Telephones and Internet
The telephone system is fully automatic and you can dial almost all long-distance calls without operator assistance.
Mobile (cell) phones are now widely used. If you wish to bring your mobile phone with you, we suggest you check with your local supplier whether the service will work in Saudi Arabia. Since 2004 they have a distributed a special Hajj mobile card, with special numbers, and the validity is for the Hajj period only. If you plan to be in touch with family, this is highly recommended as the hotel phone service is very bad.
There are three cell phone carries in Saudi Arabia: Saudi Telecom Company (STC), Mobily, and Zain. Many international operators have agreements for roaming with these carriers.
All there have very competitive rates and provide nearly the same service. All carries bill by the second and you are billed for all outgoing calls, SMS, and MMS. Incoming calls and SMS are free.
All unlocked GSM cell phone work in Saudi Arabia. You just need to insert a SIM card and you are good to go.
All three cell phone companies provide pre-paid SIM cards to pilgrims doing Hajj and Umrah. These SIM are valid from a couple of months and then become useless. You can buy a SIM for about Saudi Riyal 20 and available everywhere including the airport. The SIMs have same amount of money in them as the price you paid for the SIM. Recharges for the SIM are available in nearly every store.
The city codes are:
Jeddah - 012
Makkah - 012 (yes, the same as Jeddah)
Madinah - 014
Riyadh - 011.
The code for Makkah and Jeddah is the same, so you must dial 012 to call Jeddah from Makkah and vice versa.
The country code is 966, so in order to dial to Makkah from outside the country: 96612+hotel number; 96614+ (for Madinah) and 966+mobile number without the leading zero.
Some emergency telephone numbers are:
Fire - 998
Ambulance - 997
Police - 999
Road accidents - 993
Telephone dir. - 905
Avoid using the hotel telephones for international calls, as it can be very expensive due to the hotel service charges.
The “menace” of the mobile phone has reached its peak as you notice some people talking on the phone while performing tawaaf. Let us not mention the picture taking and selfie mania!
Internet and e-mail
Internet has been available in Saudi Arabia since 1998. For the e-mail junkies, there are Internet Cafés springing up all over the place. Most hotels in Makkah and Madinah provide Wi-Fi services. Some are free and some charge.
You can also buy mobile sim cards that include data as well as calls. There are also data-only sim cards, so select your sim purchase carefully.
These sim cards can be purchased from the telephone brand shops, some supermarkets and also at some street vendors. When you purchase a card, ask the seller to insert it into the phone straight away to make sure it works, as it is very difficult to rectify later. Top up cards can also be purchased from the same places. We found the street vendors charge a little more as that is their commission, but they are keener to help you setup your phone. So it is worth the extra few Riyals.