Top tips


Shari’ah law is the law of the land in Saudi Arabia, underpinning all aspects of life and business.

Islam is the only religion allowed by law. Muslims pray 5 times a day and all shops and many offices will close in order to observe prayer times. Other religious symbols and books are banned, as are alcohol and pork.

During the holy month of Ramadan it is important not to eat, drink or smoke in public between dawn and dusk. It can be difficult doing business during this time since working hours are considerably shorter. Meetings will be conducted outside of normal office hours, often very late at night.

Men and women are largely segregated in public situations. There are numerous restrictions on women’s activities, including driving. Adultery and homosexuality are illegal, attracting the death penalty. Public displays of affection will not be tolerated.

Dress is extremely important. Men often wear traditional headdress, though for foreign businessmen suits are the norm. Saudi and foreign women are obliged to wear the full length black cloak or abaya in public with a long dress or trousers beneath. Women should also wear or carry a headscarf to wear if instructed to do so.

The most usual form of address between men is a handshake and the greeting “Salaamu 'Alaykum” (“Peace be upon you.”) sometimes followed by kissing the right and left cheeks. It is not normal for women to shake hands with men.

The country has numerous traffic cameras and often visitors do not realise they have been caught offending until they are prevented from leaving the country.

It is advisable to avoid visiting Saudi Arabia during the intense summer heat of July and August.

Unlike western nations, the working week in Saudi Arabia is from Sunday to Thursday.

Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has been leading coalition strikes in Yemen. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against travel to within 10km of the border with Yemen and against all but essential travel between 10km and 80km of this border.

The British Embassy and DBT teams across all three Saudi Arabian posts are keen to do everything they can to help British companies succeed in the Saudi Arabian market.


Useful links

Foreign & Commonwealth office (FCO) webpages for Saudi Arabia

Department for Business and Trade (DBT) Saudi Arabia

British Embassy in Riyadh

Arab-British Chamber of Commerce

Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA)

Saudi Arabian Ministry of Commerce


Visa requirement for business visitors to Saudi Arabia