Deserts and oil; sand and sun. Saudi Arabia is very enticing for both your average independent traveler and major world powers. With several major holy cities and religious sites dating back thousands of years, Saudi Arabia is steeped in history and filled with sites of utmost importance to the Arab world.

Unfortunately for travelers from the West, the current political situation has made traveling in Saudi Arabia somewhat dangerous and the current travel advisories recommend that travelers do not go to Saudi Arabia.

What to do

Saudi Arabia is the home of Mecca, the ancient city that has been a pilgrimage site for Muslims for many years. You'll not be able to get in, however, only Muslims are allowed into the holy city and if you are caught violating this rule you'll be kicked out of the country. You can, however, get close and see these pilgrims making their way to the city. There is also Medina, another holy city off-limits to non-muslims.

If you want to see things that you can actually take part in, the city of Riyadh is a center of commerce and culture in Saudi Arabia, or there are tours through the desert in four wheel drive vehicles.

Getting there

Getting in to Saudi Arabia is no easy task. Aside from the mountains of paperwork, there are customs inspections that leave nothing to chance and all travelers with evidence of visiting Israel will be denied entrance. Travelers require entrance and exit visas, as well as a guide or a destination in Saudi Arabia. A majority of flights to Saudi Arabia arrive in Riyadh.

Where to stay

Saudi Arabia knows how to house their guests. A legion of four and five star hotels await travelers who negotiate the myriad requirements to get into the country. For longer stays, travelers can rent furnished apartments or small hotels and save some cash. Youth hostels, more of a western phenomenon, are not as common.