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Updated 23 September 2021
As the birthplace of the Islamic faith, tourism in Saudi Arabia has always been associated with religious pilgrimages and journeys due to the presence of various holy sites such as the Masjid al Haram and Masjid an Nabawi among numerous others.
However, Saudi Arabia has in recent times started to explore the possibilities of utilizing its vast tourism potential by way of megaprojects the likes of the ambitious Red Sea Project, the futuristic smart city of Neom, and even by hosting the prestigious F1 Grand Prix in Jeddah.
If you plan on vacationing in Saudi Arabia and experience its hospitality first hand, here is the latest in Saudi tourism 2021, including entry requirements and guidelines.
Saudi Arabia is open for tourism
Saudi Arabia is currently open to fully vaccinated travellers with valid tourist visas. All arrivals must provide evidence of a full course COVID-19 vaccine regimen of one of the six approved vaccines.
At present, Saudi Arabia is issuing tourist visas to travellers from 49 countries as follows:
The United States, Canada, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Latvia, Finland, Germany, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Russia, Portugal, San Marino, Romania, Ukraine, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Brunei, China (including Hong Kong and Macao), Japan, Australia and Oceania, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Kazakhstan, the United Kingdom.
However, please note that a temporary suspension of entry into the Kingdom for travellers arriving from or passing through Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, India, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Vietnam is in effect.
Places to visit in Saudi Arabia
While the Red Sea project and other megaprojects are still a long way off, the following places offer a taste of an authentic Saudi Arabia experience.
The caretaker of the Red Sea, Jeddah is a buzzing cosmopolitan hub where tourists can find scores of exquisite hotels, restaurants, and art galleries. Jeddah is also set to host the Saudi Arabia Formula 1 Grand Prix later this year and promises a welcoming experience for automotive enthusiasts worldwide.
Al Masmak Fortress
A fortified complex constructed in 1865 considered one of the most visited places in Riyadh. In addition to the preserved old buildings, tourists can learn more about the history of the city from the museum’s exhibits and a mosque.
Asir National Park
The national park is constantly included in the list of attractions of Saudi Arabia as one of the few territories with preserved flora and fauna. Featured activities include walking through the vast territory of the park and catch glimpses of the rarest animals the likes of the Nubian mountain goat and gemsbok.
Edge of the World
The Edge of the World is a towering cliff located in the Tuwaiq mountain range. Standing upon the towering cliff, one will come to appreciate the stunning views of the valley below as lush acacia trees along with scores of wild animals and other plants are beautifully arranged as far as the eyes can see. The occasional herders with their livestock can also be spotted from time to time making their way through the winding rivers drained of their charge.
For those on an extended stay, Madain Salih would present a great exploration experience. Within the complex are the ruins of the most important settlement of Herga in the 1st century BC. Madain Salih had served as a meeting point of ancient merchants from all over the peninsula, and an illuminating attraction awaits those interested in the architectural monuments of the Assyrians, Phoenicians and Egyptians.
Guidelines for travellers to Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is currently enforcing pandemic-related measures for both residents and tourists. Please abide by the following safety measures for the duration of your stay in Saudi Arabia.
- The maximum number of attendees in meetings/gatherings should not exceed the limit of 20 people in closed spaces
- Travel and travel within the country are allowed as long as people use the Tawakkalna application and maintain preventive measures (use of masks, hand disinfectants and physical distancing)
- Only people who are vaccinated against COVID19 or those who have recovered from the disease will be able to perform Umrah and attend prayer in the Great Mosque
- All people with symptoms similar to COVID-19 even after being vaccinated are advised to seek medical attention.
Things to observe
While the pandemic-related guidelines for safe travel are formally required, tourists may also need to observe the following:
- While applying for a tourist visa, married couples will have a better chance of success compared with unmarried couples. While not an official requirement, unmarried couples travelling together are generally frowned upon and this may affect their visa application outcome
- Female travellers must have a sponsor. Travellers arriving in Saudi Arabia without being met by a sponsor may likely experience delays before being permitted to continue their journey. Some have been reported to have been denied access due to the absence of a sponsor
- Avoid bringing religious items the likes of a crucifix, bible, or even a colander if you’re a Pastafarian. The only allowed religious items are those associated with the Islamic faith
- While not forbidden, photography isn’t encouraged. We won’t dwell on this too much but be advised that taking photos of government buildings and the local people without proper permission is not something that’s considered acceptable
- Mind the local culture. Women are not allowed to venture out to public spaces without being accompanied by a male guardian, they’re also are expected to adhere to certain dress codes. Additionally, public displays of affection are frowned upon as do smoking and drinking alcohol in public places.
Saudi Arabia entry requirements
Please note that travellers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been in contact with a confirmed case must declare so to the relevant health authorities of their country of departure.
They also must not travel until 14 days have elapsed following the diagnosis or last contact with the confirmed case. Violations are subject to fines not exceeding SAR 500,000 and will be held accountable for the consequences of their violation on others.
A vaccination certificate from one of the following is required:
- 2 doses of Pfizer BioNTech
- 2 doses of Oxford AstraZeneca
- 2 doses of Moderna
- 1 dose of Johnson & Johnson
Travellers who have completed two doses of the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines will also be accepted on the condition that they have received an additional dose of one of the vaccines approved in the Kingdom mentioned above.
The duration between receiving the last dose (the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or the first dose of a single dose vaccine) must not be less than 14 days. Vaccinated travellers, except Saudi citizens and those who are exempt, must fill out the Registration Immunization Information Form before departure.
Testing and quarantine requirements
All travellers must have a negative result PCR test certificate issued within 72 hours prior to departure for non-Saudi nationals over eight years old. There is no quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated travellers to Saudi Arabia.