Since Saudi Arabia began welcoming tourists in 2019, many travellers have been eager to discover the country for the first time. With its fascinating historic sites, endless beaches and top-notch scuba diving, there are many reasons to travel to Saudi Arabia.
Wondering how to begin planning your trip? Let’s talk air travel! Read on to get familiarised with the airlines and airports you’ll be using when you visit this unique country.
Before you finalise your travel plans, you’ll need to apply for a tourist visa. You can learn more about this process here.
International Airports in Saudi Arabia
Here’s a list of international airports you can fly into:
Airport Code (IATA)
|Amaala||Amaala, Tabuk||None (facility in construction)|
|*King Abdulaziz||Jeddah, Makkah (Mecca)||JED|
|King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz||Jizan, Jizan||GIZ|
|*King Fahd||Dammam, Eastern||DMM|
|*King Khalid||Riyadh, Riyadh||RUH|
|Prince Abdulmohsin bin Abdulaziz||Yanbu, Al Madinah||YNB|
|Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz||Medina, Al Madinah||MED|
|Prince Nayef Bin Abdulaziz||Buraidah, Al-Qassim||ELQ|
|Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz||Tabuk, Tabuk||TUU|
|Taif||Taif, Makkah (Mecca)||TIF|
*These 3 main airports are covered in greater detail below.
King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah
Jeddah Airport (code JED) is the busiest airport in the kingdom, welcoming around 40 million passengers annually. It is also home to the world’s biggest airport aquarium, with over 2,000 fish.
Located about an hour from the holy city of Makkah (Mecca), this airport is a vital travel hub in the Islamic world. In fact, it has a Hajj Terminal specially designed to accommodate the thousands of Muslim pilgrims who fly in each year.
It is important to note that non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. However, the airport also serves the second-largest city of Saudi Arabia, Jeddah, which is a major seaport in the Red Sea.
There are extensive on-site facilities, including free Wi-Fi, restaurants and cafes, ATMs and banking services, duty-free shopping, travel agencies and car rentals.
King Fahd International Airport in Dammam
King Fahd is the biggest airport in Saudi Arabia. In fact, it is the largest airport by area in the world, covering 776 square kilometres! However, the building itself is only 36.75 square kilometres.
Located about 35 kilometres from the city centre, the Dammam Airport serves the entire Eastern Province and is also close to Bahrain and Qatar. Many tourists are drawn to the region to enjoy its beautiful beaches along the Persian Gulf as well as the Al-Ahsa Oasis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Each year, the facilities provide more than 10 million passengers with a wide range of services. These include food and beverage options, retail and duty-free shopping opportunities, ATM and banking services, VIP lounges, car rentals and public transport. There is also an on-site mosque large enough to accommodate 2,000 worshippers. It is located above the car park and is surrounded by a carefully landscaped garden area.
There is only 1 terminal, which serves both arrivals and departures. Dammam Airport arrivals are on the third level, while departures are on the sixth. Boarding is on the fourth level.
King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh
Formerly the largest in the world before King Fahd knocked it off the top spot, King Khalid International Airport is the gateway to Riyadh, the country’s capital and largest city.
Some of its defining features include a massive 19-storey air traffic control tower, extensive landscaping and a beautiful mosque built to accommodate 5,000 worshippers inside and 5,000 more in the outside plaza.
The Royal Mosque contains hundreds of colourful stained glass windows that take full advantage of the intensity of the light from the Middle Eastern sun. At the time of its completion in 1982, this was widely considered the largest and most technically sophisticated stained glass project of the modern period, with 2,000 square metres of stained glass.
Terminal 1 and 2 serve international flights, while Terminal 5 serves domestic flights. Terminals 3 and 4 are currently being expanded. While regular passengers aren’t allowed inside, it’s interesting to note that Riyadh International Airport also has a Royal Terminal, which is used exclusively by the Saudi Royal Family and other VIPs.
Riyadh Airport (code RUH) offers comprehensive services to serve around 26 million passengers per year, including ATMs and currency exchange, cafes and restaurants, duty-free shops, information desks, travel agencies, car rentals and public transport. Terminal 5 of the KKIA Airport is linked to Riyadh Metro Yellow Line (L4), while a taxi to the city centre takes about 30 minutes.
- Al-Qaisumah/Hafr Al-Batin (AQI)
- Aldwadmi (DWD)
- Arar (RAE)
- Bisha (BHH)
- Gurayat (URY)
- King Saud Bin Abdulaziz/Al-Baha (ABT)
- Nejran (EAM)
- Neom (NUM)
- Prince Abdulmajeed Bin Abdulaziz (ULH)
- Rafha (RAH)
- Rabigh (ICAO code OERB)
- Sharurah (SHW)
- Turaif (TUI)
- Wadi al-Dawasir (WAE)
- Wedjh (EJH)
Role of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA)
The Saudi GACA oversees the operations and safety regulations of all of the country’s international and domestic airports. One of GACA’s objectives is to develop the air transport sector through cutting-edge technologies and systems. GACA has introduced several e-services in recent years to modernise the country’s aviation system, improve the passenger experience and contribute to growth in the sector.
Airlines in Saudi Arabia
Saudia, also known as Saudi Arabian Airlines, is by far the longest operating commercial Saudi airline company. It began operations in 1945, while the other 4 airlines did not appear until the 21st century.
There are also several international airlines with flights to Saudi Arabia, including Air India, British Airways, Lufthansa, Emirates, and many more.
If you’re looking to charter a private plane while in the country (don’t forget the champagne!), charter airlines include:
- Al Anwa Aviation
- Dallah Avco
- Mid East Jet
- Sky Prime Aviation
Frequently Asked Questions
Since Saudi Arabia only began welcoming tourists in 2019, many people have questions about travelling to this country.
What Are Prohibited Items in Saudi Arabia Airports?
Alcoholic beverages, pork products and natural pearls are prohibited. This is in addition to the usual forbidden items, such as firearms, lethal weapons, explosives and drugs (except medicine for personal use with prescription).
What Is Considered Acceptable Attire and Behaviour in the Country?
Both men and women must dress modestly and avoid tight-fitting clothes. Women must ensure their shoulders and knees are covered.
Wearing an abaya (a floor-length, long-sleeved outer garment) is no longer a requirement for foreign women when visiting non-religious sites. However, it is mandatory for Saudi women to wear an abaya in all public spaces, and you may feel more comfortable wearing one as well. Likewise, wearing a headscarf is not legally required, but it is recommended. It is only very recent that these rules have been relaxed, and it will take time for social norms to catch up with the laws on the books
Public decency laws indicate that you must not engage in public displays of affection, use profane language or gestures, or take photos of others without permission. Littering and spitting are prohibited, and the sale, purchase or consumption of alcohol or drugs is illegal.
Avoid playing loud music during prayer times, which occur 5 times a day. Shops and restaurants close during these times, so make sure to plan accordingly when plotting your itinerary each day.
Ready to Fly
Now that you know what your travel options are, you are one step closer to an amazing and unforgettable trip to the largest Arab country in the Middle East!