what are the latest rules for visiting the kingdom?

Saudi Arabia has further eased Covid-19 travel restrictions for vaccinated visitors.

Travelers to the kingdom no longer need to take a pre-departure PCR or antigen test upon arrival.

The new rules also mean face masks are not compulsory in outdoor venues and social distancing measures have been relaxed.

Suspensions from 17 countries have also been lifted, with flights again able to land in the kingdom from a host of African and Asian countries where travel was previously restricted.

The news comes after the number of coronavirus infections in Saudi Arabia fell nearly 50% in a week. This should give the kingdom a boost ahead of Hajj, one of the busiest times for travel to Saudi Arabia, which is expected to begin in early July.

If you’re thinking of taking a trip to the kingdom, here’s everything you need to know about traveling there, from accepted vaccinations to what you need to do before you go, the rules in place when you get there and what to add to your tourist itinerary.

Is Saudi Arabia open to tourists?

Yes, Saudi citizens and residents, GCC nationals, diplomats, medical professionals and fully vaccinated tourists can travel to Saudi Arabia.

What should I do before flying to the kingdom?

A security woman checks the temperature of a woman at Riyadh International Airport, after Saudi Arabia reopened domestic flights following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 31, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri

Most visitors to Saudi Arabia require a tourist visa to enter. The multiple-entry e-visa is valid for one year, with tourists allowed to stay in the country for up to 90 days.

It is available online and travelers can check if they are eligible by identifying their nationality in the drop-down list on the same website.

GCC citizens do not need a tourist visa to visit Saudi Arabia. However, GCC ID cards are not accepted for travel and all visitors must have their passport with them to guarantee entry.

Before flying, travelers should register their details, including full vaccination information, with the Saudi health authorities through this online form. All tourists on a visit visa must also have insurance to cover the cost of any Covid-19 medical treatment during their trip.

Do I need a PCR test to fly?

No, vaccinated travelers no longer need a PCR test to travel to Saudi Arabia. The previous requirements for a negative PCR test result taken no later than 72 hours before departure no longer apply.

Children under 18 can travel without being vaccinated or having a negative PCR test result.

What are the recognized vaccines?

FILE PHOTO: A vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is seen before being administered at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, Northern Ireland December 8, 2020. Liam McBurney/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Saudi Arabia has approved the entry of four Covid-19 vaccines: AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Anyone vaccinated with Sinovac or Sinopharm can travel to the kingdom once a booster of one of the four recognized vaccines has also been given.

Travelers must have received both doses of the vaccine, except for those inoculated with Johnson & Johnson, which is a single-dose vaccine. To be considered fully vaccinated, the last dose must have been taken at least 14 days and at most eight months before departure. If more than eight months have passed, travelers will need to get vaccinated.

All tourists must also register on the Quddum platform at least 72 hours before flying to the kingdom.

Should I quarantine myself?

The lush Jazan region of Saudi Arabia.  The kingdom has a lot to offer tourists, from mountains and desert dunes to sea adventures and urban getaways.  Photo: Saudi Tourism Authority / Shutterstock

There is no need to self-quarantine in Saudi Arabia as long as you are fully vaccinated.

Upon returning to the United Arab Emirates, no quarantine is required for travelers arriving in an emirate after the country eased its Covid-19 travel requirements, including removing its green list for travel.

Unvaccinated travelers can travel to Saudi Arabia by air, but must undertake a five-day institutional quarantine period at their own expense. This can be booked through the airline they are flying with at least 72 hours before departure.

Passengers who have received a single dose of a vaccine administered in the kingdom, or who have been immunized with a vaccine approved by the World Health Organization but not approved in the kingdom, must undergo a three-day quarantine period .

Will the Al Hosn app work in Saudi Arabia?

Visitors to Saudi Arabia must register on the kingdom's Tawakkalna track and trace app to access public areas.  Khushnum Bhandari / The National

UAE Al Hosn app is not used in Saudi Arabia. Instead, the kingdom uses Tawakkalna as a track and trace app. Visitors must download it and register their passport details.

As with Al Hosn, proof of vaccination on the Tawwakalna app is required to enter many public places in the kingdom, including shopping malls, cinemas, restaurants and entertainment venues.

Which airlines serve the kingdom?

Etihad is one of several airlines operating flights between the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.  Photo: Etihad Airways

Several fly between the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, including Etihad Airways, Emirates, Saudia, flynas, flydubai and more.

Travelers can travel to Riyadh, Dammam, Jeddah, Medina and AlUla directly from the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai to Riyadh and Jeddah were two of the world’s busiest routes in February 2022, according to aeronautical data company OAG.

What can I see and do once there?

Saudi Arabia offers rich marine life and untouched dive sites.  Photo: Saudi Tourism Authority

Often called the final frontier of travel, the realm is huge, with plenty to see and do. From the bustling cities of Riyadh and Jeddah to endless sand dunes, mountain peaks and desert oases, not to mention its thriving Red Sea coastline, this sprawling destination is unlike any other in the world.

“Saudi [Arabia] is the authentic homeland of Arabia, a destination evoking the mystique and romance of ancient civilizations, rich in iconic places and unexpected stories delivered with the unparalleled hospitality that the Saudi people are famous for,” said Fahd Hamidaddin, Director General of the Saudi Tourism Authority.

The kingdom is huge – spanning over 2.15 million square kilometres, it’s the 13th largest country in the world – so there’s plenty to do and see.

City breaks await you in the capital, Riyadh, where centuries-old history meets a modern metropolis, or in port-side Jeddah, with its coveted waterfront and open-air restaurants, or the labyrinthine ancient streets of Al Balad. The port town of Jazan is a good starting point for the unspoilt Farasan Islands.

The cool desert springs of Al Ahsa are a good place to escape the midday sun and kids will enjoy exploring one of the largest oases in the world. Ocean lovers can go blue as Saudi Arabia’s coastal waters are rich in marine life and home to some of the most untouched dive sites in the world.

If you are looking for deserts, the country is full of dunes. Visit the Rub Al Khali or the Empty Quarter, a favorite spot for adventurers, or the Grand Nafud Desert, where dunes dominate about 1000 meters above sea level.

In Taif, mountain peaks, flower fields and ancient souks await, or visit AlUla, one of the kingdom’s megaprojects where visitors can explore several ancient heritage sites and see the world’s largest mirrored building . You can even admire the historic region from the sky, with a recently launched helicopter tour that flies over the kingdom’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What Covid-19 restrictions are in place?

People are no longer required to wear face masks in open spaces, except at sites such as the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. Face masks should always be worn in closed areas.

Social distancing measures have been abandoned in most public places.

Travelers and residents must continue to show their health status on the Tawakkalna app before being allowed in places such as cafes, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and cinemas.

Updated: March 08, 2022, 07:30

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