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Saudi Arabia travel guide

About Saudi Arabia

No country in the world is as misunderstood as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and yet perhaps no other country is as worthy of a visit. Considered by many as the final frontier, Saudi Arabia boasts beautiful oases and dramatic mountaintops, seemingly endless sand dunes and flowing rivers, making it a dynamic tourist destination. The sands themselves are wondrous, especially the Empty Quarter, a beautiful expanse of undulating dunes unlike anywhere in the world. In addition to its natural beauty, Saudi Arabia is a country rich in culture and heritage.

In the west of the country you will find untamed stretches of coral-filled Red Sea coast and southwestern mountain towns such as Taif (aka 'city of roses'). The ancient history in the north is perhaps one of the country's greatest draws, where the town of Al Ula serves as the gateway to Medain Saleh, a collection of stone dwellings as magnificent as Petra in Jordan.

Then there are the cosmopolitan city centres of Jeddah, the Red Sea port, as well as Riyadh, the throbbing central capital, and Gulf-side Dammam, the large city in the east. All enjoy a lively cafe culture and top-notch restaurants. Saudi Arabians have a reputation for shopping and there are stores galore, from traditional souks to glittering malls with all the latest fashions. Hotels are being built at a rapid pace, and each seems to feature a chef of ever-increasing pedigree.

Few other countries are as rich in historical sites as Saudi Arabia. As the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, it is home to the two holiest sites in Islam: The Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, drawing millions visiting both every year (although these are off-limits to non-Muslims). The Saudis take pride in protecting the integrity of this holy land and Islamic laws are strictly enforced by the Mutaween (religious police).

To a novice visitor, Saudi Arabia is perhaps an elusive and mysterious place, steeped in religion and cultural tradition. Though it pays to swot up on cultural rules before you arrive, you will discover a beautiful country with much to offer.

Key facts

Area:

2,149,690 sq km (830,000 sq miles).

Population:

32,157,974 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

15 per sq km.

Capital:

Riyadh.

Government:

Absolute monarchy.

Head of state:

King and Prime Minister Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud since 2015.

Head of government:

King and Prime Minister Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud since 2015.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Saudi Arabia on the TravelHealthPro website

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

In response to the spread of a new strain of COVID-19, entry into Saudi Arabia is currently suspended from 13 countries: Afghanistan, Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. The suspension is also applicable to travellers who have visited or transited any of the listed countries 14 days prior to entering Saudi Arabia. Health workers, diplomats and Saudi nationals, and their families are exempt from the suspension but may still be required to complete a period of home quarantine and PCR tests on arrival. Check full details on the Saudia website.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Saudi Arabia.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements. You should contact local authorities for information on testing facilities. Tests are also available to residents via the government’s Sehhaty app.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in Saudi Arabia

There are no restrictions on travel to and from airports and ports. All modes of public transport (taxis, buses, trains and others) are permitted to operate at full capacity. The Saudi authorities have announced that wearing a face mask in public places is mandatory. Preventative measures remain in force.

The Saudi authorities will keep this plan under review depending on the progress of the virus. You should monitor announcements issued by the Saudi Ministry of Health and Ministry of Interior for any updates. The Saudi authorities may implement localised lockdowns in response to the detection of infection clusters. If you are subject to a localised lockdown, follow the instructions of the authorities.

Relevant penalties for breaches of regulations can be found on the Ministry of Interior website (see page three of this document)

Accommodation

Hotels and private rentals are open and available to book. Hygiene measures are in place, including temperature checks on entry and hand sanitiser in public spaces.

Public spaces and services

The Ministry of Interior announced that dine-in services in cafes and restaurants could resume from Sunday 7 March 2021. Cinemas, indoor entertainment centres, gyms and sports centres are also open. Events and parties in banquet halls, wedding halls, hotels, rest houses and camps remain suspended.

Many public places have hygiene measures in place, including taking a temperature check and sanitising hands upon entry. You are required to show your health status on the Tawakkalna app before being allowed to enter. Wearing a face mask in public places is mandatory. All gatherings must be limited to no more than 20 people.

Healthcare in Saudi Arabia

Select hospitals have been designated to treat patients with coronavirus. The Ministry of Health has a dedicated call centre (937) available 24/7 for residents and citizens to utilise in case of any enquiries regarding coronavirus.

For contact details for doctors, visit our list of healthcare providers.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.

View Health for further details on healthcare in Saudi Arabia.

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Saudi Arabia

Wherever possible British nationals should aim to be vaccinated in the country where they live. We will update this page when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.

The Saudi Arabian national vaccination programme started in December 2020 and is currently using the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines. British nationals with residency status in Saudi Arabia may register their interest in receiving a vaccine via the Sehatty app. Once confirmed eligible, they can then book their vaccination appointments through the app.

Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.

If you’re a British national living in Saudi Arabia, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further information

If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.

Opportunistic attacks on Saudi or western targets are also possible. You should be vigilant and follow the advice of the local authorities. On 29 October, there were local reports of a knife attack at the French Consulate in Jeddah.

Political situation

Public demonstrations are illegal in Saudi Arabia. Follow local media and be alert to local and regional developments which might trigger public disturbances. You should avoid protests or demonstrations. Despite warnings issued by the authorities, demonstrations do take place from time to time, mainly in the Shia communities in the Qatif area of Eastern Province, including Al Musawara village in Al-Awamiya, and Al Hasa. Violent clashes have occurred between demonstrators and security forces.

Due to security operations within the Qatif region of Eastern Province, British Embassy staff have been advised to travel within the region in daylight hours only. We advise that you leave the area should any security operations commence, and follow the instructions of police and security forces to assist you in reaching safe areas.

Local travel

The Saudi authorities have declared ‘out of bounds’ a zone of 20km from the entire northern border of the country, and from the border in the Hafr Al-Batin and Khafji areas in the Eastern Province. Violations are punishable by up to 30 months’ imprisonment and a SAR 25,000 fine. Land border crossings remain open and the authorities have announced that signs are being placed in areas where vehicles are allowed to cross.

Due to security operations within the Qatif region of Eastern Province, British Embassy staff have been advised to travel within the region in daylight hours only. We advise that you leave the area should any security operations commence, and follow the instructions of police and security forces to assist you in reaching safe areas.

Tourist trips to military zones or border posts are banned by the Saudi Tourism Authority.

Local travel - Saudi Arabia-Yemen border

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advise against all travel to within 10km of the border with Yemen, and against all but essential travel between 10km and 80km of this border. If you’re currently in an area to which the FCDO advise against all but essential travel, you should consider whether you have an essential reason to remain. If you don’t, you should leave the area.

Saudi Arabia has been leading coalition air strikes in Yemen since March 2015 following the request for support from President Hadi to deter continued Houthi aggression. Clashes along the Saudi-Yemeni border continue, resulting in both military and civilian casualties.

Missiles, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones) and water borne IEDs continue to be launched into Saudi Arabia, targeting critical national infrastructure, including aviation interests and oil infrastructure. Many of these have been intercepted and destroyed by Saudi air defence systems.

Attacks against critical national infrastructure are likely. Abha International Airport (Asir province) has been the target of a number of attacks, resulting in injury to civilians and the death of one. On 14 September 2019, Aramco facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais were hit by drones and missiles. A petroleum products distribution station north of Jeddah was subject to aerial attacks on 23 November 2020 and 4 March 2021. On 7 March 2021, a ballistic missile targeting Ras Tanoura Port was intercepted over Dhahran, and drones were intercepted over Jeddah. On 19 March 2021, a Riyadh oil refinery was hit by drones.

There have been 10 intercepted missile attacks over Riyadh since the first missile attack on 4 November 2017, the most recent on 27 February 2021.

In the event of an incident, you should stay indoors, monitor local media reports and follow the advice of the local authorities.

Airports near the Saudi Arabia-Yemen border have been closed temporarily from time to time. You should check with your airline before travelling to airports near the border.

Local travel - Saudi Arabia-Iraq border

Take great care in all areas close to the Saudi Arabia-Iraq border. On 5 January 2015, 3 Saudi Arabian border guards were killed in clashes close to the Arar crossing point.

Crime

Although the crime rate in Saudi Arabia is low, there have been some isolated incidents of more serious crimes. Take particular care when travelling outside towns and cities.

Petty crime does also occur.

Road travel

You can drive using UK driving licences in Saudi Arabia for 3 months from arrival. For longer periods, you will need to convert your UK licence to a local one. Where possible, keep to major roads. When travelling to more rural areas, take precautions such as travelling in convoy and during daylight.

Standards of driving are poor and there are a high number of serious accidents. You should wear seatbelts at all times. Distances between cities are large and emergency services can take some time to get to any accidents or emergencies.

Some Saudi cities have implemented an automated traffic system. You’ll need to pay any fines issued through this system before leaving the country. You can pay at the airport but only during regular Saudi office hours.

Sea travel

Oil infrastructure remains a possible terrorist target. Shipping serving the oil installations should make sure SSPs are implemented fully and robustly while operating in the area. All ships should maintain a high state of vigilance while in Saudi Arabian ports, and report anything suspicious to the authorities. Vessels operating in the Gulf of Oman, Northern Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Bab El Mandeb areas may be at increased risk of maritime attack from pirates. For more information and advice, see our Piracy and armed robbery at sea page.

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Saudi Arabia. Attacks can be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. Daesh claimed responsibility for an attack on 11 November 2020 which targeted a ceremony in Jeddah, commemorating the end of World War I, using an explosive device attack. On 11 November 2019, a terrorist carried out a knife attack on artists performing on stage during Riyadh Season Festival, injuring four people. Opportunistic attacks on Saudi or western targets are also possible. You should be vigilant and follow the advice of the local authorities.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

The main threat is from Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL).

The Saudi security forces have successfully disrupted a number of planned attacks, but the scale of extremist activity is significant and attacks continue to take place.

Be especially vigilant during periods of religious significance (including the holy month of Ramadan) and public holidays; terrorist groups sometimes call for attacks at these times. Terrorists previously carried out several attacks in Saudi Arabia during Ramadan in 2016.

There are posts on jihadist websites and social media encouraging attacks against British, western and other interests, including teachers, schools, oil workers, residential compounds, military, transport and aviation interests, as well as crowded places, including restaurants, hotels, shopping centres and mosques. Further attacks are very likely.

If you’re living in Saudi Arabia, you should regularly review and make sure you’re satisfied with the security measures provided by the management and local authorities at the residential compound where you live, the place where you work and the school where your children study.

Since May 2017, there have been a number of attacks in Qatif, Eastern Province. Most of these have taken place in and around Al Musarawa village in Al-Awamiya. They have included shootings by gunmen as well as the use of rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and explosive devices. The majority of those targeted have been members of the Saudi security forces. Saudi security forces have conducted a number of security operations against suspected terrorists in the area.

  • On 21 April 2019, Saudi security officials killed 4 suspected terrorists when they attacked a security facility in the town of Al Zulfi, Riyadh province, with small arms and detonated an explosive suicide belt. Three Saudi security officials were injured in the exchange of fire. Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack.

  • On 7 April 2019, Saudi security forces killed 2 suspected terrorists when they attacked a checkpoint in Abu Hadriya in Eastern Province using small arms. Two further suspects were arrested. During the attack, a non-Saudi civilian was killed and another injured. Two Saudi security officials sustained injuries in the exchange of fire.

  • On 8 July 2018, one Saudi security officer and one foreign national were killed in a shooting incident at a check-point in Qassim (North-Central Saudi Arabia). Two suspected terrorists were killed and the third detained by security forces.

  • On 19 April 2018, 4 Saudi security personnel were killed and 4 others injured, in a shooting incident in the Asir region (in the South-West of Saudi Arabia). The police caught 2 of the assailants, and killed the third.

There is a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

On 12 June 2021, the Saudi authorities announced that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pilgrims from outside the Kingdom would not be permitted to enter Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj in 2021. Hajj rites will be limited to 60,000 pilgrims who already reside in the Kingdom. Those wishing to perform Hajj must be between 18-65 years old and comply with health and vaccination requirements. Those who have not performed Hajj in the last 5 years can register to participate using the electronic portal. Registration is open until 10pm (KSA time) on Wednesday 23 June, and the booking and purchasing of Hajj packages will start at 1pm on June 25.

The Saudi authorities have gradually allowed pilgrims to perform Umrah at limited capacity. British nationals resident in Saudi Arabia can apply to perform Umrah through the official Ministry of Hajj app ‘Eatmarna’ and also ‘Tawakkalna’. Details of the process can be found on the official Ministry of Hajj Twitter page.

The approximate dates for the 2021 Hajj are 17 to 22 July. British citizens wishing to perform Umrah or Hajj should follow announcements on FCDO official social media channels @ukinsaudiarabia and guidance from local authorities.

Before you travel for pilgrimage, you should carefully consider the information and advice on the website of the Saudi Arabia Embassy in London, and in the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s (NaTHNaC) factsheet.

Safety and emergency information

In Saudi Arabia:

British Consulate-General, Jeddah: Tel: 011 481 9100, Fax: 012 622 6249

British Embassy emergency contact: Tel: +966 5010 04268

Ministry of Hajj (Makkah): Tel: 012 557 1714; Outside Saudi Arabia: +966 920002814; hajcc@haj.gov.sa

Ministry of Hajj Contact Centre (only inside Saudi Arabia): Tel: 8004304444

British Pilgrims Guide Office (Makkah): Tel: +966 12 542 7003

Saudi Arabia Directory Enquiries: Tel: 905

Saudi Arabia - Emergency Operation Centre: Tel: 911

If you’re making an international call, make sure you use the correct country code:

  • UK: 00 44 (+ Number)
  • Saudi Arabia: 00966 (+ Number)

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Entry to Saudi Arabia

You are strongly advised to keep up to date with entry requirement guidelines and pre-travel procedures for Saudi Arabia.

In response to the spread of a new strain of COVID-19, entry into Saudi Arabia is currently suspended from 13 countries: Afghanistan, Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. The suspension is also applicable to travellers who have visited or transited any of the listed countries 14 days prior to entering Saudi Arabia. Health workers, diplomats and Saudi nationals, and their families are exempt from the suspension but may still be required to complete a period of home quarantine and PCR tests on arrival. Check full details on the Saudia website

Domestic flights continue to operate.

You should keep up to date with information from your airline or tour operator on the impact on any existing travel plans

Transiting Saudi Arabia

There are currently no transit flights through Saudi Arabia.

Testing on Arrival

All travellers are required to provide a negative PCR test certificate issued from a verified laboratory that does not exceed 72 hours from the time the test is undertaken until departure to the Kingdom.

All travellers will have their temperature checked, on arrival in Saudi Arabia.

Quarantine requirements

The Ministry of Interior announced that from Thursday 20 May 2021, all unvaccinated passengers arriving into the Kingdom from all other countries will be subject to seven days’ institutional quarantine. A full list of exemptions is available. Travellers who are fully vaccinated do not have to enter institutional quarantine but will be required to show a health certificate as proof of vaccination.

Details of accepted vaccines and definitions of “immune” for residents, non-residents and first-time visitors can be found at the General Authority for Civil Aviation website.

Travellers who have received two doses of the Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccine are permitted to enter Saudi Arabia via the King Fahd Causeway from Bahrain if they have also received a booster jab that has been approved by the Saudi authorities (Astra Zeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna or Pfizer Biotech).

You should keep up to date with information from your airline or tour operator on the impact on any existing travel plans.

Demonstrating your COVID-19 vaccination status

Vaccinated visitors (except those in exempted categories) must complete a Registration Immunisation Information Form before traveling to the Kingdom through the Muqeem Portal.

Saudi Arabia has not yet confirmed that it will accept the UK solutions for demonstrating your COVID vaccination status. You should follow guidance for alternative entry requirements. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination.

Data collection

On arrival in Saudi Arabia, you must provide your contact details and travel information.

Testing on departure

Testing is not available at the airport or sea ports at departure. Passengers travelling from Saudi Arabia, who require a test for the country they are travelling to, should arrange privately for a test through their existing medical providers (or visit our list of healthcare providers).

Visas

Entry to Saudi Arabia on a tourist visa from significantly affected countries has been temporarily suspended.

From 15 September 2020, certain categories of expatriates holding valid visas (exit/entry, business, residence/Iqama and visit) are allowed to enter and exit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

If you have any questions about travel restrictions for travel to Saudi Arabia, you should contact the nearest Saudi Embassy or Visit Saudi.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

All visitors, including pilgrims, need a visa to enter Saudi Arabia.

You can apply for a tourist visa online or on arrival at any of Saudi Arabia’s international airports. Muslim tourists may perform Umrah on a tourist visa, but a separate visa is needed for Hajj. See separate guidance in the Pilgrimage section

Tourist visas are valid for 360 days from the date of issue and can be used for visits of up to 90 days, and for a total of no more than 180 days in a single year. A daily fine will be levied if you overstay your visa.

If you’re travelling for any other purpose, you should apply for a visa through visa agencies accredited to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. If you overstay your visa you will be fined and deported.

If you’re transiting through Saudi Arabia, you may need a transit visa if the connecting time between your flights is more than 12 hours. Once the ticket is issued, you should confirm with your airline or travel agency if you need a transit visa. You should be able to apply for a transit visa through your airline, travel agency or through an established agent via the visa section of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia.

If you’re planning to travel to Saudi Arabia via the causeway from Bahrain, you should check the terms of your Saudi visa before travelling. If you’re planning to apply for a visa, you should seek advice (eg from your visa agent, the Saudi Embassy or your employer) about the visa options available to you. Saudi visas may only allow for entry into the country by air and may prevent you from entering across a land border including via the causeway from Bahrain.

Around the time of the Hajj, the Directorate of Civil Aviation of Saudi Arabia have previously imposed restrictions on Muslim visitors flying to Jeddah, Madinah and Taif for reasons other than the Hajj pilgrimage. During this time, Muslim visitors may only be allowed to board flights to Jeddah, Madinah and Taif if they have a valid Hajj visa. Muslim visitors with business or visit visas will still be able to enter Saudi Arabia through other entry points. This regulation does not apply to Muslim travellers with valid Saudi residency permits, although anecdotal evidence has suggested that in recent years even Muslim residency permit holders have had difficulties boarding flights to these destinations in the days immediately before Hajj.

If you’re a non-Muslim visitor travelling to these destinations, you may be asked to explain the purpose of your trip or asked to show evidence of an appointment before being allowed to board a flight to Jeddah. For further detailed advice on visa requirements for Hajj and Umrah, contact the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in London.

British residents in Saudi Arabia will need a valid exit or re-entry permit from the Saudi Ministry of Interior to leave the country.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Saudi Arabia.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are not valid for entry into Saudi Arabia or for transiting through Saudi Arabia. However, ETDs are accepted for exit from Saudi Arabia.

Previous travel to Israel

You may be refused entry to Saudi Arabia if your passport contains evidence of previous travel to Israel or indicates Israel as your birthplace.

Female travellers

If you are a female visitor arriving on a non-tourist visa, or a resident, you must be met by your sponsor on arrival. Otherwise you may face delays before being allowed to enter the country or to continue on other flights.

Foreign women married to Saudi nationals must have a re-entry or final exit permit issued by their husband to leave Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country in which Islamic law is strictly enforced. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.

In 2021, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 12 April and finish on 12 May. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. Saudi authorities advise that it is respectful to avoid eating or drinking in public during the day at this time. See Travelling during Ramadan.

The public practice of any form of religion other than Islam is illegal; as is an intention to convert others. However, the Saudi authorities accept the private practice of religions other than Islam, and you can bring a religious text into the country as long as it is for your personal use. Importing larger quantities than this can carry severe penalties.

With the launch of the tourist e-visa on 28 September 2019, Saudi Arabia announced new regulations related to public conduct and decency. Men and women are required to refrain from public displays of affection, and avoid using profane language or gestures. Taking pictures or recording videos without permission is not permitted. Visitors to Saudi Arabia should familiarise themselves with public decency laws.

Local laws require men and women to dress modestly covering shoulders and knees in public, avoiding tight-fitting clothing or clothes with profane language or images. It is not mandatory for female travellers to wear the traditional robe or abaaya. Information on important laws and etiquette around dress codes is available to visitors on the Visit Saudi website.

As of June 2018 women are legally able to obtain a licence to drive a car, motorbikes and scooters. You should seek guidance from the local authorities on how to apply for a local licence.

Homosexual or extra-marital sexual relations, including adultery, are illegal and can be subject to severe penalties. It’s also illegal to be transgender. Transgender people travelling to Saudi Arabia are likely to face significant difficulties and risks if this is discovered by the authorities. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Penalties for the possession of, or trade in alcohol are severe. Both result in prison sentences. Do not arrive in Saudi Arabia under the influence of alcohol.

If you bring medication with you, carry a doctor’s prescription.

Importing pork products is forbidden.

The possession of pornographic material, or of illustrations of scantily dressed people, especially women, is prohibited.

Electronic devices may be screened by customs officials on arrival and departure.

The punishment for smuggling drugs includes the death penalty.

Photographing government buildings, military installations, and palaces is not allowed.  You should avoid photographing local people. Binoculars should not be brought into Saudi Arabia and may be confiscated at the port of entry.

It’s illegal to hold 2 passports in Saudi Arabia. Second passports will be confiscated by the immigration authorities if they’re discovered.

You should carry a photocopy of your passport for identification. Make sure you have included emergency contact details.

The Saudi legal system differs in many ways from the UK. Suspects can be held without charge and are not always allowed quick access to legal representation. The Saudi authorities have detained witnesses and victims of crimes. If you need consular assistance, British Embassy staff will try to visit you as soon as they are aware of the case, but in some instances Embassy staff have not been permitted to do so immediately or have had access limited.

Anyone involved in a commercial dispute with a Saudi company or individual may be prevented from leaving the country pending resolution of the dispute. Government bodies often retain passports for official purposes; sponsors also sometimes retain passports, although this is illegal.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Saudi Arabia on the TravelHealthPro website

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Saudia Arabia.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Other health risks

Contagious diseases spread quickly, particularly during Hajj and Ramadan. Flu, colds and respiratory problems are very common. Bring basic medicines with you and consume adequate liquids and salts. During the period of Hajj and Umrah, pilgrims must have a valid certificate of vaccination against the ACWY strains of meningitis. See this NaTHNaC factsheet.

Cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus in patients from Saudi Arabia have been reported to the World Health Organization. For the latest information and advice, see the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Local medical care

Healthcare facilities in major cities are of a high standard. Most towns have a health centre or basic hospital. Serious cases may mean a transfer by ambulance or by air to hospitals in a major city that might be some distance away. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 997 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Pharmacies are common and can be found easily, particularly in the big cities. All hospitals will have a dispensing pharmacy and a number of international brands can be found in shopping malls and plazas. UK prescriptions are not honoured in Saudi Arabia. Prescriptions must be issued by a doctor registered and licensed by the Saudi Commission for Health Specialities (SCFHS).

Flooding

Heavy rains can cause flooding between November and February. During this period you should check weather forecasts in the two English language newspapers (Arab News and Saudi Gazette) follow any advice issued by the Civil Defence.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

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