With spectacular natural and man-made wonders, drastically beautiful landscapes and a new e-visa regime that allows easy access to the country, you might be thinking of adding Saudi Arabia to your travel list. However, if you are a woman, you might be caught asking yourself the questions: “Can I go? And is it even safe?”
Short answer: Yes and Yes!
Saudi Arabia is definitely safe for women to travel with a partner or even solo. In saying this though, travel to Saudi Arabia isn’t like your average trip to Jordan or Dubai. There are different expectations here and there are different rules that you should follow that may vary in different parts of the country.
While we say that it is safe for females, we haven’t necessarily said that it is easy and there are a few points that you should follow.
Most commonly discussed – dress code
Legally speaking you don’t have to wear a headscarf or abaya, however, outside of Jeddah or Riyadh you will rarely see women not wearing it. If you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb it is recommended to wear it.
Interacting with men
This is a difficult topic as each person will react differently when speaking with foreign women. Some of the most conservative men may talk to you about taboo topics because foreigners sit in a grey area, while that same man may have never seen a female relative without the face covering. Some men may not speak to you and you may find it very difficult to interact with women, as they may be hard to come by.
Foreign women sit in a strange grey area, where you will be allowed to do things Saudi women can’t, but won’t be able to do all the things a foreign male counterpart may be able to do.
Eating may be difficult. Even though segregation in restaurants legally has ended, some places still practise it and will not let women sit in the men’s section. Further, if there is no family section then women will be restricted to ordering takeaway. There are signs of this slowly changing however.
Saudi Arabia has undergone immense reforms in the last few years and such changes won’t happen overnight. We expect that it will get easier for women to travel in Saudi Arabia in the future, however if you have itchy feet and can’t wait to get over there now then it is certainly safe to do so. Just be prepared to follow strict Islamic laws and rules which may contradict how you live in your home country.