Riyadh travel guide – Essential tips
If you’re travelling to Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, this travel guide will give you the essential tips about the weather, transport, safety and useful information you need to know.
When to go to Riyadh?
The summer heat in Riyadh is insufferable especially between July and August. The climate is dry and hot reaching 50°C. It’s recommended to avoid visiting Riyadh during those months. You will miss many outdoor activities and even locals leave the city in vacations. But note that Riyadh Festival of shopping and leisure takes place in July, when you can benefit from discounts and deals on clothes, electronics and all types of goods.
The peak season in Riyadh is between November and March. The weather is more convenient and comfortable to walk around and enjoy the city.
It’s still warm with average temperatures between 10 and 25°C and some rainfalls. The evenings are cool and sometimes very chilly, as we are in the middle of the desert.
The annual Riyadh Motor show occurs between November and December. The oldest and most luxurious cars present an impressive show.
February is the month of the the Annual King’s Cup Camel Race, however on March Janadriyah festival is held, which is a popular traditional festival in the Saudi Arabia, showcasing the Saudi’s heritage and culture.
If you want to avoid the peak season, enjoy the good weather and save on hotels’ rates, you better travel in April and October.
Is Riyadh safe?
Riyadh is a safe city. No fear from terrorism, harassment or dangerous crimes. Even pickpocketing and theft are not common with tourists. However, stay cautious and keep a copy of your passport and documents in a safe place.
Don’t ever spend the day out at summer, and drink a lot of water. During winter, even if the weather is pleasant, pack a jacket or a light coat.
To avoid troubles with religious police, you should be aware of the Saudi’s culture and regulations. Women have to wear covered clothes and headscarf or better wear the black Abaya. Also, it’s forbidden for women to drive a car, ride a bicycle or travel alone.
How to get around?
The best way to get around the vast Riyadh is by car. Car rental companies are available in the airport and the city center. But it’s better to book in advance especially for a long term rental to ensure availability, compare prices and benefit from the best deal.
It’s advisable to carry a GPS system or hire a driver. the large and complex streets are confusing for a first time traveler.
Also take care during the rush hours, many drivers are aggressive.
Another option is taking taxis. It’s not expensive and can be booked by the phone. At night, it’s not easy to find taxis everywhere. The fares start with 5 SR added by 1.60 per kilometer however locals always propose a cheaper fixed price before sitting of.
Women are allowed to take the registered public taxis and must sit in the back but it’s not recommended for women travelling alone. It’s preferable to use the hotel transport service.
There is no developed public transport network. Only minibuses and usually used by workers. The metro system will be operational by 2017.
- Men and women cannot be mixed together in anyway. Otherwise, they will be catched by the religious police “ Muttawa”. When you go out with your relatives or wife/ husband always take a prove or marriage certificate.
- You can’t go to public parks, shopping malls and attractions whenever you want, there are specific times for men, women and families.
- It’s not recommended to show love or feelings in public like hugging or hand in hand walking even with your wife/ husband.
- The Saudi cuisine is seasoned and spicy. If you’re not used to eating this type of food, don’t order traditional dishes.
- Tipping is essential in restaurants and cafes. usually from 10 to 15%
- You can’t take picture of people or public buildings. Always ask before taking a shot.