Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, is a vibrant and fascinating city. If you’re a woman traveling there on your own or with friends, follow my tips for the best experience.
1. Remember to Dress Modestly
When travelling to Saudi Arabia, you should dress modestly. The culture is conservative, and showing lots of skin is frowned upon. Although it’s not required by law to dress in a modest way, it is respectful.
You should wear loose-fitting clothes and a full-length cloak (abaya) if you want to fit in with the locals. You will also find your clothes super comfortable, especially in the heat!
2. Consider Covering Your Hair
Like other customs for dressing, the law doesn’t require you to cover your hair in Riyadh. However, I recommend wearing a headscarf if you want to be as respectful as possible. You can find many beautiful scarves if you want to do this.
It’s not essential, though, and not all female travellers decide to cover their heads when travelling in Saudi Arabia. It’s a cultural custom that you might or might not follow.
3. Expect Modernity
Riyadh has a great history and plenty of culture stretching back for many years. But it’s also a modern city, with skyscrapers, trendy restaurants and cafes, and more.
When you travel to the city, expect to discover a vibrant city that’s always changing. The culture might be conservative, but there are modern buildings, and plenty to see and do.
4. Understand the Rules
It’s always important to know how to behave when travelling to a new place. I recommend reading about local customs before going to Riyadh.
There are some things that you should do or not do to follow not just local customs but the law. You can find gender segregation in many places, and extra-marital relations are illegal. While some things can be strict, you can still enjoy plenty of freedom in the city.
5. Prepare for the Weather
When you think of Saudi Arabia, you probably think deserts and hot, hot, hot. It’s true that Riyadh gets very hot in the summer, but it can get cold in the winter too.
The best time to visit is from November to April when it won’t be too hot or too cold. You will also find more activities on offer from tour operators.
6. Enjoy Some Shopping
Shopping is one of the favorite activities of the locals in Riyadh, and it’s great for tourists too. You can find lots of shopping malls, with shops, restaurants, and theme parks.
You can find big brands in the Centria and Kingdom malls. However, it’s always worth checking online for brands like Kate Spade to see if you can save. With the right discounts, you can find a bargain before you go on your trip or perhaps when you get home.
7. Indulge in the Local Cuisine
Food and drink are the best parts of any trip for me. If you’re the same, you can find a lot to enjoy in Riyadh. You can explore cafes and restaurants, including fine dining, as well as street food.
There’s a great mix of nationalities in Riyadh, so you can find food of all types available for you to enjoy. Shawarma is a top street food, or falafels are a delicious alternative for vegetarians.
8. Explore the City with Ease
Getting around Riyadh is super easy. Just like anywhere else, you can use Uber to get around. You can also hail taxis, and Careem is an Uber alternative.
Walking isn’t very popular in the city, due to both the heat and the distance between most places. It’s much easier to get into a car.
9. Find a Comfortable Place to Stay
You have a choice of some nice hotels when you’re looking for somewhere to stay. These include 3-star and 5-star options.
You might find women-only hotels available too. This is an option you should choose if you want to be able to use the hotel pool. You won’t be allowed if you stay in a mixed hotel.
Choosing one of the recognizable chain hotels can be a good idea for your stay in Riyadh.
10. Discover the History and Culture
Remember to take some time to explore the incredible culture and history of Riyadh. Try taking a trip to Masmak Fort and to Kingdom Tower to see two structures from very different times. At-Turaif is another great historical site, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Be sure to understand the local culture before travelling to Riyadh, and you will be able to enjoy your trip in the way that you want.