VISA & TRAVEL TIPS
Saudi Arabia is opening its doors to the world through its new tourist visa. Through the fast and easy-to-use online portal, international visitors from 49 eligible countries (listed below) can apply for an eVisa (https://visa.visitsaudi.com/) and discover the warm hospitality of Saudi people the rich heritage, vibrant culture, and diverse and breathtaking landscapes; from the mountains of Abha to the beaches of the Red Sea to the shifting sands of the Empty Quarter.
The eVisa will be a one-year, multiple entry visa, allowing tourists to spend up to 90 days in the country. It covers tourism-related activities and Umrah (excluding Hajj season) and excludes other activities such as studying:
Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom.
Brunei, China (Including Hong Kong And Macau), Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea.
Australia, New Zealand.
For GCC residents:
eVisa is only permitted to GCC residents with certain occupations, check this page to know if your occupation is covered before applying. Then You can apply for eVisa on the visa portal
On Arrival Visa
A 12-month tourism visa can also be issued on arrival in Saudi Arabia without the need to apply in advance for the following:
Citizens of the 49 countries mentioned above who are eligible for an eVisa
Permanent residence from the US, UK or EU
US, UK, & Schengen Visa holders if the following conditions apply:
US, UK or Schengen Visa must be valid and has been used at least once and has an entry stamp from the issuing country.
A US, UK or Schengen visa, must either be a business or tourist visa.
Travelers who do not meet the above requirements, can get their visa by applying through the nearest Saudi Embassy or through an authorized travel agency. The below documents are required:
Proof of accommodation
Proof of employment
Financial solvency/Bank statement
Complete personal information; home address.
Learning Some Basic Arabic Will Help
The official language in Saudi Arabia is Arabic. English serves as an informal second language in the Kingdom and is spoken by a large section of its society. In case however, you find yourself in a situation where no one around you speaks English, some basic Arabic will definitely come in handy. You may also want to refer to our Arabic 101 section for some commonly used phrases.
Always Have Cash On You
There are ATMs and banks pretty much everywhere, but you never know when you do run out of cash, if you will be able to find an ATM nearby. Also note that despite the fact that credit cards are accepted in most modern hotels and restaurants, there are many local places that still don’t accept them. So it is definitely a good idea to carry cash with you and you could do so with the added assurance in knowing that from a criminality perspective, Saudi Arabia is among the safest places to visit, not just in the Middle East, but in the entire world (Ranked 3rd world wide).
If you are traveling to Saudi’s larger cities like Riyadh, Jeddah and others, you will find that Public transportation is up to western standards. Even so, most locals use private cars or taxis. For the most part, you simply can’t walk in Saudi Arabia. If you choose to travel by bus between cities, you will still have to use a taxi to commute from the highway to your destination. All things considered, your best option would probably be to rent a car as it is very affordable to do so in Saudi Arabia, especially since gas is cheap. Worth mentioning is the need for some extra caution, as some commuters tend to drive extremely fast on some of Saudi’s highways & roads.
Weekend Days are Friday and Saturday
Remember that just like in any other Muslim country, Friday and Saturdays are considered the weekend days. Everything is usually closed on Fridays.
Laws & Etiquette Tips
Dress Code For Foreigners
The following dress requirements were published by the Saudi government and should be followed by all women tourists entering the kingdom:
Although Saudi women are expected to wear the traditional black, long gown called the abaya while in public, foreigners are exempted from this rule. The hijab and niqab are optional for both Saudi and tourist women.
Women tourists must dress modestly at all times, covering their knees and shoulders.
Although the abaya is optional, you will need to wear it while entering mosques, in respect of the Muslim culture.
In a few places, you might have to wear a headscarf, particularly in Riyadh.
Sleeveless shirts, short dresses, loose tops, short bottoms, crop tops and miniskirts are strictly not allowed.
Night clothes, under garments or anything that is inappropriate to be worn in public must be avoided.
Bikinis, which are common among westerners, are taboo in Saudi Arabia, even on the beaches.
You can wear the shoes of your choice – trainers, sandals, heels or open toed footwear. There are no restrictions on this. However, you will have to remove your footwear when entering religious institutions.
Make sure the fabric of your clothes is not see-through and not super tight.
In case you are wearing jewellery that represents a religion other than Islam, you’ll need to tuck it under your clothes while making sure it isn’t visible.
Lastly, modest makeup is preferable to bright colors on the face.
Dress Code For Foreigners
The following dress requirements are to be followed by male tourists entering the kingdom:
Foreign men are not required to wear the thobe, the traditional Arabic dress.
Men are however required to wear clothes covering their shoulders and legs at all times.
Make sure to avoid skinny jeans, sleeveless shirts and shorts in public.
If you are at a workplace, a shirt, tie and a dark business suit are appropriate.
Apart from a wristwatch or a wedding ring, any other jewelry, including bracelets, necklaces, etc., particularly in gold, is considered inappropriate for men.
You must not be shirtless under any circumstances.
Both men and women should be careful not to wear a top or shirt with indecent or loud graphics and quotes on it. However, you can wear whatever you like within western compounds or areas where expats reside. Bikinis are still not allowed, and you need to stick to one-piece swimsuits. Whatever you wear, make sure it is modest and respectful of the tenets of Islam.
Bad language, loud behavior, any form of public display of affection are prohibited, and encroaching on other people’s boundaries are considered disrespectful. Respecting public decorum is always advised. Shaking hands should always be done with the right hand. When crossing legs, try not to point the sole of your feet or shoes towards anyone as it is considered to be insulting.
Saudi Arabia is predominantly Muslim country and most Saudis are quite religious, so when spending your time exploring keep in mind that places such as shops and restaurants might suddenly but briefly close for prayer.
As for your own beliefs, the most effective way to stay clear of any problems is to simply keep them to yourself.
During the holy month of Ramadan, the overall ambiance of the country changes into a spiritual one.
Alcohol & Substances
The sale, purchase, and consumption of alcohol and drugs are illegal in Saudi Arabia.