Saudi Arabia Railways (SAR) is the country’s state-owned train company and operates daily trains that connect the capital city Riyadh to major cities in the Northern and Eastern Regions. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: If you are looking for budget-friendly options for travelling within Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia’s passenger trains provide the option for cross-country travel.

Although catching a flight to another city in Saudi Arabia can take approximately one or two hours, travelling by rail offers more picturesque views, and you get to discover the country’s landscape.

Saudi Arabia Railways (SAR) is the country’s state-owned train company and operates daily trains that connect the capital city Riyadh to major cities in the Northern and Eastern Regions.

While Saudi Arabia’s railway network has been in operation since the 1950s for cargo goods and transporting oil tankers, in 2016, SAR launched passenger rail services. The trains are air-conditioned, have free Wi-Fi and food options and also include a lounge and prayer area.

Here is all you need to know about the railway routes, tickets, and how to book a seat.

North and East routes for Saudi Arabia’s passenger train

Saudi Arabia Railways (SAR) runs trains on two main routes:

East Train

This route connects Riyadh to the Eastern Region in Saudi Arabia. It passes through the following cities :

• Riyadh
• Hufuf
• Abqaiq
• Dammam

North Train

This route connects Riyadh to the north of Saudi Arabia and serves the following cities:

• Riyadh
• Al Majmaah
• Ha’il
• Qassim
• Al Jauf
• Al Qurayyat

How to find the train schedule
• Visit this link:
• Select the departure and arrival destination.
• Enter the date.
• Enter the date.
• Click on ‘Get Schedule’

Travel classes on SAR Railways North and East train

The type of travel classes available on the train depends on which route you are travelling on.

North Train

The North Train route has three travel classes:

1. Economy
2. Business
3. Private Cabin – the sleeper cabin is only available on the night train service.

East Train

The East Train route has two classes:

1. Economy
2. Business

The difference between classes is that in Business Class, there is larger leg room and access to the lounge area in the train. And in the Business and Private Cabin Class you have complimentary food and beverage, higher baggage allowance and access to the business lounge.

Where do you buy the tickets?

You can book the tickets through the following platforms:

1. The SAR call centre – 8001262000
2. The ‘SAR’ mobile application3. The website
3. SAR ticket counters.

Three types of train tickets

Before you go ahead and buy the train tickets, it is important to understand the types of tickets available for each passenger train.

1. Advance tickets for one-way trips

Passengers can buy tickets in advance through the SAR website and app, and get up to 55 per cent off on the fare. However, this option to book an advanced ticket is only available for one-way trips and the tickets are limited in number.

According to SAR, advance tickets start from Saudi Riyal 15 (Dh14), and the earlier you book, the cheaper the ticket will be. SAR recommends buying tickets at least three weeks in advance.

This train ticket is available for all travel classes.

2. Anytime tickets

If you are planning to travel last minute, these are the options you have for purchasing tickets:

• Book tickets online, two hours before departure

According to SAR, Anytime Tickets are available to Business and Economy class passengers and can be purchased online or through the SAR mobile app on the day of travel, up until two hours before departure.

Similarly, for Private Cabin passengers, the anytime tickets are available up until two hours for the Northern route Night Train, departing from either of the two originating stations - Riyadh or Qurayyat.

• Buy tickets at the station 30 minutes before departure

But, if you buy the ticket from the station or call centre, the tickets remain on sale for 30 minutes.

3. Waiting list tickets

These tickets are suitable for passengers who need to travel on the next available train but all seats have already been taken.

Waiting List tickets are only available at SAR stations and can only be purchased from one hour prior to the departure time, up until 10 minutes before the train departs.

Passengers who have purchased an advanced or anytime ticket will first be asked to board. Once all those passengers have boarded, if there are any unoccupied seats, the Waiting List ticket holder can board the train. According to SAR, the tickets are allocated without a seat number.

According to SAR, if there are no seats, the Waiting List ticket holder will get 100 per cent refund on their ticket or the ticket will be moved to the next available train.

Ticket fares for North and East Train in Saudi Arabia

The cost of the ticket can vary, depending on six factors:

1. One-way or round trip
2. The route
3. The travel class
4. The type of ticket
5. The date and time of travel
6. When or how much in advance you book the ticket

For example, train tickets for a trip from Hufuf to Damam (on the East Train) start from Saudi Riyal 25 (Dh24), while tickets to travel from Riyadh to Hail (on the North Train) starts from Saudi Riyal 140 (Dh136). You will be able to get the exact cost of your trip when you make the booking either online or through the call centre. If you are purchasing an anytime ticket at the station, you will be informed by the ticketing agent of the cost, which, as per the SAR website is based on the highest available fare.

Discounted fares for children

Children between the ages of two to 12 years can get up to 50 per cent off on Economy class tickets and 20 per cent off on Business class tickets.

For children under the age of two, Economy class tickets are free, and Business Class tickets are on an 80 per cent discount.

How to book train tickets online

Step 1: Select the train you want to take, based on your itinerary

1. Visit the site - Se
lect your arrival and departure city.
3. Next, select your ‘outbound and return’ date, if you are booking an ‘anytime ticket’. If you are applying for an advance ticket, which only allows for one-way trip bookings, select your outbound date.
4. Select the number of passengers.
5. Then, click the ‘Select Trains’ button.
6. Depending on the route you have selected, the website will show you the trains available for that date. You will be able to see the train timings, cost, and travel class. You will also be able to see the number stops a train will make during the trip.
7. Select the train timing, and click on ‘Select Return Train’ button, if you are making a round-trip.
8. Next, repeat the same step for your return date and click on the ‘Continue’ button.

Step 2: Provide passenger details

Next, enter the following passenger details:

• If you are an international visitor enter your passport details. For GCC citizens, you will have to enter your National ID number. Saudi residents will need to enter their Iqama ID details.• Enter your date of birth, and full name.
• Then, select your nationality.

After entering the passenger details, enter your contact information, including your mobile number and email address.

Agree to the ‘terms and conditons’ and click ‘continue’.

Step 3: Book your seat and pay for the ticket

The system will then show you the seats that are reserved on the train. You will then be able to select your seat, from those that are available.

Next, pay for the ticket online with your credit or debit card.

Once the payment has been confirmed, you will receive your tickets via email.

Baggage allowance

For North Train

Economy Class

• One luggage (up to 80cm long) weighing 25kg (55lbs) is the maximum per person.
• One luggage (maximum size 60cm x 40cm x 25cm) weighing 7kg (15lbs), plus a handbag, laptop or briefcase per person.

Business Class and Private Sleeping Cabins

• One luggage (up to 80cm long) weighing 32kg (70lbs) is the maximum per person.
• One luggage (maximum size 60cm x 40cm x 25cm) weighing 10kg (22lbs), plus a handbag, laptop or briefcase per person.

East Train

On the East Train, whether you are travelling on the Economy Class or Business Class, each passenger is allowed one piece of hand baggage per person on board the train. The maximum allowed size of the hand baggage is 67cm x 42cm x 30cm.

Mecca-Medina high speed train

SAR also operates the Haramain high-speed train between Mecca and Medina, which passes through the city of Jeddah as well. To know more about how you can travel between these cities by using the high-speed train, read our guide here.

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