Taking a break from work is a welcome relief everyone is looking forward to doing. That’s no different in Saudi Arabia, where culture is more conservative and weather can be extreme. With restrictions in place, it’s prudent to be prepared to ensure a seamless travel with less stress along the way.
Whether you are traveling out or within Saudi Arabia, there are things that you should not miss.
Get the right luggage weight
Some airlines offer leniency when it comes to the weight of check in baggage, especially for loyal, frequent travelers. But in some instances, especially during peak seasons when booking is tight, certain airlines are less tolerant with excess baggage.
Saudia, for example, imposes a 23 kilogram limit and requests passengers to rearrange luggage to reach the said limit. In case you are carrying in excess of the standard luggage allowance, purchase extra to suit your needs such as additional piece of luggage or bulky items like sports equipment.
Call credit card companies to confirm travel
Some overzealous credit card companies automatically red flag transactions that are made outside of your home country as a way to prevent fraud. But at some point it could also provide inconvenience especially when you run out of cash and card is the only option.
Arrange for mail pickup at post office
If you are leaving the house and expect some parcels or bulk delivery in the mailbox, it is advisable to arrange pickup at the post office. If expected delivery is large and bulky, consider moving the delivery date or consider using services such as Parcel Stations at Saudi Post.
Bring enough cash
Use of ATM is widespread across big cities in Saudi Arabia, but just to be sure, withdraw money from an ATM nearby as an alternative method of payment especially if credit card and debit card options are unavailable.
Bring health kit
Travelers are sometimes susceptible to certain conditions during the journey so bringing a small health kit provides instant relief not only for travelers but also fellow tourists. Have a handy supply of bandage, cotton balls, tablets for relief of travel sickness, diarrhea or fever.
On that note, water is not safe to drink and you should rely on bottled water to hydrate while outdoors.
MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) has been identified in multiple countries in the Arabian Peninsula, including in travelers to the region. So as preventive measures, travelers are advised to wash hands thoroughly when touching animals and avoid in touch with sick animals.
Bring travel adapter and power plug
Check your destination’s power plug, and make sure you have an appropriate adaptor if it’s different from what you are using. It is possible to borrow from hotel desks or buy at your destination, but it can be a gamble you could lose if there’s none available at the concierge or nearby electronic store is a mile away.
In Saudi Arabia the power plugs and sockets are of type G, similar to those used in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, UAE and Malaysia.
Pack healthy snacks
If you are traveling with children weary of long hours on the road, prepare a pack of snacks as they deal with possible extended travel.
Download movie, music for offline entertainment
If you have subscribed to streaming services such as Netflix or Spotify, make sure you download episodes of movies or TV shows, songs or podcasts for offline consumption.
Confirm bank withdrawal settings
Amid rising number of cases of online banking fraud and cybertheft, banks have put in place another layer of protection for customers. This includes requiring account holders to explicitly set a timeframe and withdrawal authorization when performed in a foreign country.
Your bank may require you to set this setting while using the ATM booth, so check if this is in place and you’ll be prepared to make necessary withdrawal limits and other settings.
Update bills to autopay
May your extended holiday not be a reason for service disconnection in case you need to manually pay your bills when they arrive. Arrange for autopay so when utility bills arrive, they get settled automatically. If you wish to check every bill as they arrive before paying them, you can always disable the autopay option.
Buy travel insurance
Even if Saudi Arabia provides good coverage of health benefits, other things beyond health and well-being could put a stinger in even to the most well-prepared travelers. Lost or stolen wallets and luggage or delayed or cancelled flights are some of the common mishaps that cost time and money especially during peak travel season.
Print copies of passport, visa, hotel booking and air tickets
As a means of security measure, always make a copy of your travel documents such as passport, hotel booking, airline e-ticket confirmation, train passes and visa pages. In this way, it becomes easier to track your travel progress as you go along. You also don’t have to bring your passport all the time for identification and minimize chances of losing it.
Review itineraries and schedules
A week before your travel, review your trip details thoroughly to ensure everything is covered. Sometimes, when confusion during booking sets in, travelers who hop from one city to another may find that a hotel room was booked even while they’re still in transit and not haven’t arrived yet. Or those who are unsure of airline flight time may arrive at the airport at 12noon for a 3pm flight when they are supposed to fly at 3 in the morning that day.
When you arrive in Saudi Arabia
Wear comfortable clothing based on destination weather
Sweatpants are ideal for long-haul travel as they provide comfort during airport transits and layovers as well as warmth when cabin temperatures drop. Depending on the time of the year and destination’s climate, you can always anticipate what they weather’s like and bring appropriate clothing.
For example, if you are traveling around Saudi Arabia during winter season, jackets and thermal clothing suits best for travelers.
Wear modest clothing
It is advisable for women to wear abaya (a full-length garment to cover outfit) or equivalent clothing that reflects respect of local culture. Although headscarf is not required, wearing one properly is another sign of respect to locally accepted dress code. And though dressing conservatively for women is more important, dress codes also apply to men. This can be a full-length trouser and sleeved shirts — short sleeved clothing is accepted.
Be aware of photography restrictions
Unlike many other places, Saudi Arabia imposes tough restrictions on photography that you cannot just take pictures of any object in sight. You may not take photos of government and military facilities, Muslim women and palaces. It is better safe than sorry so don’t wait to see prohibition notices on places that are known off-limits to photographers.
Tip if you are happy with the service
In Saudi Arabia, tipping is considered a generous offer of thanking someone for serving you. Whether it’s the waiter, bellhop or your taxi driver. Many of these workers are migrants from other countries who made sacrifices for their families, and may not be well compensated. If you are happy with the service you received, a 10% tip is a generally accepted gesture.