THE SOLO DRIFTER: Exploring Saudi Arabia’s Timeless Kingdom, Future Horizons | A Travel Guide

I only write blogs about my country trips once I leave that country. But for Saudi Arabia where I am based now, I felt that it is high time to start introducing the Kingdom to my readers. My usual The Solo Drifter blog posts start with a vlog. My time cannot afford to make one this time (I couldn’t even write my blog for my other trips in Europe and the Middle East) but hoping to make them sooner.

Visiting Saudi Arabia

I am currently holding an Iqama, an ID that provides expatriates the right to live and work in the Kingdom. For visitors, the Kingdom offers an electronic visa. Holders of a US, UK or Schengen visa are eligible for a Saudi electronic visa upon arrival.

What you need to know about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

  1. Fifth-largest country in Asia and the largest in the Middle East.
  2. The word “Saudi” is derived from the element as-Suʿūdīyya in the Arabic name of the country, which is a type of adjective known as a nisba, formed from the dynastic name of the Saudi royal family, the Al Saud (Arabic: آل سعود).
  3. The emergence of what was to become the Saudi royal family, known as the Al Saud, began at the town of Diriyah in Nejd in central Arabia with the accession as emir of Muhammad bin Saud on 22 February 1727.
  4. In the early 19th century, the Ottoman Empire, based in Istanbul, sought to assert its control over various regions, including parts of the Arabian Peninsula.
  5. After a period of regional fragmentation, the Second Saudi State emerged in the 1820s but faced further Ottoman intervention.
  6. Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, also known as Ibn Saud, initiated the founding of the Third Saudi State in the early 20th century. In 1902, Ibn Saud recaptured Riyadh from the Al Rashid family, marking the beginning of his efforts to unify the Arabian Peninsula.
  7. Ibn Saud continued to consolidate his power by gradually capturing and unifying various regions through military campaigns. On September 23, 1932, Abdulaziz Ibn Saud formally declared the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, uniting the territories he had conquered.
  8. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter, with proven oil reserves of around 266 billion barrels.
  9. Vision 2030, launched in 2016, aims to reduce the country’s dependence on oil and diversify the economy.
  10. The Public Investment Fund (PIF) is a key driver of economic diversification, with a target to increase its assets to $2 trillion by 2030.
  11. Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company, is the world’s most valuable company.
  12. The ban on cinemas was lifted in 2018, contributing to the growth of the entertainment industry.
  13. Women were granted the right to drive in 2018, marking a significant social reform.
  14. Mecca and Medina, located in Saudi Arabia, are the two holiest cities in Islam.
  15. The annual Hajj pilgrimage attracts millions of Muslims from around the world.
  16. Riyadh, the capital, is home to the King Abdullah Financial District, a major financial hub.
  17. The Riyadh Metro, one of the largest urban transport projects globally, is under construction.
  18. There are trains from city to city that can be utilized when travelling.
  19. Within the cities, there are buses that are available.
  20. Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is the current king. Mohammed bin Salman is the Crown Prince and Prime Minister.

Traditions, Laws and Etiquette in Saudi Arabia

  1. Arabic is the official language of Saudi Arabia and the primary language used in all dealings and public transactions. All road signs are bilingual, showing information in both Arabic and English. 
  2. Certain shops close briefly during prayer times to allow time for worship. During the holy month of Ramadan, the rhythm of the country changes into a mellow, spiritual one.
  3. The sale, purchase, and consumption of alcohol and drugs is illegal in Saudi Arabia. Just recently, the government has allowed alcohol for certain individuals within the Diplomatic Quarter.
  4. People greet each other “Salam Alaykum,” which means “peace be upon you.”
  5. Traditionally, women wear an abaya [a long robe or cloak that covers the whole body] over their everyday clothing. Foreigners are not required but encouraged. But if not wearing abaya, loose-fitting clothing that covers to the elbow and below the ankle is recommended in public. Men can wear anything from the traditional thobe [a long-sleeved, gownlike garment] to jeans and a T-shirt.
  6. Saudis value their privacy a lot, especially females. So before taking any picture, especially if people are included, ask them first.
  7. People usually pray in areas reserved for prayer or in mosques. To show respect around these areas, avoid doing things that could distract others, like talking loud or playing loud music. If you are not around those areas during prayer time, just act normally.

Climates and Seasons

  1. Spring is mid-March to mid-June. The temperature at night in the northern area can drop below 15 degrees C. The central and southern regions are warmer, averaging around 20 degrees after nightfall. Rainfall is at its highest during spring, particularly in the central region and in the southwest over the Aseer Mountains.
  2. June to September is summer, with the average temperature hovering around 45 degrees C. 
  3. Mid-September to mid-December comes autumn. While daytime temperatures remain warm and can reach the 30s in early fall, evenings are milder and fit for outdoor strolling.
  4. Everyone’s favorite is winter during mid-December to mid-March. Average winter temperatures are in the teens, but visitors might be lucky enough to see snowfall in the mountains of the northern regions blanketing the slopes and desert sands.

Currency and payments

  1. Saudi Arabia’s national currency is the Saudi riyal (ر.س SAR).
  2. You’ll receive notes in denominations of five riyals, ten riyals, 50 riyals, 100 riyals and 500 riyals; and coins in one riyal, two riyals, 50 halala, 25 halala, 10 halala, 5 halala and 1 halala.
  3. ATMs are everywhere and you can even withdraw money in other currency like dollars, euros, etc.
  4. Travelling to 26 countries when I started writing this blog, Saudi Arabia has the most innovative technology in terms of trade and shopping. Even the smallest groceries (bakala) or pop-out tea shops in the streets, you can pay using your cards.

This blog is a work-in-progress. This would be the longest blog that I would ever written because Saudi Arabia has a lot to explore. When I first arrived here in 2021, the driver (Mohammed) who picked me up from the airport asked me, ‘Why Saudi Arabia?’. I looked at the environment while we were on the way to my hotel. I noticed one thing – Saudi Arabia is a country to respects its religion, preserves its culture, takes care of its people and its heritage, has the ambitious and futuristic mind. I saw that in my first day until now, Saudi Arabia makes me fall in love with its culture and tradition, and futuristic developments that trace back to its history and religion.

I decided to write a series of blogs about the country and would be featuring the destinations in the following:

Click each link to visit the travel blog.


I live in Riyadh. Funny thing, but I think you would agree, that when you are living in that place, it’s hard actually to visit everything or most of the places. I am in the process of collating and structuring everything for this blog post. I hope I would be able to complete it before the 2024 National Day. Feel free to recommend places by sending me a messages via my social media pages.

Sharqiyah (Eastern Province)

Asir (Southern Arabia)

Hejaz, including Jeddah

Al Bahah Province

The following are to be featured in the coming months. If you are reading this and want to recommend, please send me a message. I haven’t visited them yet. I prefer meeting locals to experience their culture.

Other Regions and Provinces

  • Jazan (Southern Arabia)
  • Najd (Al Qassim Province)
  • Tabuk Province
  • Ha’il Province (Hejaz)
  • Al-Jawf Province (North Arabian)
  • Najran Province (Southern Arabian)
  • Northern Borders Province

If you are a local or traveller who wants to contribute to this blog, please contact me.

About the Author

Paul Michael Jaramillo
Paul Michael JaramilloChief Executive Editor
PJ is a CPA, writer, storyteller, environment and youth advocate. As a writer, his articles on national development were published in a Spanish newspaper and local news network Rappler. As a storyteller and environment advocate, his documentary films on mining and environment were featured by ABS-CBN News and GMA News. He launched his career as a CPA at KPMG in the Philippines in late 2015. He started his professional journey as an external auditor of a global workspace provider (the largest audit client of KPMG in the Philippines), global bank, leading MFCG in the Philippines and a number of shared service centres. As an auditor, his team won the KPMG Asia-Pacific Data & Analytics Challenge and coached the Philippine team that placed third to the KPMG GlobalRunner Cup. More than two years later, he led KPMG in the Philippines’ Network of Audit Innovators and Data & Analytics Champions and its academic arm, while serving as a member of the KPMG Asia-Pacific Audit Digital Transformation Workstream. He served as a member of the Audit Methodology Group and Root Cause Analysis Team of KPMG in the Philippines. He was a regular training facilitator of KPMG on audit methodology, innovation, data and analytics, professional standards and regulatory updates. He also served as a coach for newly promoted supervisors. PJ was also the Firm’s System of Quality Management Implementation Manager and a Workforce of the Future Champion. He was also a Sampling Specialist of the Firm. In 2019, PJ was a member of the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA)’s Technical Working Group on Audit Methodology. PJ led in developing some of the innovative solutions of KPMG in the Philippines. Above all, PJ is a people investor. He invests on people who have potential and talents. That makes him a coach and mentor to some young professionals in the profession and served as a People Committee member of KPMG in the Philippines. He leads advocacy projects that help communities. He produces vlogs thru his YouTube channel, PJspirations which features stories of different individuals. As a volunteer, he is the Academic Master and Head Coach of PREMIER International Learning and Development Center, which provides coaching, mentoring, training and learning programs and platforms that promote growth and development in every individual’s life and career. He is also with the Middle East and Caspian regions of KPMG as a member of its Professional Practice group and Audit L&D for the Saudi Levant Cluster, providing subject matter knowledge and guidance on audit methodology, and learning and development programs to its offices. He is a proud Ilocano and a graduate of Northwestern University.

He also conducts #IamRemarkable sessions, a program initiated by Google for women and underrepresented groups.