Rules for travellers
It is no secret that Saudi Arabia leans on the conservative side of life. This means there are certain things travellers should be aware of before traveling to the Kingdom.
For women – It is no longer necessary that all women wear the abaya (the black shawl that covers the body) however conservative clothes must be worn that cover shoulders and knees. Women do not have to wear a headscarf and in fact in recent times you may see more and more younger women pushing the boundaries on what they can wear in public. Despite more liberal attitudes in recent years if you are traveling to rural areas, it is recommended that you er on the side of caution and maybe consider wearing an abaya.
For men – Men must also follow conservative dress codes in the kingdom and must always cover their shoulders and legs. Skinny jeans and shorts should be avoided. In some places like Jeddah, you may be able to get away with wearing shorts outside in public, however you may not be let into buildings such as malls and definitely not mosques.
Topics of discussion
Saudis love to get personal but also love their privacy. This can be tricky to navigate as you may be asked very personal questions about your life as they get to know you. If you feel uncomfortable it is ok to say you don’t want to discuss this and they will understand.
When talking about religion it is best to avoid saying you are an atheist as this is considered an extremist view. It is also recommended that you do not whatsoever criticise Islam as this is an extremely serious offence.
The Royal Family
This is something that is unescapable in the Kingdom. You will see the faces of present and previous monarchs all over the country. While it is ok to ask questions about the monarchy because their history is intrinsically tied to that of the country which shares their name, all criticism however should be avoided. In fact, talk of politics in general in a topic best left at home.
For those of you who love to snap some epic pics to show friends and family back home, Saudi Arabia will not disappoint! However photographers should avoid photographing government buildings and more importantly women. If there are people in the background you may be better off waiting until there is no one there in order to avoid offending anyone.
If you want to take someone’s photo ask them. Fortunately, if you are looking at getting pictures of famous monuments without people then Saudi is a goldmine. Saudis don’t really venture out in the middle of the day, so if you decide to visit places like Masmak Fort in Riyadh then you can expect to have the whole place to yourself.
Saudis generally eat in a traditional style where you sit on the floor and eat with your hand. Emphasis on the word HAND as you should only use your right, the left is considered dirty.
While segregation in restaurants is no longer legally mandated, you will still find many older establishments with segregates seating for men and women. Cheaper restaurants may also only have space for men.