There are several means of transportation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and one of which is traveling by train. However, as dubious as it may seem, the rail network in the said country is seriously underdeveloped. Perhaps, it’s not the priority of the gulf country as of the moment as it has only one line running between Riyadh, Al-Hofuf and Dammam. In addition to that, it’s still the only passenger train service in the entire gulf, (aside from the Dubai Metro).
The trains are operated by the Saudi Railways Organization and have 3 particular classes: Second, First and the delightfully named as Rehab.
The First and the second classes are quite similar with each other. The 2 classes have air-conditioning and two by two seating. However the First class has a few inches of extra legroom, which is a very much-appreciated pleasure by tall people. Furthermore, the Rehab or the VIP class has comfortable plush leather seats, roof mounted flat panel television showing Arabic Entertainment, and sleek waiting lounges at stations per stations. In addition to this, these luxurious stations and trains also have WIFI access so you will not be disconnected from the web. Trains also have a cafeteria car serving u drinks and snacks, as well as push trolley service.
One might assume that trains in Saudi Arabia can travel faster than private cars, taxis and bus, but this perception is wrong. It can trek 500 km in 4-5 hours, pretty much like the aforementioned mode of transportation. Although the current maximum speed of the trains in the country up to date is only 150km only, it is still wise to choose trains for long journeys because Saudi Arabia is relatively known for road accidents.
There are no reserved seats. Basically, train stations or the management operate on a first come first served basis. So if you want to get the more comfortable seat and the seat the suits you well, you better come earlier to book a ticket. However, be aware that people who have got more luggage get to sit on the front, which has wider space fronting them. Also, these spaces are specially reserved for families traveling together as well. Additionally, the females have different compartments from the males and families in lieu with the Arabian culture.
How to book tickets for the train
Go to the railway station, preferably days prior to your departure as tickets get sold out immediately. But, on a lucky day, you can purchase tickets just a few hours before you leave.
You can also book online, just log on to saudirailways.org. While booking online, you must select PAY ONLINE and it will give you 3 days in which you have to send in the payment for the tickets. You can pay through your Internet banking or ATM by entering your bill reference number in SADAD section of banking.
Note that without Iqama or passport, you will not be able to travel through the Saudi Railway Trains.
A ticket from Riyadh to Dammam costs SAR60/75/120 in Second/First/Rehab.
There are four trains each day in both directions, and the trip takes 4-5 hours.
(Note that, as of May 2008, the timetables on SRO website are outdated.) It is advisable to buy tickets in advance as the trains are often sold out.
You can reserve tickets by calling their service center in Dammam (+966 3 827 4000) and then pick up the tickets from the nearest railway station 24 hours before departure.
Upcoming Railway Projects
Makkah to Madina train via Jeddah and Kaec railway stations
Madina to Makkah train via Kaec and Jeddah railway stations
Riyadh to Jeddah, Jeddah to Riyadh
Dammam to Jubail, Jubail to Dammam