Getting around Saudi Arabia

transportation in SA
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Updated 2022-02-23 12:15

If you have decided to settle in Saudi Arabia, then you will need to find a way of getting around. Saudi Arabia until recently was the only country where women were not permitted to drive, but in June 2018, women became legally authorized to drive throughout the Kingdom.

That may make things a bit easier for female expats looking to live and work in Saudi Arabia. Expat women who want to drive in Saudi Arabia can now approach the authorities to obtain a Saudi driving license. For those wishing to take driving lessons here, note that the courses for women are still rather expensive.

Taxi in Saudi Arabia

Taxis are aplenty in Saudi Arabia. All major cities have thousands of taxis ready to get you from point A to B. Unlike in most other countries, Saudi Arabia taxis are privately owned and operated, yet registered with a regulatory company. They are very safe, and all taxicabs are equipped with a fare meter. You will also find an operator number and picture of the driver in each cab to ensure their quality and compliance with existing rules.

Taxis are often found at busy locations, malls, supermarkets, parks, etc. To hail a cab, you just need to wave at them in the streets.

To avoid any confusion, it is a good idea to have your address ready, including the nearby landmarks. Many taxi drivers don't speak English, so don't be shy to ask whether or not they understand and know where the destination is beforehand.

Uber/Careem in Saudi Arabia

Popular transport apps are available in Saudi Arabia. Expats tend to use Uber or Careem rather than regular taxis. Simply downloading the app and registering for the service will allow you to request licensed drivers to assist you with your travel needs. All major cities have been introduced to these services and have recently become the most popular form of travel in Saudi Arabia (especially amongst women). The service is entirely safe, and all the drivers are registered.

Since the decades-long ban on women driving was lifted, exclusive female taxi services began to operate for the convenience of Uber and Careem female clients.

Important:

Because both apps pre-determine the cost of the trip, haggling and language barriers are not an issue. Additionally, the use of GPS allows for accurate destination locations, and there's no need to worry about directions.

Trains in Saudi Arabia

Train travel in Saudi Arabia is relatively limited — but the railway system is developing, and more rail lines may be added in the near future.

There are currently two railway companies in the country that operate three routes:

  • Riyadh-Qurayyat Line run by the Saudi Railway Company

(with night trains available between Riyadh, Al Majma'ah, Al-Qassim, Ḥaʼil, Sakākā and Qurayyat.

  • Intercity line connecting Riyadh, Hofuf, Abqaiq and Dammam
  • And a high-speed line connecting Mecca, Jeddah, Rabigh and Medina

(both run by the Saudi Railways Organization)

Note that the train station in Mecca is not accessible to non-Muslim travelers. However, non-Muslim visitors can access the train station in Medina as it is located outside central Medina.

Important:

Foreigners in Saudi Arabia will have to produce their Iqama to be authorised to travel by train. Note that booking is required (at least 24 hours prior to the scheduled travel date) to secure a seat. Tickets have to be purchased at least three hours before the time of departure. Otherwise, rates will be increased by 10%.

Good to know:

Boarding a train in Saudi Arabia is quite similar to boarding a flight. Your luggage will have to be subjected to an X-ray scan, and the local police will verify your travel documents. Make sure to reach the train station at least one hour in advance, especially because train doors close five minutes before departure.

Buses in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Coach Bus (SAPTCO) operates countrywide, connecting smaller towns/villages to bigger cities. Coach Bus destinations include all major cities such as Mecca, Riyadh, Gaseem, Hail, Jeddah, Madinah, Tabuk, Taif, Abha and Dammam. Note that most buses are equipped with air conditioning and a toilet.

Some routes have first-class coach buses available. They are slightly more expensive than regular buses but provide extra amenities. They include extra legroom, a meal, and comfortable seating.

Warning:

Due to the very conservative society, it is advisable for women traveling alone to do so during day hours and limit solo night-time travel as much as possible.

If you feel like the driver is unaware of the destination, is lost, and/or prolonging the trip, demand to be stopped and get out. Take note of the operator's number and name in case needed.

Planes in Saudi Arabia

The national carrier Saudia and Flynas, the domestic and international low-cost airline, are offering plenty of flights inside the country every day.

Important:

Traveling in Saudi Arabia is relatively safe. However, make sure to check the current restrictions before heading to the Najran border in Yemen.

Useful links:

SAPTCO

Saudia airline

Flynas airline

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.