Saudi travellers confident as authorities prepare airports for border reopening

Saudi Arabia will lift ban on travel for vaccinated citizens on May 17

File photo: A plane at an airport in Saudi Arabia. 
File photo: A plane at an airport in Saudi Arabia. 

The Saudi General Authority for Civil Aviation on Tuesday issued a list of procedures to airports across the kingdom for citizens travelling abroad.

Saudi Arabia will lift the ban on travel for its vaccinated citizens on May 17, allowing movement by land, air and sea.

Riyadh previously shifted the date for reopening its borders from March 31 to May 17 due to the spread of coronavirus and a delay in vaccine supply.

So far, the kingdom has administered more than 9.5 million doses of the vaccine and people are starting to feel more comfortable with the idea of travelling within the kingdom and to countries with lower numbers of cases.

Only adults who have received both doses of the vaccine, or one dose 14 days prior to the date of departure, will be allowed to travel, the Interior Ministry said in guidelines released on Sunday.

All Saudis who are under 18 and those who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months will be eligible to travel.

“One of the main reasons I wanted to get vaccinated was so that I could travel and now finally I can," said Saad Mohammed, 32, a Saudi marketing specialist.

"I can’t wait to go to Dubai and Bahrain to meet my friends. It has been over a year and the ban was something we never saw coming.

"For people like me who travel every month, it was a hard year."

In September last year, the Saudi Ministry of Tourism announced that domestic tourism grew “50 per cent more than officials projected”, Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al Khateeb said.

The top 10 destinations in the kingdom generated $2.3 billion from June to August last year, Bloomberg reported.

Many Saudis and expats have been travelling within the kingdom to explore new destinations.

“Countries abroad are failing to take care of their populations and in the interim more variants are coming out which can affect those who have taken the vaccines," said Amina Mohammad, 25, a Saudi medicine student.

"Last year was the first time I started travelling within the kingdom and I have been blown away with all that we have been missing.

I will continue to travel to more local destinations like Umluj and Al Ula until the situation gets better abroad."

Saudi businessman Ziyad Abdulaziz, 38, said: “Covid-19 has reminded us how fragile life is.

"I can’t wait to travel and explore the world, it has given me the push I needed. I plan to go to New Zealand in June and continue traveling to new places."

Leen Baksh, 20, a Saudi student, said she did not feel safe going to popular international destinations because of the increasing number of cases worldwide.

“We usually go to London, Paris, Santorini and Los Angeles this time of the year," Ms Baksh said.

"And even though flights are reopening, the US, UK and Europe are the worst hit by the Covid-19 crisis and there is no way I would go there until the numbers are in control.

"My friends and I are planning to go to Maldives instead, which is safer."

Citizens will have to enter quarantine at home for a week on their return to the kingdom.

The president of the General Authority of Civil Aviation, Abdulaziz Al Duailej, praised the successful efforts of the Saudi government to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

“Gaca has mobilised all its capabilities and exerted efforts to implement the directives of the wise leadership, and to prepare the airports with all their services and facilities to return to what they were," Mr Al Duailej said.

"The authority has taken into account health standards in order to achieve safe travel, making available all the safety means at the airports."

Updated: May 4, 2021 05:33 AM

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