Information & Facts
In general conditions in Riyadh are dry and hot, but the city
does receive about four inches (102mm) of rain a year, most of it
falling between January and May. In summer hot winds can send
temperatures soaring up to 113°F (45°C). In winter it can be
surprisingly chilly, however, particularly at night when the
thermometer can plunge below freezing. The best months in Riyadh,
when days are pleasantly tolerable and nights are cool, are between
October and May.
Travellers will be pleased to know that Riyadh has a great
selection of restaurants to choose from and visitors will be
spoiled for choice. Middle Eastern fare might dominate the dining
out scene, but there has been an increase in international eateries
springing up in recent years, creating even more choice for avid
foodies. Now, everything from spicy Indian fare to good old
American favourites like cheeseburgers and fries are on offer. Head
to Tahlia Street for both fine dining and cheap eateries where the
bright lights and catchy slogans of fast-food outlets like
McDonald's and KFC line the street too. Many travellers will opt to
dine at their hotel restaurant where many of the five-star eateries
are owned by celebrity chefs and provide a one of a kind dining
experience. Travellers should note that these hotel restaurants
have done away with segregation between men and women, as well as
the family section but they should not be alarmed if they come
across this in other restaurants. Service charge is usually
included in restaurant bills but a tip of 10% is the norm.
Public transport is available to a limited degree, consisting of
minibuses, which ply a few routes and usually operate for men only.
Buses that do admit women have a screened off area, separating them
from the men. A better option for visitors, though, are taxis
(white in colour), which can be booked through the hotel or hired
directly from an amenable driver. Fares are reasonable and the
taxis are metered. Car hire is also possible, but driving can be a
little daunting, despite the deceptively easy-looking wide roads.
Directional road signs tend to have English translations, but
street signs are in Arabic only. Some traffic rules differ from
those in the west, and penalties for speeding or reckless driving
Arabic is the official language in Saudi Arabia, but
English is widely understood.
The Saudi currency is the Riyal (SAR), divided into 100 halala.
Foreign currency can be changed at banks and exchange bureaux.
Banking hours are generally Saturday to Wednesday from 8am to 12pm
and 4pm to 8pm. All major credit cards are accepted at shops,
hotels and restaurants in Saudi Arabia. Travellers cheques are also
accepted and ATMs are widely available. There are no taxes in Saudi
Arabia, so shopping is good value.
You won't find a street in Riyadh that doesn't have a string of
shopping malls, boutiques, or markets. Shopping centres can be
confusing to foreign visitors however, as most have some
restrictions on visiting hours for men, women and families. One of
the biggest and fanciest shopping malls in Riyadh is Al Faisaliah
on Olaya Road, which also has a fun park in the basement and is
open to families and single women only from Wednesday to Friday. Al
Mamlaka, also on Olaya Road, has a third floor Ladies Kingdom
reserved exclusively for women. Kingdom tower offers great deals on
luxury brands like Hugo Boss and Lacoste. Other popular malls
include Sahara Mall on King Abdul Aziz Road, and Granada Mall near
Riyadh also has a few traditional souks, including Souq
al-Thumairi, which is most popular with tourists for its wide range
of Arabic goods and English-speaking touts. Remember in Riyadh
markets, haggling is obligatory.
Shopping in Riyadh is tax-free, so you can find good deals on
luxury brands and high-end products. Popular Riyadh souvenirs
include Persian rugs, leathergoods and handbags, and local
Local time is GMT +3.