Ultraconservative Saudi Arabia Is Finally Opening Its Doors To Tourists

It's their first time to have tourist visas!
PHOTO: Andrew Marcus

Saudi Arabia is offering tourist visas for the first time. In the past, visas were restricted to Muslim pilgrims and business and diplomatic visitors only. The move aims to diversity the Islamic kingdom’s economy.

Saudi Arabia will also be easing its strict dress code for foreign women. While locals must wear the body-shrouding abaya, foreign women can wear their own clothes as long as these cover their shoulders and knees in public.

“Both men and women are asked to dress modestly in public, avoiding tight-fitting clothing or clothes with profane language or images,” a Saudi spokeswoman emphasized.

Saudi Arabia is home to holy sites in Mecca and Medina (which is only open to Muslim pilgrims for now). For tourist destinations, there are UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the ancient city of Mada’in Saleh and the Gate to Mecca in Historic Jeddah; Masmak Fortress in Riyadh; King Fahd’s Fountain, which is said to be the tallest fountain in the world; and the beaches in Umluj, aka the Saudi Maldives.

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According to WSJ.com, tourist visas will cost about $120 (P6,226), and it would be valid for one year and include multiple entries, with a maximum of 90 days per visit.

As of this writing, people from 49 countries, including the United States, Canada, most European countries, and China, can apply for the tourist visa ahead of their visit or when they arrive in the country. The Philippines is not yet on the list, but those who wish to go to Saudi Arabia can contact the Saudi embassy or consulate.

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