Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 15 October 2019

New Saudi Arabia tourist visas: everything you need to know

The launch was announced in front of a gathering of the world's media in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia has announced the launch of its new tourist visas, which will be available from today.

Tourists can obtain a 90-day, multiple entry visa to enter the country.

The new e-visa or visa on arrival services will be extended to 49 countries, including the UK, US, Canada and Australia.

It's expected the announcement will create one million new jobs for the country by 2030.

Here's everything we know about the new visas:

How much does the Saudi tourism visa cost?

The visa will cost you SAR 440 (Dh431) plus VAT.

Where can you apply for the visa?

Tourists will be able to apply online for an e-Visa or gain a visa on arrival in Saudi Arabia. A dedicated online portal at visitsaudi.com has been launched, and electronic kiosks are available at airports.

How long is it valid for?

The tourist visa allows for a stay of up to 3 months per entry, with visitors able to spend up to 90 days a year in Saudi Arabia. The visa is valid for one year with multiple entries.

What countries are eligible to apply?

This, of course, discounts those from the GCC, who were already eligible for visa-free entry into Saudi Arabia.

Do female tourists need to wear an abaya?

An official statement on this has not yet been released, but it is understood that while both genders need to dress modestly to be respectful of the culture, wearing an abaya will not be enforced.

Why are the tourist visas being introduced?

Saudi Arabia first unveiled its plans to welcome tourists to the kingdom in December 2017, but in the years since, there had been little news – until recently.

Last week, a slick new tourism campaign for the kingdom was launched, with a stunning video making the rounds on social media.

Previously, most visitors to Saudi Arabia were Muslims visiting to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage, or those on business trips. Tourist visas were only issued on an intermittent basis, and only for select group tours. It was particularly difficult for single women to visit the kingdom.

Earlier this month, the head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, Ahmad Al Khatib, said Saudi Arabia would open its doors to international tourists before the end of this year.

Mr Al Khatib made the announcement during a meeting of the World Tourism Organisation in Russia.

It expands on the initial announcement in 2017, when Prince Sultan bin Salman said "all government approvals" were in place for the launch of electronic visas to "all nationals whose countries allow their citizens to visit" Saudi Arabia.

The proposal to issue the visas was then outlined in a report for the Arabian Travel Market 2018.

It highlighted the kingdom's target of 30 million visitors annually by 2030, and announced its intent to allow women older than 24 to visit the country without a male guardian.

Female tourists below that age will still need to be accompanied by a family member.

Updated: October 1, 2019 06:34 PM

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