Saudi Arabia Hotels: Jeddah: Dammam: Riyadh: Al-Khobar
Traveling as an Expat in KSA
Being in KSA is not like traveling around the States or Europe. You have to be careful to keep within their rules and not to offend anyone. This guide to being an expat in Saudi Arabia will help you.
Finding a Hotel in Saudi Arabia
Working in Saudi Arabia as a consultant I have had the opportunity to travel around a fair amount within the country, and have stayed at a number of Saudi Arabia Hotels in the cities of Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam / Al-Khobar.
During these trips around Saudi Arabia I have had the opportunity (in fact the need) to stay at a number of different Saudi Arabian hotels and rented apartments as well as running training courses and meetings using hotel facilities.
There are many international hotels around the kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Hilton, Sheratton, Soffitel, Movenpick, and the like to name just a few. The bigger hotels all being international chains not “local” hotels. There are a few local hotels in Saudi Arabia but these are generally of the smaller variety.
Standard of Hotel Accommodation in Saudi Arabia
Accommodation in Saudi Arabia Hotels is generally of high standard, very similar to what you would expect in the west in any of their other branches. Beds are comfortable, sheets are clean, Televisions work, and everything is well maintained. I have stayed at only three of the smaller locally run hotels, one was very ornate and extremely “posh”. Despite this it was cheaper than the nearby large “chains”. Another was very old and looked it, although it was once probably very ornate it was beginning to look tired and was in need of renovation, both of these however were clean and the service excellent.
The third hotel however in Riyadh really surprised me, it was very much of the budget variety and showed it! The exterior and lobby were fine but the rooms and corridors were in urgent need of attention. The really surprising thing in this hotel was that you could actually get from the underground car park direct to where the rooms were without going through the lobby, therefore if you had wanted to smuggle a woman direct to your room without being observed this was possible! (So if you are dating girls in Saudi Arabia and you need to know the name of this hotel just drop me an email!)
Riyadh Hotel tour
Hotel food in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabian Hotel food is excellent although pricey when compared to what you can get outside. I have never had the need to complain about food in any hotels I have stayed at in Saudi Arabia, and I am a fussy eater.
Most Saudi hotels have a buffet, a vast buffet of different foods. Typically a large salad bar as the Saudis will start a meal with a salad. A choice of soups and different breads. Then the main courses which will be everything from Arabic stews to Italian Pastas with vegetables, potatoes, rice and everything you could possibly want. The Saudis love to eat, and meals are generally huge! I am a big eater, over six feet tall and weigh 100kg, but many of the Saudis will out eat me several times over, and many although shorter must weigh twice what I do!
The sweets are amazing, there is always a vast array of sickly sweet foods for desert, something that I never ever eat, but my wife loves! The selection is always mouthwatering, this is an area that the Saudis love, they have a very sweet tooth. This is probably why diabetes is such a major problem here in the kingdom.
In my first couple of months in the kingdom I
spent a lot of time with the buffets and managed to put on over 5kg, beware! Saudi Arabian Hotel food is just too good in most hotels, I need a diet!
Hotel Service in Saudi Arabia
Arabic hotel Service, if fantastic, the staff being in many cases over-helpful, looking for a tip! They are not overly well paid and a small tip makes a big difference to them so they go out of their way to smile and be as friendly as they possible can be.
I tend to find the "front desk" slow, especially if staffed by Saudis, make sure you leave an extra 5 minutes for check out as there can be a lot of individual pieces of paper to be printed out and signed!
Please do tip the staff, their wages are very low and their work hard and the hours long and most have no "off days"!
Seafront Hotels Jeddah and Al-Khobar
Location wise, the main hotels in Jeddah and Al-Khobar are on the Cornice (seafront) and the views are terrific. I would recommend going for a walk along the sea front in the evening as long as the sun has gone down and the temperature has dropped. But it can still be in the 40’s (over 105 degrees Fahrenheit plus) so take water and expect to sweat!
I have stupidly tried to walk the seafront in daytime with a colleague, having walked a couple of kilometers to the point that neither of us could walk much further, had no water and the taxi’s that had been annoying us by honking their horns at us thinking we needed a ride were nowhere to be seen!
Many Hotels Located in this Area with good Sea Views
Hotel Security in Saudi Arabia
If you are a westerner staying in one of the main hotels in Saudi Arabia then you should be quite safe. Much like the western compounds around the Kingdom, they are often approached through concrete block slalom courses and have the usual Saudi National Guardsman on patrol with automatic weapons to protect the guests.
The larger hotels having military vehicles gaurding the entrances as in the Photograph oposite of the Hilton Hotel in Jeddah.
During a recent conference here in Jeddah regarding oil attended by many world leaders and other important guests the roads around the hotels were filled with armored vehicles and there were also gun boats patrolling the nearby shoreline. Very unnerving!
Hotel Security in KSA
Many Seafront Hotels AlKhobar and Dammam
Tour of Jeddah
Hotel Villas in Saudi Arabia
In Jeddah there are a couple of Hotels such as the Movenpick that instead of the traditional hotel rooms have small private villas with individual swimming pools and access to the sea. These are excellent although a little more pricey than the standard hotel rooms. Peak season a single bedroom villa costing around 2,300SAR, 2 bedroom 4,500SAR ($600 - $1200) per night! This is against rates of around 500 – 1000SAR at the other hotels ($130 - $270).
Saudi Beach Resorts instead of Hotels
On the edges of Jeddah however are a number of beach resorts which you can use as an alternative to the Saudi hotels, these have villas for rent within them that are typically priced in the same range as a single hotel room, plus you have access to all of the pools and the beach.
These range from downright seedy to very posh, the price changing accordingly. The rules within these Saudi resorts changing depending on the nationalities they are aiming it at. The more expensive ones typically having western type attitudes towards dress to the extent that there are ladies bathing in skimpy bikinis on the beach, a great place to visit if you have spent a few months only seeing women dressed as ninjas!
However these resorts are family only! As a single man it is very difficult (but not impossible I might add) to get access to these.
Private Walled Vilas with Pools
Private Vilas with Pools instead of Hotels
You can also find for hire small walled villas with swimming pools which can be used as alternatives to staying in a Saudi Arabian hotel.. These are totally private once inside and the rules as to who can hire are very much down to the owner. These are often used for “singles” parties, but the police here in Saudi Arabia know this! This usually means that the police set up road blocks later in the evening to deter people who are unmarried from going to these places (I have never heard of an un-announced raid on any premises as these are generally used by families!)
These vary in quality a huge amount, some are very badly maintained and a health and safety nightmare, check the place carefully before you rent, be especially wary of the power outlets etc!
The police aspect on approaching these areas normally means that most women will be reluctant to go with you, and if you are in the company of women who are “illegal” with no iqama (residency visa) looking to supplement their income they will be very reluctant to go with you. However a word to the wise, the roadblocks do not normally get set up until after 9pm!
Staying in Saudi Arabia
Where ever you decide to stay it is vital that you stay within the many rules that there are within Saudi Arabia. Just because you are in a hotel does not mean you can dress and behave like a westerner. This Saudi Expat Guide will help to ensure that you don't get caught out doing anything you shouldn't when you are there.