Dynasty in Ad Diriyah. It was recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2010 and has been under restoration since then.

The ruins of what once was the most powerful district of Saudi Arabia are characterized by its maze-like streets and mud houses, with its design is heavily influenced by traditional Najdi architecture. Although restorations were performed, many of the brick houses have been preserved, allowing the ruins to maintain their authenticity.

After its initial opening to the public in 2019, At-Turaif and the rest of Ad-Diriyah are expected to reopen in 2022 after launching more projects. Once ready for its reopening, you can immerse yourself in Saudi culture and cuisine by taking a walk around the parks or by trying out traditional food in the Najdi village.

Driving Directions:

  • From King Khalid International Airport, head northwest on Airport Road and keep left, and continue onto King Salman Rd to Route 535.
  • Exit onto King Khalid Branch Rd.
  • Turn right onto Al Imam Abdulaziz Ibn Mohammad Ibn Saud.
  • Go through 2 roundabouts and drive straight ahead.
  • At the next roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Al Maktabah.
  • Turn left onto Wadi Hanifah.
  • Turn right three more times until you reach your destination. The heritage site will be to your left.

Things to Do

At-Turaif is one of the oldest places in Saudi Arabia, and after its restoration, guests can already do many activities in the ancient district. Here are some things you can do if you’ll be dropping by At-Turaif.

  • Explore the Al Bujairi Center

Since At-Turaif is within Ad Diriyah, this means you can go out of the district and explore the neighboring areas within the ancient city. Make sure to explore the new Al Bujairi Center by walking around and sightseeing the palace ruins and other establishments like restaurants and cafes in the vicinity.

  • Have a Picnic

Walking around the city will make you realize you’re surrounded by greens. Suppose you brought some food before leaving for At-Turaif. Instead of hanging by your car, don’t hesitate to sit on the grass and have a picnic instead. There are also restaurants in Diriyah, so even if you didn’t bring any food, you can buy some instead and eat out to admire the beauty of the place.

  • Visit the Living Museum

At-Turaif is considered the most historically significant district in Ad Diriyah, so visiting the Living Museum is one way to learn about the history of the place while having fun at the same time. Guests arriving at night will have a more enchanting time as hierarchical illuminations lead them to the reception center and even throughout the labyrinthine streets.

  • Try Traditional Saudi Cuisine at the Najd Village Restaurant

Middle Eastern food is definitely an acquired taste. But don’t forget to visit the Najd Village Restaurant to have a complete experience of Arabian cuisine. Sure, you might get to taste Saudi food at stalls and stores in malls. However, having a meal in one of the most historical places in Saudi is definitely an experience on its own.

  • Buy Some Souvenirs at the Plaza

Stop by the Diriyah marketplace to buy a trinket or a keepsake before you leave the district. Not only will it remind you of your trip to Saudi, but it’ll be a remembrance of your tour around one of the oldest cities in the Kingdom.

Saudi Aribia Photo by: M K

Edge of the World (Jebel Fihrayn)

If you want to explore the natural wonders of Saudi Arabia, The edge of the world is the place to be. The spot gets its name from the Tuwaiq cliffs overlooking the barren floor 600 meters below and the endless horizon that stretches onward, making it seem like you really are on the edge of the world.

The journey may be a bit rough as you drive through desert trails and hike through rugged and steep terrains, but the view at the end is definitely worth it. As you make your way to the top, make sure not to miss any fossils lying around the former ocean bed – and camels traversing the vast desert.

Taking an SUV and bringing a GPS device would be the best way to get to your destination. And traveling in groups and with other vehicles is also recommended so you won’t get lost. Lastly, don’t forget to bring some food and water since this journey might be quite tedious.

Driving Directions:

  • From King Khalid International Airport, head northwest on Airport Road, make a slight right onto Banban - Airport Rd.
  • At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit and continue onto Banban - Airport Rd.
  • At the next roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on Banban - Airport Rd. Do the same thing for the next two roundabouts and stay on Banban - Airport Rd/Route 5776.
  • Merge onto Salbukh Rd and continue onto Route 546.
  • Turn left toward Route 5762.
  • Turn right onto Sadus Dam Rd.
  • Turn right and follow the dirt road until you reach your destination.

Things to Do

One of the most popular tourist destinations in Saudi Arabia is Jebel Fihrayn. The Kingdom is also known for its stunning natural wonders, with the Edge of the World being one of them. Here is a list of activities you can do if you’ll be visiting the escarpment.

  • Hike the Trails

The only way to explore and reach the cliffs of Jebel Fihrayn is to hike. The trails might be challenging for some, so it’s always good to bring a pair of good walking shoes. Remember to always be careful since the paths may be steep, and chances of slipping are quite high due to loose gravel.

  • Camp in the Acacia Valley

Camping in the Edge of the World is pretty common. If you want to spend a night in the area, you can do so in the Acacia Valley. Make sure to stock on some food and water, too, since you’re going to be camping in barren land. If you’re setting up your camp early, don’t forget to take in the sunset, and then go stargazing before you sleep.

  • Take Pictures of the Gorgeous View

It would be a crime to leave the Edge of the World without taking plenty of photos. Not only is this one of the best natural wonders in Saudi, but you’d also get to have a keepsake of the place without spending a single dime.

  • Go Fossil Hunting

While hiking, make sure your attention isn’t solely focused on the horizon, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for fossils as well. The region used to be part of an ocean bed, so don’t be surprised if you’ll see some fossilized corals or shark teeth.

  • Join a Guided Tour

If the vehicle you rented isn’t fit for traveling to Jebel Fihrayn or if you’re not confident in driving to the destination, you can always opt to join a tour instead. By participating in day tours, you won’t have to worry about your transportation anymore. Furthermore, you don’t have to figure out the place since there will be someone to guide and even educate you about the area.

Al Wahbah crater

The Al Wahbah crater is another natural wonder that measures 4km wide and 250 meters deep. It is still relatively unknown to tourists and is located on the western edge of the Harrat Kishb basalt plateau in the Hejazi region of Saudi Arabia. It was created by volcanic eruptions caused by water and magma’s interaction, yet this has not stopped locals from crafting legends regarding the crater’s origins.

The crater paints a great sight at its edge, but the true wonder lies below. In the center are white sodium phosphate crystals that glimmer under the sun and are surrounded by sandy volcanic ash. Rainwater that collects over time has formed a lake and has coupled with the crystals, giving the heart of the crater a pearly appearance. Besides the hike, tourists can also camp and enjoy stargazing at night as the sky is typically devoid of light pollution.


Driving Directions:

  • From King Abdulaziz International Airport, head east on Al-Nuzhah/Route 320 and turn right.
  • At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit and take the ramp onto Al-Nuzhah/Route 320.
  • Continue down the route and take a slight right.
  • Take another slight right onto Route 5/Route 55M.
  • Continue onto Route 4050 and keep left until you merge back onto Route 4050.
  • Take the ramp onto Route 15 and continue onto King Faisal.
  • Make two left turns, then continue straight onto Route 4700.
  • Turn right, then make another right turn onto Route 4420.
  • Make a U-turn.
  • Turn right onto Route 4252, and keep right to stay on the route.
  • Turn right onto Route 4174, then turn left.
  • Take another left turn onto Route 4174 and continue onto Route 8454.
  • Turn right onto Wahba Crater Rd and continue straight ahead.

Things to Do

The Al Wahbah Crater is one of the undiscovered gems of Saudi Arabia. It only has a handful of visitors, so don’t forget to make the most of the place by doing as many activities as you can once you're there.

  • Take a Hike

If you’re up to it, go for a hike and go down the crater’s base. The descent would take around 45 minutes, while the hike back up would be 90 minutes, as it’ll be more of a challenge. There’s a rough trail that you could follow, so you don’t have to worry about not knowing where to pass. Meanwhile, if you don’t want to go down, you can opt to hike the crater’s circumference, which will take you about three hours.

  • Spend a Night in the Crater

There’s no designated campsite, but if you want to take a break from the busy Arabian cities, spending a night in Al Wahbah would definitely be a good decision. Note that there won’t be any signal for your mobile devices, so make sure to prepare yourself for a night fully immersed in nature.

  • Go Stargazing

Being far from the urban areas means that the occurrence of pollution is low. If you are camping in Al Wahbah, be sure to bring some binoculars (or maybe even a telescope!) and go stargazing.

  • Watch the Sunrise

Another thing to look forward to if you’re camping in Al Wahbah is the beautiful sunrise. Make sure to set your alarm and prepare a hot cup of coffee to greet the sun and admire everything it touches.

  • Admire the Beauty of the Place

Prior to visiting the crater, don’t forget to bring your camera or even a power bank to charge your devices. You don’t get to see views like those in Al Wahbah every day, so it’s important to capture the moment and take photographs of the stunning scenery before leaving the place.

Al-Ahsa Oasis

Another world heritage site that showcases the culture of Saudi Arabia is the Al-Ahsa Oasis. Recognized by UNESCO in 2018, the Al-Ahsa Oasis is a historical and traditional oasis that contains springs, canals, ancient buildings, and archeological sites. Early human settlements discovered in this region have dated back to the Neolithic period. This oasis has over 2.5 million date palms and is considered the largest oasis in the world.

Besides the oasis itself, visiting Al-Ahsa allows you to climb the Al-Qarah mountain, tour around its natural springs, and even explore its striking caves. If you want to buy some keepsakes, drop by Souq Al-Qaisariya, one of the oldest markets in Saudi Arabia, which has been the center for traders back in the olden days.

Driving Directions:

  • From King Fahd International Airport, head south and take a slight right onto King Fahd Rd.
  • Take the ramp to Route 6466 and continue down the route.
  • Take the ramp onto Route 40/Route 80M and take its exit.
  • Turn left and continue straight on.
  • Take a slight right toward Old Abqaiq Rd and continue down the route.
  • Turn right onto Route 607, then make a U-turn.
  • Take the ramp onto King Fahd Road/Route 615 and follow down the route.
  • Make a slight left and continue onto Route 7100 until you exit the road. Make sure to keep left.
  • Continue straight onto Route 6446 and take its exit.
  • Make two right turns, then turn left.

Things to Do

Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site means there’s probably a high chance of tourists visiting the site. The Al Ahsa Oasis is one of the oldest and most historical places in Saudi; if you plan to visit the region, here are some fun things you can do that will make you enjoy your trip to the oasis.

  • Tour Around the Al-Ahsa

Before anything else, make sure to walk and tour around the oasis. Take in the vibrant greenery, the markets, the historical sites, and the rest of the farmland. Strolling is not only an activity on its own, but you also get to see most of the area.

  • Visit the Natural Springs

One of the most famous attractions in Al-Ahsa is the natural springs. Known to be rich in minerals and possess healing properties, many guests flock to visit and relax in the waters, while others even take some home with them.

  • Climb Al-Qarah Mountains and Explore its Caves

Although it’s around 25 km from Al-Ahsa, many tourists visit Al-Qarah when they have plans to visit the oasis. Aside from the mountains, the site also boasts its caves that visitors can explore. If you can spare some time, you can also visit the museum, gift shops, and the mosque nearby.

  • Try Pottery Making

If you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty, you can try out traditional pottery at the Dougha Handmade Pottery Factory. It’s one of the oldest pottery centers in Saudi Arabia and is run by the living descendants of its founder, Al Garash. Visitors can participate in a guided tour of the factory, make pottery, and even buy some souvenirs.

  • Drop by Souq Al-Qaisariyah

Souq Al-Qaisariyah is one of the oldest markets in Saudi Arabia. It has been the center for traders back in the olden days, and its streets are busy up to this day. Suppose you want to buy some souvenirs or simply just sightsee. Dropping by the market isn’t such a bad idea, especially if you want a view other than nature.

Ushaiger Heritage Village

Have a more intimate experience with Saudi Arabia’s older villages by visiting the Ushaiger Heritage Village in Najd. Just like Ad-Dariyah, this heritage site allows you to take a peek at the life and architecture of ancient Saudi Arabia. The word Ushaiger means “little blonde,” pertaining to the hill up north of the village. And although it is red, locals claim that red was also used as blond back in the day.

Many village residents have also tried preserving its state. They have even set up a museum, the Al Salem museum, filled with artifacts ranging from utensils and jewelry to fabrics and weapons. If you’re feeling hungry after exploring the winding roads and admiring the traditional architecture, you can grab a bite to eat at a restaurant open only every Friday.

Driving Directions:

  • From King Khalid International Airport, head northwest on Airport Road and take a slight right onto Banban - Airport Rd/Route 5107.
  • At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto Banban - Airport Rd.
  • At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on Banban - Airport Rd. Do the same thing for the next two roundabouts and continue onto Banban - Airport Rd/Route 5776.
  • Merge onto Salbukh Rd/Route 535 and continue onto Route 546.
  • At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on Route 546. Do the same thing for the next four roundabouts.
  • At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Route 50.
  • Take a slight right until you reach your destination.

Things to Do

The Ushaiger Heritage Village is one of the best places to visit if you want to go to one of the oldest places in Saudi that still has residents occupying the area. Most of the older districts and cities are typically renovated ruins, so visiting Ushaiger Village will surely be unique. Here is a list of things you can do if you’ll drop by the heritage site.

  • Visit the Al Salem Museum

The residents of Ushaiger Village established a museum with various exhibits. Guests can find different artifacts like clothing, weapons, jewelry, utensils, and even ceramics. So don’t miss the museum if you want to know more about the village’s history and culture.

  • Mingle with the Locals

Many locals will be willing to mingle with the visitors. If you have questions about the village or if you simply want to hear stories from them, don’t hesitate to approach the residents. If you’re lucky, you might even be invited to have a traditional snack of coffee and dates in one of their homes. However, due to the influx of tourists, this rarely happens anymore. But if it does, make sure to grab the opportunity to spend time with them.

  • Take a Walk Around the Village

Much of Ushaiger is preserved and restored to its former glory. Guests can explore the streets and visit the old houses to see how these ancient structures used to be. If you are visiting a house in the village, make sure to climb up its stairs and view the overlooking oasis to have an idea of what the olden and present townsfolk could see from their homes.

  • Have a Meal at the Restaurant

If you’re feeling hungry, you can drop by and eat at the restaurant, which is found near the entrance and is open every Friday. They serve traditional Saudi food cooked by the villagers and are charged according to their weight. So make sure to go easy on the meat if you don’t want to spend a lot.

  • Drive up the Nearby Mountain and see the Sunset

If you’re leaving before dusk, make sure to drive to the nearby mountain. You can park your vehicle there, start a bonfire, and watch the sunset as it transitions into the starry sky. If you have kids, you can even let them stay in the play area at the park.

Saudi Aribia Photo by Mishaal Zahed

The National Museum of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is home to some of the oldest civilizations and is incredibly rich in history and culture. You can learn more about the country by visiting its national museum where modern meets prehistoric.

Housed by its modern architecture, The National Museum has numerous artifacts and fossils dating back to millions of years ago. The two-story building has multiple halls dedicated to different areas, such as the man and universe and even Saudi’s early states.

The museum also offers interactive tours and regularly has a new set of programs to keep the visitors excited. Indeed, it would capture the hearts of all its visitors, as learning truly has no boundaries.

Driving Directions:

  • Head southeast and merge onto Airport Road/Route 539.
  • Take the exit and continue down Route 539.
  • Continue onto Airport Rd until you reach the Eastern Ring Rd.
  • Exit onto Eastern Ring Branch Rd.
  • Take a slight right to stay on the road and continue straight ahead.
  • Continue straight on to stay on Eastern Ring Branch Rd.
  • Turn slightly right as the road becomes Al Urubah Rd.
  • Exit onto Abi Bakr As Siddiq Rd and continue onto Salah Ad Din Al Ayyubi Rd.
  • Keep right.
  • Make a slight right onto Makkah Al Mukarramah Branch Rd and keep right.
  • At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on Makkah Al Mukarramah Branch Rd.
  • Take another slight right to stay on the route. Continue straight on.
  • Take a slight left onto Prince Abdulaziz Ibn Musaid Ibn Jalawi St and keep left.
  • Keep right to stay on the route.
  • Turn right toward King Faisal Road.
  • Turn left onto King Faisal Road. Continue until you reach your destination. The museum will be on the right.

Things to Do

The National Museum of Saudi Arabia is not your typical museum that only displays exhibits. Guests of all ages can also enjoy the institution by participating in the many activities hosted there. Here are some activities, both conventional and not, that you can do in the National Museum.

  • Take a Self-guided Tour

One of the best ways to understand the exhibits is by participating in a self-guided tour. There are interactive displays in the museum that will guide and tell you more about the artifacts. So you don’t have to worry about staying in a group because you don’t need a tour guide to appreciate the museum.

  • Participate in the Museum’s Activities

The museum hosts many public activities that kids and even adults can enjoy. These programs are ever-changing and curated to attract guests of all ages to visit the museum. They were established so people would be educated in a more fun and enjoyable manner. Some of the activities the museum has hosted include:

  • Drawing contests
  • Rock drawing
  • Sculpture on stones
  • Sadou
  • Professional drawing
  • Join Seminars and Educational Workshops

Every now and then, the museum would have lectures and talks, and this is one way to learn more about Saudi, albeit in a more traditional manner. Educational workshops, typically about archeological discoveries, are also held in the institution to capture tourists’ interests. If you happen to arrive in the museum with these workshops happening, make sure to attend them as you might not get to experience them again in the future.

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