Monday, May 17, 2021

Internet & Communications in Saudi Arabia

AsiaSaudi ArabiaInternet & Communications in Saudi Arabia

Phone

Useful numbers

  • Police: 999
  • Car accidents: 993
  • Outpatient clinic: 997
  • Fire: 998
  • Telephone directory (chargeable): 905

The four mobile operators in Saudi Arabia, the incumbent AlJawal, Emirati rival Mobily, Kuwait’s Zain (Vodafone Network) and STC newcomer Jawwy are fiercely competitive, have good network coverage (in populated areas) and good prices. A starter package with prepaid SIM and talk time starts at around SR 75, and you can sign up at almost any major mobile phone shop (bring your passport). Local calls cost less than SR 0.5/minute, international calls are around or less than SR 2/min.

And yes, you can bring your own phone: Despite the clamour of the clergy, both camera phones and multimedia messaging (MMS) are now legal.

Internet

Internet cafés abound in major Saudi cities, and many shopping malls have one or two gaming parlours. Prices are around SR5/hour.

The internet in Saudi Arabia is blocked by a filter, but this primarily targets pornography, non-Islamic religious and domestic political sites in Arabic and is (from the traveller’s point of view) nowhere near as strict as in China, for example. Google, Skype, Wikipedia, all major webmail providers etc. are all accessible.

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Internet censorship in Saudi Arabia may not be as strict as in other Middle Eastern countries. This is because social sites like Facebook and Twitter are not banned in the country. Although Skype is also allowed, the Saudi government has banned the smartphone app Viber. Banned sites include pornographic websites, of course, as well as sites containing homosexuality, illegal gambling and criticism of their religion and government.

Mail

Saudi Post has a good network of post offices throughout the country, but the offices are closed on Thursday and Friday. Stamps for postcards all over the world cost SR4. The bigger problem is finding postcards at all, as the Mutawwa regularly cracks down on the celebration of non-Islamic holidays like Valentine’s Day, Christmas or even birthdays, causing all cards of any kind to disappear from bookstores! Your best bet is therefore the gift shops in the big hotels. Mail coming into the country from abroad is notoriously unreliable. There are many stories of things arriving months after being sent, or not arriving at all. There are branches of DHL, FedEx and UPS all over the Kingdom, so it’s a good rule of thumb to send anything important through these channels.