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A lot of questions in the VT forum verge on security and terrorism. You can get a good snapshot of the current situation from the American embassy web site.
This is the official version. However, reality is different. I won't take responsibility if you choose not to follow the official guidelines, but can tell you that in practice the terrorism situation has considerably improved in Saudi Arabia since the attacks on foreigner compounds in May 2003. The Saudi authorities have finally got a hold on this terrorism thing, and the truth is that most of the wanted terrorists are either detained or dead.
This said, you should be careful when going around, but since terrorist attacks are unpredictable, I'd suggest you take care when crossing the street, it's much more likely that you die because of a reckless driver than an islamic terrorist in here.
Updated Apr 4, 2011
One of the most common problems of expatriates working in Saudi Arabia is dealing with the policemen, language being the biggest hurdle. If your vehicle ever meets with an accident, the first thing you should do is to stop the vehicle right there and get out of the car. Do not move the vehicle till a policeman arrives on the spot. Do not be bothered about the traffic behind you, i.e., even if the vehicle is bang in the middle of the road, you must just put on the hazard lights and stop the car right there. This is very important because if you try to move the vehicle to the side of the road, it would amount to tampering with evidence.
If you are taken to the police station, never sign any document unless the Government Relations Officer of your company arrives. This is important because all verbal and written communication would be in Arabic. If it is not practically possible, and the cop on duty forces you to sign some document, sign it but make sure that you write above your signature that you do not understand what is written above. Believe me, this would save you a lot of trouble later, as mentioned earlier.
With the current security situation, there are checkpoints in almost all major towns across the kingdom. As mentioned earlier in my blog, you must always make sure to carry your iqama, istemara, car insurance and your company ID with you all the time. At every checkpoint, make sure that you do the following. A word of caution - these are just tips, not official rules, and are based completely on my own experiences!
Completely roll down your car window; never mind if you lose the coolness and comfort of the ac. One of my friends did not roll down his windows and he was simply asked to park his car by the side of the road and made to wait for more than 30 minutes. Remember, the cop is standing in the hot sun and you must do nothing, absolutely nothing, which would irritate him
Switch off the music from your radio/CD player
Take out the ID in your hands and show it out of the open window. Some people have their IDs hung around their neck. Never make the mistake of showing the cop your ID in this fashion. Take it out of your neck and display it clearly by sticking your hand out of the window.
Never chew gum in front of the cop. Some of them consider it as an insult
If you are wearing sun goggles, remove them when you cross the checkpost
Never ever try to switch lanes. Murphy's law always works here and the other lane would always be faster than yours. But if you try to switch lanes in a checkpost, you had it!
Never talk to other passengers or in your mobile phone as you pass a checkpost
If a cop speaks something to you in Arabic, just give a friendly smile, apologize and say that you do not know Arabic. In nine out of ten cases, this works and he would simply let you go without bothering you much.
Remember that these cops are stressed out standing in the open and your actions must never ever irritate them at any point of time.
These are practical tips for expatriates planning to work in Saudi Arabia, which you wouldn't find in any official dossier. Hope they are of some help to you.
Written Apr 9, 2009
This tip is for the female expat and those who are planning to work in saudi... avoid walking in the dark places especially at late evening even if you are accompanied with someone else.
We heard this news from our friends that there were a filipina nurses were being kidnapped by anonymous gang while they were walking along on the dark place, they were from shopping they were not killed, but the big question still there if what they did to them.
This crime is rarely happened in riyadh and its happening too in some other countries, there is nothing wrong if we do keep an extra care to avoid this and it wont be happened to us.
Updated Mar 12, 2009
Reduce your car speed when you are driving on the desert highway especially when its far from civilization.
One time during on our desert trip,my husband were enjoying driving our car with 100kph he didn’t noticed the humps on the road, our car's transmission was damaged and we stranded 3 hrs on the highway. It was lesson to us very scary and very expensive to fix the broken parts of your car. :-(
Updated Mar 12, 2009
If you intend to drive in the desert road with 40 to 50degrees temperature, be sure that your car is in good condition, full of gas, with lots of water and don’t forget to bring your cell phone.
A friend of ours told this story it was happened in summer season.. there was a Filipino engineer in Riyadh found dead in his car, gas empty, no cell phones, no water and he stranded on the desert, according to the autopsy the cause of his death was dehydration or heat stroke.
Updated Mar 12, 2009
Just beware when you are driving in the desert road, sometimes you'll be surprised camels are crossing on your way, we encountered it twice when we went to the desert, it might be caused of an accident either you would get hurt or the camel would be hurt.
According to our friends when you hit a camel you will pay fine which the cost of one camel is about 5 thousand to 70 thousand riyals depends of its age and color. Though I didn’t believe that camel is so expensive I browsed the net and I found a camel sale web site which is true , now I believed… Yes!! It’s too expensive, so beware to hit a camel!!
Updated Mar 12, 2009
According to our friends there was a lady who just wore a jeans and shirt in the market area and they said the mutawa sent her in jail.
For the ladies dont you ever ever try not to wear your abaya when you are in public this could be a rule of tradional way of the country.
Updated Sep 3, 2008
Traffic in the city is most likely light to moderate with occasional car accidents mostly by reckless minors and some adventurous and furious Saudi drivers.
To say 'heavy traffic' in Riyadh is way an exaggeration to me, compared to what I am accustomed to back home this is a 'no traffic' at all, or what traffic? experience.
Okay, Peak hours with slightly heavy traffic are between 7 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m.
Not that BAD NEWS!
Driving can be traumatic for new comers, unless you love car racing and is used to seeing live vehicle collisions and other road tragedies.
Underage Drivers Add to Chaos on the Roads
Updated Feb 12, 2008
On arrival in Riyadh all western women should have an Abaya to cover their clothing and a scarf ( Hijab) to cover their hair. Failure to do so will have them attract the attention of the religious police(Mujhadeen) who are NOT understanding. Abayas can be purchased at Islamic clothing shops worldwide.
Women must not go out into the street without a male relative.They may go by car with a paid driver.
Written Jan 26, 2008
In riyadh,it's very easy to get an accident so in riyadh you have to be careful in driving.well last year king abdullah made a remarkable change in the country but I'm not saying that all those horror stories are'nt true that was how it was before.but now things are a bit relaxed.
Written Dec 12, 2007
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