Holders of Schengen and US visas are now eligible for the new Saudi Arabia Tourist Visa.
Last month, Saudi Arabia launched a new Tourist e-Visa which is available to a select few nations, including the US, EU, United Kingdom, and several Asian countries. Now, the Kingdom has extended the possibility of a tourist visa to those who already have a visa for the US or Schengen.
Ahmad Al-Khateeb, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, said in a statement:
“Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country. Generous hospitality is at the heart of Arabian culture and we look forward to showing our guests a very warm welcome. To visitors, we say: be among the first to discover and explore the treasures of Arabia. To investors we say: become part of the fastest-growing tourism sector on earth.”
Saudi Arabia launched the visa in an effort to boost the tourism industry and move the focus of its economy away from oil. If you are eligible for the new tourist visa, you can apply online and it promises to process within 30 minutes. The visa is valid for one year, allows multiple entries, and costs around $120, including health insurance coverage.
However, along with the visa, Saudi Arabia also implemented a public decency code that warns tourists against public displays of affection and requires them to dress “modestly”.
Up until last month, foreigners were not allowed to enter the Saudi Arabian Kingdom simply for tourism purposes. Visas were mainly available to Muslim pilgrims who wished to visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, to business travelers, and resident workers and their dependents.
However, the new tourist e-Visa is the latest on a string of new, more liberal, reforms taken by Saudi Arabia in the last two years, including allowing women to drive and abolishing the need for “male guardianship”.
In August 2017, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced a project promising to turn several islands on the Red Sea into luxury resorts, where the strict laws of the country do not apply.
In early 2018, it announced it would allow women over the age of 25 to travel alone, without needing to be accompanied by a male guardian. It also first implemented temporary visas for foreigners wishing to attend sporting and cultural events in Saudi Arabia.