Airport guide

Airports in Saudi Arabia

Due to the assumption that it holds an unwelcoming attitude towards tourists, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been a point of contention for every traveller – whether from the Middle East or Europe. But beneath its frigid façade lies an Arabian country rich in history, culture – and of course oil.

Most travellers who book flights to Saudi Arabia do so for a very specific reason: to visit Mecca, Islam’s holiest city. Located in Jeddah, on the Red Sea coast, Mecca is home to the Kaaba shrine and Grand Mosque. During the seventh century the city was a flourishing trading centre and played an important role in the spread of Islam. Today, almost two million people take flights to Saudi Arabia each year to carry out the Hajj pilgrimage.

Although Saudi Arabia doesn’t have tourist attractions as such, it does have some historic sights that can’t be missed. Habalah or “the Hanging Village” in Jeddah is a deserted village that used to be the site of the first cable-car system in the Kingdom and has some fine examples of preserved Arabian houses. In the capital Riyadh there’s a state-of-the-art museum – the National Museum – that houses some Dilmun tombs and rock art while the most important monument is the Al Musmak Castle which was built in the late 19th century.

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Saudi Arabia climate

The climate is extremely hot and dry, with slightly cooler and more humid conditions in the coastal areas, where temperatures range from 15 to 30 degrees. The west and southwest are sometimes hit by monsoons in the summer. Beware of sandstorms in the south.

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When to fly to Saudi Arabia

Peak season:

The best time to visit is between October and May, when the days are warm and nights are cool.

Off Season:

April to November. During these months, temperatures are very high. Ramadan, Eid ul-Fitr and the Hajj are very busy times in Saudi Arabia.

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Getting around Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabian Airlines flies domestically as does Nas Air which flies from Riyadh to Gizan, Gurayat, Jeddah and Madinah. Al Khayala flies from Riyadh to Jeddah.

The Saudi Arabian Public Transport Company runs intracity services in ten cities (including Makkah, Madinah, Riyadh, Jeddah, Taif, Dammam, Abha, Gaseem, Tabuk and Hael) and intercity buses.

The Saudi Railways Organization operates a service from Dammam to Riyadh. Taxis are plentiful and cheap and can be flagged down just about everywhere. Taxis are metered, but you can also negotiate a fee with the driver.

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Saudi Arabia insider information

  • Riyadh is the capital and seat of government. Don’t miss Al-Musmak Fortress, which was built in the late 19th century and is now a museum. In mud and brick, it is a beautiful example of desert architecture. The museum is open to families Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday morning; Saturday, Monday and Wednesday for men only. Al-Thumairi Gate is a restored city gate. Kingdom Tower, Saudi Arabia’s tallest building, is known as the bottle opener due to its resemblance to a … bottle opener. It is technically an inverted catenary arch; the developer described it as a necklace for the city. There is a 56-metre skybridge and an observation deck. A half-hour drive from Riyadh is Thumama Desert, with beautiful sand dunes.
  • Mecca is the birthplace of the prophet Mohammed and Islam’s most holy city. All devout Muslims – around the world – are bound to make the pilgrimage (hajj) if possible once in the lifetime. The city is open to Muslims only however. This is also the case with Medina, Islam’s second-holiest city, home to the Tomb of the Prophet Mohammed.
  • Madein Salih is an absolute must-visit. It is an archeological site, a sister city to Petra in Jordan. The tombs were carved into the side of cliffs between 100 BC and 100 AD when it was a kingdom of Nabataean people. You will need a permit to visit it, but this can usually be arranged by the hotel or travel agent you book with.

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Saudi Arabia airports

There are several airports for flights to Saudi Arabia including:

Riyadh King Khalid International Airport (RUH) is located 35km (21 miles) north of Riyadh.

King Abdul Aziz International Airport (JED) (website: www.jed-airport.com) is situated 19km (11 miles) north of Jeddah.

King Fahd International Airport (DMM) (website: www.kfia.com.sa) is located 22km (13 miles) northwest of Dammam.

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Passport/Visa

A visa is required, available, in advance, from the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. During the Hajj, Muslim visitors travelling to Jeddah and Medina need a valid Hajj visa. Saudi visas have sometimes been refused when passports have shown previous travel to Israel or an Israeli birthplace.

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Entry requirements

Passports should be valid for at least six months and Saudi law requires female visitors and residents to have their sponsor meet them on arrival at the airport.

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Oonagh Shiel
Content Manager at Cheapflights whose travel life can be best summed up as BC (before children) and PC (post children). We only travel during the school holidays so short-haul trips and staycations are our specialities!
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    Approx flight times

    Heathrow to King Fahad Intl Airport:
    8 hr 35 mins
    Heathrow to King Abdul Aziz:
    6 hr 5 mins
    Heathrow to King Khalid:
    6 hr 18 mins

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