Cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in patients from Saudi Arabia is still showing and confirms by WHO. Always ensure that you have proper travel insurance when going abroad as well as travel insurance for your items. The following is a briefing on the country. If you have further issues then contact the British Embassy in Saudi Arabia for assistance.
Safety and security
The Saudi government regulations require British pilgrims performing Umrah and Hajj to travel with an accredited UK travel agency. There has been an increase in pickpocketing in Makkah, particularly in the region of the Grand Mosque and in Medina so be aware at all times. Note that public demonstrations are illegal in Saudi Arabia so stay away from these if they do occur. Also stay away from the border regions of Saudi Arabia. Crime is the country is very low however be careful outside of large cities as in January 2014 a car carrying 2 German diplomats was fired at in Eastern province. There is a heightened threat from terrorism. in Saudi Arabia and attacks could be indiscriminate.
All visitors, including pilgrims, require a visa to enter Saudi Arabia. If you are arriving from a Yellow Fever Country then you will need to show a Yellow Fever certificate on arrival. If you are a female visitor or resident you must be met by your sponsor on arrival.
Local laws and customs
Note that the public practice of any form of religion other than Islam is illegal. You can bring a Bible into the country however you may not bring them into the country in large numbers – personal use is allowed however importation is illegal. Being a Muslim country women should wear conservative, loose-fitting clothes as well as a full length cloak (abaya) and a headscarf. Men should not wear shorts in public. Note also that:
- 1. It is illegal for women to drive.
- 2. Homosexual acts and adultery are illegal.
- 3. Illegal possession of, or trade in alcohol has serve punishment.
- 4. The punishment for smuggling drugs includes the death penalty.
Healthcare facilities in major cities are of a high standard. Most towns have a health centre or basic hospital. Pilgrims must have a valid certificate of vaccination against the ACWY strains of meningitis. If you need assistance then dial 997 and ask for an ambulance.