Travelling to a gender-biased destination require a lot of awareness and discipline to acknowledge the local behaviour. But recently we all have seen Saudi Arabia progressive with women rights and laws. Travelling to Saudi Arabia has been challenging for women from quite some time. The separation of the genders in all segments and the obligation to be accompanied by a known male has made the movement of the other gender restrictive.
The recently passed law that gives women to drive has changed the scenario. Men have slowly started getting used to seeing females roaming independently in their areas of dominance. Even though some still are receptive towards the progress of women, the current trend in Saudi Arabia is towards giving recognition to females.
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If you plan to travel solo in Saudi Arabia, you must be well aware of the rule, regulations, laws and practices which centre around the gender.
- The most prominent and prime importance is given to the clothing etiquettes in Saudi Arabia of women. Wearing an abaya (long robe) was a strict rule that was prevailing. But now if you visit you need not necessarily wear an abaya. But still, if you wish to visit some conservative places like the mosque, it would be better to wear it. Wearing an abaya is now more of a custom than law. A female tourist is expected to dress modestly at all times. Covering the head with a scarf is not needed but you can carry one to wary off those staring eyeballs.
- Women can access places that are reserved for family sections. Major cities give relief to women for accessing common areas. But in small-town and villages, family sections are not reserved. So you have to be careful while you visit restaurants, market, bank and mosques.
- Men deal with foreign women with a distance. Usually, men do not entertain any conversation with women travellers. But a few that indecent bunch will try to flirt with you. If you simply ignore, you will be good to go.
- You will hardly find local women to talk to you. They are confined to their homes and when out usually in their abayas, they will be under family men guard. So while you are visiting major cities, it might be a little different as far as communication is concerned. But if you are in small towns or villages, he going might get a little difficult.
- A local guide will be quite cordial and friendly with female visitors. But they do come from very conservative families where they might not even know hoe their female cousin sisters looked like. Or sibling brothers do not know how heir wives looked like. So make ure you maintain a balance between required communication and friendly communication.
- You will find sections reserved in cafes for women and some sitting in nearby parks. You can get a little easy with this in shopping malls. Women will usually be travelling in cars rather than on foot. But yes, communication on Instagram is possible with Saudi women.
- Cheap restaurants do not have women section or a family section. So if you are looking for low budget food, you can always order a takeaway but you can sit there and eat. Women can not eat or sit in the men section.
- It is now possible to book a hotel room for a single female traveller. Earlier it was not. The extremely conservative atmosphere in Saudi Arabia has never allowed women to enjoy their identity. But now the air in this country is getting liberal. It is recommended for solo women travellers to go for family sections wherever possible or host Saudi men who do female hosting.
- Riyadh is still very restrictive. Wearing abaya is recommended for female tourists. You will see uncovered faces and heads only in upmarket establishments here.
- Jeddah is open and relaxed comparatively. You will find women in fancy and colourful abayas here. Thanks to the multi culture community here, you can relax with uncovered heads and faces.
- Women visitors can rent and drive cars in Saudi Arabia. As long as you have a Saudi licence or an International drivers license.
- Women restrooms especially in mosques are hidden. So while visiting you will find these rooms behind stalls or in separate partitions.
- Women do not shake hands with men. They either verbally greet or place their hand on their heart.
- If a man asks for Snapchat in this country, they are seeking your private number. So react accordingly.
- Should you find yourself in an embarrassing situation or if a man harasses you in Saudi Arabia, click a pic of his license plate and report to the local authority. They will scare off.
- In such a conservative set up, wearing a swimsuit on the beach is out of the box. But if you get a little to a secluded patch, you can try.
Saudi Arabia has been getting liberal with women and their rights. In the coming times, women travellers can see a more relaxed and easy existence while they travel.