Prior to visiting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I had a lot of questions about what it would be like to visit as a woman.  Since tourism only opened on September 27, 2019 and I was visiting in mid-October 2019, there was a limited amount of information on the internet about the do’s and don’t’s as well as what to wear. Most of the information was outdated and since the Crown Prince MBS relaxed many of the rules for Westerners, I wanted to share my own experience with you and give you insight into what it’s like to visit Saudi Arabia. To be completely candid, I only spent four days in the country and most of my time was spent on set filming a series so I didn’t have a “typical” visit.


I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to wear fitted jeans on this trip, but our local guide assured us this was acceptable for where we were filming.

Many may disagree with my choice to visit the KSA based on civil rights and political issues, but as a traveler – I try to always travel with an open mind. I may not agree with a certain way of living, but I can respect it. As an American, I may not have the same beliefs as my President or the choices that my government makes, but the world has never judged me because of that. In turn, I don’t judge the world because of the choices that their government may make. What I’ve learned in my travels is that human beings are good people – no matter what their belief system is or where they are from. The news may choose to paint specific countries in a certain light, but I’d prefer to see things and experience things with my own eyes.

What To Wear

While the rules on attire may have relaxed for Westerners, there are still rules on what women can and cannot wear. Conservative clothing is mandatory, which means that you must cover your knees, shoulders, and chest. Women should stay away from form fitting clothing, especially when in public. However, there are exceptions to these rules such as in American hotels where I saw many women wear form fitting jeans. Also, if you visit a “compound,” rules usually don’t apply at all.

As a female tourist, an abaya (head to toe coverage) is not required nor is a hijab (head scarf). However, when you’re visiting the airport or in town, I would recommend covering your head and body as much as possible for your own comfort as well as to show respect to the locals when you visit Saudi Arabia.


If you’re in a “female only” area such as a spa or fitness center (there are a limited amount of these – usually located in compounds or American hotels), you can wear Western clothing. For example, at the Waldorf Astoria in Jeddah, there is a women’s fitness center and health club that allows bikinis in the pool and shorts in the gym. However, when traveling to and from one of these women’s only areas, you need to cover your entire body.

Here are some ideas of clothing to wear in Saudi Arabia:

How To Act

While things are changing and progressing in Saudi Arabia for women, it is still very different than other parts of the world and it’s important to respect the customs of the country. If you’re in a compound or Western hotel, you shouldn’t have any issues speaking with men, but there are things to be aware of.

  • Don’t reach out to shake a man’s hand unless they reach out to shake yours.
  • Don’t be offended if a man doesn’t speak to you and instead speaks to the male next to you (if you’re with a man). To be completely candid, as an outspoken American business women, this was difficult for me. However, this is how most men were raised and taught to act and there will be a  learning curve as things progress in the country.
  • The country is still segregated in many ways. When it comes to security at the airport, there will be a separate men’s line and women’s line.
  • Dancing is not allowed. And no, this is not “Footloose.”
  • For the most part, women still are not treated the same as men. This is unfortunate, but I’m hopeful that it will change in the coming years. Try to understand that different parts of the world have different customs and beliefs and it’s our duty as travelers to respect them, even if we don’t agree with them.


This section applies to both women and men.

Many over the counter medications, supplements, and prescription medications are illegal in the KSA. I’ve had a friend have supplements confiscated so I chose to leave my vitamins at home. However, if you need to travel with prescriptions, make sure to get a note from your doctor that includes:

The prescription medications in question must be accompanied either:

i. Recent medical report (less than six months old) issued by the patient’s medical care provider and clearly stating the following:

  1. personal information of the patient;
  2. medical diagnosis;
  3. treatment plan;
  4. medical recommendations;
  5. generic name of the prescription drugs, dosage and dosage form;

ii. A doctor’s prescription (less than six months old) in the name of the patient with the following information:

    1. medical diagnosis;
    2. generic name of the prescription drug, dosage and dosage form;
    3. drug usage instructions and prescribed duration of use; and
    4. official seal of the health care provider.

I traveled with prescriptions, my doctors note and my medical records and I had no issues.

Click here to find the exact rules of bringing prescriptions into Saudi Arabia.

Banned Items

This section applies to both women and men.

Many items that are normal in the United States are illegal in the KSA. Prior to entering Saudi Arabia, do not bring in:

  • Alcohol
  • Pork
  • Pearls
  • Medicines without a prescription
  • Magazines and books that display scantily clad women
  • Pornography

Note: This list is not exhaustive. Please consult the Saudi government site for the full list of banned items.

What questions do you have about visiting Saudi Arabia?