Usually, all it takes to plan a trip to a foreign country is to get a visa, book the hotel and tickets and get on the flight. It is not the same for a trip to Saudi Arabia. Until recently, there was no tourist visa to visit the country but the Kingdom made some changes and the tourist visa was introduced in late 2019. But the pandemic hit at the time affected the plan big time.
Now that the cases are easing across the globe, the Saudi government has decided to allow tourists into the country. So, if you are among those who are planning a trip, here is what you need to know to fulfil the plans. This little guide will walk through the necessary steps and what needs to be done before your start.
All about Saudi tourism
The borders of this country are now open for those who hold a tourist visa or are eligible for an e-visa from the 1st of August. The decision to allow tourists is to allow more people into the country. They have already made attractive theme parks and other sources of entertainment to lure tourists. But the pandemic played havoc on the plans.
Now, the kingdom has decided to revive its plans for the tourists and has started allowing tourists from around the world. Yet, not everyone is allowed inside. There are a few guidelines to allow entry into the country.
- Only those who have got both the doses of any of the approved vaccinations from Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca or Moderna, will get entry.
- They must carry a negative PCR certificate taken not more than 72 hrs ago.
- Register the personal and vaccination details at the designated online portal.
Those who fulfill both these demands can escape the mandatory institution quarantine and will be allowed to visit anywhere within the country.
The Saudi Arabia tourist visa
If you do not have a valid Saudi visa, you can apply the same online provided you are from any of the European countries or the approved list of selected countries. Those who are eligible can apply for the e-visa or a visa on arrival as applicable. With an approved e-Visa, travellers can visit Saudi Arabia at any of the tourist attractions, and not just for pilgrimage.
What to pack?
Packing for a Saudi Arabia trip needs to be done carefully. As a country known for pilgrimage one must dress modestly at all times and everywhere. Regardless of your gender, you must be dressed to cover your body properly. So find some long, loose-fitting clothes that suit you.
Although it is not mandatory in many parts of the country, it would be necessary to have a burkha for women. Also ensure to pack some scarves or shawls, along with sunscreen lotions, water bottles while travelling in the country and an electric adapter to suit the G-plugs. It wouldn’t hurt to find a translation or a phrasebook to help you through the trip.
The best time to visit Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is a country with a dry hot climate that is going to be difficult if you’re coming from a country with a cold climate. So the best time to pay a visit here is during its winter season when the sun will be less scorching. The winter season of the country happens to be from November- February. During this time the temperature would be pleasant and ranges between 25-30 degrees. The coldest month is January and the hottest is July. From March the temperature starts rising and April is the time for rainfall. So plan your trip accordingly.
Places to visit in Saudi Arabia
- Floating Mosque: Though standing on perfect stands on the stilts, the Al Rahman Mosque gives the illusion of it floating over the Red Sea. The appearance is more during the high tides where the stands are completely covered. The view is picturesque, especially during the sunset and at night.
- Al-Murabba Palace: It is the palace of the founding King of Saudi Arabia. A green garden is a major attraction at this site where you can find out more about the lifestyle and other details about the royal family. The palace built in Narjdean style will have layered walls as well as ceilings using palm fronds.
- Umluj: The Maldives of Saudi Arabia is surrounded by 100 small islands with turquoise clear water and palm trees and turtles. There also are black lava craters and other sites just a short drive away from here.
- The Red Sea: From the Radwa MOunt, the sea below appears red and true to its name. You can also indulge in snorkelling or diving to see the undersea world.
Souq Al Qaisariya is an ancient trade centre that is still busy with visitors and various merchants who have set up their stalls.