The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia received hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, many entering this oil rich nation on business trips. Saudi Arabia is accessible via flights to the three main airports – Riyadh, Jeddah and Damman and travellers are strongly advised to be aware of the clear cultural differences and visa requirements that are permitted when travelling to Saudi Arabia.
ACE Travel Management have put together a Business Guide which covers traveller safety, business etiquette and local advice, their experienced consultants would be happy to provide further assistance with organising your travel arrangements.
Spotlight on Saudi Arabia
Please note: information provided is correct at time of going to press and to be used for reference purposes only. For up to date travel information and advice please check the foreign Office website: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/saudi-arabia
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 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.
If you are looking to do business in Saudi Arabia, prepare yourself for a unique experience. The Saudi corporate world is perhaps the most foreign of any of the Gulf nations, and in all likelihood you are going to have to remain flexible and to learn new skills, in order to make a real success of your time in the country. It is vitally important to understand that Saudi society is underpinned by fervent belief in the tenets of Islam. The business culture of Saudi Arabia is prototypically Arabic, in that a great emphasis is placed on personal relationships between business associates - Saudi businessmen will always prefer to do business with people they are familiar with, or people who they feel they can trust, so it is worth putting in the time and effort to cultivate business relationships. In Saudi Arabia, business meetings will most likely be lengthy, and subject to numerous interruptions and personal digressions. You will be judged on your conduct in meetings, so treat them as necessary parts of the relationship-building process. Despite the heat, business dress in Saudi Arabia is strictly smart, formal and conservative, especially for women, who must take extreme care not to wear anything too revealing. Women may also need an arranged escort for conducting business. Hours of business are generally from 8am to 12pm, and then 3pm to 6pm, from Saturday to Thursday.
Anyone arriving in Saudi Arabia from a country infected with yellow fever requires a vaccination certificate for entry. People travelling to perform Hajj and Umrah are required to be inoculated against meningitis before travel and must present a vaccination certificate on arrival; a meningococcal vaccine is recommended for all travellers. Respiratory infections are common among pilgrims during the Hajj season. Not compulsory, but definitely advisable, is vaccination against hepatitis A, polio and typhoid fever. There is a malaria risk in the south and parts of the western region of the country and visitors should take advice on anti-malarial precautions at least four weeks before leaving; an outbreak of cerebral malaria has occurred in Jizan. Rift Valley Fever has also occurred, mainly in the Jizan area. Dengue fever has been reported. Food poisoning is a risk outside the good hotels. Visitors should only drink bottled water. The standard of medical care and facilities in Saudi Arabia is high, but treatment is expensive, therefore health insurance is strongly advised for all travellers.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS FOR UK NATIONALS
British passport holders require a passport that is valid for six months from the date of arrival, and a visa to enter Saudi Arabia is required. Ensure that you gain a visa prior to confirming any travel arrangements. Business Visas will require a Letter of Invitation and Business Invitation letter to be submitted with the visa application.
Travel to Saudi Arabia
King Khalid International Airport (RUH) is located 22 miles (35km) from Riyadh city centre. British Airways and Saudi Arabian airlines operate flights from Heathrow.
King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) is situated 12 miles (19km) from Jeddah. British Airways and Saudi Arabian airlines operate flights from Heathrow.
King Fahd International Airport (DMM) is located 30 miles (50km) northwest of Damman, in eastern Saudi Arabia. Indirect flights operate via Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Istanbul to name but a few.
Saudi Arabia has a typical desert climate of blistering hot days and cool nights, and is one of the driest countries in the world. Summers can be extremely hot with temperatures rising to 130ºF (55ºC) in some areas. The higher inland areas are cooler. Coastal cities are humid and hot year round. Sandstorms blow anywhere in the country, some lasting for days.
You won't find a street in Riyadh that doesn't have a string of shopping malls, boutiques, or markets. One of the biggest and fanciest shopping malls in Riyadh is Al Faisaliah on Olaya Road, which also has a fun park in the basement and is open to families and single women only from Wednesday to Friday. Al Mamlaka, also on Olaya Road, has a third floor Ladies Kingdom reserved exclusively for women. Kingdom tower offers great deals on luxury brands. Other popular malls include Sahara Mall on King Abdul Aziz Road, and Granada Mall near the airport. Shopping centres can be confusing to foreign visitors, however, as most have some restrictions on visiting hours for men, women and families, so it's best to be sure of restrictions before visiting.. Riyadh also has a few traditional souks, including Souq al-Thumairi, which is most popular with tourists for its wide range of Arabic goods and English-speaking touts. Remember in Riyadh markets, haggling is obligatory. Shopping in Riyadh is tax-free, so you can find good deals on luxury brands and high-end products. Popular Riyadh souvenirs include Persian rugs, leathergoods and handbags, and local jewellery.
Duty of Care
ACE Travel Management can support your organisations duty of care obligations by supporting your business travel requirements to Saudi Arabia. Travellers will have access to support 24/7 and will be given visa and travel safety advice at time of booking.
|LANGUAGE:||Arabic, English is widely used|
|CURRENCY:||RIYAL (SAR) divided in 100 halala|
|TIPPING:||Service at hotels included, elsewhere 10%|
|COMMS:||International dialling code +966|
|Mobile coverage is extensive|