This is the era of tourism in Saudi Arabia as officials have left no stone unturned in their bid to attract visitors to the kingdom. From exempting tourists from strict rules applied in the country to unrolling a new tourist e-visa to ease the entry process, efforts to boost the local tourism sector have been pretty serious.
However, that's not to say there aren't any guidelines tourists have to adhere to in order to ensure a problem-free stay in Saudi Arabia.
Rules like what, you may ask? Here's a closer look at a few things you should avoid doing if you're visiting Saudi Arabia as a tourist:
1. Arriving in the country while drunk
Drinking is strictly illegal in the kingdom, so if you're drunk when you get off a plane in the country, you're bound to get in trouble. Carrying any kind of alcoholic drink into Saudi Arabia is also considered a serious offense so you better steer clear.
3. Dancing in public
Dancing in public has landed many people in Saudi prisons over the years.
Last year, a Saudi man and woman were arrested for dancing in a street located in the city of Abha. In 2017, Jeddah police detained a teenager who performed the Macarena dance at the center of a Jeddah crosswalk.
So no matter what you do, avoid the urge to break into a dance in public ... you've been warned.
4. Playing loud music
Walking around with music blasting out of your phone is a criminal offense punishable under the kingdom's newly passed public decency law. Keep your headphones on hand at all times.
5. Filming people without their consent
Taking photos or videos of people without asking for their permission is a pretty severe offense in the kingdom so always watch out where and what you're filming.
6. Wearing "inappropriate" clothes in public
The kingdom did announce that female tourists won't be required to wear abayas (floor-length garments) in public. However, they still have to adhere to a modest dress code because wearing immodest clothing or garments with questionable prints on them is punishable under Saudi law.
For men, wearing shorts or walking in public in white underwear garments is also an offense.
7. Insulting religion
Defaming or insulting religion in any way is considered one of the most serious offenses under Saudi law.
Mosques, prayer areas, copies of the Holy Quran, and any other religious symbol are always to be respected.
8. Putting on public displays of affection
Public displays of affection are not allowed in public spaces regardless of marital status, including hugging and holding hands. Violating this rule can land people in legal trouble under the kingdom's public decency law.
9. Talking to women/men who aren't related to you
Approaching a person of the opposite sex who isn't related to you is illegal in Saudi Arabia. Under the kingdom's sharia laws, anyone found to be violating laws related to this can be charged with "inciting debauchery."
In 2017, Mecca police department arrested a restaurant employee who was filmed talking to a woman behind a fast-food eatery in the city. The arrest came just days after footage of the woman approaching the man close to his workplace went viral on social media, sparking outrage among users who deemed the duo's behavior "immoral."
10. Disrespecting gender-segregation rules
The country applies strict gender-segregation rules in nearly all public spaces including schools, malls, and restaurants.
Public outlets are usually split into areas designated for single men while others are set aside for women or families.
Walking into any public amenity, you must check where you're allowed to sit depending on your gender and personal status.