Saudi Arabia Traveler Information - Travel Advice
Travel Advice with a Travel Advisory overview from the US State Department. Here we cover Visa, Safety & Security, local Laws and Insurance in our Saudi Arabia Traveler Information guide.
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Note: Always check that your destination country is one approved for travel by your travel insurance provider.
PASSPORT VALIDITY: A valid passport is required for U.S. citizens to enter or exit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A minimum of six months’ validity beyond the date of travel is recommended.
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES: One page required for entry stamp.
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED: Yes.
VACCINATIONS: Required for certain visa classes.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY: More than 16,000 USD must be declared. Customs details are here.
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT: More than 16,000 USD must be declared. Customs details are here.
Embassies and Consulates
The normal work week in Saudi Arabia is Sunday through Thursday.
U.S. Embassy Riyadh
Abdullah Ibn Hudhafah As Sahmi Street
Roundabout no. 9, Diplomatic Quarter
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Telephone: (966) (11) 488-3800
Emergency Telephone: (966) (11) 488-3800
Fax: (966) (11) 488-7670
U.S. Consulate General Jeddah
Al Safa Street, Al Muhammadiyah District, near the new American School building.
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Telephone: (966) (12) 220-5000
Fax: (966) (12) 220-5093
U.S. Consulate General Dhahran
Between KFUPM and King Abdulaziz Airbase,
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Telephone: (966) (13) 330-3200
Emergency Telephone: (966) (13) 330-3200
Fax: (966) (13) 330-6816
Read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Saudi Arabia for information on U.S.-Saudi Arabia relations.
Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements
See the Embassy of Saudi Arabia’s website for visa information.
A valid passport.
Tourist visas may be obtained in advance of travel or upon arrival at an international airport. Tourist visas valid for multiple entries during a twelve-month period are available through the Saudi government’s tourist visa portal VisitSaudi.com or at airport kiosks upon arrival. All other types of visas, including five-year multiple entry tourist visas, are only available through a Saudi embassy or consulate. For residency permit-holders (iqama), an exit/reentry permit is required to leave Saudi Arabia as well as six month’s validity on your passport to request an exit/reentry permit.
- Saudi law requires that residency permit-holders carry their residency card (iqama) at all times while in the Kingdom. Failure to do so could result in a fine of 3,000 Saudi riyals and a jail sentence of six weeks.
- Females and minors may require a male guardian’s permission to leave the country, including U.S. citizens or dual-nationals.
- You must exit Saudi Arabia using the passport for the nationality corresponding to the one on which you entered Saudi Arabia.
Further information can be found on the website of the U.S. Mission in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi law requires all Saudi citizens to enter and depart the country with a Saudi travel document. If you enter the country on a Saudi laissez-passer (temporary travel document), you may encounter difficulty leaving the Kingdom.
Saudi embassies do not have the authority to adjudicate citizenship claims or issue passports, but they may issue a laissez-passer for presumed Saudi citizens for whom citizenship has not been adjudicated, such as children of a Saudi parent or parents who were married outside of Saudi Arabia. Once admitted to Saudi Arabia on a laissez-passer, the traveler must obtain a Saudi passport before leaving the country. Saudi nationality is not conferred quickly or easily, and the processing time for a Saudi passport in these cases has often been six months or years in some cases. Obtaining a U.S. passport will not help, as you will not be able to leave Saudi Arabia without an exit visa which will not be granted if you entered as a Saudi citizen.
The Department strongly recommends that U.S. citizens enter Saudi Arabia on a U.S. passport and Saudi visa, and not a laissez-passer.
Length of Stay: Bearers of tourist visas are generally admitted for a 90-day stay and may not remain in the Kingdom more than 180 days in a twelve month period. Carefully check your visa validity and length of stay granted, and clarify any questions on permitted length of stay with Saudi immigration officials on arrival. Dates are calculated in accordance with the Hijri calendar, which differs from the Gregorian calendar.
If you overstay your visa, you could face significant fines, detention, and/or deportation, and a ban from returning to Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. Embassy is unable to intercede, reduce fines, or prevent incarceration if you violate Saudi law.
Travel Bans: When placed under a travel ban, you cannot exit the country, even if you are a U.S. citizen or a dual U.S.-Saudi citizen. Travel bans are rigidly enforced and can take months or even years to resolve. Only Saudi Arabian authorities and sponsors can remove travel bans.
The government may issue travel bans on people who are/have:
- charged with criminal offenses;
- under investigation;
- involved in financial or labor disputes;
- failed to report to work according to the terms of the contract (absconded);
- unpaid debts or who have passed bad checks.
The list above is not exhaustive. Private Saudi citizens may also initiate travel bans against foreign citizens for various reasons.
HIV/AIDS: To obtain work and residence permits, you are required to obtain a medical report or physical examination confirming that you are free from contagious diseases, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. If you test positive for HIV/AIDS or hepatitis, you will not be allowed to work in the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia has not imposed HIV/AIDS or hepatitis travel restrictions on other categories of travelers. Please inquire directly with the Embassy of Saudi Arabia before you travel.
Vaccinations: Visitors to Saudi Arabia should check vaccination requirements on the Saudi Ministry of Health website.
Yemen Travel: The Department strongly advises U.S. citizens against travel to Yemen due to the ongoing conflict in that country. See our Yemen Travel Advisory for further information. A visa is required to enter Saudi Arabia, and Saudi authorities generally do not permit foreign citizens to enter Saudi Arabia using land border crossings from Yemen. The Embassy and Consulates General cannot provide assistance to U.S. citizens seeking to cross the Yemeni-Saudi border.
Qatar Travel: All land border crossings with Qatar have been closed, and there are no direct flights between Saudi Arabia and Qatar due to an ongoing political dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar since June 2017.
Safety and Security
The Department of State advises you to exercise increased caution when traveling to Saudi Arabia due to terrorism and the threat of missile and drone attacks on civilian targets. See the Travel Advisory for Saudi Arabia here.
Do not travel:
- Within 50 miles of the border with Yemen due to terrorism and armed conflict.
Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Saudi Arabia. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities. Terrorists have targeted both Saudi and Western government interests, mosques and other religious sites (both Sunni and Shia), and places frequented by U.S. citizens and other Westerners.
Houthis operating in Yemen have fired long-range missiles into Saudi Arabia, specifically targeting populated areas and civilian infrastructure; they have publicly stated their intent to continue doing so. Missile attacks have targeted major cities such as Riyadh and Jeddah, Riyadh’s international airport, Saudi Aramco facilities, and vessels in Red Sea shipping lanes. Rebel groups are also in possession of unmanned aerial systems (UASs or drones) which they have used to target civilian infrastructure and military facilities in Saudi Arabia. U.S. citizens living and working on or near such installations, particularly in areas near the border with Yemen, are at heightened risk of missile and drone attack.
On October 11, 2018 the Saudi General Authority for Civil Aviation issued a Notice to Airmen about threats to civil aviation and airports in Saudi Arabia posed by missiles and UASs launched from Yemen. For more information, U.S. citizens should consult the U.S. Government’s Defense Internet NOTAM Service (Type “OEJD” in the search field, then click “View NOTAMs,” then scroll down to W0438/18 and click to view).
The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in the following locations as U.S. government personnel and their families are restricted from travel to:
- Within 50 miles of the Saudi-Yemen border, including the cities of Jizan and Najran;
- Qatif in the Eastern province and its suburbs, including Awamiyah.
Crime: Crime in Saudi Arabia has increased over recent years but remains at levels far below most major metropolitan areas in the United States.
- You should be aware of your surroundings, keep valuables out of sight and secure, and travel with a companion, if possible.
- Some Saudi citizens who perceive that a foreigner is not observing conservative standards of conduct or dress have been known to harass, pursue, or assault that person.
- Even when released from detention, witnesses to criminal incidents may be prohibited from leaving the country until investigation of the incident is complete.
Victims of Crime: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime, you should contact the local police at “999” and contact the Embassy in Riyadh or one of the Consulates in Jeddah or Dhahran.Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
See the Department of State’s webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
The Department can:
- help you identify appropriate medical care;
- assist you in reporting a crime to the police;
- contact relatives or friends with your written consent;
- explain the local criminal justice process in general terms;
- provide a list of local attorneys;
- provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.;
- provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution;
- help you find accommodation and arrange flights home;
- replace a stolen or lost passport.
Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in/near major cities. First responders are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities and to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
Dual Citizenship: Saudi Arabia generally does not recognize dual nationality. Saudi law requires Saudi citizens to obtain official permission from the government before obtaining a second nationality. At times, Saudi authorities have confiscated the passports of U.S. citizens applying for Saudi citizenship. This does not constitute loss of U.S. citizenship. If this happens to you or someone you know, report the incident to the U.S. Embassy.
Drones: The importation of drones for commercial or personal use is prohibited without prior approval from the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA). A customs clearance certificate authorizing importation can be obtained as part of the GACA approval process. Visit GACA’s website for further information.
Faith-Related Travel Issues: Islam is the official religion of the country and is present in all aspects of life in Saudi Arabia. See our Hajj and Umrah Fact Sheet.
- Saudi authorities do not permit criticism of Islam or Muslim religious figures, including on social media.
- The government prohibits the public practice of religions other than Islam. Non-Muslims suspected of violating these restrictions have been jailed and/or deported. Church services in private homes have been raided, and participants have been jailed and/or deported.
- Muslims who do not adhere to the strict interpretation of Islam prevalent in much of Saudi Arabia may encounter societal discrimination and constraints on public worship.
- Public display of non-Islamic religious articles, such as crosses and Bibles, is not permitted.
- Non-Muslims are forbidden to travel to Mecca and parts of Medina, the cities where two of Islam’s holiest mosques are located.
- See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report.
LGBTI Travelers: Same-sex sexual relations, even when consensual, are criminalized in Saudi Arabia. Violations of Saudi laws governing perceived expressions of, or support for, same-sex sexual relations, including on social media, may be subject to severe punishment. Potential penalties include fines, jail time, or death. See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of the Department of State's Human Rights report for further details.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what is generally found in the United States. Saudi law does not prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities, and there is no legislation requiring public accessibility. Newer commercial and government buildings, however, often include such access. According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, there are numerous government-sponsored centers for people with disabilities. Note that Saudi Arabia has limited infrastructure to care for those with mental disabilities.
Women Residents and Travelers: Married women, including non-Saudis, require their husband's permission to depart the country, while unmarried women and children require the permission of their father or male guardian.
Minor children must have their father’s permission in order to leave the Kingdom. Children visiting their fathers in Saudi Arabia, even when there is a custody agreement, can be prevented from leaving unless the father consents. This is true even if the child is an American citizen. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates cannot obtain exit visas for the departure of minor children without their father/guardian's permission.
If a foreigner and a Saudi living in Saudi Arabia divorce, Saudi courts rarely grant permission for the foreign parent to leave the country with the children born during the marriage, even if he or she has been granted physical custody.
Foreign mothers of Saudi children, who are divorced or widowed, may apply for a permanent residency permit(iqama) without the need for a sponsor. To do so, they must prove maternity and that they were legally married to the Saudi father.
Also see the Department’s travel tips for Women Travelers.
- Saudi customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning the importation of such banned items as alcohol, weapons, and any item that is held to be contrary to the tenets of Islam (such as pork, anything considered pornographic under strict Islamic principles, and religious materials).
- Imported and domestic audiovisual media and reading matter are censored.
- Christmas and other holiday decorations, fashion magazines, and "suggestive" videos may be confiscated and the owner subject to penalties and fines.
- Electronic devices may be subject to inspection upon entry or exit. Please see the Department’s Customs Information page as well as the Saudi Customs webpage.
Importing Animals: The Saudi Ministry of Agriculture must approve all pets imported into Saudi Arabia.
- Cats and dogs entering Saudi Arabia require a Veterinary Health Certificate and a dated letter from the veterinary practitioner addressed to his/her sponsor to obtain the necessary approval from the Ministry of Agriculture.
- Both documents must be authenticated by the Department of Agriculture Veterinary Service Office and the State Department's Authentications Office and attested by the Embassy of Saudi Arabia.
- The certificate must indicate that the animal was examined and is free from disease and confirm that rabies and other vaccines are current. Information on the name, breed, sex, color, and age of the animal must also be stated.
- Please see additional information on taking a pet overseas.
Standards of Conduct and Religious Police: Norms for public behavior in Saudi Arabia are extremely conservative. Both the uniformed police and the religious police, referred to colloquially as the mutawwa or al-hay’a, are charged with enforcing these standards.
- Mutawwa are required to carry special identification and usually are accompanied by uniformed police.
- While a 2016 government decree withdrew the authority of the mutawwa to make arrests independently of regular police forces, visitors should be prudent in their interactions with mutawwa.
- An individual must, if requested, present his/her residence permit (iqama) or other identification to the mutawwa or the police.
- U.S. citizens who are involved in an incident with the mutawwa should report the incident to the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh or the U.S. Consulates General in Jeddah or Dhahran.
In most areas of Saudi Arabia, and particularly in Riyadh and the central part of the Kingdom, women wear a full-length covering known as an abaya. Most women in conservative areas also cover their hair with a hijab for modesty, and many also cover their faces with a niqab.
Tourists are expected to dress modestly in public, avoiding tight fitting clothing or clothes with profane language or images; women are not required to wear abayas or cover their hair but are expected to cover their shoulders and knees, and men should not go without a shirt. Women who choose not to conform to Saudi Arabia’s dress code face a risk of confrontation by mutawwa, negative or hostile comments by Saudi citizens, and possible detention Guidelines on public decorum for tourists are available at the Saudi government’s official tourism website, www.visitsaudi.com. Many areas of life in Saudi Arabia are segregated by sex to ensure that unrelated men and women have no possibility of mingling (a punishable crime) by unmarried men and women. Less frequently, members of the mutawwa try to enforce this by asking for proof that a couple is married or related. Men and women detained for socializing with individuals who are not relatives may be charged with moral crimes such as khulwa (mixing with unrelated members of the opposite sex). Less frequently, some restaurants may refuse to serve women who are not accompanied by a close male relative In addition, a few restaurants or cafes do not have a "family section" in which women are permitted to eat. Men not accompanied by a close female family member are not allowed to enter family sections and cannot use services (such as registers at supermarkets) designated as “family.” These restrictions are not always clearly posted.
While there are now movie theaters, musical concerts, and artistic performances in Saudi Arabia, the country remains socially conservative. Social media postings which contravene cultural standards can have legal and/or criminal consequences.
Photography: The Saudi government does not permit photography of governmental facilities, such as military bases and government buildings, nor military, security, or police personnel. The Saudi government is also sensitive to photographs that may be perceived as portraying the country in an unfavorable light. This policy can include photos of mosques, impoverished areas, the local population, and traditional souks (markets). You should not take anyone’s picture without clear consent, and never take a picture of a woman or a place where women congregate. Be aware of local sensitivities whenever you are taking pictures in public. U.S. citizens have been routinely detained for violating these policies. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates General are unable to intervene if you violate Saudi law.
The Hajj and Umrah: Please review the Department of State’s Hajj and Umrah Fact Sheet for useful information on traveling to perform the Hajj or Umrah.
Medical care varies greatly in quality, and high-profile cases of medical malpractice and errors have occurred. Consult your regular physician if you are considering serious medical treatment in Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulates General do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers in Saudi Arabia accept cash or credit card payments. See the Department’s webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. Supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation is strongly recommended. If you are covered by Saudi insurance, be sure to read the fine print: local insurance can have exclusions that are unusual in the United States. For example, some local policies may not supply coverage for accidents that occur while engaging in adventure sports, such as riding quad vehicles in the desert, that are a common past-time for expatriates.
If traveling with prescription medication, check with the government of Saudi Arabia to ensure the medication is legal in Saudi Arabia. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription.
- Saudi Arabia has a dry climate with extreme heat several months of the year – travelers should stay hydrated.
- Air pollution is a significant concern in many parts of Saudi Arabia including Riyadh, Al Jubail, Jeddah, and Dammam.
- Many infectious diseases, such as measles, typhoid, dengue, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), are present in Saudi Arabia.
Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For further health information, go to:
Travel and Transportation
Road Conditions and Safety: Driving in Saudi Arabia can be hazardous due to speeding and aggressive driving, lax enforcement of traffic regulations, and a high volume of traffic.
Beginning on June 24, 2018, women have been able to obtain a driver’s license and can legally drive in Saudi Arabia. With a valid visitor visa and U.S. or international driver’s license, visitors may drive a rental car. However, outside the major cities of Riyadh, Dhahran and Jeddah, visitors—especially women—may experience difficulty renting a car. Female residents with independent sponsorships and U.S. or international driver’s licenses also may obtain a Saudi driver’s license, necessary to drive vehicles other than rental cars. Foreign women residing in Saudi Arabia who are listed as dependents on their Saudi residency permit (“iqama”) may experience difficulties in obtaining Saudi driver’s licenses. To drive vehicles other than rental cars, a Saudi driver’s license, appropriate car registration, and auto insurance are required. Police may detain you if you cannot produce these documents.
See the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior website for further information.
- Temporary visitors may drive using their valid U.S. or international driver's license for up to 90 days.
- Foreigners resident in Saudi Arabia who wish to drive must obtain a local driver's license from the Department of Traffic Police.
- In the event of a traffic accident, U.S. citizens should dial “993” to report the accident. You must remain on the scene until the traffic police arrive. Failure to do so can result in a criminal offense.
- Additionally, U.S. citizens should contact Najm, a private company contracted by the traffic police to complete the accident report (+966 9200 00560).
- In the event of a traffic accident resulting in personal injury, everyone involved (if not seriously injured) is likely be taken to the local police station.
- All drivers, regardless of fault, can be held in custody for several days until responsibility is determined and any reparations paid.
- Use of front seat belts (driver and passenger) is required by law.
- U.S. citizens involved in a serious accident resulting in injury or death should immediately contact their sponsors and the U.S. Embassy or nearest U.S. Consulate.
- Residents should update their personal details through one of the methods available here to receive SMS notifications once a traffic ticket is issued.
- Delay in payment of any ticket might result in doubling of the ticket amount.
- Travelers will need to pay any fines issued through this system before leaving the country.
- U.S. Government employees are prohibited from using taxis in Saudi Arabia with the exception of Uber Black in Riyadh, Kareem First in Jeddah, and Majestic taxi service in Dhahran. If you must use a taxi, only use established companies, such as those offering cabs with meters. Taxis and lift services are available throughout major cities, and you should arrange a pickup by telephone or via smartphone app when possible.
- Avoid sitting in the front seat of a taxi, do not travel to unfamiliar areas, and do not enter taxis with unknown passengers.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Saudi Arabia's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization aviation safety standards for oversight of Saudi Arabia's air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA safety assessment page.
Information for Mariners:
Mariners should also review U.S. maritime alerts and advisories on the Maritime Security Communications with Industry Web Portal.
For additional travel information
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution and Travel Advisories.
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
- See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.
International Parental Child Abduction
Review information about International Parental Child Abduction in Saudi Arabia. For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (ICAPRA) report.
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