Location: Middle East
Time zone: GMT/UTC plus 3 hours
Daylight savings time: no
Current time: 06:13
Currency: Saudi riyal
Dialling code: +966
Internet suffix: .sa
Saudi Arabia is a large Arabic-speaking country occupying much of the Arabian Peninsula. It is known for its conservative social values and housing some of Islam’s holiest sites.
Overall security situation: several challenges exist
Crime rate: extremely low
Murder rate: extremely low
Gun ownership levels: high
Kidnapping hotspot: no
Maritime piracy hotspot: no
Do landmines/unexploded munitions pose a significant risk in parts of the country: no
Saudi Arabia faces a number of security issues.
It is involved in conflict in neighbouring Yemen. Skirmishes and confrontations, including indirect fire attacks into Saudi Arabian territory, have caused casualties and property damage in recent years. Saudi Arabia also faces the ongoing potential for conflict with regional opponent Iran, which would focus on both the Persian Gulf as well as various other proxy-conflict hot zones elsewhere in the region (including Yemen, but also Iraq, Lebanon and even further afield).
While society is largely content, there are some, mostly single-issue grievances. These range from competing demands for more progressive governance to the imposition of more conservative rules by elements of society with very different perceptions of how the kingdom should be governed according to Islamic doctrine. There is also discontent among the Shi’a population, who are concentrated in Eastern Province, over alleged mistreatment by the Sunni leadership of the country. Civil unrest therefore poses a moderately high level of risk. Protests are occasional but they are prone to causing significant disruption and occasional fatal violence
Saudi Arabia also faces a moderately high risk of terrorism, with clear threats and incidents taking place on a sporadic basis in recent years. The security and intelligence forces are relatively well adept at limiting the risk, but it persists nonetheless.
Saudi Arabia has the 6th highest gun ownership ratio in the world. Nonetheless, the crime and murder rates are extremely low, with infrequent incidents, good (sometimes excessively pervasive) police coverage and a well-resourced (but often slow) judicial system.
Institutions are mostly considered to be resilient to a degree, but there is definite room for improvement.
Aviation safety levels: standard
Annual road fatality rates: very high
Vehicles drive on the: right
Infrastructure quality: good
Urban ATM availability: good
Electricity supply: 230V 60Hz
Electricity supply reliability: consistent
Plug types: G
Plug type G (3 rectangular pins, grounded/earthed)
Is tap water drinkable: no
Healthcare quality: extremely good healthcare provision
Infectious disease prevalence: relatively low
Travellers should consult a medical practitioner prior to their trip but the following vaccines may be considered before travelling to the country, depending on factors such as specific destination, planned activities, intended time and length of stay as well as personal medical conditions (in some cases no additional vaccines may be required at all):
- Cholera (usually only recommended for aid workers or those spending time in at-risk areas)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B (not always needed)
- Standard vaccinations (ie those commonly used in the developed world, such as diphtheria, measles, mumps, polio, rubella, tuberculosis and tetanus)
Malaria risk: very low
Yellow fever presence: no
Dengue fever prevalence: frequent cases
Rabies prevalence: high risk
HIV prevalence in society: low
Hepatitis A prevalence: high
Hepatitis B prevalence: high
Hepatitis E prevalence: highly endemic
Cholera status: periodic outbreaks (mostly around the border with Yemen)
Chikungunya virus presence: present
Zika virus presence: not recently reported
Japanese encephalitis presence: no
Cutaneous leishmaniasis presence: endemic
Visceral leishmaniasis presence: endemic
Onchocerciasis presence: non-endemic
Schistosomiasis presence: low
Tick-borne encephalitis status: low/non-existent risk
Chagas disease presence: none
Typhoid fever presence: endemic
African trypanosomiasis presence: none
Plague status: present
Rift Valley fever status: endemic
Lassa fever status: not present
Polio status: not endemic
Ebola outbreaks: no
Meningococcal meningitis hotspot: no
Climate: harsh, dry desert with great temperature extremes
Terrain: mostly sandy desert
Natural disaster risk: extremely low
Natural hazards: frequent sand and dust storms; flooding
Tropical storms: few/none
Volcanic activity: despite many volcanic formations, there has been little activity in the past few centuries; volcanoes include Harrat Rahat, Harrat Khaybar, Harrat Lunayyir, and Jabal Yar
Previous earthquake(s) with over 1,000 fatalities: no
Government type: monarchy
Socio-economic development score: 8/10 (high levels of socio-economic development)
Adult literacy rate: 94.7%
Unemployment rate: moderately high
Civil liberties: restricted
Investment rating: investment grade
Corruption levels: moderate
Same-sex sexual activity: illegal (and technically punishable by death)
Death penalty: in use
Ethnic groups: Arab 90%, other 10%
Beliefs: Muslim (official; citizens are 85-90% Sunni and 10-15% Shia), other (includes Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh)
- The following advice has been compiled by travel safety specialists and ex-special forces personnel.
- However, please note that it is of a general nature only and may not reflect the reality of your circumstances.
- Ensure you have proper insurance cover in place.
- Select good quality accommodation and properly prepare for any tasks, excursions or other activities you have to undertake.
- Be mindful of local laws and cultural norms, bearing in mind that they might be different to what you are accustomed to.
- Consider conducting or obtaining a risk assessment specific to you, your profile and your trip, task or operation.
- This should take into account the likelihood of potential risks affecting you, as well as the likely impact they will have, and will help you decide, depending on your risk appetite and implementable risk mitigation measures, whether or not you should proceed.
Foreign government warnings
- Pay attention to the advice issued by your government and/or other countries (such as the US or UK).
- For most travellers, it will be very much advisable to avoid any areas deemed to be high-risk by official government bodies.
- For those who need to travel to these locations for work, personal or other essential reasons should consider the risks likely to be present and take appropriate measures.
- Insurance may not be valid for travel undertaken to these areas, so it is advisable to check with your provider before travel.
- Note that areas of official high-risk might change at short notice.
Road traffic accident
- Be aware of local driving conditions and hazards.
- Drive defensively and adhere to speed limits to minimise the risk of being caught up in an accident, or request that your driver(s) do the same.
- If using a taxi or local driver, ensure that they are qualified and competent and that their vehicle appears well maintained.
- Ensure that vehicles are in good working order before travel.
- Perform regular checks on your vehicles for oil, fuel, tyres and seatbelts.
- Consider taking additional equipment such as a jack, spare tyres, water, blankets, torches and a first aid kit, especially if travelling to more rural or isolated areas.
- Consider using four-wheel drive vehicles for particularly poor road conditions.
- Car users should know how to perform emergency repairs.
Religious or conservative attitudes
- Exercise sensitivity in societies which place a high value on perceived morality, even if it goes against personal beliefs and values.
- Research what local cultural practises, attitudes, values and laws you will need to be mindful of before travelling.
- Note that some behaviours, interactions and attire may also attract unwanted attention, cause offence or trigger a hostile response.
- Note that some subjects may be taboo so avoid discussing them with people if you think it might cause offence.
- If travelling to areas with more challenging terrain types, bear in mind that you might need to take specific and specialised equipment and clothing.
- Some terrain types might be more hazardous at different times of year so research any seasonal variations and work out the best time for you to visit.
- You may have to alter your behaviour and consider certain types of medication, such as if you have to travel to high altitudes.
- Areas with challenging terrain are often sparsely populated and/or with underdeveloped infrastructure.
- Not only can this make it difficult for you to travel there, it may also make it difficult to get out if you need to, or for any assistance to arrive in the event that you encounter difficulties and need help or evacuation.
- As such, have backup plans in place, methods of calling for help even if local communication networks are poor and aim to be as medically self-sufficient as possible.
- If rainfall, flooding, extreme temperatures or other types of severe weather are a concern, check the local weather patterns to find out if there are times of the year where the risk is much higher.
- Consider avoiding travel to at-risk destinations during these times.
- Try to stay in good quality accommodation.
- Take appropriate clothing and footwear.
- Take appropriate protection for any sensitive equipment you wish to bring.
- Note that storms, flooding and other types of harsh weather can overload infrastructure, lead to traffic jams and power cuts.
- Flooding and heavy rainfall can also raise the risk of landslides, as well as insect- and water-borne diseases in some parts of the world.
- As such, be prepared to delay, alter or even cancel travel plans to affected or high-risk areas.
- Pay attention to local weather reports and stay up to date on any potential warnings of upcoming potential dust or sandstorms.
- If a dust or sandstorm is expected, consider delaying non-essential travel as low visibility can make driving hazardous. Flights can also be disrupted.
- Consider staying indoors, particularly if you have pre-existing respiratory conditions.
- Use a face mask and eyewear if going outside.
- Civil unrest can lead to road closures and even curfews, which can affect your travel plans.
- Be prepared for delays and route alterations.
- Avoid demonstrations as they can turn violent.
- Large gatherings of people can be difficult to predict or control and can lead to issues such as mob violence, arson, assault and looting.
- The security forces may use excessive force to control events in some circumstances, posing an indiscriminate risk to anyone in the area.
- Even without any particular violence, large demonstrations can be at risk of poor crowd control, which can lead to crushes and stampedes.
- If demonstrations take place on a frequent basis, research the trends which tend to accompany them.
- Where do they tend to take place? Do they tend to turn violent? Do attendees target specific types of building or representative interests associated with a specific nationality, industry, political group (such as party-political offices, state buildings or foreign-owned businesses)?
- Once you have identified the sorts of risks, trends and areas of higher risk to be avoided you can start planning to minimise your exposure.
- If civil unrest appears to be particularly volatile, or set to last for an extended period, try to stock up with essential items (including food, water and medicine) in case you are stuck in your accommodation or work place or other location for an extended period of time.
- Be prepared to alter your plans at short notice and even to leave the area or even the whole country if conditions escalate. deteriorate.
- Identify evacuation routes and safe havens in case you need to get out of harms way at short notice.
- It is also advisable to identify the evacuation routes and fire safety procedures at your accommodation and/or work place in case you need to leave in a hurry.
- Beware of photography at sensitive sites or during civil disturbance.
- Terrorism can pose a risk, even in otherwise mostly safe countries.
- Assess the trends and tactics of any relevant terrorist organisations with the potential for targeting your location and identify potential targets.
- Be vigilant in and around these areas, which could include crowded places, symbolic or sensitive political sites, or busy restaurant, nightlife or tourist spots.
- Use your judgement on the frequency of incidents taking place. Just because an incident has taken place in a certain city does not mean that the city will regularly be hit again – use rational judgement to decide whether or not there is a likelihood that you will be caught up in any future incidents.
- Be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to react at short notice in the event of an incident.
- In the event of an incident, get out of the area quickly if it is safe to do so.
- Alternatively hide and try to keep out of harm’s way.
- In most cases you should only try to help other people if it is safe for you to do so.
- Keep quiet and notify the relevant authorities, colleagues or loved ones only when you are out of danger.
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