Where: Saudi Arabia
Transport: Airlines, Car
Who: Four backpackers
Currency: Saudi Arabian Rial (SAR)
This itinerary takes you through some of the best places around Saudi Arabia for nine days, but if you have a few days more then include some of the other wonders of the country as well.
Citizens of over 49 countries can either apply for e-visa on VisitSaudi website, or get a visa on arrival. This also applies to other nationalities if you already have a US, UK, Canada or EU residency or visa. Check the website for latest updates.
A multiple-entry e-visa valid for 90 days costs $128 (payable in SAR), and similar visa on arrival costs $143. After applying for an e-visa, we got an approval within a minute!
[Sample Saudi Arabia e-visa]
There are about 3-4 operators in Saudi Arabia, and the best network across the country is with STC (Saudi Telecom Company). We got a SIM card at the STC counter at Jeddah airport. After arrival, walk straight ahead, past the center ‘fish cylinder’ and you can see different cell operators’ counters.
It costs $23 for 10GB (additional 10GB free) and 500 calls. The team at STC activated the SIM card immediately, and no additional settings were required. Note: Make sure to check your network data access as soon as you get the sim card, and if you’re unable to access data then try restarting your phone. If that doesn’t work, make sure to check with the team there at the airport STC counter.
Recharge – You can either recharge your data balance at any STC store, any mall or shop that offers STC-recharge, or by downloading an app (details on STC website)
- While we rented a car in our entire trip at different locations, there are high-speed train services available between major cities. Luxury coaches also run between cities.
- Important note: Rental cars in Saudi Arabia have limited kilometers, so make a note of the starting odometer number, and the ending when you return. Extra charges apply for any additional kilometers to the car.
- Highways in Saudi Arabia are well-paved and easy to drive on. Traffic in the cities can be insane (except Fridays)! Do not expect most locals to follow driving rules like in western nations!
- IDP (International Drivers Permit) is not required to rent a car – only your local drivers license and passport are good.
- Petrol is quite cheap compared to other countries. At the time of our visit, it was SAR 2.18-2.35 per liter.
- Most speed limits are in Arabic numbers only and speed cameras are almost everywhere. Make sure to keep below speed limits and learn Arabic numbers.
- Ride share – If you want to take a rideshare then Uber, Bolt and Careem operate all across Saudi Arabia, and Uber being the most favorite.
It is a good decision to have cash on you although most hotels, restaurants, shops and kiosks accept international credit cards (Visa and MasterCard only). But some accept only the local Mada credit card. For example, out hotel in Al Ula did not accept credit cards, but cash only.
Petrol stations do not accept international credit cards but only Mada card. Expect to pay in cash.
Exchange centers are available in big cities but don’t expect them to be available in small towns, although bank ATMs are everywhere. Most banks also accept USD, EUR and GBP to exchange currencies to SAR.
- Domestic airlines – We had issues making payment on Saudia Airlines website to book internal flights. The website will not accept international credit cards (and could be a temporary issue). So we booked internal flights using third-party apps.
- Hotels – We had booked hotels in advance using booking.com.
- Wi-Fi – Hotels have wi-fi but do not expect fast speeds. Cafes and restaurants usually do not have wi-fi.
- Tap water – Although tap water is safe to drink, it has a weird taste to it, so we highly recommend drinking bottled water.
Note: All values in USD, unless otherwise mentioned, are approximate and based on the exchange rate of USD 1 = SAR 3.65 at the time of publishing. Each cost is for one adult.
|Sim Card||$23||By STC Saudi. 20GB data + 500 mins of calling.|
|Total Costs||$23||Per person|
|Overall Costs||$23||Per person|
Planning & Information
Tips, info & details of planning.
Day 1 – NEXT »
Sights of the biggest city along the Red Sea.
Day 2 – NEXT »
Visiting the second holiest city of Islam.