Everything you need to know about travelling to the Red Sea

This northwest Saudi Arabian gigaproject promises luxury resorts, natural beauty, and an incredible underwater world…

The first of Saudi Arabia’s gigaprojects to welcome guests, The Red Sea is a visionary development for tourism. Situated on Saudi Arabia’s northwest coast, it’s one of the last unspoiled natural landscapes, and promises to be a haven for adventurers, luxury travellers, and those seeking a pampering break.

If you’re planning to visit the Red Sea, here’s everything you need to know.

Where is the Red Sea?

The Red Sea is a coastal destination in Saudi Arabia’s northwest region. The destination stretches some 28,000 square kilometres, although just 1 per cent of that will be developed as part of the Red Sea project.

How do you get to the Red Sea?

You can now fly direct to Red Sea International Airport from Riyadh, Jeddah and Dubai.

While the Foster + Partners-designed Red Sea International Airport is still under construction, the Red Sea International Airport has opened a small terminal next door to service the destination via direct flights.

Saudia offers flights from Riyadh to the Red Sea on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The flight time is two hours, and fares are priced from SAR1,260.

You can also fly Saudia to the Red Sea from Jeddah on Sundays and Thursdays. Flights take 80 minutes and are priced from SAR1,080.

The first international flights to the Red Sea are available from Dubai, with the three-hour flight taking off on Thursdays and Sundays. Fares start from SAR3,000.

Do you need a visa to visit Red Sea?

Yes, the visa requirements for Saudi Arabia apply when visiting the Red Sea. Visitors from some countries are eligible for visa-on-arrival, including passport holders from the US, UK and Schengen countries. The full list can be viewed here.

It’s advised to get your visa ahead of time though, and Saudi Arabia now has a 90-day, multiple-entry tourism visa, which is available for visitors from over 60 countries, and costs SAR480. You can apply here.

Where to stay at the Red Sea?

There’s currently two resorts at The Red Sea that are open, with a third due to welcome guests from later this month. Once complete by 2030, visitors will be able to choose from a total of 50 hotels dotted between the land and islands.

Six Senses Southern Dunes swimming pool

For desert dwelling, book Six Senses Southern Dunes, which opened in November 2023. The wellness-focused desert retreat is located in-land, reachable via an hour drive from the airport. Offering seclusion and sophistication in equal measure, this far-removed retreat is a luxurious homage to the country’s Nabataean heritage. Pool villas are plush and spacious, the 4,000 square metre spa is a haven of relaxation, and the extensive array of activities includes cooking classes, Sadu weaving, and sandboarding. Room rates start from SAR2,937.

If you’re here for island living, then The St. Regis Red Sea is the resort for you. Reachable from the airport via a 15-minute seaplane or 40 minute yacht transfer (booked for you by the hotel), it’s one of two hotels that unrolls against Ummahat Islands (the second, Nujuma, opens later this month). A collection of 90 beach and overwater villas are inspired by their locale, the former the desert dunes, the latter the colourful corals that dot the nearby reefs. There’s around-the-clock butler service, diving excursions to far-flung waters, and dining options that range from overwater degustation menus to crowd-pleasing plates at the St Regis Beach Club. Room rates start from SAR4,900.

From May 26, you’ll also be able to book to stay at the ultra-luxury Nujuma, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, one of only a handful of Reserve properties around the world. Lacing luxury service with stories inspired by Saudi heritage and culture, it’s home to 63 beach and overwater villas, a collection of restaurants that includes a beach club and constellation-inspired bar, and a rustic-luxe spa where treatments use local ingredients and time-honoured practices. Villas are priced from SAR8,750.

Aerial view of Shurayrah Island

By the end of 2025, it’s expected that more than a dozen hotels will be open across the destination. This will include 11 luxury hotels by brands including Jumeirah, Edition, and Miraval, on hub island, Shura, connected via a causeway to the mainland. The island will also be home to Shura Links, an 18 hole Championship golf course.

What should I wear at the Red Sea?

While there is a more liberal dress code, it’s important to be respectful. Knees and shoulders should be covered when at the airport and in transit, but in the hotels, beachwear and swimwear is appropriate for men and women.


Images: Supplied