web Musings of The Global Traveller

Friday, May 22, 2009

How to get to | Saudi Arabia

This is part of a series of blog entries on how to get to countries and places. Here is a link to the index. I plan to eventually cover every country and some other places. If you have a request for a particular country or place please use the email me link at top right, or leave a comment.
Saudi Arabia
Source : Baptiste Marcel

Source: Ali Mansuri

Saudi Arabia can be reached by ferry across the Red Sea, by land across most borders, or by air. Due to the great distances involved, bus travel to/from Riyadh or Jeddah and all neighbouring countries is long and slow. The trip between Dammam and Kuwait, Doha, Qatar or United Arab Emirates is comparatively much shorter. Visitors with evidence of having visited Israel are denied entry. There are no roads across the border with Oman (but travel via United Arab Emirates is fine), and the road across the Iraq border may or may not be open.

Most visitors arrive by air. Airlines serving Saudi Arabia (Riyadh except where noted) include:

  • Star Alliance - Austrian (Riyadh and Jeddah), bmi (Riyadh Dammam and Jeddah), EgyptAir (Riyadh Dammam and Jeddah), Lufthansa (Riyadh Dammam and Jeddah), Singapore (Riyadh and Jeddah), Swiss (Riyadh and Jeddah), Turkish (Riyadh and Jeddah)
  • Oneworld - British Airways (resumes soon to Riyadh and Jeddah), Cathay Pacific, Royal Jordanian (Riyadh Dammam and Jeddah)
  • Sky Team - Aeroflot (Jeddah only), Air France (Riyadh and Jeddah)
  • Other selected - all Middle Eastern and Gulf-based airlines, major airlines based in the Indian subcontinent plus Indonesia and other countries with a large Muslim population

Several European (and some Asian) airlines operate flights through Saudi Arabia to other Middle Eastern airports. These are called tag flights and are often very cheap elsewhere in the world. However, none of these flights involving Saudi Arabia have traffic rights - meaning you cannot just take the short regional part of the flight by itself.

TIP there are lots of charter flights (to Jeddah) during Hajj - these are operated by a wide array of airlines although only sold through the marketing airlines.

TIP longhaul flights to Saudi Arabia can be not much more than the fare to one of the major Middle East hubs (eg Dubai for Emirates). The extra short flight to Saudi Arabia costs much less than being purchased separately.

TIP fares in first and business class tend to be high and often sell out. Book using awards or around the world tickets well in advance of the travel date. Star Alliance has easily the most options of the 3 main alliances.

TIP Saudi Arabia can easily and usefully be included on a Star Alliance around the world. On Oneworld Explorer fare Saudi Arabia (and the rest of Middle East) are treated as part of Europe, with an additional limit of 2 "long" flights between UK and this region. British Airway's imminent resumption of flights to Saudi Arabia will provide an alternative to the Royal Jordanian connection.

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