Saudi Arabia made a significant move to open its borders to international visitors by introducing a new tourist visa on 27th September 2019 for 49 countries, including Singapore.

Travellers to Saudi Arabia can now obtain one-year, multiple-entry visas (440 riyal or S$147) that allow them to spend up to 90 days in the country, via online, on arrival, or from embassies and consulates.

Saudi Arabia has also relaxed some rules e.g. female travellers no longer have to wear the all-covering black robes or abayas although they are still expected to dress modestly.

If you’re planning your first trip to Saudi Arabia, consider InterContinental Hotels Group’s unique properties and experiences that combine luxury, style and the beauty of nature for every kind of traveller.

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Night view of Riyadh (Pixabay)

Marine Life in the Pristine Reefs of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Known for its breathtaking beaches and coastline, dive into the pristine reefs of Jeddah’s underwater world and marvel at the beautiful marine life that includes electric eels, rays and schools of colourful reef fish.

Jeddah – Saudi Arabia – Welcome to Arabia – Directors Cut from STORYTRAVELERS on Vimeo.

If you feel like exploring the bustling souks, plan a trip to the nearby Souk al-Alawi’s vibrant market stalls where traders have been selling textiles, coffee pots and carpets for over 1,000 years. Explore the sizzling street booths where you can try a wide mix of taste and flavours, from soft sambousas and koftas, to slowly cooked shawarmas which are a local favourite.

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Crowne Plaza Jeddah (InterContinental Hotels Group)

Located at the heart of the city near Jeddah Harbour, Crowne Plaza Jeddah provides a retreat to quieter harbour life. The hotel lobby’s Arabesque wooden arches harmonize with the coolness of the glass façade and floor, a reflection of the city’s Bedouin past. Take a dip in the outdoor pool, complete your afternoon workout session in the modern fitness center or simply relax at the sauna.

From Al Zahra restaurant’s local and international cuisine to Sakura Japanese restaurant’s high quality authentic Japanese dishes, the hotel’s dining options suit everyone’s needs.

Take in the Views of the Gulf Sea in Al Khobar

Breathe in the sea air on the waterfront by the palm-lined Al Khobar Corniche. Stroll along the walkway, taking in views of the azure Gulf Sea while you admire the Khobar Mosque’s gleaming white dome and minaret, which illuminate the water’s edge at night.

Khobar Mosque (Wikipedia/Shijan Kaakkara)

For the more adventurous, scuba dive or windsurf in the shallow waters of Half Moon Bay. You can visit the King Fahd Causeway, the longest bridge in the Middle East which stretches 30km over the Persian Gulf to Bahrain.

Offering a balance of modern sophistication and a true Arabic hospitality experience, InterContinental Al Khobar is conveniently located for business or leisure travellers with easy access to the city’s main attractions.

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InterContinental Al Khobar (InterContinental Hotels Group)

Guests at InterContinental Al Khobar can enjoy modern and welcoming rooms which include complimentary Wi-Fi and interactive LED TVs. Work comfortably, then relax with a coffee while admiring the view over downtown Al Khobar. Taste the famous date pudding at the hotel’s T. Square restaurant or relax by the rooftop pool and pamper yourself with the hotel’s luxurious spa services.

Explore One of Saudi Arabia’s Five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Riyadh

The city of Riyadh is a thriving metropolis and cultural treasure. From the UNESCO World Heritage Site of At-Turaif in the ancient oasis town of Dir’iyah, to the scenic and picturesque valley of Wadi Hanifa, Riyadh has plenty for you to discover.

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Wadi Hanifa (Flickr/Moriyama & Teshima)

Head to the Olaya District, Riyadh’s commercial heart and try some authentic local dishes while sitting on a carpeted floor at Najd Village. Visit a traditional café such as Al Shallal and order an Arabic coffee with a shisha, the iconic water pipe also known locally as a “hubbly bubbly”. Then browse for Arabian arts and crafts, such as finely worked silverware and hand-woven carpets at the Souk Al-Zal, the oldest market in Riyadh.

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Holiday Inn Riyadh-Olaya (InterContinental Hotels Group)

Holiday Inn Riyadh-Olaya offers a tranquil base right in the heart of Riyadh with vibrant decor, plush throws and a flat-screen TV. Unwind with a round of golf at the 18-hole Greens and Desert courses, just a 30 minutes’ drive from the hotel. Relax in the club house with panoramic views over the rolling hills, lakes and fairways. In the evening, cool off in the sparkling outdoor pool or head to a session in the sauna. Al Dana Restaurant features live cooking stations serving up a selection of sizzling oriental and global cuisine for guests to enjoy.

What Should First Time Travellers to Saudi Arabia Take Note of?

1. Both men and women should dress modestly, avoiding tight fitting and revealing clothes in public. Avoid clothes with profane language or images. Women should cover shoulders and knees in public.
2. Men shouldn’t extend a handshake to a Saudi woman, unless she does so first. Place your hand over your heart and greet with a hello.
3. Refrain from public displays of affection.
4. Drugs and alcohol are illegal in the country.
5. Shops and restaurants close during prayer times, 5x a day.
6. Summer and winter are dry seasons. Summer temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius (mid-June to mid-September).
7. Always ask for permission before taking photos of the locals.
8. English is spoken as an informal 2nd language by a large section of the society; signs are also bilingual so there should be no trouble with communication.
9. Locals are very hospitable and generous; do not get alarmed when you get invited to share a meal or get offered a token of their hospitality. It is rude to refuse such an offering.
10. Visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website to get updates of travel advisories to Saudi Arabia.

Special thanks to InterContinental Hotels Group for the information.

Check out more exciting destinations by IHG here.

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