If you’re wanting to travel to Saudi Arabia you should know that it is one of the few countries that does not issue any kind of tourist visa. This is set to change next year when the Kingdom launches its first Tourist Visa for Saudi Visa scheme, which is seen by many as almost revolutionary. The scheme will operate online and providing you are from an accepted country, you will be able to give personal details, passport information, travel plans and answer security questions to apply for one. Once submitted and approved, you will receive your visa via email and be all set for your trip to the country. Here is everything you need to know.
How to Travel to Saudi Arabia
Visa Types You Need
Currently, if you want to enter Saudi Arabia you can only enter on either a business visa or one of the two religious visas. If you are a citizen of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, or the UAE you can enter the country without a visa.
- Business visas – These are open to company directors and owners and chairpersons. They do not need a letter of invitation from a Saudi company although they do have to prove their business and credentials and provide a letter of introduction from the company they work for stamped by the British Chamber of Commerce.
- Religious Visas – It is possible to enter the country on a religious visa to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, Hijaz.
Visas are issued either for the Umrah which is a pilgrimage which Muslims can make at any time of year, or the Hajj which Muslims make during the last months of the Islamic calendar (August to September).
To apply for either the Umrah or Hajj visa, you need to apply via the nearest embassy or consulate. There are specific requirements to fulfill before Saudi Arabia issues a visa. They are:
- You must have held a valid passport for at least six months before travel
- Have a completed, signed application form for the relevant visa
- Provide a recent passport-size color photograph taken against a white background. Full face view is required.
- You must show non-refundable return ticket to the country of origin.
- You must have a certificate of vaccination against meningitis issued not more than three years and not less than ten days before travel.
- A certificate from a mosque or Islamic center stating that you are a Muslim. This is especially important if you do not have a Muslim name.
There are specific rules surrounding Women which women travelers must adhere too. They are:
- Women and children must be accompanied by a husband, father, or Mahram (male relative). Proof in the form of birth certificates of parents or marriage certificate must be shown before the visa will be issued. The Mahram must travel at the same time as the woman to Saudi Arabia. This is not a country that will allow solo female travel.
- Women over 45 can travel as part of an organized group providing she can show a letter of no objection from her Mahram.
If you’re not comfortable with the customs, you may want to think it over before you travel to Saudi Arabia. You really have to dive into the rules there in order to be respectful of their culture and way of life. Again, this is not a country that allows solo female travel. Maybe one day things will change, but where it stands now this is a very strict destination to explore.
The tourist visa for Saudi Arabia will open up the country to tourists and this promises to be exciting for travelers. It is a country that few people outside of the Middle East would have visited. Its cultural treasures and way of life will be intriguing to many. If you plan to travel to Saudi Arabia, then you should always have the most up to date information on the visa policies, laws and customs.