Saudi Arabia did it again and surprised us with an announcement this morning that the Saudi tourist visa is opening again from August 2021.
I was expecting to be honest that they would open the tourist visas but I thought they will take a little longer to do so. After all the Saudi 2030 vision is still alive and tourism is a key part of it.
The requirement is however that ONLY fully vaccinated tourists can enter the country.
Fully vaccinated are those who have received two doses of a vaccine that is approved in Saudi Arabia, which is Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson.
Meanwhile, those who have taken two doses of the Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines will also be allowed if they have received an additional dose of one of the four above-mentioned vaccines.
You also need to have a PCR test 72 hrs prior to entering the country.
All visitors will be asked to observe all precautionary measures approved by the Ministry of Health, which include wearing a face mask in public and maintaining physical distancing.
Each person will need to register their data related to vaccination doses on the new electronic portal as well as through “Tawakkalna” (coronavirus) application and is needed to be shown to enter public places.
From August 1st there are very few places in Saudi you can actually visit without being fully vaccinated, pretty much all public spaces and offices will be off-limits for those non-vaccinated.
Visiting the Saudi tourist visa website also shows that the message that was on the chat and on top of the page telling visitors that Saudi is closed for tourism has been removed.
According to some forums, people have been able to go for Umrah on a tourist visa so it is permitted. You will need to sign up for the apps first and book your slots which will become only available after you have spent 3 days in Saudi.
You are better off flying into Riyadh or Medinah. Then you can book your Umrah slot and go for Umrah, but you will only have 3 hrs to complete the whole process. Including that you will need to book a permit for every prayer into Haram on the app. You can read more about it the apps here.
Also, many places in Makkah and Medinah are still closed so don’t expect the same experience without the Covid restrictions.
Saudi has also mentioned when they closed the border that their tourist visa expiry date is frozen, which basically means that there was an extension on it. For example, mine was meant to expire in Sept 2020 but technically should still have about 6 months left to it.
I am not sure how you can check at this moment because the system shows it expired however they had mentioned that immigration would have the correct information.
This for many will save money but might also create an issue, so in order to be cautious, I would suggest you potentially issuing a new visa which is what I would do.
Update: According to Saudi tourism all children will need to be vaccinated in order to enter. This means even my two years old will need to have a COVID vaccine if I want to visit Saudi. Currently, in Europe, only kids over 12 are receiving the vaccine. So this will be interesting to see how it progresses.
Please see below how to start the process of issuing the visa.
How to issue a Saudi Tourist Visa
I also have all the breakdown for you so keep reading. Also at the end, you will find all the updates on how the visa works as this article is updated.
You can read my experience of performing Umrah on a tourist visa here
Saudi Arabia announced a few years ago their Vision 2030 which basically means to expand its tourism sector to 30million by 2030 not only for Umrah but in general.
This, of course, meant opening Saudi Arabia to tourism and showing the beauty of the land. I have to say judging by their promo video is stunning!
For Muslims, this also means exploring a country that for so long we visited but not really explore as with the Umrah visa we could only go to Jeddah, Makkah and Medinah.
The official Saudi Tourism website is here
You can watch their promo video, check out places to visit, eat, explore and also a very handy FAQ!
I like the fact that they are modernising Saudi and with this, they are relaxing the dress code for tourists. Check out the post here.
Tourism chief Ahmed al-Khateeb told Reuters in an interview in the run-up to the official announcement that abayas will not be mandatory for women tourists but modest dress is, including at public beaches.
Now, I can finally take my mum and show her Saudi Arabia.
(edit: many people have been for Umrah on this visa without issue.)
Saudi Tourist Visa – The Details
Over 49 countries can apply for a Tourist E-visa for Saudi Arabia.
The Tourist visa is valid for one year and you can spend up to 90 days. It is a Multi-entry visa which means you can go as many times as you want.
You can now issue your OWN Tourist visa for Saudi without the need for an agent!
This is a total game-changer and here is why:
- You can visit not only the three cities but also any city in Saudi
- You can issue it on your own via their site ( link below)
- You pay only £120
- You can do Umrah as well
- If you are a single woman you can go alone!
The most amazing and stunning change they did is that single women who before could not do Umrah on their own now can apply for a tourist visa and actually go! Check the site here on the FAQ.
The actual link for the E-visa: Click Here
You can perform Umrah on the tourist visa according to their FAQ and by the looks of it, you don’t need specific accommodation or transport. After all, you are a tourist and not specific Umrah
Visa for those not on the list
If your country is not on the list you can be able to get a visa from the Saudi consulate as you belong to visa from Category B. The process requires a few more steps and documents but it should be possible. Here is what you need:
- Minimum age of applicant is 18 years old
- Underage applicants require an individual above 18 years old to be the guardian
- When applying, passport validity must be for at least 6 months at the time of entering Saudi Arabia
- Refund in case of rejection is not possible, visa fees are non-refundable
- Overstay fees: SAR 100 for each day of overstay
- Religion of applicant is not relevant
- Sponsor is not required for the visa application
- Documents required include:
- Proof of accommodation
- Return ticket
- Proof of employment
- Bank statement
- Supporting information include:
- Home address
- Travel itinerary
- Time taken to issue an e-Visa is 1-2 business days in most cases
- Visa pre-checks are conducted by all airlines before boarding flights to Saudi Arabia.
Visa for US, European, British and Schengen visa holders.
It was announced in January 2020 that those holding visas from the UK, US, Schengen can receive a Saudi Tourist visa as well. You will need to meet certain conditions like have actually been to the country that issued your visa and have a stamp on your passport, your passport should be valid for at least 6 months, they must travel on Saudi Airlines and then they can receive a visa on arrival.
Please note after many comments and questions, you cannot use your work, residence or another status in the mentioned countries above to issue a tourist visa. It basically needs to be a visa for the purpose of travel and meet the conditions.
For example A wife of a Pakistani with indefinite leave in the UK cannot issue a tourist visa, she will need an Umrah visa and her husband will also need to issue an Umrah visa himself as she needs a Mahram under to Umrah visa rules.
An Indian professional in Europe on a work permit cannot issue a tourist visa even though he has a permit to reside in the Schengen and a visa.
I know there is still an issue applying online so it might be best to raise a ticket or go for the on-arrival visa.
How the Process works
In order to make sure the process works I actually issued my own visa!
Yep, without mahram without anything!
The process is pretty straight forward if your country is on the link you can issue the visa.
Step1: Personal Details
First, you need to register on the portal and confirm your phone and email.
Step2: Persona & Passport Details
Once logged on you can start your passport application.
Each step gives you 10 minutes to complete, which is more than enough.
You can do a group or an individual application. I did the individual as I wanted to see if as a woman I can issue it on my own.
You enter your details such as passport, address etc.
You will also need to provide where you will be staying. I think as with all visas you only provide your first hotel if you are planning to visit many cities.
Step 3: Medical insurance
This was an interesting process as I didn’t know if I had to book it myself. However, and congrats to them, they have integrated it. You just pay for the travel insurance.
Only thing I am not sure how it would work if you had to claim but it is great that they have it especially after my previous experience of a hospital abroad.
Step 4: Terms and Conditions
The terms are simple. Not to break the law, drugs and alcohol and others. If you are a genuine tourist you wouldn’t have an issue with compliance.
Step 5: Review Your Application
A simple review of your application. Before you proceed.
Step 6: Pay the fees
The total fees for the visa were 426SAR which is about £93.
I was not sure how long I had to wait, however, it wasn’t long. Under the FAQ it says from 5minutes to 30minutes.
My Saudi Tourist Visa visa was issued less than 5 minutes later.
Edit: When applying for my husband and daughter, the visa was processed but later I saw I was charged double. I know some other people had this issue.
I didn’t raise it at the time as my credit card said they can cancel the charge but this also might cancel my visa. I decided to wait to go for Umrah and then cancel.
However 3 weeks later and I refund was issued directly by the Tourism for Saudi, so I assume they did an audit and found they had charged people.
I am extremely happy about the new tourist visa because it will make visiting Saudi and actually exploring the country so much easier.
Also, it is great they have allowed people to perform Umrah on the Tourist visa as well so then Muslims don’t have to hide they are doing it.
The process is easy and could be completed in less than 20 minutes.
Applying for minors brought up an interesting fact. I went to apply for my daughter and my husband, when applying for her it picked she is a minor and asked for her guardian. There is no version to have a mother as guardian so I guess this has not changed.
Update: Several people in the comments have asked about this. The support team at Saudi Tourist visa has said that mothers can add themselves as guardians without a problem. So if you are travelling as a woman with a child then you are the guardian in this case. I would also bring a birth certificate just to be on the safe side at the airport especially if you have different surnames.
Umrah Visa VS Tourist Visa
One thing that is interesting I guess is the fact they changed the Umrah visa rules making it harder to go on a DIY Umrah. Yet they are making the tourist visa cheaper and easier to obtain and also you can go Umrah on it.
This is of course for the lucky countries that generally never had a problem getting an Umrah visa.
With this tourist visa now, however, there is no need to actually issue yourself an Umrah visa which is much more expensive.
The tourist visa costs £93 and the Umrah visa costs £230 and you need to book accommodation and transport, were with the tourist visa this is not required. You can book them independently.
I am not sure why they decided to do this, but looking at the countries there are very few actually Muslim countries who are there so they will still need an Umrah visa to enter Saudi for Umrah.
There are a lot of questions about whether the Saudi tourist visa allows Umrah, even though the FAQ does. Here is the screenshot of the application where you mark it.
Now, I am not saying Saudi tomorrow can change their mind but for now, you can. The restriction is on the non-Muslims visiting Makkah and Medinah which is totally normal and understood.
Here is the FAQ on this from the website where it says non-Muslims are not allowed to visit. I guess the biggest draw for a Non-Muslim to go is to visit Makkah. I hope they have restrictions on this as I definitely wouldn’t want tourists in the city.
With regards to how much you can spend in Saudi on the tourist visa, the below is mentioned under their FAQ:
The tourist visa allows you to stay for up to 3 months per entry, spending no more than 180 days/year in Saudi Arabia. If you leave the country past your visa period, you shall pay a penalty of SAR 100 per day.
Fathers name on the field
Many people have added father’s name on the field, this is mostly required for those, like myself who have it on their passport. For those who completed it and they are worried this is what was sent from the visa team to people.
Update: Many people since then have travelled with no issue.
Thanks for waiting and apologize for the delay, regarding your inquiry, the father’s name field is not required but if you fill it out and the visa is issued with the father’s name, there is no problem with that.
But it is important that the first and last names are correct and identical to the passport.
Umrah on Tourist Visa
There have been rumours about people not being allowed on a tourist visa to do Umrah. This is false and it looks like sadly agents are spreading them as they lose money.
Many people have been for Umrah on this visa so there is no problem if you worry about ihram just visit Medinah first. But as it is allowed I don’t see a problem and people have gone through Jeddah airport.
Update: I personally went for Umrah in January 2020 and I will write about it separately but we had no issue entering the country. Everyone was friendly and knew what they are doing.
There was a wave of people being rejected for a visa, unfortunately, there is not much you can do, agents say you can apply for an Umrah visa.
Many countries when issuing visas ask for hotels. You don’t need to have them booked beforehand you need to just add the hotel, email and phone number. Once your visa is granted you can book them. If you are staying in both Makkah and Medinah then just do one of them.
The tourist visa doesn’t ask for vaccination for meningitis where the Umrah visa does. Many people have emailed me asking if it is needed. Personally, I would do it just to protect myself as Makkah is a melting pot. I think it’s a personal choice and of course, you don’t have to do it on a tourist visa.
Umrah visa requires a vaccination by Saudi immigration, they don’t check them always, but if they do you should have it. You will not know until you actually arrive so nobody can tell you the answer.