Saudi Arabia Now Open to Tourist Visas

By Jennifer Allman-Guinn, on October 1, 2019

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Until now, if you wanted to visit Saudi Arabia, you had to be granted permission through a formal invitation process through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or making the religious pilgrimage known as “Hajj” (or “Umrah,” if traveling outside of the Hajj season). The process involved both the Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Saudi Arabia and one of the four consulates here in the U.S. and was heavy on paperwork, time and resources. Until last Friday, traveling to Saudi Arabia simply for pleasure, without any contacts or business connections within the Kingdom, was out of the question.

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When Saudi Arabia opened its tourist visa on Friday, September 27th, a brand new vacation destination was presented to the citizens of selected countries. Instead of back and forth with two separate nations, the process can be completed online and the electronic visa can be approved for travel within hours. The move is part of a larger vision on the Kingdom’s part, often referred to as their 2030 vision, an ambitious effort to transform Saudi Arabia with electronic visa processes, shift the country from an oil-dependent economy to a diverse player in the international field and implement moderate reforms to its citizens. The kingdom is optimistic that the revenue from the already-booming interest in tourism throughout the country will bring major changes in a time when international discussions center around our environment and our inclusivity.

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Travelers can go scuba diving in the Red Sea near Jeddah, take a guided trip to the fossil-filled Mastodon Cave in the Eastern Province or visit al-Turaif, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to the mid-1700s. History fanatics and ecotourists will find a plethora of locations to add to their must-see lists throughout Saudi Arabia. Tour guides are available in many locations to offer their expertise and their knowledge of the terrain so that you can spend less time worrying and more time taking in the incredible sites.

Ready to apply? Here are the things to keep in mind about the tourist visa:

  • The Saudi Arabian tourist visa is good for one year. You will travel in and out of the kingdom as much as you please for one year, but the duration of your stay will be limited to 90 days each visit.

  • No proof of travel is needed at this time. When you apply for the visa, Saudi Arabia does want to know the details of where you plan to stay (name of the hotel or individual, address, contact number), but does not require that a plan ticket be purchased beforehand.

  • Your trip will come with mandatory insurance for any visit throughout the kingdom. There does not seem to be any waiver, even if you have your own insurance.

  • Visitors are still required to follow the laws and regulations of Saudi Arabia when traveling. These laws and regulations will be sent to you with the completed visa. It is very important that you familiarize yourself with them in order to avoid strict fees or imprisonment.

  • The visa is good for non-work travel only. Visitors that want to travel to Saudi Arabia for business or work purposes will still have to secure an invitation letter and apply for a paper visa.

  • When traveling to any new country, it is best to familiarize yourself with the customs and culture. Saudi Arabia is no different. Known for being a very conservative country, certain aspects may come as a culture shock to travelers who are from other locations. Saudi Arabia does not allow alcohol to be sold or consumed anywhere in the country, even in your own hotel. There are strict dress requirements for both men and women, though women visiting the country will not be required to cover their hair at this time.

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    Getting the visa through APVI is a very simple process. The only things needed are the e-visa application form, which we will provide, the new passport-style photo and the scan of your current passport. To get started, you can place the order on APVI.com for the tourist e-visa. You can choose from the 24-hour option or the 2-hour option. Once the order is placed, you will be taken to your order page, where you will fill out the application and upload your documents.

    With this new opportunity open to many, we are witnessing a new path for a very distinguished country. If you do happen to take this amazing opportunity to visit Saudi Arabia, please feel free to include your experiences (and your photos!) in the comments below.
    Jennifer Allman-Guinn

    About the Author

    Jen is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in travel tips and best practices. Other content specialties include pets and animals, sports, healthcare and medical devices, environmental concerns, education, and marketing best practices.

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