Safety and security
While generally safe, conditions in certain areas of Saudi Arabia can deteriorate quickly leading to public disturbances. You should remain informed of local and regional developments that could result in a heightened level of risk.
Public demonstrations are illegal in Saudi Arabia and should be avoided. There is particular localised unrest in the Eastern Province region which can result in spontaneous demonstrations that can turn confrontational leading to violent clashes with security forces.
There is an increased risk of terrorist incidents close to the Saudi-Yemen border. In response to the request for assistance from the government of President Hadi, Saudi Arabia is leading a military intervention including air strikes, against Houthi rebels across Yemen.
Irish citizens should not travel to areas close to the Saudi-Yemeni border. Irish nationals within 80km of the border should leave the area unless it is essential to remain.
Irish citizens are advised to be extra vigilant and exercise caution when travelling in Saudi Arabia.
While the Saudi authorities are actively pursuing terrorist cells operating in the Kingdom, a serious terrorist threat persists against western targets, religious sites and security forces. The Saudi Ministry of Interior has issued past warnings of possible attacks on oil installations and shopping malls throughout Saudi Arabia.
There have been regular attacks on security forces and on US, Danish and Canadian citizens in Saudi Arabia. There are frequent posts on jihadist websites and social media calling for attacks against Western and other interests in Saudi Arabia including schools, residential compounds, oil workers, military installations, transport and aviation facilities, restaurants, shopping centres and mosques.
You should remain vigilant and alert to your local security environment and take suitable precautions to ensure your personal safety. If you are resident in Saudi Arabia you should regularly review your security arrangements and the level of protection provided at your residential compound, workplace and children’s schools to ensure they are adequate.
Travelling near to or photographing military and security installations or other sensitive sites such as palaces and government buildings is illegal.
The overall crime rate is low in Saudi Arabia and is not usually an issue for travellers. However petty crime does occur and you should take normal precautions:
- Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place;
- Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home;
- Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you are alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business;
- Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafes, train and bus stations; and
- Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible.
If you are planning to drive in Saudi Arabia, you should be extremely careful as general driving standards and road conditions are poor with frequent accidents particularly on the main highways.
If you want to drive:
- Bring your full Irish driving license and international driving permit and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance;
- Do not hitchhike;
- Keep your vehicle doors locked if you’re stopped at traffic lights; and
- Driving in Saudi Arabia can be difficult, particularly since road signs may be exclusively in Arabic script.
Please note that some cities have implemented automated camera systems to catch red light runners and drivers exceeding the speed limit. If you incur any fines these will need to be paid before leaving Saudi Arabia. It is possible to make the payment at the airport but only during normal office hours.
Hiring a vehicle
If you are hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.
Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).
Taxis/Chauffeur drive cars
Given the relatively low cost, most visitors will use taxis or chauffeur-driven cars. We recommend taxis are pre-booked and you should avoid hailing a taxi on the street or using unofficial drivers at the airport.
If you are travelling in Saudi Arabia, you should only travel in pre-booked taxis known to be safe and avoid hailing a taxi in the street or accepting a lift from someone you do not know.
It is recommended that you keep a low profile and be especially vigilant in places popular with foreign nationals such as hotels, restaurants and shopping malls. Make sure that your vehicle is safe at all times and be certain of your destination and direction of travel before departing.
Reporting a crime
If you are a victim of a crime while in Saudi Arabia you should report the incident to the local police immediately. You can also contact the Irish Embassy in Riyadh if you require further assistance.
Many areas of the Gulf are highly politically sensitive and some are subject to jurisdictional disputes. Vessels entering these areas have been detained and inspected and there have been occasional arrests. There is a risk of piracy in the southern Red Sea and in the Gulf of Aden.
Fri, 05 Oct 2018 16:30:47 BST