Saudi Arabia Tourist Visa 2019: The Ultimate Guide

saudi-arabia-visa

So, What’s the gooood?

I’m so excited to tell you that on September 27th, 2019, Saudi Arabia (a.k.a Saudi or the KSA) has finally opened its door to welcome visitors with tourist visa! First time ever!

Wait….whattt?

Yes, this means people with all different religions, races, cultures,…can feel free to visit which was almost impossible before if you weren’t either Muslim, on a business trip, got a job there, or even a woman alone.

Unbelievably great news! Alhamdulillah!

A beautiful promo video comes with this Saudi Arabia tourist visa announcement

In this post, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about Saudi Arabia tourist visa 2019, why do they launch tourist visa now? And exactly step by step how to apply for one so that you can discover this still mysterious but at the same time (definitely) so interesting country.

Why is issuing Saudi Arabia tourist visa an incredible news?

It was nearly impossible for travelers to visit Saudi Arabia before, it was ONLY for Muslims who want to go for pilgrimage in Hajj season, go for Umrah, or for a business trip. And last year, if I’m not mistaken, the country has become a little more open by issuing visa for people who attend different kinds of events, concert, this was applied for non-Muslim visitors.

And then this Sep 27th, Saudi has made a really important milestone that allows everyone, any non-Muslim to travel to Saudi Arabia.

This means the country really want to show the world what beautiful traditions and heritages that they have to offer, and at the same time.

 I bet there are many travelers out here who have been waiting for this moment and to explore this part of the world that is believed to be the least discover land in the world (maybe!).

So now, it’s your time!

It’s been less than 30 days till today, I see that there are lots of change in a good way for tourists to the KSA such as more relaxed dress code for women, non-married couples are ok to stay in the same hotel.

And, as Muslim Travel Girl mentioned, the tourist visa is a nice surprise even for Muslims like her, because the Umrah visa only is limited to visit only Mekka and Medina. And looks like the Umrah visa is much more expensive to apply.

The KSA tourist e-visa overview

In my opinion, the process of getting a tourist visa is so simple, fast and convenient, everything you can do online with a few easy steps.

Note: If you are a Muslim and especially a female, and over 24, you can use this Saudi Arabia tourist visa to go for Umrah alone without any male guardian.

Image: Visit Saudi
  1. Website:  https://visa.visitsaudi.com/
  2. Visa type: 1 month (single entry) and 3 months (multiple entries)
  3. Validity: 1 year. Once you enter, your visa can be used up to max.30 or 90 days depends on the visa type. You can’t stay 180 days in total per year.
  4. Fees: SAR 440 visa fee + base fee SAR 300 + insurance SAR 140 ($1 = SAR 3,75). I saw that there were some changes in price so this is the price I saw until now on their website. VAT and processing charges are not included. Also, all the fees are not refundable, even if your visa application is rejected.
  5. Time to get visa 5 to 30 minutes. (as per official website stated)
  6. Can non-Muslim go to cities like Makkah or Madinah: unfortunately, No.

Quick update: When I first checked the website in September, I saw all the countries, but many of them were not eligible for e-visa so you have to go to any Saudi embassy to apply instead. And there are only 49 countries are eligible for e-visa.  Now only these 49 countries on the list, I guess this is to clear confusion for other nationalities. But don’t worry, I will guide you on how to apply in embassy later below.

So what are the 49 countries? Check if you are from one of these:

  • Asia: Brunei, China, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea
  • North America: Canada, America (US)
  • Europe:  Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, Ukraine.
  • Oceania: Australia, New Zealand

Requirements e-visa applicants:

  1. Minimum age: 18 (all genders), Otherwise, you will need someone to be your guardian. With women over 24, you can travel alone without a man.
  2. Min passport validity of 6 months
  3. Address where you will stay in Saudi.

All you need to do is go to the website, create an account, fill all necessary information, pay the fees and just wait for your visa to be done.

If you are from a country which evisa isn’t for you, it is still ok, the visit visa is still for everyone so don’t worry if you are not one of those 49 countries. You just need to go to any Saudi embassy to apply instead, the process requires many more documents as well as time, it would take 1 – 2 days which is pretty good.

Documents you will need to prepare:

  1. Minimum age: 18 (all genders), Otherwise, you will need someone to be your guardian. With women over 24, you can travel alone without a man.
  2. Min passport validity of 6 months
  3. Proof of accommodation
  4. Return tickets
  5. Proof of employment (service letter, NOC…)
  6. Bank statement (6 months)
  7. Identification documents
  8. Home address
  9. Travel itinerary

The good thing about this visa is they don’t ask for a sponsor letter.  If you are a resident in any GCC countries, I assume that the requirements would be the same.

To my fellow UAE residents, you just need to add your Emirates ID, visa copy and go to either the Saudi embassy in Abu Dhabi or consulate in Dubai, or VFS offices to apply.

Once you get the visa, it’s better to print it out and keep a soft copy in the day you travel.

And, according to visaHQ (an online visa service), “your passport must not contain any evidence of prior or intended travel to Israel”. I think it’s necessary to let you know about it, and your application would be possibly rejected if there is anything related to Israel in your passport.

The full guide on how to fill the KSA visa application form

saudi-arabia-visa-fee
Homepage of Visit Saudi visa portal

Unfortunately, I found my (super weak) passport can’t apply for the e visa here to show you the process, but I found an amazing post to guide you step by step from Ben (at https://onemileatatime.com/) instead, it’s really helpful so check it out! https://onemileatatime.com/saudi-arabia-evisa-application/

You will see that the process is so simple, nothing personal, terms and conditions are short and clear. You can even apply on behalf of someone else. Remember that, prepare an address where you will stay there in advance.

About the travel insurance to Saudi, the page is integrated with some insurance companies so that you don’t have to look for other options outside, just need to pay it at the end after you complete the process.

Payment can be made with Visa, Mastercard, Union Pay, American Express, so awesome!

Between 5 to 30 minutes your visa will be arriving in your email.

So, Why should Saudi be in your bucket list?

As I mentioned earlier, I believe this is one of the few countries in the world that still remain almost untouched and so much to discover. I believe their Arabic lifestyle, their architecture, traditions…are still so much traditional. You will feel like you just step into another chapter of Arabian nights.

They even have 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites that I think many of us have never heard of them. This is a country that you can experience sand, sea, greenery and you didn’t expect this, but snow, too!

Here are 5 UNESCO heritage sites:

  • The Al-Ahsa Oasis: As you can guess from the name, this is a mix of gardens, canals, springs, wells, archeological sites…
The-Al-Ahsa-Oasis
Photo: Visit Saudi
  • Al-Hijr Archaeological Site: the first UNESCO listed site, you might feel like it’s in Petra, but it’s not. This is monumental tombs that date back from 1st century BC.
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Image: SCTH
  • At-Turaif District as it was the old capital of Saudi Arabia, also the home of the first Saudi Dynasty.
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Photo: Fayez Nureldine – AFP
  • Historic Jeddah: This is one of the main gate for Muslim pilgrim to Makkah, it was also the ancient Arabian trading route.
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Photo: SCTH
  • Rock Art in the Hail Region of Saudi Arabia: there are many draws about humans and animals that dating back from over 10000 years ago.

And these are just a few! There are more of them on the website: https://www.visitsaudi.com

Mini guide for the first-time visitor

Getting there and getting around

There are 13 international airports to arrive in the country and another 15 domestic airports to travel around. You can choose to select to fly to one of these 13 airports:

  1. King Khalid International Airport (RUH) – Riyadh
  2. King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) – Jeddah
  3. King Fahd International Airport (DMM) – Dammam
  4. Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport (MED) – Madinah
  5. Taif International Airport (TIF) – Taif
  6. Abha International Airport (AHB) – Abha
  7. Hail International Airport (HAS) – Ha’il
  8. King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz InternationalAirport (GIZ) – Gazan
  9. Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz International Airport (ELQ) – Qassim
  10. Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Airport (TUU) – Tabuk
  11. Prince Abdulmohsin Bin Abdulaziz International Airport (YNB) –Yanbu
  12. Al-Jouf International Airport (AJF) – Jouf
  13. Al-Ahsa International Airport (HOF) – Al Ahsa

Once you arrive, there are many different choices for transportation, from car rental from the airport or hotel, taxi, bus, Uber, Careem or even trains.

Currency

The currency there called Saudi Riyal ($1 = 3,75 SAR), 1 Riyal = 100 halala coin. The notes are 5, 10,50,100, 500.

International cards are widely accepted and ATMs are available. There is a 5% VAT on every good or service you purchase. Currently, no information about tax refunds for tourists and I would update in the future if there is any.

Weather

This surprised me the most, even though I live just a few hours away from Saudi Arabia, but I thought the only climate they have is hot and maybe hotter. But I found out they have…4 seasons throughout the year, the temperature can go to very low in the winter, snowing and go to extremely hot in the summer. Surprise!

So make sure you check the weather carefully before traveling to the KSA.

Dress code

I know this was once stressful, but now it all relaxed, especially for women. And,

Ladies, I know what are you wondering…you don’t have to wear abaya or hijab when you travel anymore. But for me, as a guy living in the UAE in over 5 years, I find abayas are beautiful, charming and it’s surely nice item for your pictures because there are many fashionable ones.

Anyway, all they ask you is to wear modestly, both genders, not so tight, so transparent, or some Tshirt with aggressive graphics.

Image: Visit Saudi

Fines

Saudi is not the only country in the world that give fines to people who don’t obey the local laws, but for the information purpose, especially it might be helpful to someone who is not so aware of the culture in the Middle East before you travel.

Emergency contacts:

  • Police: 999
  • Saudi Ambulance: 997
  • Civil Defense: 998
  • For traffic accidents: 993
  • Highway Patrol: 996
  • Border Guard: 994

Also, I think it’s a good idea to have a number from your embassy in Saudi Arabia.

Pages to follow and get inspired:

Now, it’s your turn.

I’m not sure this will be my last and only post about Saudi Arabia, because my main content focus is about Abu Dhabi to promote my tour guide service in UAE. That’s why I tried my best to write up as much information as possible about everything related to Saudi Arabia tourist visa that they issued for the first time in 2019.

I hope I did well, show you all you need to know on one page, this, helped me at the same time as a record in the future when someone asks about traveling to Saudi Arabia.

If this post helped you with your plan for Saudi, that’s great! If you think someone needs this info, please share it. Any comments please leave it in the comment box below.

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