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Saudi Arabia

Everything you should know for a safe and pleasant family vacation in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia makes for great family travel with many different places to see and explore

Saudi Arabia, the Middle East's largest country, occupies the majority of the Arabian Peninsula and has coastlines on both the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. The holy Muslim towns of Medina and Mecca are also located in this country, and while non-Muslims are not permitted to enter these holy sites, Muslims are required to visit them at least once in their lifetime.

Despite having the world's second-largest petroleum reserves and strong government controls over its key economic operations, Saudi Arabia has a high percentage of unemployment, owing to, amongst others a reluctance to take on many jobs, which is why the country has started to invest more in the tourism industry over recent years.

IMAGE: Saudi Arabia has been seen an influx of foreign tourists in recent years, however, most are religious pilgrims visiting Medina and Mecca, but they still account for a sizable portion of the country’s tourism industry.

What many people don’t know, is that Saudi Arabia is an excellent family vacation destination with beautiful architecture, pristine sandy beaches, and a plethora of religious, cultural, and historic attractions. Sure, there are some unsafe areas that should be avoided, particularly near the borders of Yemen and Iraq, but many people wrongly believe that travelling to Saudi Arabia with children is risky and absolutely not worth it. This is not the case and provided you follow the rules of this country, there is nothing that will prevent you from having a pleasant family holiday.

One of the biggest concerns for foreign visitors to Saudi Arabia is the situations they may find themselves in if they violate Islamic moral codes, which are unquestionably stricter than anyone outside of the United Arab Emirates can imagine. What you may consider minor or unimportant may land you in serious trouble.

IMAGE: Saudi Arabia has a strict female dress code or 'compulsory hijab' legislation. When in public, all women, whether native or foreign, must cover their heads with scarves.

Also, keep in mind that Saudi Arabia is not a welcoming place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and anything LGBT-related is prohibited.

Visa and passport requirements

In order to enter Saudi Arabia, all nationals must have a valid visa. You should also check that your passport is valid for at least six months after your intended return date from Saudi Arabia. If you are unsure about your visa status, you can visit www.doyouneedvisa.com which will tell you whether you need a visa based on your nationality and the country you intend to visit.

Other important information

Saudi Arabia has a desert environment, which is characterised by exceptionally high temperatures that can easily exceed 50 degrees Celsius. Avoid visiting the country during the months of June and September, as these are the hottest months of the year. We recommend acquiring travel insurance when visiting Saudi Arabia, just like we do anywhere else because it covers not just medical concerns but also loss or theft of personal possessions.

Do we recommend family travel to Saudi Arabia?

Without a doubt yes! The exciting aspect about Saudi Arabia is that it is a country with a vibrant culture, incredible historical sites, and distinctive and diverse landscapes. The richest country in the world due to its massive oil deposits, and the birthplace of Islam; but it is also the most isolated from the rest of the world.

IMAGE: Masjid al-Haram, also known as The Great Mosque, is the largest mosque in the world and is located in Saudi Arabia.

For many years, tourism was restricted to a few operators who were granted authorisation to bring groups to Saudi Arabia under religious tourist visas. Tourists, however, faced entry restrictions, and travel within the country was also very limited. In September 2018, this all changed with the introduction of the first Sharek tourist visas, and complete Tourist Visas were announced in September 2019.

Spell-binding natural wonders

Jabal AlFil, also known as the Elephant Rock, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Saudi Arabia's most popular tourist sites. It is also one of the world's most magnificent geological wonders and is located in the Al-'Ula neighbourhood near Mada'in Salih. It can be seen from miles away, surrounded by massive granite outcrops of all forms and sizes. According to archaeologists, the body and stem of this monolithic edifice were eroded by wind and water over millennia.

IMAGE: Be sure to visit Elephant Rock, or Jabal AlFil as it is officially known in Saudi Arabia. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Al-'Ula neighbourhood near Mada'in Salih.

Jebel Fihrayn

Saudi Arabia has no shortage of breath-taking landscapes and natural features that will take your breath away. One of these is Jebel Fihrayn, a natural marvel in a rocky golden desert northwest of Riyadh and also one of the country's top tourist attractions.

This spectacular site, aptly dubbed 'Edge of the World,' offers panoramic views of the terrain below as well as unbroken, stunning views of the unending horizon from the summit of this escarpment. Be sure to have your camera ready for this one!

Our final thoughts: Saudi Arabia makes for great family travel with many different places to see and explore. Other great places to visit while on a family vacation in Saudi Arabia include King Fahd's Fountain – the iconic fountain of Jeddah, King Abdullah Park – for a family outing in Riyadh, Riyadh Zoo – a must-see attraction for kids, Yanbu Lake – a tranquil retreat, and Yanbu Beach for endless days of leisure.

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