Fly To Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Although Riyadh is mostly visited by people passing through in order to reach the holy city of Mecca, it is one of the largest cities in Saudi Arabia. From the sky-scrapping 302m-high views at the Kingdom Centre that would leave you breathless, to beautiful castles constructed by princes’ and not forgetting a culture that is more than 500 years old – Riyadh definitely has more than a pit stop on offer.
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Why visit Riyadh?
- Embark on extraordinary adventures: visit the world's biggest camel market or hike up Acaca Valley’s cliff to experience an endless view!
- Riyadh offers you an enriched cultural journey in a society where you can experience life without procrastination!
- Riyadh is one of the most delightful and hospitable cities in Saudi Arabia, that has the tastiest, mouth-watering Bedouin cuisine!
The official languages that is spoken in Riyadh is Arabic and English. Other languages such as Urdu, which is the official language of Pakistan, and the Asian languages such as Farsi and Turkish are also spoken in the city by many foreign locals.
Riyadh is known for its extreme hot and dry climate especially during summer, between the months of April and October, with July and August having the hottest temperatures of the year.
The best months to visit would be between November and March as temperatures range between 8 and 27 Degrees Celsuis. During winter, the climate is pleasant with the occasional rainfall, but the weather still remains perfect enough to enjoy and explore the city.
- Riyadh is a name that was derived from the plural word 'rawdah' which is the Arabic word for 'garden' or 'meadows'.
- This city has the largest camel market in the world.
- Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the world without a river.
This city can be easily type casted as “not a fun” or “bland” as western indulgences such as alcohol and partying are restricted. But do not despair as there is a variety of alternative activities to fill up your day. For instance visit an ancient castle that was built in 1865 by the Arabian prince Abdulrahman jbn Sulaiman jbn Dabaan; Masmak fortress located in the heart of Riyadh are one of many historical sites.
The Masmak Fortress is in the heart of Old Riyadh, and despite being drastically renovated in modern times, the mud-brick structure still offers interesting historic exhibits and photographs of the old city. The Murabba Palace is also traditional mud-brick, and you don’t need a permit to go inside. You’ll find more historic tales, artefacts and images here, as well as the original royal Rolls-Royce. Don’t miss the National Museum either – its super high-tech and very accessible, with a horde of presentations and re-enactments to enjoy.
Riyadh is also home to the most beautiful and modern towers such as the Kingdom Centre tower; the third tallest skyscraper in the country.
Shopping should definitely be incorporated into your holiday plans as there is no greater shopping destination than Riyadh; malls seem to line every main road in the city. Here you’ll find everything from carpets to coffee pots and daggers here, as well as lovely traditional Arabian jewellery pieces in various price-ranges. Haggling is obligatory, so don’t forget your game-face. Thankfully English is widely spoken, so you can count on being understood.
Riyadh is not pedestrian-friendly, so you’ll need some form of transport to take you in and around the city. Most visitors rely on white taxis, or rent their own car and GPS. There are mini-bus taxis around as well, but these are mostly used by local labourers, and are difficult to navigate for non-Saudi visitors.
Other famous sights that are a must when in town include:
- Souq al-Thumairi
- The National Museum of Saudi Arabia
- Royal Saudi Air Force Museum
- Jabal al-Lawz
- Riyadh Zoo
- Owais Souq
- Water Tower
- Clock Tower
- Panorama Mall
The traditional cuisine found in Riyadh has been prepared the same way for centuries. Most traditional Riyadhi dishes make use of staples that are loved by locals they include: fresh dates, home-made flat bread, hawayi (a spice blend), wheat, rice, yoghurt, and chicken.
Riyadhi dishes are unique and specific to the culture and traditions found in this region, this is why most believe that the best way to immerse yourself in the culture is through the food. Even though they have a number of great fine dining restaurants the best food can only be found at the street stalls that are located in the city. The top dishes to try would be Yughmish,Mutabaq, and Malabari Paratha, which according to locals melts in your mouth.
The best restaurants to eat at in Riyadh include:
- The Globe,
- Outback Steakhouse
- Maestro Pizza
- Al-Najdiyah Village
- Najd Village
Riyadh is a very hot place and during the summer months it is very important to stay hydrated. Tap water should not be consumed as it is not always hygienic, so it is advised to consume bottled water instead.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is considered to be a very safe country which is mainly due to the fact that there is such a strong police presence in public areas. It is also the strictest country with regards to the Sharia laws, which are the Islamic laws under which the Kingdom is governed. Large malls are safe to walk around in as it is very busy.
For women it is advisable to have a trustworthy driver, as women are not allowed to drive. Walking around the city by oneself is not an option for women as men will stop their cars and harass them, especially if they are not fully covered.
Islam is the primary religion followed by the people of Riyadh. Western law does not apply in Saudi Arabia as this country is governed by Islamic Law (also known as Sharia Law). Even though there is no law that formally forbids Saudi Arabian citizens from practising another religion, any overseas national that is attempting to require Saudi nationality must convert to Islam as the government of Saudi Arabia does not legally protect the freedom of religion. Riyadh has been described many times as being one of the most conservative cities in Saudi Arabia and, there are many restrictions that should be respected when visiting this city. We summarised a few rules to be aware of below:
- Music should not be played loud in public, as it is disrespectful.
- All individuals should dress modestly, which means no revealing outfits would be tolerated.
- No alcohol may be consumed, purchased, produced and even brought into Riyadh.
- Women cannot drive, a man is required to drive them around or they need to find a taxi driver as a means of transport.
- Unlawful mixing between sexes can lead to the arrest of the violators and criminal chargers.
- Women also need to be accompanied by a male guardian known as a 'mahram' whenever they leave the house.
- Women are not allowed to wear clothes and make up that show off their beauty.
There are religious police known as Mutawa that patrol the city to ensure people are abiding by Sharia Law. Some of their duties include ensuring people are praying when it is time to do so, that men and women are covered up appropriately, as well as ensuring that if men and women are seen together they are married or related.
|Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant||R 90||R 100||R 62|
|Domestic Beer (0.5 liter draught)||R 22||R 20||R 12|
|Cappuccino (regular)||R 19||R 20||R 43|
|Taxi 1km (Normal Tariff)||R 10||R 12||R 11|
|Pack of Cigarettes (Marlboro)||R 35||R 35||R 41|
South Africans need a Visa in order to enter Saudi Arabia.
Leave plenty of time for Visa processing and don’t forget to check that your passport is valid for 6 months after your return date, and that you have 2 blank pages available for entry stamps. You can contact the embassy of Saudi Arabia (Telephone: +27 012 362 4230) for more information, in addition to visa applications.
The High Commission of South Africa
The South African embassy can be contacted via the following channels:
King Khalid Road
Um Al-Hammam East
- Telephone: (+ 966 11) 442 9716
- Fax: (+ 966 11) 442 9708
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
King Khalid International Airport (Code: RUH) was constructed to meet the increasing international and local air transport requirements for Riyadh.
One of the largest airports in the world, offering many facilities such as free Wi-Fi , duty-free shops selling lots of products and souvenirs, a medical clinic and a large distinctive mosque. Taxis are the only way of transportation available at the airport, usually taking a 30-minute drive to the city center.
Food and beverages: There are several restaurants and cafés in KKIA, including a Starbucks.
Currency Exchange: There is a bank as well as several ATM machines in the airport terminal.
Lost Luggage: Lost hold luggage should be handled by your individual airline’s help desk. Report items lost or found within the airport terminal to airport security, who will direct you appropriately.
Airport Hotels: Makarim Airport Hotel is situated inside the airport nearby the commercial lounges complex.
Car Hire: Hala Co (Avis), Theib Co, International Company (Budget), Hanco, Almuftah Co, Bin Hadi Co, Alafdhal Co, and Abu Dhiab.
Airport Hub: King Khalid International Airport (code RUH) is a hub for Nas Air and Saudia.
Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia, and the most conservative and traditional of the country’s big cities. It’s nonetheless a major centre for business in the Middle East, and the interplay of tradition and technology is fascinating from an outside perspective.
Despite its conservatism, Riyadh is one of the most visited cities in the Middle East, and you’ll come across some fairly westernised young Saudi’s living here. English is widely spoken, dining is world-class, and shopping is as good, if not better, than many western cities.
Riyadh is extremely hot and dry in summer, so keep this in mind when you book your flights. Whatever the season, you’ll find the cheapest flights to Riyadh from South Africa right here on Travelstart.co.za. Use the online flight search tool above to select your dates, and choose from the best deals available on every major airline.
The information on this page is correct as of March 2016. While every effort is made to keep information as fresh as possible, Travelstart takes no responsibility for any of the information being out of date or incorrectly noted.