Traveling to Saudi Arabia for the first time

There are 195 countries in our world and as a traveler there is one country I’ve always dreamed to go to.

And this country is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

It piqued my interest because it seemed so hard, almost impossible, to obtain a visa as a casual traveler back in the days. 

And as I love the unknown and contrasts in general, Saudi Arabia was always high on my list of the countries I wanted to visit at least once in my life.

And out of the blue in September 2019 KSA announced to finally open its doors to foreigners from more than 50 countries. I just had to apply for the evisa online, pay 115 USD and A few minutes later I got my visa inside my email box.

And A few weeks later I found myself inside the country I never thought I would see with my own eyes this soon.

As one of the most conservative countries in the world with a lot of rules and different traditions KSA had quite a bad reputation thanks to the media. Which made everybody think that the kingdom has only 2 things to offer:

Its holy places and oil reserves.

But as we all know the media is only showing a small percentage of reality. So I decided to go there without any judgement and spent 4 weeks there to find out what the kingdom really has to offer to its visitors. And this is what I found out:

1 Different Culture –

Let’s get right into it: There are a lot of rules and customs which don’t always make sense to other people with a different background but those rules still have to be followed and respected. And isn’t it the best thing ever to understand how life looks like in a different part of this world? And KSA is handling a lot of things differently than a lot of other countries do. 

I could have never imagined to enter a restaurant from a different side than my male friends or even let life stop around me for 5 times a day because it’s prayer time. Driving around for hours and only seeing desert and camels or drinking boiled coffee that tastes more fragrant than any other coffee I ever had. People are dressed differently and so are the laws: Different. 

2 Hospitable and helpful people –

When things are different we normally tend to feel insecure or not really knowing what to expect. And for me that was the case with Saudi Arabia. I had no idea about Saudi Arabia’s people. Well, people are really nice and I didn’t expect that people in this country are so so kind that they would invite us to their homes, show us the greatest hospitality, helping us when we didn’t even ask for it and becoming friends in a very short time. A country is best understood through its people and KSA is home to a very diverse and mixed population.

3 Food –

As diverse as the people are so is the food. A lot of yemeni, indian, turkish and persian dishes can be found all over the countrs and it’s very very delicious.

4 Great nature –

Yes, more than half the area of Saudi Arabia is desert, but the other half is not and whatever you prefer- the nature is stunning and can range from mountains, to oceans, from hot and humid to cold weather. There are camels and monkeys. Flowers and coconut trees.

5 Safety –

Yes, the country is safe for travelers. It’s safe for women to travel alone. I am nobody who can fully judge this but I know that I would go back as a solo female traveler, because I never felt really uncomfortable. People are very respectful in general and always try to help. Men can be a little bit more curious than usual and cultural differences can be overwhelming but in general there is no need to worry too much as a female traveler. The most dangerous part about traveling in KSA is the traffic as there seem to be no rules and everybody drives like a mad person.

Visiting KSA was a dream come true and learning about this place and its culture was the true definition of traveling to me. The infrastructure is still bad, tourists can barely get around without renting a car, westernized customs aren’t understood everywhere, there are a lot of undiscovered places, people are curious and friendly. The food is authentic and traditions are still seen on the streets. Yes, KSA is a different world to me and I’ll probably never fully understand this country but that’s why I will never forget my visit and for sure will come back in the future to learn more about KSA.