Practical Info

Saud Arabia is a conservative country, so it's best to be aware of social rules and customs, as well as other handy tips. 

Dress Code


Saudi men wear a thobe (a white robe with sleeves) with a ghutra (a headdress), but the dress code for expats in Saudi Arabia are the standard trousers and shirts. A non-Saudi wearing a thobe will look odd, and may cause offense. Shorts should never be worn, unless at the gym, beach or hotel pool. Photo credit (right): Blue Abaya Photography


Local and foreign women are all required to wear the abaya, a long and loose black robe over their clothes as well as the hijab (the black head scarf). Without the hijab, women will risk harassment from the religious police (the mutaween). Abayas are sold in shops everywhere, and come in various styles and designs, but only in the color black. In residential ‘western’ compounds, the laws regarding what men and women should wear are not applicable.

The strictness of the dress code varies by region. In Jeddah, women have more freedom regarding veils and covering their clothes with an abaya. Riyadh is more conservative. 


Alcoholic drinks are strictly forbidden everywhere in Saudi Arabia. An occasional exception is inside expat compounds where residents might brew their personal quantities of booze. But any smuggling of alcohol or home brewing in large quantities will result in Saudi law being applied, whether you are an expat or not. 


Pork is not allowed into nor served in any part of the country.


Saudi Arabia uses 220 voltage (currently in dual mode and phasing out 127 V). Adaptors can be bought at local supermarkets. 


Watch out with that camera, phone camera or otherwise. Photography is strictly frowned upon and can result in trouble. In the city, do not take photos of airports or government or military buildings. Do not take photos of men without their permission. And, very importantly, do not point your camera in the direction of women!!

Away from the cities, where nature, ancient architecture and landscapes beg for attention, the no-photo rule is not applied. 


Restaurant tipping is expected and is between 10% and 15% for good service, unless a service charge is added to the bill. Most hotel restaurants include a service charge to their bills.

But it’s not just waiters who are tipped. Taxi drivers, despite metered journeys, also expect a tip. 

Tap water

Tap water is not safe to drink. Bottled water is available in every supermarket.

Local Time

Saudi Arabia is 3 hours ahead of UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) and GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) throughout the Kingdom. Daylight savings are not applied. 


Smoking is not allowed in public buildings but it is highly tolerated everywhere else.  


Most commercial buildings and outlets have clean, well maintained toilets.