Travel to Saudi Arabia
All business travelers require a business visa for entry into Saudi Arabia. Business visas are issued to the following individuals: business people, investors, representatives of U.S. companies, managers, sales managers, sales representatives, accountants, production managers, administrative managers, and consultants.
Travelers can apply for a business visa through the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, DC or through the consulates located in New York, Los Angeles, or Houston.
The USSABC offers a number of visa facilitation services to its member companies.
Each application will be subject to a non-refundable $10.50 fee.
1. U.S. Passport
2. One recent, passport-sized photograph
3. Completed, typed Visa Application
4. Invitation/Sponsorship Letter
6. Company Letter
7. All visa fees have to be paid online through the Enjaz website
8. If you are mailing your passport using a courier such as FedEx a return airway bill with your company's account is required. No credit card payments accepted for return services.
Visa processing may take several days; therefore it is important to start the application process as soon as possible. Please contact the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia for more information.
Travelers to Saudi Arabia may not carry alcohol, firearms, pork products, religious items, or pornographic materials. Prescription drugs should be carried in their original labeled containers.
Saudi Arabia does allow photography and filming in public areas so long as it does not invade the privacy of others. Sensitive facilities, such as airports, seaports, oil and petrochemical facilities, and military bases that do not wish to be photographed are obliged to place visible signs indicating so. Royal palaces are considered private property and should not be photographed.
The best time to visit Saudi Arabia is between the months of October and March. The Jenadriya festival in Riyadh, an annual heritage and cultural festival which usually takes place in February, is another good opportunity to visit. Significantly, business visitors may wish to avoid visiting Saudi Arabia during the Kingdom’s two main holidays: Eid Al-Fitr, the celebration after Ramadan, and Eid Al-Adha, the celebration of Hajj, or annual pilgrimage to Makkah, as meetings may be difficult to arrange during those times. Summer months are also not advisable, not only because of the extreme heat, but also because many Saudis take their vacations in July and August.
Saudi Arabia currently has four major international airports:
Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) is the Kingdom’s major carrier, with flights from Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam to New York and Washington, D.C. A non-stop flight from New York to Jeddah takes approximately 11 hours. A number of other major airlines fly to the Kingdom through connections in Europe, including Air France, British Airways, KLM, and Lufthansa. Other airlines, such as Emirates Gulf Air and Qatar Airways, connect to the Kingdom through other Middle East destinations.
Air travel is the preferred method when traveling within the Kingdom as well, due to the large distance between Saudi Arabia’s major cities.
Members of the Business Council will receive up to a 30 percent discount on Saudia flights booked in the U.S. To learn more about this benefit, please call the Saudia Virginia office at 571-722-1800.
The best way to get from the airport to a hotel is to make prior arrangements through the hotel for a car and driver. Hiring a driver through a sedan service is usually reasonably priced in Saudi Arabia. Limousine service is also available. International car rental agencies are present at major airports, but travelers should be sure to have accurate directions to their destination if utilizing these services. Major highways in the Kingdom have signs in both Arabic and English, but smaller streets may not have signs. More often, buildings are located using local landmarks rather than actual street addresses.
Major international hotel chains are located in Saudi Arabia, but most are in the major cities. Travelers should make reservations prior to arrival, through a travel agency or through worldwide hotel reservation systems. Most hotels have a business center with services including computer, fax, and mail access.
The USSABC can provide logistical support to its members upon arrival to Saudi Arabia. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 703-962-9300.
To pay respect to Saudi culture, it is important to observe the conservative dress code of the country. Men should wear long pants and shirts buttoned to the collar. For business meetings, a conservative suit is expected. For women, long skirts are most appropriate. Shirt sleeves should be to the elbow or longer with necklines that are not revealing. It is recommended for Western women to wear abayas – long black cloaks that cover most of their body and clothes. Many women also wear head scarves, especially when in the downtown souks, so as not to draw attention to themselves.
Many Saudi business executives are familiar and comfortable with Western culture and its approach to business. However, it is essential for Westerners conducting business in the Kingdom to understand Saudi etiquette and the personal manner in which business is conducted. Preparation and some basic knowledge of Saudi business culture can make the difference between a successful business deal and a failed negotiation.
In Arabic, an individual is addressed by his or her first name and any title he or she possesses. Saudis will traditionally greet each person with a handshake. A woman should not initiate a handshake, but can engage if a Saudi man approaches her first. Saudis typically stand much closer together than Americans and Europeans when engaged in conversation, and will frequently employ body contact to emphasize a point or elicit the listener’s attention. However, it is considered impolite to gesticulate or point while talking.
Some Saudi businessmen may be reluctant to schedule a meeting until after visitors have arrived in the Kingdom. Meetings are usually conducted at a leisurely pace over coffee or tea, and visitors should allocate a substantial block of time for each one. It is considered impolite to refuse coffee or tea if the host offers it. Often the first meeting will just be a cordial personal gathering with little actual business discussed, but this time can be just as important as a more serious business meeting. Saudis may welcome guests or answer phone calls during the meetings, as they do not consider privacy to be essential.
Saudis are very hospitable and go to great lengths to make guests feel welcome. Guests can expect to be served first and ushered through doorways first. It is customary for the person who issues an invitation to a meal to pay the bill. Some Saudis will decline an invitation the first time out of politeness.