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.

2023-12-31 · 9min read

Assalamu Alaikum!

Saudi Arabia, a land filled with mystique and rich cultural heritage, is the perfect destination to fulfill your wanderlust. This Kingdom, set in the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia, is famous for its pristine beaches, lush mountains, world-renowned archeological sites, cosmopolitan cities, and the spiritual Mecca for millions of Muslims around the globe.

"Why visit Saudi Arabia? Since the Kingdom opened its doors to tourism in 2019, a new frontier of luxury travel opportunities has emerged. Saudi is the largest country in the Arabian Peninsula and remains mysterious to many, with its unexplored corners waiting to be discovered."

If you want to experience Saudi Arabia's beauty fully, it's crucial to understand its driving rules and regulations.

Ready for a Road Trip to Saudi Arabia?

Planning to hit the roads in Saudi Arabia? This complete driving guide provides critical tips about the country and driving regulations, ensuring your trip is safe and enjoyable.

"Saudi Arabia's transportation infrastructure is highly developed, offering an extensive network of highways that facilitate easy travel between cities and regions. This well-maintained network makes road travel a popular choice among locals and tourists. Visitors need to familiarize themselves with local traffic rules and driving customs for a safe and enjoyable road trip experience."

Isis Connolly on Tourist Secrets.

If you live in Saudi Arabia or are just visiting, it's essential to understand local driving guidelines. This guide helps you drive confidently on Saudi Arabia's highways, city streets, and beautiful scenic routes.

Let's Take a Closer Look at Saudi Arabia

Before diving deeper into Saudi Arabia's driving culture and etiquette, here are some interesting facts about the largest country in the Arab nation:

Geographic Location

Established in 1932, Saudi Arabia extends across most of the Arabian Peninsula. Its neighbors include Iraq, Jordan, and Kuwait to the north, UAE, Qatar, Oman, and the Persian Gulf to the east, and Yemen to the south. On its west are the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.

Saudi Arabia is significantly wealthy, with plentiful oil reserves in its expansive deserts.

Languages Spoken

Arabic, one of the world's oldest and most spoken languages, is the official language of Saudi Arabia. It dates back to pre-Islamic times and is now spoken by nearly 200 million people in over 20 countries.

Land Area

With a vast land coverage of about 2.1 million sq. km, Saudi Arabia is the largest country in Western Asia, only second to the entire Arab world. Although it's only a quarter of the size of the USA, it's a goldmine of natural resources like oil, gas, and minerals.


The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, established on September 23, 1932, marks the unification of the Hejaz and Nejd regions under a single flag. This event set the stage for the Saudi royal family's continuous reign over the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia adheres to stringent social norms rooted in its interpretation of Sharia law, often placing women in subordinate positions. This includes specific dress codes, limitations in education and employment, and restricted mobility, notably in transportation.

In a significant shift, the traditionally conservative society has recently granted women the right to drive.


Saudi Arabia, with a population of nearly 35 million, is under the absolute monarchy of King Salman. The country's legislative process is deeply influenced by Sharia, or Islamic law, based on the Quran and the interpretations of religious scholars. This framework has shaped the country's societal norms and legal stipulations, including the former prohibition of women driving.

For women intending to drive in Saudi Arabia, it's crucial to be well-informed about the local laws and regulations. Understanding the nuances of women's driving rights is essential, and it is advisable to consult online resources for accurate information. Being cognizant of the country's specific restrictions is important to ensure compliance and avoid unintentional rule breaches.

International Driving Permit FAQs

Planning the best time to visit and go on a road trip to Saudi Arabia? It's essential to carry the right documents, including an International Driver's Permit (IDP).

Is an International Driving License Valid in Saudi Arabia?

Tourists need an international driving license alongside their native driver's license to legally drive in Saudi Arabia. This is crucial whether entering Saudi Arabia by car or renting a vehicle upon arrival, as border officials and rental companies often require an IDP, particularly for licenses not in English.

The International Driver's Association (IDA) issues IDPs, which are recognized in 165 countries and available in twelve languages. This ensures your driving permit is globally accepted, even if your original license doesn't use the Latin alphabet.

Can Female Tourists Drive in Saudi Arabia?

Until September 2017, Saudi Arabian women couldn't drive due to strict Islamic laws. Women typically relied on male relatives or chauffeurs for transportation. However, in June 2018, Saudi Arabia lifted this ban, allowing women to obtain a driving license.

Despite the absence of a specific law against women driving, there have been instances of penalties. Women's rights activists have notably protested by driving and recording themselves, leading to arrests but also contributing to the change in law.

Today, women are permitted to drive in Saudi Arabia. Female tourists need a valid driver's license and an IDP, especially if the license is not in English or uses a non-Latin script.

How Do You Obtain an International Driving Permit in Saudi Arabia?

You can't get an international driving license directly in Saudi Arabia, but you can order one from there. The IDA enables you to apply from anywhere, and your license will be delivered to your address.

Simply visit the IDA website, find the application form on the main page, and follow the easy and convenient process by first selecting the IDP package that best suits your needs. You must submit a copy of your driver's license and a passport-sized photo.

What if I Lose My IDP?

Losing your IDP isn't a major issue. The International Driver's Association can provide a replacement at no extra cost except for shipping fees. Just provide your IDP details, including your name and IDP number, and your complete Saudi Arabian address. IDA will send you a link to cover the shipping fees.

Renting a Car in Saudi Arabia

Exploring Saudi Arabia by car is an excellent choice for travelers. It allows you to experience the vibrant urban life and delve into the country's cultural and scenic beauty. Many of the best road trip destinations, including stunning rock formations and expansive dunes, are outside the cities.

Here’s what you should know about renting a car in Saudi Arabia:

Car Rental Options

Some of the best car rental companies, like Avis, Europcar, and Budget Rent a Car, operate in Saudi Arabia. You have the flexibility to book a car online for convenience or rent one upon arrival at your destination.

Budget Rent a Car is a prominent provider in Saudi Arabia, offering a diverse range of vehicles from compact family cars to SUVs and luxury vehicles. For an eco-friendly option, Europcar and Avis provide sustainable vehicle rentals.

Required Documentation

You'll need your local driver's license and an International Driving Permit to rent a car, especially if your license isn't English. Upon arrival, be prepared to present your passport for identification and a debit card for the rental payment.

Types of Vehicles Available

Car rental companies in Saudi Arabia offer a variety of vehicles to suit different needs. Economy cars are widely available and economical. For off-road adventures like dune driving, consider renting a 4x4 SUV.

Car Rental Cost

You can collect your rental car from various locations, including airports and specific addresses. Be mindful of potential extra charges for picking up or dropping off the vehicle at different locations.

Average daily rental rates in Saudi Arabia are as follows:

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

Age Requirements

The minimum age for car rentals is typically 21, though this can vary between 23-25 depending on the company. Drivers under 25 may need to pay a Young Driver surcharge.

Car Insurance Cost

Car insurance rates vary by rental agency and policy. Choose an insurance plan that fits your needs, and ensure you're not duplicating coverage you already have.

Insurance Coverage

Considering the unpredictability of driving in a foreign country, opting for the best car insurance in Saudia Arabia is advisable. Rental agencies and insurance companies in Saudi Arabia offer various insurance options, including:

  • Collision Damage Waiver
  • Vehicle Replacement
  • Maintenance and Technical Support
  • Personal Accident Insurance
  • Coverage for Natural Disasters
  • Emergency Medical Expenses
  • Age Restriction Extension
  • Geographical Extension

Understanding these details will help you navigate renting a car in Saudi Arabia, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable travel experience.

Road Rules in Saudi Arabia

For expats and tourists, driving in Saudi Arabia can be challenging, as local driving habits might seem different than what they are used to.

Saudi Arabia enforces specific driving standards to enhance public safety, given the high incidence of accidents and potential hazards. These rules are not only for locals but also for foreign drivers.

Drunk Driving

The country has stringent laws against alcohol consumption and driving. Being caught driving under the influence can lead to harsh penalties, including fines upwards of $10,000 and imprisonment for up to ten years. Border security is rigorous in checking for prohibited items, so it's advised not to attempt to bring in alcohol.

Mobile Phone Usage

Texting or using a mobile phone while driving is prohibited in Saudi Arabia. The first offense can result in a fine of SAR 150 ($40), which may increase to SAR 300 ($80) along with a 24-hour detention for subsequent violations. To avoid fines, keep your mobile devices out of reach while driving.

Pre-Trip Vehicle Check

Ensure your vehicle is roadworthy before setting off. Check indicators, wipers, lights, mirrors, doors, windows, seatbelts, and tires. Carry essential emergency equipment such as a warning triangle and fire extinguisher. Also, keep your travel documents like passport, visa, local driver’s license, IDP, and car insurance handy.


In urban areas, metered parking is common, costing around SAR 2 per hour. There are also on-street parking options. Due to the high number of vehicles, finding a free parking spot can be challenging. Always remove valuables from your car when parked.

Speed Limits

Be cautious of speed limits, which vary depending on the area: 45 kph in urban zones and 80 kph in rural areas, with motorways typically allowing 120-125 kph. Speeding is a common cause of accidents in Saudi Arabia.

Be cautious of speed limits, which vary depending on the area: 45 kph in urban zones and 80 kph in rural areas, with motorways typically allowing 120-125 kph. Speeding is a common cause of accidents in Saudi Arabia.

Seatbelt and Child Restraint Laws

Saudi Arabia mandates the use of seatbelts for all vehicle occupants and child restraints for children under four years old. Children below ten years are not allowed in the front seat. Compliance with these laws is essential for safety.

Driving Directions

Familiarize yourself with the local driving protocols, including giving way at intersections and roundabouts and safe overtaking practices. Pay attention to various traffic signs, including regulatory, prohibition, mandatory, and warning signs, to navigate safely and adhere to local driving regulations.

Understanding Road Signs in Saudi Arabia

Heeding road signs is crucial to prevent accidents and violations, particularly in Saudi Arabia where relaxed traffic rule enforcement can lead to aggressive driving.

Regulatory signs govern traffic rules, prohibitions, and restrictions. They fall into two categories: prohibition and mandatory signs.

  • Prohibition signs: These are circular signs with red borders that communicate what drivers must not do. Examples include:
    • No entry from this side
    • No U-turn
    • No left turn
    • No waiting area
    • No parking and No waiting area
  • Mandatory signs: Circular with blue backgrounds; these instruct drivers to perform required actions. Examples are:
    • 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 variations include the yield right-of-way sign, a white triangle with a red border.

Warning signs are shaped as white triangles with red borders, alert drivers to potential hazards. Common signs include:

  • 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

Guide signs are rectangular in various colors, and direct drivers to towns, facilities, and services. Examples include:

  • City and village indicators
  • Restaurant
  • Hospital
  • Gasoline station

Special signs have different designs but are significant for safe driving. They include:

  • Speed limit signs: White circles with red frames displaying speed limits in black
  • Stop signs: Red octagons with "stop" in white
  • Yield signs
  • No entry signs: Red circles with a white horizontal line

Familiarizing yourself with these signs is key to navigating Saudi Arabian roads safely and in compliance with local traffic laws.

Driving Etiquette in Saudi Arabia

It's always wise to be prepared for unforeseen events on the road. Knowing how to handle vehicle breakdowns or accidents can prevent or mitigate their impact.

Handling a Vehicle Breakdown

In case your car breaks down, move it to the edge of the road to avoid obstructing traffic. Stay in the car with any passengers to minimize disruption. Turn off the car, activate your hazard lights, and place a safety triangle 3-5 meters behind your vehicle if available.

Keep contact information for roadside assistance, especially when in remote areas.

Remember these important Emergency Contacts in Saudi Arabia:

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

Police Stops

Saudi Arabia's security is particularly tight, especially during the Hajj season. If stopped by the police, remain calm and have all necessary documents ready for inspection.

Ensure the individuals are legitimate officers by waiting for them to show a badge. Carry your license, IDP, passport, visa, car rental documents, and insurance papers. Be prepared to pay fines for any traffic violations.

Asking Directions

While maps are useful, they may not cover all routes. Local knowledge can be invaluable for specific directions. Saudis are generally hospitable, and many speak English, making communication easier.

However, using basic Arabic phrases is appreciated. Key phrases include:

  • 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 are common and manned by armed personnel. Present your documents for a smooth experience. Be aware that your vehicle may be checked for prohibited items like pork, alcohol, drugs, pornographic materials, and weapons. Familiarize yourself with restricted items to avoid penalties.

In Case of Accidents

If you're involved in an accident, prioritize safety and call 999 for the police. Provide your location and detailed information about the incident. Do not admit fault before the authorities assess the situation.

Saudi Arabia has strict rules for traffic violations, and being at fault could lead to being detained until damages are compensated. Therefore, having car insurance is essential.

Driving Conditions in Saudi Arabia

Driving in Saudi Arabia offers a unique experience that may differ from what you're accustomed to in your home country. To help you prepare, here's an overview of the driving environment in the country:

Accident Statistics

Saudi Arabia experiences a high frequency of vehicle accidents, with an average of one crash every minute. About 70% of these accidents occur in rural areas, with the remainder in urban settings.

Reckless driving, especially among young drivers, is a common cause. Despite these statistics, driving remains the best way to explore Saudi Arabia. The government has recently tightened traffic laws and increased fines, significantly decreasing accidents and enhancing road safety.

The reported incidence of road traffic injuries has reduced remarkably in the few years since the WHO began supporting Saudi Arabia’s road safety vision. Between 2016 and 2018, the number of accidents decreased by 25%, from 17,632 to 13,221, and related injuries fell by 25.5%, from 14,481 to 10,755.

Vehicle Preferences

In Saudi Arabia, sedans are the most popular vehicle choice due to their spaciousness and ease of maintenance. SUVs are also common, favored for their powerful engines, passenger capacity, and off-road capabilities.

Toll Roads

There are no toll roads in Saudi Arabia, allowing for free travel on the country's highways. While there have been discussions about introducing toll roads, no concrete plans have been made yet.

Road Conditions

The roads and highways in Saudi Arabia are generally well-maintained and paved. The government is committed to their upkeep. Drivers may also come across gravel roads near smaller streets or deserts. The country features double roads, ring roads, tunnels in urban areas, bridges, and hill roads in mountainous regions.

The routes within the country are divided into three categories:

  • Main roads that start with 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
  • Sub-roads that are assigned with four digits and connect villages, farms, and other smaller regions.

Driving During Sandstorms

Sandstorms are common in Saudi Arabia and can be daunting for those unfamiliar with them. It's essential to check weather forecasts for sandstorms before traveling. During a sandstorm, turn on your hazard lights, avoid stopping on the road, and keep windows closed to ensure a safer journey.

Top Destinations in Saudi Arabia

If you want to immerse yourself in culture and tradition or escape from busy city life, there is a lot of variety in terms of the best things to do in Saudia Arabia. From natural wonders to heritage sites, here are some of the best places to visit in Saudi Arabia:

At-Turaif District

Known as the inaugural capital of the Saudi Dynasty, At-Turaif gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 2010. Ongoing restoration efforts have been underway to preserve its heritage.

This once-influential district is distinguished by its labyrinthine streets and traditional mud-brick houses, showcasing the classic Najdi architectural style. Despite restoration, many original structures have been conserved, maintaining the site's authenticity.

Edge of the World (Jebel Fihrayn)

To taste Saudi Arabia's natural splendors, the Edge of the World, or Jebel Fihrayn, is an unmissable destination. The site is renowned for its breathtaking view from the Tuwaiq cliffs, which plunge 600 meters to the desert floor, extending to an infinite horizon, creating a sensation of standing at the world's edge.

Reaching this spot involves a challenging journey through desert trails and rugged terrain. The effort is rewarded with stunning vistas, the chance to spot fossils in the ancient ocean bed, and camels traversing the vast desert.

Al Wahbah Crater

The Al Wahbah Crater, a relatively lesser-known natural marvel, spans 4 km in width and plunges 250 meters deep. Located on the western edge of the Harrat Kishb basalt plateau in Saudi Arabia's Hejazi region, this crater resulted from volcanic activity involving water and magma.

The crater's rim offers a magnificent view, but its heart holds a unique beauty. White sodium phosphate crystals at the center sparkle in the sunlight, encircled by sandy volcanic ash. Occasional rainfall forms a lake, giving the crater's core a pearl-like sheen. Visitors can hike, camp, and enjoy stargazing, with minimal light pollution enhancing the night sky experience.

Al-Ahsa Oasis

The Al-Ahsa Oasis, another UNESCO World Heritage site as of 2018, represents the rich cultural heritage of Saudi Arabia. This sprawling oasis, dating back to the Neolithic period, features springs, canals, historical structures, and archaeological sites and is home to over 2.5 million date palms, making it the world's largest oasis.

Beyond the oasis, Al-Ahsa invites exploration of Al-Qarah Mountain, its natural springs, and remarkable caves. For souvenirs, visit Souq Al-Qaisariya, an ancient marketplace hub for historic traders.

Ushaiger Heritage Village

Experience the authentic charm of ancient Saudi Arabia at Ushaiger Heritage Village in Najd. Similar to Ad-Dariyah, Ushaiger, which translates to "little blonde" – a reference to a nearby hill – offers a glimpse into the region's historical life and architecture.

The village community is dedicated to preserving its heritage, exemplified by the Al Salem museum, which houses a collection of artifacts ranging from household items to weaponry. After wandering through the maze-like streets and appreciating the traditional buildings, enjoy local cuisine at a weekly-opened village restaurant.

The National Museum of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, a cradle of ancient civilizations, boasts a profound historical and cultural heritage. This richness is showcased in the country's national museum, a place where the contemporary and the ancient converge.

Nestled within an architecturally modern structure, The National Museum houses a wealth of artifacts and fossils that trace back millions of years. Spread across two floors, the museum features several halls, each dedicated to different themes, including 'Man and the Universe' and the early stages of Saudi's history.

Explore the Roads of Saudi Arabia Without Limits

Now that you're equipped with the essential info, you can venture onto Saudi Arabia's roads. Your International Driving Permit opens the door to exploring its rich history and varied landscapes. Remember to follow local driving norms and thoroughly enjoy the unique mix of modern and traditional elements in Saudi Arabia.


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