Saudi Arabia Travel Information

Photo In 1902 Abd al-Aziz Ibn SAUD captured Riyadh and set out on a 30-year campaign to unify the Arabian Peninsula. In the 1930s, the discovery of oil transformed the country. Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia accepted the Kuwaiti royal family and 400,000 refugees while allowing Western and Arab troops to deploy on its soil for the liberation of Kuwait the following year. A burgeoning population, aquifer depletion, and an economy largely dependent on petroleum output and prices are all major governmental concerns.


Saudi Arabia's 2003 population is estimated to be about 24.3 million, including about 5.6 million resident foreigners. Until the 1960s, most of the population was nomadic or seminomadic; due to rapid economic and urban growth, more than 95% of the population now is settled. Some cities and oases have densities of more than 1,000 people per square kilometer (2,600 per sq. mi).


Except for a few major cities and oases, the harsh climate historically prevented much settlement of the Arabian Peninsula. People of various cultures have lived in the peninsula over a span of more than 5,000 years. The Dilmun culture, along the Gulf coast, was contemporaneous with the Sumerians and ancient Egyptians, and most of the empires of the ancient world traded with the states of the peninsula.

Oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia by U.S. geologists in the 1930s, although largescale production did not begin until after World War II. Oil wealth has made possible rapid economic development, which began in earnest in the 1960s and accelerated spectacularly in the 1970s, transforming the kingdom.

Saudi oil reserves are the largest in the world, and Saudi Arabia is the world's leading oil producer and exporter. Oil accounts for more than 90% of the country's exports and nearly 75% of government revenues. Proven reserves are estimated to be 260 billion barrels, about one-quarter of world oil reserves.

Important: Travel to Saudi Arabia may require a travel visa. Whether a visa is required for travel depends on citizenship and purpose of journey. Please be sure to review Travisa's Saudi Arabia visa instructions for details. Visa instructions for other countries are available on our do I need a visa page.

Country Statistics

Full country name: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Capital city: Riyadh
Area: 2,149,690 sq km
Population: 26,534,504
Ethnic groups: Arab 90%, Afro-Asian 10%
Languages: Arabic
Religions: Muslim
Government: monarchy
Chief of State: King and Prime Minister ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud
Head of Government: King and Prime Minister ABDALLAH bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud
GDP: 687.7 billion
GDP per captia: 24,400
Annual growth rate: 7.1%
Inflation: 5%
Agriculture: wheat, barley, tomatoes, melons, dates, citrus
Major industries: crude oil production, petroleum refining, basic petrochemicals, ammonia, industrial gases, sodium hydroxide
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, copper
Location: Middle East, bordering the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, north of Yemen
Trade Partners - exports: Japan 13.9%, China 13.6%, US 13.4%, South Korea 10.2%, India 7.8%, Singapore 4.8%
Trade Partners - imports: China 12.8%, US 11.9%, Germany 7.1%, South Korea 6%, Japan 5.6%, India 4.9%, Italy 4.1%