Mecca, Saudi Arabia travel tips

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1 If you plan to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, you must apply for a travel visa to Saudi Arabia, and indicate "religious visit" on the application. You may also need to have a Saudi sponsor for your trip, but you need to check beforehand as this requirements changes from time to time. Also find out before leaving whether you'll need an exit permit to return home.
2 Be sure to book visits through a tour company. This can help you avoid legal hassles, as some sights require government permission to visit.
3 If you plan on taking photographs, do so very carefully. It's not welcomed in Saudi Arabia. A permit is needed to take photos, and in some cases, people have been arrested for simply carrying a camera.
4 Saudi Arabia has deliberately made travel into the country difficult, to discourage all but the most devout Muslims entering. So be prepared for a rather laborious process to be able to enter the country.
5 Be prepared for hotels in the mid- to expensive range. There aren't many accommodations for a budget traveler.
6 If you leave the city to visit the countryside, it would be wise to travel in a group. The desert can be forbidding, and accidents on the country's roads are frighteningly common.
7 Find maps ahead of time and study them before you arrive. The tourist industry in Saudi Arabia is poorly developed, and signage is nearly non-existent.
8 If the flight to Mecca depletes your wallet, you can feel a bit better knowing that your meals should be very affordable. Food in Saudi Arabia is generally very cheap.
9 An unaccompanied woman in a restaurant may not be served, as women are expected to be accompanied by a male who is a close family relation.
10 Be careful on the roads. Saudi Arabia ranks as one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to drive.

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