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Riyadh Travel Guide: Best Places & Time to Visit, Delicacies

Indian embassy in Riyadh

B-1, Diplomatic Quarter
P.O.Box No. 94387
Riyadh- 11693, Saudi Arabia

Visa process for Indian visitors in Riyadh

  • Original passport (valid for a minimum period of six months at the time of submission of visa application)
  • Copy of passport
  • Two recent passport size photographs
  • Duly completed online application form
  • Proof of confirmation of hotel accommodation
  • Airlines tickets
  • A letter from employers or sponsors or a bank statement of the applicant (last one month). In case of minors, document(s) from either parent may be submitted

About Riyadh

Riyadh is Saudi Arabia’s capital and a major business and financial hub. It is located on a desert plateau in the centre of Saudi Arabia and is largely famed as a business destination.

Riyadh is derived from the Arabic word ‘rawdah’ meaning gardens or meadows. The location, in fact, boasts of natural fertility. It naturally has a dry climate. However, a good underground water supply fills much of the gap, making Riyadh the most populated Saudi city and a naturally fertile area in the Saudi Kingdom.

It is a spectacular visit for many other reasons too. The city’s great transformation from a sleeping and nomadic society into a contemporary and plush urban setting display is an example of achievements and success. The view of Riyadh from the sky, the city illumination during the nights or the meadows, the desert, the flower garden make it an attractive tourist playground. The typical tourist life in Riyadh is centred around its over 4000 mosques and the bustling shopping centres called souks (marketplaces).

Places to visit in Riyadh

There are popular business places to visit in Riyadh, and one such prominent destination is the 302-metre tall Kingdom Centre. This centre has a sky bridge connecting two towers.

  • Masmak Fortress is the heart of old Riyadh and holds a historical significance. There is a museum inside which gives an insight into the battle story and includes some photos from the past. The second portion of the Masmak is now dedicated to Saudi’s excellence in agriculture. Adjacent to the fortress is "Jabrah" or "Mikal".
  • The next on the list of famous places in Riyadh is Murabba Palace. It is situated next to the National Museum. It is one of the oldest mud-brick palaces which was built by King Abdul Aziz post his capturing of the Masmak. It is an open sight visit for the public, and there are interesting things to explore here like the first Rolls Royce, or the complete two-storey structure itself, making it one of the prime things to do in Riyadh.
  • The National Museum is a must visit in Riyadh. First opened in 1999, this place is fully-equipped with all modern technology and is very accessible too. People here speak English. There is a whole lot of action waiting inside for you, such as the virtual tours of Madain Salih, or watching the recreated shoot of Prophet Mohammed's battle of Medina.
  • As-Sufaat (Deira Square) is one of the best places to visit in Riyadh. It is a location close to the Great Mosque and the mutawwa headquarters and is popularly called the Chop-Chop Square. It is the place where convicts are punished by beheading with the sword.
  • Kingdom Centre is the most stunning of all given its expansive architectural settings. It is the second tallest structure in Saudi at the height of 305 m. There is a three-storey shopping mall, and then, there is a sky bridge connecting the two peaks. The city panorama from the sky bridge can be enjoyed at the height of 300 m.
  • A very famous spot of Riyadh is the Wadi. It is an 80-km dessert stretch and is primarily occupied by private estates and farms covered with high walls. Towards the south, there are picnic and barbecue spots surrounded by the Wadi’s cliff-like walls.
  • On the outskirts of Riyadh is Wadi Hanifa. It is the ancestral home of the Royal Saudi family, occupied in 1818.

How to reach Riyadh

King Khaled Airport welcomes flights from all over the world. If you are travelling from India, you can get a connecting or direct flight from major cities like Delhi and reach Riyadh. There is a local train station almost in the middle of Riyadh which connects the city to Dammam.

There is a Central Bus Terminal in the Aziziyah district which can be only accessed by a taxi. There are buses plying on the Riyadh-Dammam route, and it takes about 4.5 hours to reach Dammam from Riyadh. A bus journey to Jeddah from Riyadh or Mecca to Riyadh is tediously long; it will take you about 10-12 hour to reach Riyadh or vice-versa.

The same journey by road is taken through the Highway 40. The highways are usually jammed here because of heavy lorries and petrol tankers plying on the road.

Travelling in Riyadh

Cars are the best means to tour in Riyadh since it has underdeveloped public transport. You need to know the landmark locations to reach anywhere in the city. Street signs are marked in Arabic and English both. However, there are few important exceptions with streets showing signs in Arabic only.

Always carry your passport while touring in the city. There are many city-check points, and one needs to show a valid ID proof instantly.

There are white taxis operating in Riyadh. The driver usually knows the important places. There are minibuses but are usually used by the local labourers. It is ideal to drive your own car here.

Best time to visit

Riyadh is located in the centre of the Saudi nation and thus, subject to extreme climates. Summers are scorching with temperatures exceeding 45°C, and the winters are harsh with temperatures plummeting to 0°C. The rest of the time, the climate is dry.

Even though summers are hot, it is not humid. In the evenings, it gets more tolerable, and one can experience cool breeze on the outskirts of Riyadh during the summer time.

The best time to visit Riyadh is from October to March.

There is an Italian Cuisine Week which takes place in November. There is Comic-Con Arabia; an event initiated to highlight the multi-genre pop culture of the town. There is a trade event related to the health and beauty sector in Saudi Arabia held in November every year.

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Riyadh is derived from the Arabic word ‘rawdah’ meaning gardens or meadows.

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What to pack?

  • Carry a variety of clothing. Include comfortable, loose-fit and cotton fabrics preferably covered on the shoulders and mostly knee-length fabric dressing
  • For an evening out, carry fine dresses with a pair of fine jewellery, bags and shoes
  • Always carry a comfortable pair of shoes to spend time walking in the city
  • Pack sunscreen, sun moisturizer, etc
  • Men attire must include loose, comfort fit, cotton shirts, trousers or knee-length shorts

Top delicacies

Some of the best dishes to try in Riyadh include:

  • Shawarma is sliced roasted meat stuffed into warm pitta bread with salad garnish
  • Muhallabia is a creamy milk and rice pudding soaked in rosewater
  • FishSayadieh is a rice dish spiced-up and decorated with caramelised onions and pan seared fish
  • Ma'amoul are local biscuits filled with nuts and dates
  • Fattoush is a salad using crisp pitta bread, filled with fresh vegetables and tossed in sour sumac
  • Luqaimat is sweet dumplings soaked in syrup and decorated with crunchy pistachios on the top
  • CamelKabsa is a tender dish with heaps of rice and loads of sweet peppers and juicy dates on the side

Indian restaurants in Riyadh

  • Mashal restaurant
    Location:9000 Al Amirah Sarah Bint Ahmad As Sadiri, Ad Dhubbat, Riyadh 12623, Saudi Arabia
    Contact: +966 11 473 4203
  • Zaika restaurant
    Location:7235 Al Ulaya, Al Olaya, 2392, Riyadh 12244, Saudi Arabia
    Contact: +966 11 461 6066
  • Anardana Indian restaurant
    Location:Mövenpick Riyadh Hotel (opposite Ministry of Interior), King Fahad Road, An Namuthajiyah, Riyadh
    Contact: +966 11 457 99996

Shopping list essentials

  • The Antique Souq offers everything under one roof. There is always a choice to be made, given the expansive display of cheap Arabic goods to the expensive carpets, jewellery, daggers or coffee pots.
  • Al Faisaliah, Olaya Rd is a swanky mall and must be visited for high-end shopping tours
  • Al Mamlaka, Olaya Rd is another plush mall in the Kingdom and has one floor dedicated to women shopping at leisure
  • Jarir Bookstore (Makatba Jarir) is the largest bookshop and has books and magazines to cater to a wide audience
  • Localizer Mall, Tahlia St is a place to be for garments

Healthcare centers

Some of the best healthcare centres to contact during an emergency include:

  • King saud medical complex
  • Prince mohammed bin abdulaziz hospital
  • Saudi german hospital
  • Riyadh care hospital
  • Saudi british hospital

Tourists can buy a travel insurance policy to get the best services during an emergency. In case of an accident or ailment, tourists need to inform the insurer who would suggest some good nearby hospital where they can seek treatment. The insurer will take care of the medical expenses.

Currency

Saudi Riyal is the local currency here. Coins available in the denomination of 5, 10, 25 and 50 halala and SR1 notes in the denomination of SR1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 is used. Cash is the preferred means of transactions here. Therefore, you need to buy SR beforehand or visit the Riyadh Banks or the Foreign Exchange Bureaus, once you reach Riyadh. Currency exchange happens at the hotel, airports and in some designated centres across the city. Search for signs which read- Bureau De Change, Geld Wechseln or Cambio.

Basics of local communication

Arabic is the local language and the most preferred too. The level of English spoken varies. Indian and Pakistani chauffeurs, for example, will speak English, while others may not. It is important to note the street addresses on a piece of paper before you step out of the hotel to the next tourist destination. When you hire a taxi, make sure the male members sit in the front, and the women use the back seat of the car. Also, it is a good idea to greet people in the local language, especially with the Saudis, who are courteous and very hospitable.

English Arabic (MSA)
Good Morning Sabah alkhyr
My Name is Aismi hu
Where is 'Ayn hu
Yes Nem fielaan
No La
Please Raja'
Sorry Asif
How much is this Kam Thaman Hdha

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