Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

ALERT - COVID-19 Do not travel overseas at this time. Due to the difficulty travellers are experiencing returning home, New Zealanders overseas need to take steps to stay safely where they are and shelter in place....Read more

ALERT - COVID-19 Do not travel overseas at this time. Due to the difficulty travellers are experiencing returning home, New Zealanders overseas need to take steps to stay safely where they are and shelter in place....Read more

  • Reviewed: 19 March 2020, 14:00 NZDT
  • Still current at: 19 September 2020

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COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
There have been confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Saudi Arabia.

Local authorities in countries and territories with confirmed cases of COVID-19 may impose containment measures including travel restrictions and quarantine requirements to prevent the spread of the virus.

Such measures may be imposed at short notice and specific details may change rapidly, including where and to whom they apply to and for how long. All travellers should stay informed of measures being taken by authorities in the areas they are travelling to. We recommend that all travellers consult the official website or the nearest embassy or consulate of your country or territory of destination to find out about any border controls and other measures that may apply to you.

For information on countries and territories which have COVID-19 related border restrictions affecting foreign nationals, including travellers in transit, please check the International Air Transport Association (IATA) website before you travel.  IATA provides a comprehensive list of all countries and territories that have imposed COVID-19 related border restrictions and is being continually updated.

As part of its response to managing the COVID-19 outbreak, the New Zealand Government has some temporary travel restrictions in place in New Zealand. Please refer to the New Zealand Ministry of Health website for up to date information.

For further travel advice and information about COVID-19, please see our webpage here. We encourage all New Zealanders living and travelling overseas to register with us.

Regional tensions
On 3 January 2020, an Iranian military commander and Iraqi paramilitary leaders were killed in a U.S. airstrike near Baghdad International Airport.

The security situation in the Middle East region is unpredictable and may become increasingly volatile.

Saudi Arabia has suspended all flights to and from Qatar from 6 June 2017 until further notice. Qatar has also suspended all flights to and from Saudi Arabia. The land border between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is closed.  New Zealanders travelling between Qatar and Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, or from New Zealand via Qatar to these destinations, are advised to contact their airline or travel agent to see if their bookings are affected and make alternative travel arrangements to reach their destination if necessary.

The Saudi authorities have declared ‘out of bounds’ a zone of 20km from the entire northern border of the country, and from the border in the Hafr Al-Batin and Khafji areas in the Eastern Province. Penalties for violation of this declaration are severe.

There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Saudi Arabia and Saudi authorities continue to disrupt terrorist plots. There have been a number of attacks in recent years with targets including Shia minority, places of worship, security forces, diplomatic missions and aviation interests. Attacks could directly target Westerners in lower-scale, opportunistic attacks or any location associated with Western interests or known to be frequented by Westerners.

Cross-border attacks originating from Yemen, including missile, rocket and drone attacks, pose a threat to Saudi Arabia and its infrastructure. Over recent months these attacks have intensified and become more frequent:

  • On 12 June 2019, Abha International Airport was hit by a missile which resulted in 26 civilians being injured. There have been several further drone attacks on Abha International Airport resulting in one death and many injuries.
  • The cities of Jizan and Najran, including the airports, have both been frequent targets of cross-border drone and missile attacks from Yemen in 2019, as recently as 26 June 2019.
  • On 14 May 2019, oil facilities in Riyadh province were attacked by an explosive drone.
  • On 21 April 2019, Saudi security forces prevented an attempted terrorist attack by ISIS against a state security building in Zulfi, about 250km north of Riyadh. Four attackers were killed by Saudi security forces as they attempted to carry out their attack.
  • Early in 2018, several missiles were intercepted, including some directly over Riyadh. One person was killed and two were injured in Riyadh by falling debris.
  • On 4 July 2016, there were attacks near the US diplomatic mission in Jeddah and near a mosque in Al-Qatif. A third attack in Medina killed 4 police officers.

In the event of a missile attack, New Zealanders are advised to stay indoors and away from windows, and/or seek overhead cover if outdoors; follow the advice of the local authorities and monitor local media to stay informed of developments.  

Security threats remain in the Eastern Province, where numerous attacks have taken place, including around Shia mosques. In June and July 2017, there were several violent clashes between security forces and armed elements in Al Qatif.

Future attacks could occur anywhere, at any time, including in places frequented by foreigners. Possible targets for terrorist attacks include (but are not limited to), airports, mosques, embassies, hotels, expatriate housing compounds, international schools, restaurants, shopping areas, government buildings, security forces, aviation and oil industry facilities.

New Zealanders throughout Saudi Arabia are advised to remain vigilant at all times, particularly in places where Westerners congregate. Keep informed of potential risks to safety and security by monitoring the media and other local information sources. We also recommend following any instructions issued by the local authorities.

Civil unrest
Public demonstrations and protests are illegal in Saudi Arabia but do occur occasionally and have at times resulted in violence, particularly in Al Qatif and Al Awamiyah in Eastern Province, as well as Al Hasa. New Zealanders throughout Saudi Arabia are advised to avoid all protests and demonstrations and comply with any instructions and restrictions issued by the local authorities.

Piracy is a significant threat in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.  Mariners are advised to take appropriate security measures in these waters. For more information view the International Maritime Bureau's piracy report.

General travel advice
New Zealanders are advised to respect religious and social traditions in Saudi Arabia to avoid offending local sensitivities. Modesty and discretion should be exercised in both dress and behaviour. The public practice of any form of religion other than Islam is illegal, including encouraging religious conversion or proselytising. Homosexuality and sexual relations outside marriage are illegal and can be subject to severe penalties, including the death penalty.

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe and can include the death penalty. The importation and consumption of alcohol  is illegal in Saudi Arabia.

If you become involved in a commercial dispute with a Saudi company or individual, you may be prevented from leaving the country until the dispute is resolved.

Take particular care when travelling by road. Standards of driving in Saudi Arabia are poor and there are a high number of fatal accidents.

Foreigners should carry a form of identification at all times to present to authorities if asked.

During the holy month of Ramadan, New Zealanders travelling to Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia should show respect and pay attention to religious and cultural sensitivities.  In Saudi Arabia it is illegal to eat, drink or smoke in public view during the daytime in Ramadan.

New Zealanders travelling or living in Saudi Arabia should have a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place that includes provision for medical evacuation by air.

New Zealanders in Saudi Arabia are strongly encouraged to register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Travel tips

The New Zealand Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Street Address Diplomatic Quarter, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Postal Address PO Box 94 397, Riyadh, 11693, Saudi Arabia Telephone +966 1 1 4887735 Fax +966 1 488 7912 Email Web Site Hours Sun - Thurs 0800 - 1200hrs, 1230 -1500hrs Note

New Zealand Honorary Consulate Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Street Address c/o Associated Agencies, Sundous Building (Behind Caravan Shopping Centre), Al Madina Street, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Postal Address PO Box 419, Jeddah 21411, Saudi Arabia Telephone +966 2 651 2109 Fax +966 2 651 6504 Email Hours Sat - Wed 0900-1300, 1600-1900 hrs; Thu 0900-1300 hrs

See our regional advice for the Middle East

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New Zealand Embassy Saudi Arabia

Street Address
Diplomatic Quarter, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Telephone: +966 1 1 4887735

Fax: +966 1 488 7912



Hours: Sun - Thurs 0800 - 1200hrs, 1230 -1500hrs

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