Saudi Arabia has now officially opened their channel for touristic e-visas that have been touted for quite some time and citizens of 49 countries are eligible to apply.
Visiting Saudi Arabia as a tourist has always been a pretty hopeless task and while there are people who have accomplished that with the help of an invitation it’s rather exceptional. Most foreigners visiting the KSA for non-business purposes do so for religious ones and take part in the Haj.
The official website for the Saudi Arabia e-visa is https://visa.visitsaudi.com/
There will be a range of third party websites within days (some already exist) who appear to be the official channel but in fact just add a service fee for facilitating the application.
Here is what the website says:
Saudi Arabia is opening its doors to the world through its new tourist visa. Through our fast and easy-to-use online portal, international visitors from eligible countries can apply for an eVisa and discover the warm hospitality of Saudi people: our 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.
These are the eligible countries as per the list provided:
While the website is up and accepting registration I went through a few steps and tried to look up fees and the application process. Unfortunately it already got stuck when trying to receive the activation email which never arrived.
The Terms & Conditions outline that no supporting documents have to be provided, a valid passport is sufficient.
Furthermore after a successful application the e-visa will be delivered via email.
The eVisa will be valid for one year from the date of issuance.
The eVisa will be valid for multiple entries, unless stated otherwise on the specific eVisa.
The maximum length of stay allowed under the eVisa is 3 months per visit to KSA, with no more than 180 days per year.
If you are granted an eVisa, it cannot be extended.
If the eVisa expires before entry to KSA, you must apply again and another application fee must be paid.
According to the New York Times the visa fee will be 440 Saudi Riyals (US$115) which includes a mandatory “health insurance fee” provided by the Saudis.
I have my own travel health insurance but would be very curious what happens if you actually try and claim something through the one they provide.
Hopefully the manage to remove the quirks of the website and people will actually be able to apply.
There have been a few Intercontinental Point Breaks options recently for hotels in Saudi Arabia and flights on Saudia are always among the lowest around. While the airline always gets flak for not serving alcohol their food (based on photos and some Youtube videos) looks actually quite good.
Do I have a burning desire to visit the KSA? Not really but I would go if the opportunity presents itself. I won’t make any political or ethical argument here as that’s a decision everyone has to make individually and there are plenty of countries in the world where public policy isn’t exactly to my liking.