It can be difficult to figure out what to pack for overseas travel, particularly when the travel involves visiting a country with a completely different culture and climate to that which we are used to. This Saudi Arabia packing guide will help you to ensure you have everything you need during your time in the exotic kingdom.
Clothing Considerations in Saudi Arabia
The most important part of planning what to pack for your Saudi Arabia trip is deciding what clothes to take with you. The desert climate provides incredibly harsh extremes. The country is hot year round, and daytime temperatures can reach upwards of 45 degrees in the summer. However, by nightfall, temperatures can drop significantly and so warmer clothes are needed.
A Conservative Culture
Saudi Arabia is an incredibly conservative Muslim country. So as not to cause offence, you need to ensure that you are dressing respectfully during your time in the country. This means that shoulders, arms and legs should be covered at all time. It should go without saying that it is not appropriate to wear clothing that shows off cleavage or a midriff.
The traditional Saudi dress is a black abaya and a headscarf. If you are worried about finding these, the good news is that you will be able to find them at traditional Islamic shops in many UK cities before departure. It is not necessary for non-Muslim, foreign women to cover their hair at all times, however, a headscarf will be required when visiting mosques or other religious or important sites so it is better to carry one at all times.
Western clothing is okay, provided that it is conservative and that your wrists and ankles are covered. With that said, sometimes wearing an abaya is just easier. Western clothes that are too tight and appear to show off a woman’s body shape are frowned upon and considered inappropriate. Since abayas are relatively floaty, loose garments, they are quite cool to wear, even in high temperatures.
The dress code for men travelling in Saudi Arabia is a little more relaxed than it is for women. The traditional dress is a thawb, which male travellers can pick up easily at local markets and may find comfortable to wear, however they can generally get by in western clothes. For men, t-shirts are okay, however, full-length trousers should be worn, and shorts are inappropriate.
For Both Genders:
The main language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic, however, you will still find that English is widely spoken. Even though the nation has been closed off to international tourists until recently, Saudis are well educated and are accustomed to speaking English with business travellers. That said, it’s always polite to pick up one or two phrases when you travel overseas. It should also be noted that if you venture “off the beaten path” to smaller towns and villages, you may discover that not everyone has a good level of English. As such, it is better to come prepared with an Arabic Phrasebook.
A Map and a Guidebook
You can buy the physical versions of these or opt to download an electronic app on your phone – whichever suits you better! Having a map of the major cities, and a Guidebook with you is incredibly helpful for aiding you in navigating your way around, deciding what you want to see, and discovering the best restaurants that the locals keep a secret.
It’s a sad reality that most of the hot places on this earth are overrun by mosquitoes. Don’t let yourself become their dinner choice! Try to opt for a mosquito repellent that contains deet (upwards of 50% deet is perfect). The smell is a little unpleasant, but you can rest assured that they will give you a wide berth for the duration of your Saudi holiday.
You may be surprised to discover that Saudi Arabia utilizes the same plug sockets as the UK, and so no converter is required. However, you shouldn’t forget to pack:
- A power bank (so that you can charge your phone and electronics on the move)
- Your camera and charger (for taking incredible photos of mysterious Saudi Arabia that make all of you friends jealous)
- Your phone and charger
- Plug in Mosquito repellent (if you want to go one step further in ensuring you don’t spend your vacation walking around with mosquito bites the size of golf balls!)
A high SPF sunscreen
With temperatures that can often exceed 30 or 40 degrees in heat and no escape from the harsh desert sun, you should be sure to pack a bottle or two of high SPF sunscreen to protect your skin while travelling in Saudi Arabia. At some sites of interest (for example, the lonely castle or the ruins of Mada’in Saleh), there is practically no shade cover which means that you will quickly fry if you do not take the necessary precautions against the sun.
Lip protection balm
Lips can burn just as easily as the skin so be sure to invest in a lip balm that offers an SPF. Many lip balms offer an SPF of at least 15.
Body Moisturiser/Aftersun Cream
If you are fair, sometimes you may suffer sunburn even if you feel that you took plenty of precautions to prevent this from happening. In these cases, make sure that you have a soothing Aftersun product to calm your skin and inject the moisture back into it. Try to look for an Aftersun with active, calming ingredients like Aloe Vera.
A Small Daypack
A small, cute daypack that offers around 5 litres of capacity provides the perfect amount of space for everything you will need on a day trip or excursion. Leave your huge backpack at the hotel, it’s not necessary to lug around oodles of things with you – just a map, your phrasebook, your water bottle and your camera and you can be on your way.
If you have prescription medications, or you suffer from something that you often need over the counter medication for (frequent headaches, for example) then don’t forget to pack these, alongside a first aid kit. Saudi Arabia is a modern country and in the worst case scenario, you’ll be able to find anything you need at a local pharmacy, however, it’s better to prepare so that you are not wasting time on your trip trying to locate a pharmacist. Arabic cuisine utilizes different spices to those we are used to in the west. If this is your first time travelling in the Middle East, consider packing stomach settling tablets and medicines for an upset stomach just in case.