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How to get a visa for Saudi Arabia?

by Luis Sánchez | Tue 27 Oct 2020
How to get a visa for Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia encompasses a fascinating culture and fascinating history. The archaeological heritage and landscapes will likely leave you breathless in the cradle of Islam, full of symbolism and infinite attractions. Saudi Arabia is home to wonders such as Mecca and the Medina, which are of great prophetic significance. Other attractions include Madain Saleh and the sophisticated cave art of Jubbah, the Hiyaz railway, the fascinating Riyadh, and so much more. An initial visit to Saudi Arabia will be a surprise to the senses while exploring the mysterious streets, enjoying the culture and delighting in the cuisine. However, consideration must be taken for when travelling in Saudi Arabia about being respectful of its customs and traditions at all times.

Do I need a visa to travel to Saudi Arabia?

Yes, anyone travelling to Saudi Arabia, for any reason, will need to apply for a visa. The most common visa is the tourist visa, in which more than 50 countries have access. This visa will be valid for 1 year and allows a maximum stay of 90 days. This visa requires you to take out medical insurance with a company in the country.

Types of visas

Specific visa that you will need to apply for depends on your reason for entering the country.

Tourist eVisa

This is the most common visa requested for entry to Saudi Arabia. It is an online tourist visa, valid for 1 year and allowing multiple entries. This visa allows for a stay in the country up to 90 days. These 90 days can be consecutive or in several instalments. Once you have spent the full 90 days in the country, you must leave, and you will not be able to re-enter until at least 180 days have passed. This visa will entitle you to a visit Mecca and Medina if the applicant is not a Muslim. You will also not be allowed to work or study in Saudi Arabia. A parent or legal guardian must accompany children under 16 years of age. The Tourist eVisa is also valid for requests for visits to relatives, events, leisure and Umrah.Any applicant may indicate any of the above reasons, except the Umrah, which is reserved exclusively for Muslims. A visit to Umrah cannot be requested during the Hajj period.

Business Visa

This visa is applicable for entry to Saudi Arabia for business purposes only. It is relevant for business persons, investors, managers, or representatives of a company from outside of the country. This visa can only be applied for through the Saudi Arabian consulate or embassy in the country where your legal residence is located.

Hajj Visa

This visa is for pilgrims only. Hajj visas are issued from October (Mid-Shawwal) to 25 November (Dhual-Qa'dah) each year. The application must be made at a Saudi consulate. Muslim women cannot travel to Saudi Arabia alone. They must have a close male relative, aged 18 or older, to accompany them. Muslim women over age 45 may travel with a group of women of that age or older, if they are bringing a male group leader. Non-Muslim women do not have this restriction. They can travel alone or accompanied by whomever they wish.

How do I apply for a Saudi visa?

If we want to apply for Hajj or Business visas, we can only process them from the consulate or embassy nearest to our place of residence. If we are applbareinying for a visa for tourism, Umrah, events, leisure or family visits, we will apply online for the eVisa Tourist. We can process it personally, or through a third party such as visagov.com.

If we apply in person, we must register with the government site with our details and a credit card, but we will not be accepted immediately. Once we are registered, we must then proceed to apply for the visa. If visagov.com processes it for us, it will be faster, we will enjoy more comfort and guarantee to obtain our visa simply by filling out a simple form, and in 24/48h we will have our answer in our email.

Who needs a visa for Saudi Arabia?

More than 50 countries are included in the eVisa processing programme. If you are not eligible for this programme, you should contact your nearest embassy. Citizens with Spanish nationality can apply for the e-Visa online without any problem. You can check in our eligibility checker to know the specific situation of each nationality.

What are the requirements to apply for a visa to Saudi Arabia?

The main requirement to apply for the e-Visa (online visa) is to belong to a nationality within the programme. If so, we must have a valid passport with an expiry date of more than 6 months from our entry to the country. We will need to attach a recent colour passport photo and have a credit card for payment of fees. When we apply for a visa, the Arab government will require us to take out medical insurance with one of the Saudi Arabian companies, which will cover us for any medical problems that may arise during our stay in the country.

Can I change my Saudi Arabian visa once it has been processed?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to make changes to an application once it has been paid for unless the Saudi government finds a mistake or asks for an attachment to be changed. You will only be able to modify an error found by the government, and will not be entitled to make modifications if the Saudi government does not request it. If you have made a mistake and want to modify it, you will have to contact the Saudi Arabian government directly. If you have a visa which is currently valid, then you will not be able to apply for a new visa.

How much does a visa to Saudi Arabia cost?

The government costs for the eVisa are SAR 354 plus SAR 130 for compulsory health insurance. All fees must be paid before sending the visa form. Once the process has been completed, you will receive an answer from the government by email within a few days. The price in euros varies every day, due to the fluctuation of the value of the Saudi Riyal. The average equivalent is SAR 354 = EUR 80 // SAR 130 = EUR 30.

If you intend to deal directly with the Saudi government, either online or in person, you must pay in SAR. If you want to process the visa with an external company, as is the case with visagov.com, then you can pay in your own local currency. Visagov.com will know the current cost in euros, and there will be no need to change currency at a bank or make a foreign currency payment.

How far in advance do I need to apply for a Saudi Arabian visa?

The eVisa should not take more than 5-7 working days. There is an option for selecting an express visa which has a processing time of 1-2 business days. It is still advisable to apply for a Saudi visa at least 15 days before your entry to the country. This will avoid any last-minute mishaps, or delays if having to send additional documentation requested by government authorities.

What are the borders of entry into Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia has 13 international airports and another 15 domestic airports throughout the country. However, it is important to note that not all of these airports allow eVisa holders to enter the country. Only a few specific airports are equipped to handle the influx of foreign tourists with eVisas at present. The airports where you can land with an eVisa are:
- King Khalid International Airport (RUH) - Riyadh.
- King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) - Jeddah.
- King Fahd International (DMM) - Dammam.
- Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz International (MED) - Madinah.

In addition to these international airports, it is also possible to enter the country with an online visa (e-Visa) through various land entry points. This allows tourists staying in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) or Bahrain to enter the country by road.
- From Bahrain: Access to Saudi Arabia from Bahrain is possible through the King Fahd Bridge border checkpoint. This will allow you to enter Arabia through the city of Khobar, less than 50km from Dammam. You must present your passport, eVisa, and any other identification documents required by the border guards.
- From the United Arab Emirates: From the UAE, it is possible to enter Saudi Arabia through the Al Batha border crossing. This is on the western border of the UAE, approximately 500km south east of Riyadh.

Are vaccinations required for travel to Saudi Arabia?

It is advisable to have the official vaccination schedule updated and to travel with the certificate. It is advisable to have your vaccinations at least 4-6 weeks before you travel. Vaccinations required for travel to Saudi Arabia Yellow Fever, Meningococcal (ACWY135) are compulsory. Additional recommended vaccinations are Tetanus-Diphtheria / Tetanus-Diphtheria-Pertussis, Triple Virus (Measles, Rubella, Mumps) and Hepatitis A. Depending on the characteristics of the trip, vaccinations such as Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Rabies, Influenza or Pneumococcal may be recommended. It is advised that you visit your specialized vaccination centre or doctor for current advise.

What is the currency of Saudi Arabia?

The currency of Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Arabian Riyal (SAR). It should be added that both euros and US dollars are accepted as well.
- 1 euro = 4.44 SAR
- 1 dollar= 3.75 SAR

These values are approximate, as the currency of Saudi Arabia varies daily. SAR is available in 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 notes. Coins are available in 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50 halalá. The fraction of 1 SAR is 100 halalah. Cash machines are generally easily accessible and the majority of restaurants, hotels and cafes accept major credit cards. However, it is still recommended to always carry some local currency.

When is the best time to travel to Saudi Arabia?

The best time to travel to Saudi Arabia is from January to May and from September to December. These months have a pleasant climate with little to no rainfall. The average maximum temperature in Saudi Arabia is 42°C in July and 20°C in January.

Is it safe to travel to Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia is a very safe part of the Middle East. Although you should always be aware of your belongings, theft is not common. The area bordering Yemen should be avoided as there are often altercations. The biggest threat you will likely find in Saudi Arabia is the drivers. You will need to be more vigilant than usual when walking on a busy road, as drivers are known to use the side of the road.

Important tips for travelling to Saudi Arabia

It is essential never to forget that you are travelling to a Muslim country. You must be aware of local laws and customs, so as not to have any mishaps. Some specific laws to bear in mind:
- Saudi Arabian women must be dressed in abaya (traditional long black cloak), which is the local dress that covers the body but not the head. Tourists are not required to wear the local women's dress, but must be covered up to the ankles and wear long sleeves. It is not necessary for tourists to cover their hair.
- Men must wear long trousers and may wear a short-sleeved T-shirt.
- The form of greeting must be with a handshake, and never kisses or demonstrations of affection in public.
- It is not customary to enter a shop or restaurant during the hour of prayer.
- Alcohol is illegal, and you will not be able to drink even in 5-star hotels.
- No drugs of any kind are allowed as you may risk the death penalty.
- We should not speak out about our religious beliefs. Mention of being an atheist can lead to problems, as it is considered blasphemy and can be punished with imprisonment, or even death.

Some laws have taken a small step forward, such as:
- Men and women who are not immediate family members can now be together in public places. Previously this was not possible.
- Foreign women can travel independently throughout the country on their own or with whomever they wish.
- Women can now drive, and this includes renting a car alone. Previously, neither was possible.

Tips for all tourists in general:
- Tipping is not mandatory but is customary in restaurants and taxis (10%).
- In almost all souks, the prices quoted are usually double what a Saudi Arabian would pay, so travellers are expected to haggle. A good strategy is to start by offering half. If they let you go, you're already over the limit.
- In all Arab countries, they eat with their hands. If you intend to do the same, then it customary to do so exclusively with the right hand.
- Islam is widely misunderstood by Western cultures. Remember that people only want to live in peace with their people and their customs, regardless of religion. If you remove the prejudices, you will see that most Saudi Arabians love to receive tourism and to learn more about your culture.

Saudi Arabia is a very exotic country, with a very different culture than your own. Many things will undoubtedly be new and exciting, so it is important to look at the Arab-Muslim world as it is and not through the lens of our western culture. Be respectful when approaching its people and their customs, and only then draw your own conclusions.


About the author
Luis Sánchez

Luis Sánchez
Hello! I'm Luis, a boy from Extremadura who loves to travel and share his experiences with readers. I write articles for Visagov.com and I also help users to process electronic visas for all countries in the world that require it. I'm more of the mountains than the beach, so the quiet destinations with green landscapes are my favorites.


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