Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 October 2019

Saudi Arabia allows foreign men and women to share hotel rooms

Last week, the kingdom introduced tourist visas, allowing holidaymakers to obtain a 90-day, multiple entry visas to enter the country

Saudi Arabia is looking to relax some of its laws to attract tourism to the kingdom. Faisal Al Nasser/Bloomberg
Saudi Arabia is looking to relax some of its laws to attract tourism to the kingdom. Faisal Al Nasser/Bloomberg

Unmarried foreign couples coming to Saudi Arabia are now able to rent hotel rooms together under a new visa scheme introduced by the kingdom.

Women, including Saudis, are also permitted to rent hotel rooms by themselves, in a break with previous regulations.

The moves appear to pave the way for unaccompanied women to travel more easily and for unmarried foreign visitors to stay together in the Gulf state, where sex outside of marriage is banned.

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage confirmed a report on Friday by Arabic-language newspaper Okaz, adding: "All Saudi nationals are asked to show family ID or proof of relationship on checking into hotels. This is not required of foreign tourists. All women, including Saudis, can book and stay in hotels alone, providing ID on check-in."

The easing of law follows a raft of new steps taken by the kingdom to attract tourists and foreign investment.

Last week, it introduced tourist visas, allowing holidaymakers to obtain a 90-day, multiple entry visas to enter the country. The visa has been extended to 49 countries, including the UK, US, Canada and Australia.

Until last week, foreigners travelling to Saudi Arabia were mainly restricted to resident workers and Muslim pilgrims, often visiting the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Under the new visa scheme, female tourists visiting Saudi Arabia no longer need to wear an abaya or hijab, in a relaxation of the dress code.

In July, the kingdom eased male guardianship laws to allow females to travel on their own without the permission of a male guardian.

The Saudi government is looking to have 100 million annual visits to the country by 2030. The changes are part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ambitious economic and social reform agenda.

Updated: October 6, 2019 03:06 AM

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