The Saudi riyal (ريال) is the name of the currency used in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi riyal has been the currency in the place since the kingdom was created in the mid-1920’s. Before that, a similar currency also called riyal was used in region Hejaz. The prior riyal was based on the currency that was used during the Ottoman Empire, though they weren’t quite the same.
Because of the Saudis enormous export of oil, the Saudi riyal and the American dollar have a close relationship, and since 2007 the riyal has officially been pegged to the USD.
One Saudi riyal is divided into 100 halalas. Because the riyal is an Arabic currency it has official names and abbreviations in both English and Arabic. In the English language riyal is usually shortened to SR, in Arabic it’s ر.س, while in halalas it’s written as هللة.
The ISO-4217 used in official settings and on the forex market is SAR and it has no sign connected to it, such as the dollar ($), pound (£), and euro (€).
The Saudi riyal has gone through quite a few changes and has been released in several different series since it was created. The current version of the banknotes was released in 2016, one year after the former king Abdullah had passed away. All the new banknotes (except for 500 SR) have the new King Salman printed on them.
Some coins have been in circulation for much longer than 2016, and therefore you can find different versions of the same valued coins in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi riyal is currently available in the following physical bills and coins:
- 1 halalas
- 5 halalas
- 10 halalas
- 25 halalas
- 50 halalas
- 1 SR
- 2 SR
- 5 SR
- 10 SR
- 50 SR
- 100 SR
- 500 SR
Note that some sources write the first five coins as 0.01, 0.05, 0.25, and 0.50 SR.
The bills have classic Saudi landmarks printed on them such as the Holy Mosque in Mecca, The Prophet’s Mosque, and the Riyadh skyline. Also, all banknotes except for the 500 SR bill have the ruling king Salman on the front. The 500 bill have King Ibn Saud – Saudi Arabia’s founding father and first ruler – on the front.
History of the Saudi Riyal
The Saudi Arabian riyal was first created in 1935 when it replaced the former and recently introduced Hejaz riyal. Both the Hejaz riyal and the first Saudi riyal were printed and regulated by Saudi Hollandi Bank (Alwwal Bank), a branch of the Netherlands Trading Society that acted as the central bank of Saudi Arabia between 1926 and 1952.
In the year 1952, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) was created and they took over the control of the currency. The first name of SAMA was later changed to Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority.
There have been 5 separate updates of the riyal since the first version was released. The latest update called Series 6 was released in 2016 as a result of the power change after the former king passed away.
In June 1986 the SAR was pegged to the Special Drawing Rights (SDR), a foreign exchange reserve controlled by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The price was basically pegged at 1 SAR = 0.2666 USD or 1 USD = 3.75 SAR.
Since 2003 the SAR has been pegged to USD, except for a short period between September and December 2007 when Saudi Arabia and the United States were in a disagreement about interest rates.
The Saudi Riyal Today
Today, the Saudi riyal naturally still has close ties to the American dollar. Firstly, because the Saudi riyal is pegged to the dollar and secondly because Saudi Arabia is the largest exporter of oil in the world and all their oil is sold in USD.
The Saudi riyal also has a close relationship with the Indian rupee.
There has been an ongoing discussion about a currency union which would include all the Gulf states. According to the original plans, the new currency was supposed to be created in 2010 but so far nothing has been done. Considering the instability in the region and the recent sanctions put on Qatar, a currency union will probably not happen anytime soon.
The Indian rupee and the Saudi riyal have had close ties for a long time for a few different reasons.
During periods of the 20th century the Indian rupee as well as the Gulf rupee (base and pegged to INR), was used across the Arabian Peninsula. Today the two countries remain close to each other and Saudi Arabia relies heavily on an Indian workforce, which also helps strengthen the two currencies exchange rate. Because of this, the SAR/INR is one of the most converted currency pairs in the region.
To see the latest exchange rate for SAR/INR you can use our practical and very precise currency converter.