10 Dos and Don’ts in Saudi Arabia: A Guide to Cultural Etiquette

One of the best things about traveling in Saudi Arabia is the opportunity to let yourself blend in with a unique and fascinating culture. From exploring the stunning architecture of the capital city of Riyadh to camel riding in the desert, there are plenty of amazing experiences to explore in Saudi Arabia.

Over the years, Saudi Arabia quickly became a popular tourist destination. However, keep in mind that wherever you travel, there are always local customs and traditions be aware of. In this article, you will find some Saudi Arabian travel tips on how to make the most of your trip while respecting local traditions.

While being aware of local customs and laws is important, this shouldn’t lessen your trip’s overall enjoyment. By dressing modestly, being mindful of prayer times, and respecting the country’s local laws and regulations, you can have a safe and memorable experience in Saudi Arabia.

Visiting Saudi Arabia can be an amazing experience that will allow you to immerse yourself in a one-of-a-kind culture. As long as you plan ahead and stay open to new adventures, your trip is sure to be memorable. Here are the do’s and don’ts in Saudi Arabia for you to know:

1. Do learn Arabic greetings and phrases

Before heading to Saudi Arabia, learning some basic Arabic greetings and phrases is a good idea. It shows that you’re interested in their culture and traditions and that you have respect for the locals. Here are a few basic greetings and phrases that you should get familiar with:

  • Marhaba – Hello
  • Assalamualaikum – Peace be upon you
  • Waalaikumsalam – Peace be upon you, too
  • Kaifa halak? – How are you? (asking a man)
  • Kafa halik? – How are you? (asking a woman)
  • Ana bekhair – I’m fine
  • Shukran – Thank you
  • Afwan- You’re welcome
  • Fehimt – Understood

2. Do dress modestly

If you plan on visiting Saudi Arabia, it’s important to dress modestly to honor the country’s Muslim faith. Women should dress in clothing that covers their bodies and knees while also covering their heads. This kind of dress is a sign of respect and may earn you respect in return. It’s best to avoid wearing mini skirts, strapless blouses, or outfits with revealing details. Men should also avoid wearing shorts, clothing with short sleeves, or tight short pants in public.

3. Do not point fingers at others

When you’re in Saudi Arabia, it’s best to avoid pointing with your fingers when you want to point in any direction, especially to other people. Instead, you can use your chin to indicate the direction you’re referring to. This is a local unwritten custom, and it’s important to be respectful of it. So, if you’re used to pointing with your finger, try to get into the habit of not doing so, especially when you’re interacting with locals.

4. Do remove your shoes when entering a house

In Saudi Arabia, the locals are known for their hospitality and willingness to share a meal or a cup of coffee with tourists. It’s common for them to invite guests to their homes to make them feel welcome. If you are fortunate enough to be invited as a guest, be sure to take off your shoes before entering the house as a sign of respect for your hosts.

5. Do not use your left hand too often

Using your left hand for certain activities in Saudi Arabia is considered impolite. This is because the left hand is believed to be unclean as it is primarily used for toileting. As a result, it’s best to avoid using your left hand for activities such as eating, shaking hands, or giving and receiving objects.

To make sure that you don’t offend anyone in one way or another, it’s important to be mindful of this unwritten cultural norm during your trip to Saudi Arabia. Consider bringing a handkerchief or tissue to show more respect when eating or exchanging objects.

6. Do not show any PDAs (Public Displays of Affection)

In Saudi Arabia, it’s important to be aware that public displays of affection (PDA) are unacceptable and can be considered disrespectful. PDA can include actions such as hugging, kissing, holding hands, or sitting close to someone of the opposite sex.

There are some exceptions to this rule, such as married couples who can privately show affection to each other. However, even married couples should avoid PDAs in public places like restaurants or parks. Remembering this rule and avoiding PDA while in Saudi Arabia will help you avoid unwanted public attention and show respect for the local culture.

7. Do take permission while taking photos

If you’re planning to take pictures of people or places in Saudi Arabia, it’s important to ask for permission first. This shows that you’re respectful of their customs and avoid any misunderstandings. Asking for permission is an act of making sure that everyone is comfortable with the situation and allows you to get the perfect shot.

When you’re in Saudi Arabia, some places don’t allow people to take pictures. These can include government buildings, military bases, private property, and areas that are considered sensitive. It’s good to ask for permission before taking photos anywhere in Saudi Arabia, even if it’s not listed as restricted.

8. Do pay respect to the elderly in every situation

In Saudi Arabia, showing respect for the elderly is considered a significant cultural value. The elderly are highly regarded for their wisdom and experience, and their opinions are highly respected. There are various ways to demonstrate respect for the elderly in Saudi Arabia, such as standing up when they enter a room, giving up your seat to them on public transportation, holding the door open for them, addressing them as “uncle” or “aunt” regardless of their relation to you, refraining from speaking loudly or making rude gestures in their presence, and being patient with them while attentively listening to their stories.

9. Do pay attention to local business hours

The standard working hours in Saudi Arabia are from 8 am to 5 pm, with an hour lunch break. However, some businesses may open earlier or later, and some may be closed on Fridays or Saturdays, as they are official rest days in Saudi Arabia.

If you plan to visit a business in Saudi Arabia, it’s best to confirm their operating hours beforehand. It is best to also check their official website or social media pages for more information.

10. Do pay respect during Ramadan

When traveling to Saudi Arabia during Ramadan, it’s important to show respect for the local people’s religious practices. To do so, you can enjoy your meals and drinks in a private setting, which can be a nice opportunity to relax and take a break from the hustle and bustle of public places. By being mindful of the local customs, you can have a pleasant and enjoyable experience while showing your appreciation for the people around you.

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