Saudi Arabia is expanding its visitor eVisa programme to travellers from eight more countries, taking the total up to 57.
Now, tourists from Albania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, the Maldives, South Africa, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan can apply online to travel to Saudi Arabia. With this move, South Africa becomes the first African country to be added to the list.
The multi-entry eVisa is valid for one year and allows travellers to visit the kingdom for up to 90 days at a time. It costs 535 Saudi riyals ($142), which also includes medical insurance.
Holders can use the eVisa for tourism, to perform Umrah, attend conferences and events, or visit friends and family living in the kingdom.
The eVisa is easier to obtain than a traditional visa, requiring less paperwork and no in-person interview. It is limited to travellers aged over 18 whose passports are valid for at least six months.
US travellers are exempt from the latter rule, and can visit the kingdom with any amount of time remaining before their passport's expiry date.
Children under 18 can enter Saudi Arabia when travelling with a parent, grandparent or adult sibling with an approved eVisa.
New visa rules attracting international visitors
Having launched its eVisa programme in 2019, Saudi Arabia has seen an increase in the number of international visitors to the country.
In 2022, it recorded more than 93.5 million foreign and domestic visits, up by 93 per cent compared to the previous year, when international travel restrictions were still in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The eVisa service is now open to visitors from 57 countries, including the US, Canada, China, Japan, Australia and several countries across Europe. UAE residents can also apply for the service, while GCC nationals do not need a visa to visit Saudi Arabia.
On Thursday, new rules were introduced for travellers from the UK, who are now also eligible for a single-entry eVisa to visit the kingdom. This allows visits of up to six months and is valid for tourism, business, study and medical purposes.
Travellers from other countries who have a valid UK, US or EU Schengen visa that has been used at least once are also able to apply for an eVisa to visit Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia's evolving tourism industry
Saudi Arabia is currently actively working to scale up its tourism industry.
In March, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced a second national airline for the kingdom. Riyadh Air will operate commercially by 2025, with plans to fly to 100 destinations around the globe by 2030.
The kingdom's new coastal destination, The Red Sea development, is on track to open its first hotels and an international airport later this year – six years after it was first announced.
Riyadh's Diriyah Gate is a rich historical site that is projected to become one of the world's most luxurious hospitality destinations, with new hotels being opened in the region by well-known brands such as Fauchon, Orient Express and Edition.
Bujairi Terrace, the first part of the Diriyah project to open, is already home to several world-famous restaurants and is quickly becoming a go-to dining destination.
AlUla – the kingdom's ancient oasis city in Madinah province – is the subject of a newly released travel book from luxury publisher Assouline, which showcases the destination's Unesco sites and Nabataean treasures.
Futuristic Neom will house The Line, a 170km linear smart city powered entirely by clean energy; mountain-based Trojena, the GCC's first major outdoor skiing destination; and luxury yachting destination Sindalah Island.
“Sindalah will be the first physical showcase of Neom as our vision becomes a reality,” Abdullah Al Dakhil, PR and corporate communications director at Saudi Tourism, told The National.