There’s nothing like beating the tourist rush…

You can read and read, but there’s nothing better than experiencing a destination for yourself, firsthand. No need to take anyone’s word for it, you can take in all the sights, cultural fascination and sort fact from fiction with your own two eyes.

From Riyadh to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia is launching film festivals, seaside attractions and other new elements to make this something people can’t help but be curious to see. Saudi Arabia is undoubtedly one of the most polarizing destinations in the world with a chequered past on equality, press freedom and women’s rights, but its forever been closed off to tourists, and has eluded too many for too long.

As of September 27th, 2019 the country is officially launching seamless tourist visas online. Here’s everything you need to know about getting a visa to Saudi Arabia, and exploring this fascinating place for yourself.

saudi arabiaSaudi E-Tourist Visa Launches

Saudi Arabia now offers a new dedicated website for the e-visa process, and citizens from the United Kingdom, United States of America, Japan, China, Australia and all Schengen zone European Union countries are now eligible for a Saudi e-visa. The Saudi Arabian tourist visa can be obtained online in advance of travel at a cost of 440SAR, which is £95 or $117 at current rates, and also at kiosks upon landing, which eliminates the need of a visa in advance of flight.

Keep in mind, Mecca and Medina will still be closed off to non-muslims. The visa application will officially launch Saturday, September 28th. If you don’t apply online, you’ll be able to apply after landing using an automated kiosk, and all applications are said to take under 30 minutes, with most taking 7 minutes. Obviously, it will be a time saver if you apply online, but it’s great that it won’t mean missing flights if you’re unable to secure a visa in advance of flights.

How long does the Saudi Arabian tourist visa allow? Each visitor visa grants one year of validity for multiple entries, with stays up to 3 months at a time. Basically, you can use it multiple times from the date of approval, with a year to take advantage before you’ll need to re-apply.

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Saudi Arabia Is Now Open

Did you know women can now drive in Saudi Arabia, and also leave the country without the permission of a man? There’s even talk of traditional standards of dress being loosened, and movie theatres have reopened to the public. If this all sounds archaic, it absolutely is, but never before has the hood of a country so cloaked in secrecy been opened to the public so widely, so fast. It’s quite literally from zero to millions, let alone sixty.

With a charm offensive in full swing and brand new hotels in the works, it could be a fascinating time to see the country, before the masses join. If anything, stories of the journey should help elevate small talk to medium talk.

Anyone going to Saudi?

Featured image courtesy of Berga & Gonzalez Architects.

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