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How to rent a car if you’re visiting Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, June 28, 2018

When I first tried to rent a car in Saudi Arabia, in the morning women were allowed to drive for the first time, I was told I couldn’t without a Saudi license, but one day, “Insha’Allah.”

Today, it was easy, and I became the first foreign woman to rent a car from Budget in the Kingdom. It just took a little time, as a Canadian woman who lives in the UAE, to figure out what was required.

“The law has just been implemented and it’s going to evolve over the coming months,” said Khalid Zahid, the CEO of Budget Saudi Arabia.

He explained that while a GCC national can rent a car with a GCC license, for now a foreigner should have an international driving license, whether they have a GCC license or one from their home country. It was my lucky day. In the hopes of being able to drive on June 24 on my first visit to the Kingdom, I got one from Vasco Worldwide in Dubai. It has a counter on the same floor as VSF Tasheel, the visa services center in Wafi Mall. It cost me just over Dh200. I needed to show my UAE license and provide a passport photo, and it was processed on the spot.

It looks like a UAE passport, with the falcon emblem in gold on the front. It’s valid for one year, and you may use it in other countries that require it too. The man who helped me at Vasco didn’t know if it would do the trick in Saudi Arabia; the only country he warned me that wouldn’t accept it is Japan.

There was a Budget desk in my hotel at the Jeddah Hilton, and there is also one in King Abdul Aziz International Airport, but Zahid suggested I pick up my vehicle straight from the Al-Hamra Corniche location.

Customer service executive Shahd Ismail Felimban was there to greet me at the counter. She asked for my international license, my Canadian passport and whether I wanted full coverage insurance (for SR61, I said yes). And then she congratulated me for being the first non-Saudi to rent a car from Budget Saudi Arabia.

My white Toyota Land Cruiser Prado was waiting right outside the door, and as I climbed into the driver’s seat, a few employees and onlookers gathered outside to see me off.

It’s a big vehicle for a little lady, but it makes me feel right at home on the roads of the Kingdom.