The health risk information presented here is summarized from Shoreland Travax®, a decision-support tool used by health care providers to perform a detailed health risk analysis based on specific locations, individual travel styles, and traveler risk behaviors. Travax provides practitioners current, independently researched malaria risk and prevention recommendations in a map-based format that goes beyond the annual WHO and CDC statements included here. Not included here are current reports from Travax of disease outbreaks or environmental events that may pose elevated risks to travelers’ health and safety. The Providers section of this site offers a directory of health care providers who utilize Shoreland Travax for travel health counseling. Learn more about the detailed reports and maps available from these practitioners (includes links to samples).
Saudi Arabia is an industrialized nation in the top 25% of the world's economies. Located between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf in the Middle East, its climate is harsh, dry desert with great temperature extremes. Desert climate in portions of this country may aggravate respiratory conditions.
See also: Library article for Yellow Fever
Although yellow fever does not occur in Saudi Arabia, an official yellow fever vaccination certificate may be required depending on your itinerary.
- Requirement: A vaccination certificate is required for travelers aged ≥ 1 year coming from countries with risk of YF transmission. This also applies to airport transit stops (no exit through immigration checkpoint) longer than 12 hours in risk countries.
Depending on your itinerary, your personal risk factors, and the length of your visit, your health care provider may offer you vaccination against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, meningococcal meningitis, rabies, typhoid fever, or a one time polio booster if you haven't previously received one for travel. Routine immunizations, such as those that prevent tetanus/diphtheria or "childhood" diseases, should be reviewed and updated as needed.
See also: Library article for Malaria
The following is current information as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
WHO—International Travel and Health (current online update, Country List)(2016) The country is in the pre-elimination phase of malaria. Local transmission is reported only in villages on the border with Yemen (except in the high-altitude areas of Asir Province) due predominantly to P. falciparum, and mainly from September through January. The infection rate is reduced to less than 0.3 cases/100,000 inhabitants. No risk exists in the cities of Mecca and Medina.
- Recommended prevention in risk areas: C – Risk of P. falciparum malaria, in combination with reported chloroquine and sulfadoxine–pyrimethamine resistance. Mosquito bite prevention plus atovaquone–proguanil or doxycycline or mefloquine chemoprophylaxis (select according to reported side effects and contraindications) a
aAlternatively, for travel to rural areas with low risk of malaria infection, mosquito bite prevention can be combined with stand–by emergency treatment (SBET).
WHO Country List footnote: When available, the date of the most recent update or confirmation is indicated in parentheses in the country list. If no date is indicated, the most recent update or confirmation was provided before 2013.
CDC—Health Information for International Travel (current online edition)Areas with malaria: Rare cases in Asir and Jizan emirates by border with Yemen. None in the cities of Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, Riyadh, and Ta’if.
- Estimated relative risk of malaria for US travelers: Very low.
- Drug resistance4: Chloroquine.
- Malaria species: P. falciparum predominantly, remainder P. vivax.
- Recommended chemoprophylaxis: Mosquito avoidance only.
4 Refers to P. falciparum malaria unless otherwise noted.
See also: Library article for Travelers' Diarrhea
Moderate risk exists throughout the country, including in deluxe accommodations. Food and beverage precautions may reduce the likelihood of illness.
Travelers should carry loperamide for self-treatment of diarrhea and, if risk is moderate to high, an antibiotic to add if diarrhea is severe. Consult a knowledgeable health care provider regarding which antibiotic is appropriate for you and most effective for your destination.
Other Food-Borne Illnesses
Precautions to prevent brucellosis may be needed.
Insect- and Arthropod-Borne Diseases
Other Disease and Health Risks
The material below includes information from the U.S. Department of State (DOS), U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), Global Affairs Canada (GAC), and Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), as well as from additional open-source material. Standard safety precautions that apply to all international travel can be found in the Library article Safety and Security.
Consular Travel Advice
Due to terrorism and military conflict, Australia (DFAT) advises avoiding travel within 30 km (19 mi) of the border with Yemen and advises reconsidering travel (or avoiding nonessential travel) to the rest of the country. Missile attacks have targeted Jeddah, Riyadh (including King Khaled International Airport), and other major cities. U.S. (DOS), U.K. (FCO), and Canada (GAC) have more limited warnings.
High risk of attack by domestic and transnational terrorist groups exists throughout the country. Targets may include domestic and international organizations and businesses; public places and events, including those frequented by tourists; and transportation systems.
Risk of kidnapping by terrorist groups exists throughout the country. Targets may include foreigners (especially Westerners).
Low risk of violent crime exists throughout the country.
Risk of petty crime exists throughout the country, especially in crowded places.
Protests and demonstrations may infrequently occur and have the potential to turn violent without warning.
Armed conflict occurs in Al Qatif Governorate (Eastern Province) and in areas bordering Yemen.
Restricted areas may exist in northern border areas, including the cities of Al-Batin and Khafji, Eastern Province.
Rent water sports equipment from reputable operators. Scuba dive only with personnel certified by PADI or NAUI, and use equipment only from PADI- or NAUI-certified dive operators.
Desert excursions should only be undertaken with organized groups and experienced guides. Participants should inform someone not on the tour of their itinerary and anticipated return time. An adequate supply of food and water for extended unforeseen delays is essential.
Significant risk of traffic-related injury or death exists. The road-traffic death rate is greater than 24 per 100,000 population, the highest risk category. Carefully assess the safety of transportation options before any road travel. Driving at night is not advised. Seek local advice before traveling on roads outside urban areas after dark.
Traffic flows on the right-hand side of the road. Travelers (including drivers and pedestrians) accustomed to traffic moving on the opposite side should be vigilant when navigating traffic.
Many taxis are unsafe. Use taxis from official ranks or dispatched via smart phone app or radio from a reputable company and ascertain the license or identification number of the dispatched vehicle.
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has determined that the civil aviation authority of this country oversees its air carriers in accordance with minimum international safety standards.
Sandstorms and dust storms frequently occur.
Seasonal flooding occurs.
Extreme heat (which can lead to heat-related illness) occurs from June through August.
Selected Embassies or Consulates in Saudi Arabia
- United States: [+966] 11-488-3800; sa.usembassy.gov
- Canada: [+966] 11-488-2288; saudiarabia.gc.ca
- United Kingdom: [+966] 11-481-9100; www.gov.uk/world/organisations/british-embassy-riyadh
- Australia: [+966] 11-250-0900; saudiarabia.embassy.gov.au
Saudi Arabia's Embassies or Consulates in Selected Countries
- In the U.S.: saudiembassy.net
- In Canada: embassies.mofa.gov.sa/sites/canada
- In the U.K.: saudiembassy.org.uk
- In Australia: embassies.mofa.gov.sa/sites/australia
HIV and hepatitis testing are required to obtain a work or residence visa. Travelers, including short-term travelers, may be detained or deported after arrival if found to be positive for HIV or hepatitis.