125 volts, 50Hz, but 215 volts, 60Hz in some (more
Arabic is the official language in Saudi Arabia, but
English is widely understood.
Service charge is usually included in bills at hotels. Elsewhere
a tip of 10% can be offered for services rendered. Taxi drivers can
be given 10% of the fare.
Travel safety in Saudi Arabia is a concern. The US and British
authorities believe terrorists may be planning further attacks
against Westerners and in places associated with Westerners in
Saudi Arabia following recent incidents in which foreign nationals
were killed. Aviation interests remain a possible terrorist target.
Attacks in the past have included kidnappings, targeted shootings
and bombings of shopping areas, government offices and car bombs.
Visitors who choose to risk entering the country should ensure they
have individual security arrangements, remain vigilant, keep a low
profile and avoid public gatherings. Visitors should be
particularly alert in public places frequented by foreigners such
as shopping malls, restaurants and hotels and in the desert outside
Riyadh. Pilgrims are increasingly being targeted by pickpockets in
Mecca and Medina and are advised to take care of personal
possessions. In recent years pilgrims have died due to overcrowding
and stampedes at events during Haj. Religious police patrols
rigorously enforce codes of behaviour and dress prescribed by
Islamic law and visitors should respect these.
Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country in which Islamic law is
strictly enforced. No alcohol, pork products or religious books and
artefacts not related to Islam are permitted in the country. There
are no bars in Saudi Arabia, and alcohol is served nowhere to
anyone of any religious persuasion. Dress should be conservative at
all times, and women should take particular care not to offend.
Visitors are advised to familiarise themselves with behaviour and
dress codes before entering the country. Homosexual behaviour and
adultery are illegal and can carry the death penalty. Photography
of local people, government buildings, military installations and
palaces is not allowed, and women are not permitted to drive.
Religious customs should be respected, particularly during the
month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight
hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture.
The right hand should be used for everything, including eating and
the giving and receiving of things, as the left is considered
unclean. It is illegal to hold two passports, and second passports
will be confiscated if discovered by immigration authorities.
Saudi Arabia has a good telephone network. The country code is
+966 and the outgoing international code 00, followed by the
relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). City/area codes
are in use, e.g. (0)1 for Riyadh. Mobile telephone service
providers operate GSM 900 networks, and there are Internet
facilities in most cities.
Travellers to Saudi Arabia do not have to pay duty on 600
cigarettes or 100 cigars or 500g tobacco; or perfume or cultured
pearls for personal use. Duty is payable on cameras and other
electronic goods, and refunds on these are available if the
articles are re-exported within 90 days. Strictly prohibited are
food products and carbonated water, animals and birds and palm
trees or derivatives thereof. Other prohibited items include
alcohol, firearms, drugs, pork products and natural pearls.