This weekend we booked a round trip train ride from Dammam to Riyadh, and back. The last time we took the train in July 2020, I wrote about it in the post: “Travelling Between Cities”. Rest assured it is still a great option, however in 2021 the price has gone up a bit, and you must wear a mask on board and in the station, due to coronavirus.
I was given some advice a few years back by a dental surgeon. When I asked about my bottom row of teeth, and wanted his opinion on whether I should get braces to fix the bit that overlapped, he said this. “Take the $3,000 dollars it would cost you and go spend it on a nice vacation. ” It was his way of saying, it’s not worth the money to correct…not such a problem.
This is my opinion on 1st vs. 2nd class on the SRO railroad running from Dammam to Riyadh. It will cost you almost double to ride 1st class, and you are not getting that much more. Save that money, ride 2nd class, and spend it on a nice meal in the city, or hotel upgrade, etc.
What to expect from arrival at train station to getting on board train
So here’s the scoop. Everyone who enters the train station gets their temperature checked. Then they can get hard copies of tickets if they ordered them online and didn’t print the copies out. Next, you can purchase snacks or just sit in the waiting area until people start lining up to go through security, much like the airport but much smaller in scale.
You put your bags through an X-ray and you go through one as well. Ladies have their own area just for them, and please ladies, bring your iqama cards and train ticket. If you forget this and it went through the X-ray with your purse, then you have to get it and do this all over again. This area is also for small children travelling with you, otherwise they can go through the men’s side. Basically women’s side is so the ladies don’t show their faces in public and have only female workers checking them.
Then you collect your things and walk to the train. There are railroad helpers to show you which car to enter and your seat section. If you need help with your luggage there are luggage guys to assist. Both classes have seats with tables and without, overhead open racks and areas for larger suitcases.
They may charge you extra for large suitcases. At this writing it is 70 SAR for one suitcase. Carry-on size is free. There is also a cargo area that ships many, or large items and that is a separate charge.
There is a snack car, prayer car and places to stand if you need a break from sitting. Snacks are for purchase, but you can bring your own. All cars are air conditioned. Bathrooms are same small ones you get on an airplane. You will find families in either class. Children usually do well and fall asleep as the train sways side to side.
- Lounge area only for 1st class in the train station. Free tea, coffee and light snacks such as mini muffins and croissants. When the baked goods are gone, that’s it. They don’t replenish them right away. It was alright in terms of train waiting areas. We really liked the free tea and coffee.
- Separate security line, smaller as less people in 1st class. You get treated the same as 2nd class, so I didn’t see difference there.
- Leather-like seats are bigger, wider, cushy seats with more leg room and wider table area. Your own reading light, mostly useful at night.
- No lounge area, no free drinks/snacks, but there is general seating for waiting area. More people in security line.
- Fabric seats are fine, closer together, thinner table area. Windows can be etched by sand for a more dull view with fabric curtains.
The advantage we find in 2nd Class is that it is open seating even though you may have booked your seats. Be prepared to get on security line early and get the seats you want, with table, near window, etc. We sat facing each other, without a table, and had a nice big window. We were able to put our feet up nicely on opposing seat for foot rest (our kids didn’t care). There were electrical outlets above each block of seats so we could charge our computers and phones the whole ride. Remember to bring adapter, as it is 220 volt.
The advantage in 1st Class is if you really do want concrete seat reservations. The wider tables come in handy if you are working from a computer, however we didn’t find any outlets like they had in 2nd Class. There is more leg room and windows are clear with nice pulldown shades, and you have your own reading light.