In Riyadh or any other part of Saudi Arabia, single female and male cannot mix together as per their customs and traditions. In respect, especially in public places, you should not be seen roaming around with your opposite sex unless he/she is your spuse and you have your marriage certificate (always) with you to prove it. If the opposite sex you are with is your family, you should also have proof that you are relatives, otherwise the muttawa (religious police) will catch you or worse detain you.
No, it's not about anti-western terrorism. The real danger in Saudi Arabia is Saudi drivers.
Not that the many foreigners would score high in a safe driving contest, but the Saudis are absolutely spectacular in breaking all rules, whether they originate from the street laws or from common sense. Whether it's youngsters driving all-too powerful car at scary speeds in the very centre of the city, businessmen slaloming among the heavy traffic in King Fahd road or families going shopping, beware when you negotiate that crossing.
Things can get particularly hairy if you are a pedestrian (and most visitors are since they aren't allowed to drive in the Kingdom without an international driving licence).
You should take particular care especially at those rare crossings that do have pedestrian lights. The reason is that the drivers around you will interpret them as street decorations, and often behave like they're deliberately aiming at you.
Check the website below if you want a glimpse of how bad it can get down here.
Be careful of where you point your camera. One night when I was wandering home I came across a 'spaceship' of a building and thinking that it was a flash hotel, I took a photo. It was around midnight and I didn't use a flash but the cops must have seen me as I had only just turned to head home when vehicle with flashing lights stopped me. I got to see inside the 'spaceship' as it was their HQ ! and without even asking if I had taken a photo, my film was removed from my camera, which contained almost all of my Bahrain photos !
Although I tried to be friendly, I found the police to be totally unreasonable, unfriendly and on a power trip. I since returned to take several shots of the building (for my VT page) the following evening (a block away with my 300mm lens). Had the officers been reasonable I would never had bothered.
Yes, rain can be a hazard. First of all, it rains very seldom in here but when it does so you'll notice it. Usually it comes in very powerful bursts that can last hours. When that happens, the traffic invariably clogs (you don't build drainage systems in the middle of the desert, of course).
In more serious cases some places can flood in a dangerous way. In February 2005) 5 teenagers drowned because of flooding.
Following recent attacks targeting foreigners, travel advisories are encouraging foreigners to leave Saudi Arabia unless on essential business. Security departments warn that more attacks on foreigners are being planned. If you are staying in the country, avoid public places where foreigners are known to congregate, ensure that your hotel has a good reputation for maintaining high security precautions and stay abreast of travel advisory updates. The US Embassy in Riyadh has posted a warden's message for foreigners outlining Personal Safety in Saudi Arabia.
If you asked me 12 months ago I'd say you should give it a go, it's not as bad as the media make out. Well, things have changed for the worst now as everyone must know.
Would I advise people to come here anymore? No way, it's just not safe here but more importantly, it's very stressful being here now. I hope things will change but I doubt they'll change in a hurry. This is a great shame for all the wonderful Saudi's living here, let-alone foreigners here who now call Saudi Arabia home.
We all like to take photos, now don't we! But be careful when in Riyadh.
Be very discrete and try not to draw attention to yourself, and please, please, don't take photos of military personnel or buildings, mosques, police, women, ministry buildings or any other law enforcement or government building. If you're desperate for that photo, be very discrete and do it at your own risk. You have been warned!
Also, respect peoples privacy. This is more so in Riyadh than other countries.
Remember, if someone takes offence, you could find youself in a spot of bother. There are many stories around of people ending up in jail for taking a photos of the wrong thing. Although these stories tend to be a little old, so I'm not sure what the current situation is. Still, better to be safe than sorry!
Do not, under any circumstances, bring any drugs into the Kingdom, even hashish for your own consumption. In fact, you will notice that the visa application form to Saudi sates in big red letters at the bottom that such behaviour is punishable by death.
Saudi Arabia has a religious police. You should be extremely careful not to get in a situation where you would confront them. If you are stopped by a religious policeman, just do what he says if it is reasonable. For instance, avoid being outside during prayer time, do not eat nor smoke in public during Ramadan in daytime and avoid displaying jewellery.
Saudis are not careful drivers. They mostly drive big and heavy american limousines at frightening speed. The fact that Riyadh is sprawled on a very large area that enables the main streets to be 6 or 8 lane highways doesn't help.
Due to the political situation in the Middle East, there have been hightened levels of security for all Expats. To keep upto date with security levels and warnings check with your country government foreign or travel office.
Foreigners are issued with Iqamas as shown in the attached picture. Make sure you carry your iqama at all times, this justifies your stay in Saudi Arabia if asked by the local Police.
I advise not to use the public transport of buses, although cheap they are driven by mad men! Saudi Arabia also has the highest rate of car accidents in the world so be careful walking down streets.
Muttawa or religious police take their job very seriously. It is very important that anyone travelling to Saudi research the restrictions on clothing and adhere to the strictly enforced standards. This is especially true for women. The muttawa carry sticks and they aren't afraid to strike violators. Basically, women need to be covered from head to ankles in black while men need to wear a shirt with a collar and long trousers.
Do not bring in any drugs or alchol - you will loose your head or be deported.
Do not bring in a Bible, cross etc.
Do not wear jewellery in public.
Do not touch a person with your left hand.
If you do cross your legs you must make sure that you do not show anyone the bottom of your shoe as this is taken as a insult.
RIGHT OR WRONG THIS IS THEIR COUNTRY & THEY CAN MAKE THE RULES & LAWS _ SO JUST OBEY THEM & YOU WILL DO FINE.
Beware of the trees which you can find within the dessert. They have numerous thorns which can definitely hurt you. A piece of advice, LOOK BEFORE TOUCHING!