Saudi Arabia Launches Tourist Visa Programme

Saudi Arabia Launches Tourist Visa Programme
A canyon near Riyadh, Photo Credit: Maher Najm/Flickr

Foreign nationals from 49 countries can now apply for tourist visas, but the move comes with many rules in tow

OT Staff
October 03 , 2019
01 Min Read

For the first time in the kingdom’s history, Saudi Arabia will begin issuing tourist visas to foreign nationals. Citizens from 49 countries are eligible to apply, and will be able to obtain the document in three forms—as an e-visa, as visa on arrival, or from applications at Saudi embassies and consulates across the globe. The visa will allow tourists to stay for up tothree months, and will be valid for one year with multiple entries. The venture is likely to expand and include other countries in the future.

“Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment,” says Ahmed al-Khateeb, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage. “Visitors will be the treasures we have to share—five Unesco world heritage sites, a vibrant local culture and breathtaking natural beauty.”


View of Riyadh, the capital

But the conservative kingdom isn’t abandoning its trademark austerity just yet. Despite Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman positioning himself as a ‘progressive’ changemaker, Al-Khateeb confirmed that tourists will be required to ‘dress modestly’, avoid public displays of affection, and refrain from using profanities. For the full list of do's, don’ts and penalties (and there’s a lot), click here

The new visas are part of a larger plan to reduce the Saudi economy’s dependence on oil and create more jobs. Gulf News reported that the venture is divided into two phases—the first (from 2019 to 2022) will focus on pulling first-time visitors to “discover Saudi” while the second, starting in 2022, will focus on making visitors “experience Saudi”.” Over 20 new tourist locations are to be developed under phase one, while ‘giga projects’ like the Amaala riviera and Qiddiya entertainment hub phase will see refinement in phase two. 

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