Having remained closed doors for many years, Saudi Arabia has finally opened its gateway to travelers worldwide. Being deeply rooted in Arabian culture, the country has strict rules, and traveling can be tricky, especially for women. This resulted in many misconceptions about what to wear, how to get a visa, things to be careful for, and more about female foreign tourists.
In contrast, when two of our female team members attended the LEAP exhibition in Riyadh, they had different experiences in the country. Saudi Arabia is experiencing a rapid change after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced his plan to ease restrictions on women as part of the country’s ambitious Vision 2030 initiative. This article will bust some common travel myths about going to Saudi Arabia as a woman compiled on our team members’ experiences. What might be a better time to discuss the topic during International Women’s Day? Read on.
The law does not distinguish between men and women as long as they abide by it and respect the local customs and culture. We’ve made a list of things that a female can do independently in the Kingdom.
Most people assume that when you are in Saudi Arabia, you must wear a full black abaya as most Saudi women you will come across will be wearing one. If you are particularly in Jeddah, you can see women wearing different colors of abaya and not only the black one.
However, visitors are exempt from this rule, and they are not required to wear any specific attire. In general, tourists should refrain from wearing clothes that are considered distasteful or morally offensive by the locals. Therefore, Saudi Arabia provides tourists with greater freedom in their clothing choice.
From our observation, any foreign woman wearing long trousers or long sleeves is acceptable in Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, the locals swim either in their clothes or in a burkini, and women should refrain from wearing one-piece or two-piece swimsuits on public beaches or around strangers. Furthermore, you should wear a black abaya if you choose to wear one.
Furthermore, unlike many other Muslim countries, the Kingdom does not require foreign travelers to wear a headscarf. Having said that, it is a common courtesy in the country to cover your head when visiting a mosque or a religious site.
Women in Saudi Arabia do not typically speak to random males, especially with strangers. However, tourists of both genders are welcome to interact with anyone they encounter, regardless of gender. You are allowed to get along with men and women as a female solo tourist in Saudi Arabia to learn about the local people, culture, food, etc., but ensure you don’t participate in anything not permitted by law.
Saudi women have made notable strides in the past couple of years, from securing a place in Forbes’ list of the world’s most influential businesswomen to participating in scientific research programs. Saudi women’s increased status in society has also positively impacted foreign women travelers. It is important to enjoy the country’s stunning beauty without worrying about minor inconveniences that are more or less associated with traveling to any foreign destination.