Saudi Arabia travel guide, including map of Saudi Arabia, top Saudi travel experiences, tips for travel in Saudi Arabia, plus advice for women travellers

For Muslims, Saudi Arabia is the world’s greatest travel destination – the home of Mecca, and the object of the haj pilgrimage.

For non-Muslims, on the other hand, it is an undeniably challenging place to travel – this is an orthodox Islamic country with an often dim view of the West. Wanderlust readers voted the country their least desirable destination in 2008. Tourist groups require a police escort, alcohol is forbidden, and all women are expected to wear the abaya – a long, black gown – in public.

For those who persevere, though, treasures await. The Nabatean rock city of Madain Saleh – world-famous Petra’s little-known twin sister – heads a long list of ancient and natural attractions: mountain walking, one of the world’s greatest deserts, Mecca itself, houses hewn from coral, spectacular diving and table-groaning Bedouin feasts.

And beyond the sights, there’s the cultural divide itself. Troubling but fascinating, Saudi Arabia presents a moral code at odds with Western norms. For visitors and expats who make the effort to understand it, that contrast is perhaps its most revealing and remarkable feature.

Wanderlust recommends

  1. Visit the deserted Nabatean city of Madain Saleh – the twin sister to world famous Petra in neighbouring Jordan
  2. See ancient pre-Islamic rock art in Jubba
  3. Marvel at the soaring modern architecture of desert capital Riyadh
  4. Lose yourself amidst the spices, incense and prayer mats of Jeddah’s souk
  5. Go diving among the sunken wrecks in the Red Sea at uncrowded Yanbu
  6. Enjoy some alone time in the Empty Quarter, the largest continuous body of sand in the world

Wanderlust tips


Few western tour operators feature Saudi Arabia. Groups of four or more travellers can obtain a visa through a licensed tour operator in Saudi Arabia, which will also create your tour.

Women under 30 must travel with their husband, father or brother. For more on Saudi etiquette, read our guide to Middle East customs in the Advice area of the site.


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