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How dangerous is Saudi Arabia for tourists, business travelers, and other groups looking to visit? Navigating the complexities requires careful planning, cultural awareness, and an understanding of an evolving landscape.


The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, an archly conservative country, has been cautiously opening its doors to a wider world over the last decade. Often associated with oil and strict religious codes and pilgrimages, Saudi Arabia is encouraging a wave of modernization that is transforming the nation — to an extent.

For business travelers, the allure is undeniable: a land brimming with potential, ambitious megaprojects, and a strategic position at the crossroads of continents. For leisure tourists, glittering cities are rising in the desert, and the country is playing up its wealth of heritage sites, museums, and relationships with international stars like Lionel Messi.

Many travelers, however, may have legitimate concerns about venturing into Saudi Arabia, and many wonder if Saudi Arabia is safe due to security risks. The country’s stewardship of the holy sites of Mecca and Medina combined with its recent liberalization under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, hosting of U.S. troops, and close relationship to the United States make it a target for radical Islamic terror groups. The country is also a key player in regional competition with Iran. In addition, the shadows of human rights abuses, cultural sensitivities, and government surveillance loom large.

Does that mean Saudi Arabia is dangerous on a day-to-day basis? Not necessarily, and it doesn’t make our list of the world’s most dangerous countries. Navigating the complexities of traveling to Saudi Arabia requires careful planning, cultural awareness, and a nuanced understanding of the country's evolving landscape.

Saudi Arabia: What to Know

Saudi Arabia, formally known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), is an absolute monarchy that makes up most of the territory of the Arab Peninsula. It is bordered by the Red Sea to the West, the Persian Gulf, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Qatar to the East, Yemen and Oman to the South, and Kuwait, Iraq, and Jordan to the North. It has a population of roughly 32 million people and is the Middle East’s largest economy with a GDP of nearly 2.3 trillion.

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam, and home to the religion's two most important holy sites: Mecca and Medina. Before 2019, virtually all tourism to the country involved religious travelers visiting these two sites. Now, international tourists from 63 countries can gain tourist visas to the country.

Safety in Saudi Arabia: What Threats Exist?

Is Saudi Arabia safe for all travelers? Overall, whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, Saudi Arabia is a “moderate” threat location. There is a minimal risk of crime, and the country benefits from good medical and transportation infrastructure. However, the KSA has experienced multiple drone and missile attacks from the Iran-backed Houthi faction in Yemen, with whom who it maintains a fragile peace agreement. As the geopolitical instability of the region increases, the country may face renewed missile threats.

Depending on your reasons for traveling to Saudi Arabia, where you’re going, and what you plan to do, you may view the risks posed by the following threats differently. Make sure to take precautions and work with your duty of care provider, if traveling for work, to assess these the travel risk of these threats:

Crime rates

Both violent and petty crime rates in the Kingdom are quite low. There is a slightly higher risk in remote areas.

Violence and/or terrorism

There is a threat of terrorism throughout the country, however, Saudi security services have robust and deeply penetrating surveillance systems and are geared towards counter terror operations. The border area with Yemen has a higher risk of terror as well as missile and drone attacks associated with the Saudi involvement in Yemen’s internal conflict.

Cultural aspects contributing to safety

Despite recent liberalizations, Saudi Arabia is a conservative country. Women, LGBTQ+, and other travelers should be cognizant of prevailing cultural attitudes towards their conduct and avoid behaviors that could draw negative attention. Saudi security services may arrest travelers for social media commentary that the authorities deem disruptive or critical — this includes past commentary. U.S. citizens have been convicted for social media use critical of Saudi Arabia; the time and location of the original post is immaterial. 

The Saudi Arabian government and security services

The importance of tourism to the government’s economic development plan has seen significant investment in security. Ironically, one of the principal threats to travelers is the risk of arbitrary detention by the security services themselves. Reports and accounts from various sources, including international human rights organizations, highlight instances where individuals, including foreign nationals, have been subjected to arbitrary detention without clear legal justification or due process.

Breaking Down Safety in Specific Regions

Saudi Arabia is a massive country. Safety considerations vary across different regions, each presenting its unique set of challenges and concerns for travelers.

The areas around Mecca, Medina, and Riyadh have the highest levels of security investment due to their religious and political significance. Mecca and Medina are least likely to be targeted by regional state actors but suffer an increased terror risk. The areas the Saudi state has identified as regions for economic development, such as the Hejaz region generally and the environs of Riyadh as safest for foreign tourism and business.

A security breakdown of Saudi Arabia’s various regions is as follows:

  • Najd: This is the geographic center of the KSA, the historic home of the house of Saud, and is home to roughly a third of the population and the capital of Riyadh. Includes the Riyadh, Al-Qassim, and Ha’il provinces. Najd is characterized by both terrorism and conflict risk, as the capital, Riyadh, could potentially become a target for such activities.
  • Hejaz: Home to the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, and includes Mecca, Medina, Tabuk, and Al-Bahah provinces. Has increased terror risk targeting pilgrims or U.S. interests located near religious sites. Hejaz poses a risk of terrorism targeting pilgrims and religious sites, given its significance as a destination for Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages.
  • Eastern Arabia: This is the KSA’s largest province by area, and includes the Eastern province. It borders Kuwait, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf. Bahrain faces conflict risk due to its proximity to Iraq and the Persian Gulf, particularly concerning tensions with neighboring Iran.
  • Southern Arabia: Includes the ‘Asir, Jazan, and Najran proyvinces. This region is closest to Yemen and parts of Jizan and ‘Asir are coastal, abutting the Red Sea. Southern Arabia presents a notable risk of conflict and terrorism due to its proximity to the Houthi base of operations, especially along the border with Yemen.
  • Northern Arabia: Includes the Northern Borders Province, and the Al-Jawf province. Al-Jawf includes major historical sites including some of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements on the Arabian Peninsula and borders Jordan. Northern Arabia, while experiencing comparatively less conflict, still carries a risk due to its proximity to Jordan, making it susceptible to border-related tensions and occasional security incidents.

Despite the above concerns, Global Guardian considers most of the country safe to visit, apart from several key areas: anywhere within 50 miles of the Saudi-Yemen border, as well as the cities of Abha, Jizan, Najran, and Khamis Mushayt; the Abha airport; Qatif in the Eastern Province and its suburbs, including Awamiyah.

Map: Risk levels in Saudia Arabia by region (2024)

Risk map of Saudi Arabia, showing risk levels from low to high in 2024


Safety Measures for Travelers

Saudi Arabia is a conservative country with strict observance of Islamic and traditional Arabic cultural values. Women, religious people, and LGBTQ+ travelers should exercise caution.

Travelers should inform themselves of Saudi cultural customs and observe them. There are practices surrounding food, greetings, interacting with members of the opposite sex, and matters concerning Islam. A short list of these practices includes:

  1. Food customs: Saudis often eat with their right hand, as it's considered more hygienic than the left hand, which is typically used for personal hygiene. It's customary to accept food or drink when offered as a sign of hospitality, even if you don't consume it all. During Ramadan, the month of fasting, it's important to respect those who are fasting by not eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight hours.
  2. Greetings: Greetings are an important part of Saudi culture, often involving handshakes, particularly among men. However, it's important to note that opposite-sex greetings are not common.
  3. Interacting with members of the opposite sex: In Saudi Arabia, there are strict guidelines regarding interactions between unrelated men and women due to Islamic principles. Public displays of affection are generally not accepted. Unrelated men and women typically do not socialize in public spaces. Instead, interactions are often segregated, such as in workplaces, schools, and social gatherings.
  4. Matters concerning Islam: Saudi Arabia follows strict Islamic principles, and adherence to Islamic customs and practices is important. Respect for Islamic rituals, such as prayer times and attending mosques, is expected from both residents and visitors.

 Avoiding cultural transgressions can help travelers avoid negative attention and arrest, prosecution, detention, or searches by authorities. 

Business travelers

Business travelers will find that much of Saudi Arabia’s transportation, accommodations, and infrastructure are safe and reliable, with some exceptions. There are unique threats to safety that business travelers used to customs and laws in other countries should be aware of. Global Guardian’s intel team notes the following possible threats:

  • While the roads are good nationwide, reckless driving practices pose a consistent risk for travelers, as the KSA has high accident rates. Consider the use of a professional driver.
  • There is some threat at commercial accommodations catering to foreigners, as these may be targeted by terrorist actors.
  • Weather can pose a threat to travelers in the form of sandstorms and extreme heat.
  • Alcohol and other banned items under Islamic law (such as pork or pornography) are not permitted in the KSA. Criticism of Islam, on the streets or social media, can result in arrest.
  • Electronic devices may be searched upon entry or exit from the KSA. Consider bringing a “burner phone” — a basic, disposable phone that isn’t tied to your identity, which you can use during your trip and discard afterwards.

Female travelers

Life for women in Saudi Arabia is much different than for men: Women require the permission of their male guardians (a husband or father) to exit the country, amongst other activities. While these same restrictions are not in place for foreigners, note that the society looks upon women differently and thus female travelers in the KSA will have additional scrutiny and concerns.

For example, women traveling in Saudi Arabia will need to dress modestly (meaning shoulders and knees covered) and be prepared for potential body scans. Public transportation options may be limited — consider the use of a private driver. There may also be gender segregation in some restaurants, offices, and other public areas.

U.S. citizens

Saudi Arabia is safe for U.S. citizens, or at least should not be any less safe than for people from other countries. Americans should register their trip with the American embassy in Saudi Arabia and consult the Department of State website for current updates.

Travel Advisories for Saudi Arabia

Travel advisories should be consulted ahead of and during a trip. A safety level of 2 indicates travelers should exercise increased caution, 3 that they should reconsider travel, and 4 that they should not travel to the KSA. The letters included at the heading denote the manner of threat to travel. A “T” denotes the risk of terrorism, and an “O” denotes other risks, often conflict or arbitrary detention.

Travel advisories for the KSA can be found here.

As you prepare for your travels in Saudi Arabia, prioritizing safety and avoiding dangerous situations is key to a rewarding experience. Whether you're traveling for business or exploring diverse landscapes, being informed about potential risks is crucial. Global Guardian offers comprehensive support to ensure your journey is safe and memorable: Our security and emergency response coverage in Saudi Arabia includes services such as pre-travel intelligence briefings, secure transportation, executive protection, and our mobile app with 24/7 access to our operations center and on-the-ground teams within the country.

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