Travel by Car
Almost all the people/family here in Riyadh has a car of their own. From a Toyota to Lexus, from Hyundai to BMW. For most of the people here, having a car is not a luxury but a necessity. Its easier to move around esp if you're travelling with women or children. Its very rare that i see people who travel by Limo's or the so called Taxi's.
Fuel is amazingly cheap - 60 halala per liter.More or less Ten cents per liter.
Expats who work here esp male / family are usually provided by theior employer a car/van of their own.
Here in Riyadh, there are 2 kinds of local buses.
1. Government owned called SAPTCO - runs within a specific routes but also runs to all the cities in the Kingdom.
2. Privately owned coasters - runs within certain areas of the city only. The fare is cheaper compared to the government owned. However, comfort is compromise.
Limousine is the common term for taxi in the big cities in the Kingdom. The fare is relatively cheap with a flag down fare of 5SR. The number of limousines have increased over the past few years to the extent that you can find a limo in every corner.
The nationality of the drivers are mostly Indian's, Pakistani's & Saudi's.
Don't worry! most of the limo drivers speak very basic English.
4 Wheel Drive
It is advisable to drive a 4 wheel car/suv (4 wheel drive) when visiting the desert and sand dunes beacuse it will be easy for you to manouver in the desert. This way you can drive all the way to the stony/rocky desert instead of leaving your car near the highway though some desert can be reach through a regular car or a 2 wheel drive.
- Road Trip
Flying Saudia for the first time
My hubby and I flew to Riyadh from Manila via Saudia Airlines - First Class.
The aircarft is relatively big, and for first class seating capacity they have around 20 seats with 2 spacious seats per row.
Individual TV monitor with games, movies and music.They also have Wide selection of food and drinks though no liquor or any alcoholic beverages are being served on board.
Their travelling Kit is really nice..complete with brush, toothpaste,toothbrush ,socks, lotion etc.
Below ae the list of their food menu for Manila/Riyadh flight:
a. Appetizer : Smoked Salmon and Marinated Scallops
b. Salad : Fresh sesonal salad or arabic salad
c. Soup : CHicken Soup or quaker soup
c.Main Course : GRilled Beef Tendeloin, Chicken with Safron Cream, Spicy Prawn with Noddles or Lamb Biryani
d. Dessert : Cream Brulee with Ice cream or fresh seasonal fruits
Hot Snacks: (Second Meal)
a. Salad: Fresh Seasonal Salad,Sautted Shrimp with Salad
b. Main COurse: Arroz La Cubana,Beef Stroganoff, Chicken Breats Tocino or Chicken Biryani
c. Dessert: Apple Pie
These small 10 seater buses that run around all day ,they're everywhere only 40pence for the journey.Mind you they could do with some maintenance......when I say maintenance ,I mean Scrapping!!!!!! No decent exhausts,panels falling off.All part of lifes rich tapestry I suppose....When in Rome etc.
Hassle,but worth it !!
When you arrive at the airport to leave the Kingdom,be prepared to be messed about,long delays,not because of extra security,or anything beneficial, just because they can.The guys on the check in desks seem to take great delight in pissing westerners off.......And they do,but just be calm,relax and think of the freedom flight out of there !!!!!
As you can tell by the big smiles on Ed Bromley and Nigels Syms faces,its a great pleasure when you get through to the departure lounge.
- Business Travel
Taxis in Riyadh
In Riyadh, taxis are commonly referred to as Limos or Limousines, most common way for people to get around the city. All taxis are strictly licensed with driver's ID in the windshield, and cars must be maintained to a reasonably safe standard. So there's really no problem with disreputable or dangerous service here. Gas is cheap, drivers don't usually complain, and the attitudes of the mostly Pakistani and India drivers are generally quite friendly and helpful. Although few cars a dangerous wrecks, some cars are better maintained or newer than others, so I usually flagged one down that appeared to have good brakes, lots of A/C, and no cracks in the windshield. Taxis are everywhere, prices are cheap, and competition keen. For those on a budget though, the buses can be just as adequate and far cheaper still. Only special buses on particular routes accept women passengers, so they must take the taxi. It's safe and acceptable for women to stand on the curb and flag down a taxi in Riyadh. However, most women, expat and Saudi alike, develop a rapport with a driver they trust, and reach an agreement to have the driver waiting for regular errands. Also, it's useful to create a list of several drivers who have cell phones and who can be called upon to make a quick pick-up within a few minutes. Naturally, women who live in compounds have to make arrangements for drivers to enter past security. Women with vehicles must also have a driver, so while gas is cheap, the cost of maintaining a vehicle and driver in Riyadh can be a significant cost.
- Women's Travel
- Budget Travel
- Business Travel
Where to find them?
Everywhere and anytime.
How to reach them?
Simply Scream TAXI or point by your hand they will stop for you.
Eye contact is enough to stop them.
Who can ride them?
Both males and females.
How much to pay them?
I remember 10 minute of diving he took about 15 riyals. Just bargain and he might low the price.
SR3.75 to U.S. $1.00.
Taxi drivers are very friendly and mostly from South East Asia + Saudis.
Unfortunately their driving mostly horrible.
Minibus Transport in Riyadh
The cheapest way to get around is by the minibus transport that generally starts downtown near the Holy Mosque and Main Souk and then radiates out along main boulevards to the edges of town. The drivers or passengers can speak enough English to help determine which bus to take, but the names are also written in both Arabic and Roman writing in the front window. These rusty wrecks are licensed by the city, but are generally loaded with people to the point of breaking leaf springs. Actually, it was for this reason that I rode them. I enjoyed mixing with the rank and file Saudis and Expatrates from the Asian and Arabic nations. Only men can ride these minivans though. Stand out on the curb and wave to get them to stop, but if you stand in the wrong place or the bus is too full, they won't stop. There are also a fleet of large more slow moving buses that allow women to sit in the rear seats, separated by a rail or sometimes a window pane. These stop at more specific places around the city, and don't go by very often.
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
- Business Travel
Very dry roads out there as I'm sure you can imagine,whenever they do get a deluge of rain the roads are slippey as ice.The local arabs just carry on driving as usual(which is pretty hairy at the best of times).Near accident blackspots you'll find red breakdown trucks (they remind me of Vultures ) just waiting on the side of the road waiting for the inevitable accidents.......Sure enough BANG here they come.I must've seen 5-6 crashes on a 45 minute trip back to the hotel from work.I think Riyadh driving instructors do their training ( if at all !!!) in Naples in Italy
Taxi aka 'Limousine' with Reckless Drivers
Taxi within city center is not really hard to find.
Usually a lot of vacant ones on non-peak hours and they are the ones who come running and looking for passengers on most times. So do not be afraid to bargain and offer a fixed deal. 10 SR is usually the deal for any location within the city areas and 5 SR on streets that are closer.
If driver seems to complain I usually say ‘mafi pulus’ meaning ‘no money’ and add that gasoline prices are lowered so it is a good deal. Otherwise, rely on the meter reading if you do not want to haggle and be sure to know the place you are going or you might get a ‘long way’ to your destination which could reflect on your meter price.
On my experience, spotting you from a far, a taxi would have a quick hand wave to call your attention, somehow asking you to wait for him. If competition is tight you can see taxis speeding up to acquire passengers first.
For women, you have to be very cautious, there are a lot of rumors of maniac drivers who tortured and raped women to death and dumped them in unknown dessert deserted areas. As much as possible do not travel alone. Also note that women are only allowed to stay in back seat. Sometimes this experience is also true for men passengers.
In some cases, passengers are not only tortured by these monsters, internal body parts are also sold in the black market. So in case you are not that confident with few martial arts skills, better be safe than have your heart on someone’s body. Scary!
*Photo taken from internet*
around the city
there are no good public transportation yet in Riyadh, so you have two options:
A. rent a car, Riyadh has a very good road system, but too dangerous from drivers side.
B. take a taxi, and let him fight in the roads instead
Most foreigners (and many more Saudis than you'd imagine) go to either Bahrein or UAE once in a while to get a breath of fresh air and see a "normal" place for a few days: drink alcohol, see (and sometimes buy services from) women without abbaya, practice freedom of speech, this sort of stuff. There's several ways to do that.
Beware of driving as the distances are pretty long. Roads are ok, but populated with Saudi drivers (see my warnings and dangers tip). The only route you can drive in a reasonably short time is Riyadh - Bahrein, which takes 3h30' (4h30' if you stick to the speed limit, 3h if you're a Saudi).
Flying is a better option when going to all the other capitals. The routes are covered by numerous companies: Saudia (Riyadh to Bahrein, Doha and Dubai), Emirates (Riyadh to Dubai), Etihad (Riyadh to Abu Dhabi), Gulf (Riyadh to Bahrein) and Qatar (Riyadh to Doha). Fares tend to vary according to the day of the week and time of the year, but you should make it with just over a thousand riyals per person for a return fare.
All these airlines are safe, and in case of Etihad, Emirates and Qatar the aircraft is very comfy. Saudia has somewhat cramped seats, while Gulf is definitely the worst in terms of comfort. But then again, the flight is short.
No Middle Eastern airlines serve alcohol on flights to/from Riyadh (though you'll find it on European airlines).
Getting there (from Europe)
Flying is the only reasonable way to get to Saudi Arabia from Europe. This said, there's not too many companies that serve the country, especially if you're going to the capital Riyadh.
This tip contains my experience with all the airlines that serve Riyadh since that's where I've been. Given that I always fly economy, that's what my judgement reflects. Business class travel may be a lot different so I don't dare judge that.
Saudia is a thing of its own. An airline that broadcasts a prayer before takeoff and has an arrow pointing to Holy Makkah in its inflight navigation screen cannot really be compared to others. But its service is ok, the food is often reasonable and it would be tolerable if they had less cramped seats and alcohol on offer.
The other airlines you're likely to travel on during your journey from Europe are Swiss, Lufthansa, Air France and Emirates.
Of these, Swiss and Emirates are the best: excellent aircraft, good legspace and, in the case of Emirates, an outstanding entertainment system with over 100 movies and games that you can use already before takeoff (genius at work here!)
Lufthansa is just ok. Their aircraft is modern (usually Airbus A340), but the food is lousy (well, German) and the service can be rude (again, German).
Air France is the absolute worst. They fly small aircraft (A319!!!) with very little if any leg space, crap food and terrible service. This also applies to business class (I was "upgraded" once - not much of an UPgrade I have to say).
Funnily enough, you're likely to get the best fares from Swiss!
- Business Travel