Saudi Arabia Riyal - SAR
People living in Saudi Arabia use the riyal as their national currency. It is quite often referred to simply as the Saudi riyal. It is a decimal currency that is divided into 100 halalas.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
The coins for this particular currency are all available in the halala denominations. These are the 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 halala coins. You can also get quite a few banknotes which are all denominated as the riyal. The smallest is the 1 riyal note and they go all the way up to the 500 riyal note. The others are the 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 riyal notes.
From past to present – the history of the riyal
It’s not often you come across a currency that is older than the country that uses it! However this is the situation with the riyal since it has been around for quite some time. Saudi Arabia was only formed as a country in the 18th century, and before this the area was known by the name Hejaz. This area also used the riyal, although it was then known as the Hejaz riyal. When Saudi Arabia was formed it was decided that the currency should be kept in place and it was really just the name that changed.
How to get hold of the Saudi Arabia riyal
It is worth remembering that this is a cash-based country for the most part, so it is wise always to carry some riyals on your person. You can get hold of riyals prior to your trip to the country, so it is a good idea to do so if you can. No other currencies are accepted in the country. However you can take in other currencies to exchange for riyals when you are there, so this is worth bearing in mind.
You can however use credit or debit cards so they are good to have around although they may not be accepted everywhere. Don’t forget to keep an eye on them at all times though, and don’t let a merchant or shop owner take them out of your sight when paying. Not all cash machines in the country will accept foreign cards so you should bear this in mind. Make sure you don’t run down your cash supplies too far before getting hold of more.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Saudi Arabia riyal
You can do this quite easily online when you have a currency converter website to go to. This will enable you to assess how many riyals you can buy with one unit of your own money too, which can help in terms of planning a budget for your trip. Remember the exchange rate is constantly changing and this means you will end up getting a slightly different rate when you actually exchange some of your own money for the riyal. You are likely to have to pay commission too which can have an effect on the value for money you get.
If you want to learn more about Saudi Arabia and get some information on the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in London, visit http://www.mofa.gov.sa/sites/mofaen/Pages/Default.aspx for more details.
Travelling safely with Saudi Arabian riyals
In general you should be fine when visiting this country, although it does make sense to learn more about the current situation before you go there. The UK government issues regular updates concerning the travel situation and the general state of the country so you should refer to this before travelling. The Saudi-Yemen border is a particular area of concern so steer clear of this if you possibly can.
The good thing to know is that crime is relatively low when compared to other countries. There is always the chance petty crime could happen though so be sensible when carrying your possessions and valuables around with you. It makes sense to divide up your cash if you can and to reduce the amount of jewellery you might wear. These two steps can go a long way towards reducing the low odds of being targeted for petty crime even further.
Where to spend your riyals in Saudi Arabia – and what to spend them on
Saudi Arabia is a large country in Western Asia. It shares borders with several other countries, with Iraq and Jordan both sharing its northern border. To the west is the Red Sea, while the southern border is shared with Yemen and Oman. The eastern side of the country faces the Persian Gulf but the other countries that are in this region are Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
While you may not instantly be able to name the capital of Saudi Arabia you will know what it is once you see the name – Riyadh. This has several centuries of history but today it stands out as a thoroughly modern place to be. There are still some contrasts with ancient times though, particularly in relation to the ancient gates that still stand here. They can be found by the old walls and face north, south, east, west and south-west.
Speaking of ancient sites, Masmak Fort may not exactly be ancient since it dates from 1865 but it is still worth a closer look. The site itself has many charming and fascinating features but more can be learned about Riyadh and the fort by going into the museum you will also find there.
Elsewhere in the city you can visit the Kingdom Centre. This is a majestic name for an equally majestic skyscraper that stands just over 300 metres tall in total. There is an observatory you can make good use of to see out over the city.
Of course there is far more to this country than its capital. One of the finest sights the entire country has to offer is a UNESCO World Heritage Site called the Al-Hijr archaeological site, otherwise known as Mada’in Saleh. The history of this place goes back centuries to pre-Islamic times. There are lots of tombs here that are cut into the rock. The detail and colour of the rock is quite fascinating especially when you get a chance to look at it more closely. It is also worth visiting Al-Ula, a village located nearby, as it has more tombs and structures left from other times, not to mention a mud village. It’s quite an experience.
If you want to visit somewhere completely different you might like to try the Farasan Islands, a popular location among many visitors. If you look at the far south-western corner of Saudi Arabia on a map and zoom in (if you are online of course!) you will see a small selection of islands called the Farasan Islands. There are several dozen of these in total but there is just one main town here, appropriately enough called Farasan. You can get on board a boat leaving Jizan on the mainland to travel to the islands. There are coral reefs there that are much-loved by divers, so you may want to consider visiting these if you are into your diving and eager to see a different side of Saudi Arabia. The islands are also good for bird-watching and there is a marine sanctuary there too.
Saudi Arabia is also a good country to visit if you like nature since it has no fewer than 15 national parks. One of the best and easiest ones to visit is the Asir National Park, since some of the others can be problematic to gain access to without being part of a tour group. The views in this park are quite something – they offer mountains, valleys, paths and more. There are campsites here too so if you have always liked the idea of going camping this could be your chance to do so in a sensational place with a beautiful backdrop. There are paths and walks you can explore here and this includes the ability to go to the top of the mountain ranges. The good news is you don’t have to walk up because there are cable cars that will take the strain for you! You can always walk back down if you feel up to it and want to enjoy the views on a more personal level.
Saudi Arabia does have some surprises in store as you can see. While you may assume you know one or two things about Saudi Arabia you may not realise there are natural sights, islands and coral reels on offer too.
Now you know more about the currency and a little bit about the country too, you might like to consider visiting it in the near future. It provides a very different holiday destination to the type you may be used to. However with plenty of history on offer, lots of great destinations and sights to see and lots more besides, you can see why some people choose to change things up and visit the likes of Saudi Arabia instead of going elsewhere.