- Time difference: UTC +3 (all times given are correct for Saudi Arabia).
- In accordance with a Royal Decree announced in July 2013, the official work-week in the Kingdom has been moved from Saturday-Wednesday to Sunday-Thursday (however, some private sector organisations still retain a 6-day work week, with Friday serving as the only day off).
- Private sector working days are usually: Sunday to Thursday 8.00am to 12.00pm and 4.30pm to 7.30pm – although increasingly more companies are moving to a more practical 8.00am to 5.00pm working day.
- Work hours during the holy month of Ramadan are reduced – Government offices should be open from 10.00am to 3.00pm. In the private sector many businesses will open at night, normally 10.00pm to 1.00am.
- All offices and shops close five times a day for prayer – Fajr at sunrise, Dhuhr at noon, Asr at around 3.00pm, Maghrib at sunset, and Isha at night. However, please be aware that these times are subject to change throughout the year and details are usually available in local newspapers.
- Visiting businessmen usually wear suits for appointments.
- Saudi and visiting women usually wear an abaya – a full length black cloak – in public. A headscarf need not be worn but should be carried with you in case you are told by the religious police that you have to cover your head. Under the abaya, women visitors are advised to wear a full-length dress or trousers and top with high neck and long sleeves, in case you are invited to remove the abaya in less formal business meetings.
- A lot of time has to be spent getting to know people and establishing relationships before doing business in Saudi Arabia. It can be quite common for meetings to be interrupted by phone calls and people coming in, but it’s important not to be put off by this – patience and courtesy are essential.
- Regular contact is also important in order to maintain the relationship. Ensure that you take the time to visit and commit to a long term presence and transfer of skills in the market.
- Take into consideration that there are many differences between the East, West & Central Provinces, so do not generalise. Similarly, be wary of making comparisons with other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) markets.
- UK citizens wanting to enter the Kingdom must obtain a valid visa well in advance of travel. It is necessary for non-residents and first time visitors to have a Saudi sponsor (company or individual) in order to successfully obtain a visa. You must apply for a visa in your country of nationality or permanent residence, and will usually require a letter from your sponsor outlining the nature of your business in the Kingdom.
- Applicants need to fill out the visa form in capital letters and complete the Enjaz online application form to receive an e-reference. Without this you will not be able to obtain a visa.
- The Embassy in London is open 09.00-16.00 on weekdays except Friday when it closes at 15.00. If you go to the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in person you must pay in cash only.
- If you are wanting to enter the Kingdom as a Trade Delegation, then prior approval must be obtained from the Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC). Please see application procedure here.
- Most applicants prefer to use the services of a visa agent, for example Visa Medical Services.
For further information, please refer to the Saudi Embassy in London.
For further advice and information:
- SBJBC member, Clyde & Co’s comprehensive guide on Doing Business in Saudi Arabia as well as a video
- Department of International Trade guidance on exporting to Saudi Arabia
- Setting up in the UK – UK Trade and Investment