Saudi Arabia is the thirteenth largest country on the planet and, in its vast expanse, is full of interesting places waiting to be discovered by tourists. Traveling to this nation is a mission for true adventurers, not only because of the activities that can be carried out in it, but also because it is entering another world.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the strictest nations when it comes to its faith, and that is why some activities and even food and drinks are prohibited. However, the need to diversify its economy and become independent from oil has forced its monarch to relax the rules that prevented further growth in tourism.
Although there are still steps to be taken, the measures adopted have served to capture the attention of tourists. Given its geographical location, its main visitors are pilgrims, who visit the country with the intention of discovering emblematic places such as Mecca or the Red Sea.
But Saudi Arabia also offers excellent alternatives for those who are not moved by spirituality. Deserts, beaches, archaeological ruins, museums and very modern cities are part of its greatest attractions. And although it is not what predominates, there are mountainous regions such as the province of Taif, where you can come into contact with the best of the fauna and flora.
If you are an adventurer, a lover of history, a person who appreciates spirituality or you are attracted to luxury and modernity, you cannot miss this country. Go ahead and dare to discover one of the greatest treasures of Asia.
What requirements are needed to travel to Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia has a reputation for being a country that is very difficult to travel to. This was the case in the past, but in recent years, the government has taken certain steps towards relaxing entry rules, allowing foreign tourists to visit its emblematic places. By virtue of this, those who wish to enter said nation must possess the following elements:
- Tourist visa.
- Passport whose validity extends, at least, until six months after entering the country. The authorities will be able to deny entry to those tourists whose travel document contains evidence that they have visited Israel.
- Return ticket.
- Proof of accommodation.
- Elements that demonstrate the reasons for the trip.
- Documents that prove the availability of sufficient funds to guarantee subsistence during the stay.
The authorities may deny the entry of travelers if they deem it convenient, even though they meet all the requirements for it. That is why it is recommended to travel with documentation that fully demonstrates the intentions of the visit and with those elements that prove that the person will not endanger national security or violate religious norms.
Conditions for applying for the e-Visa and visa on arrival
The opening of Saudi Arabia to tourism is really recent. Only in 2019 did it establish an electronic visa regime, through which non-Muslim foreigners are allowed to enter the country for leisure purposes with greater facilities. For now, the process only benefits 49 nations, which are specified on the following website: https://visa.visitsaudi.com/?_ga=2.226850201.543063124.1644636225-1889502592.1644636224
Those who are visa holders issued by the USA or any of the members of the Schengen Area, have the alternative of requesting the visa on arrival. In any case, the requirements to obtain the entry permit through one of these modalities are those mentioned below:
- The applicant must be a citizen over the age of 18. Visas for minors must be processed by a guardian.
- Passport whose validity remains at least six months after entry into Saudi Arabia.
- Payment of the visa fee, which is 300 riyals (SAR, official Saudi currency) for processing.
People applying for the e-Visa must complete the electronic application form, available at: https://visa.visitsaudi.com/Registration/Verify. This process takes between 5 and 30 minutes. In any case, the airlines will verify the suitability of the document before boarding the passengers.
Consular visa application
Nationals of countries that are not eligible for the electronic permit, must comply with the procedure before the Saudi embassies or consulates. It is what is known as a consular tourist visa, and in this case, those interested must meet the following requirements:
- Be over 18 years of age or, failing that, be represented by a guardian.
- Have a passport whose validity extends for at least six months after entering Saudi territory.
- Fill out the electronic application on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: https://www.mofa.gov.sa/Pages/default.aspx
- Submit proof of accommodation.
- Provide documents that demonstrate economic solvency and your employment status.
- Round trip ticket.
- Travel itinerary.
- Personal information
- Pay 300 SAR for consular fees.
Unlike the electronic process or on arrival, this process can take up to two business days. Another aspect that should be mentioned is that religious matters will not be questioned for the purpose of approving the tourist visa in any of its modalities. However, travelers will be reminded of the importance of respecting Islam and avoiding offensive acts during their stay.
Rules decreed due to COVID-19
One aspect that we cannot forget is that the pandemic continues to be a threat. For this reason, the Saudi government has developed a health plan, aimed at minimizing COVID-19 infections as much as possible. This strategy includes, among other measures, a series of conditions aimed at foreigners, under which they must carry your arrival in the country the following elements:
- Negative PCR or antigen test, taken within 48 hours prior to entering the country. Children under the age of 8 are exempt from this requirement.
- Vaccination certificate, stating the administration of the complete scheme.
- Complete the health form, related to the vaccination status, which can be accessed by entering: https://muqeem.sa/#/vaccine-registration/home
- Download the Tawakkalna monitoring app, available at: https://ta.sdaia.gov.sa/en/index
Likewise, it is necessary to have valid medical insurance in the Kingdom and that covers the expenses derived from contagion by COVID-19. It is advisable to contract one that includes the greatest number of services and, if possible, repatriation.
People from high-risk countries must self-isolate at their cost. In this period, two PCR tests will have to be carried out, one within 24 hours of arrival and another on the fifth day. The results of these tests depend on whether they can suspend the quarantine. Children under 12 years of age will not be confined if they are accompanied by an adult who is fully vaccinated.
It is important to keep in mind that, once in the country, it is imperative to comply with current biosafety regulations. The use of the mask in public places is mandatory and those who fail to comply with this measure may be sanctioned with a fine of up to 100,000 SAR, which is equivalent to about 26,000 USD.
For the purposes of knowing the current health regulations, we recommend visiting the official tourism website: https://www.visitsaudi.com/en/health-regulations From this portal, each foreigner will be able to find out about the news and conditions that must be met according to their place of origin. In the same way, it is necessary to consult such data with the airlines and make sure to comply with the current requirements on the date of the trip.