A Cool Workaround To Get A Visa To Visit Saudi Arabia

Filed Under: Saudia

Update: Saudi Arabia will now start issuing tourist e-visas. Here are the full details.

Saudi Arabia most definitely isn’t near the top of most peoples’ list of places to visit, though it’s near the top of mine. I love traveling to places that I’m fascinated by, rather than places that I’ve heard are awesome, or that are popular with tourists.

So I’d really love to see Saudi Arabia firsthand (beyond the airports, which I’ve flown through several times). The country is trying to boost non-religious tourism, and they were supposed to start issuing tourist visas as of April 1, 2018. I was ready to just about be the first tourist there.

We’re now coming up on six month since the anticipated implementation date, yet they’re still not issuing tourist visas. I haven’t been able to get an updated timeline for when they’ll start issuing visas, though I keep checking all the time to see if there are any updates.

As it turns out, there may be a creative way to get a Saudi visa at the moment. As noted by @fotograaf, Saudi Arabia is holding a Formula One race on December 15, 2018, and if you buy a ticket you qualify for an e-visa.

Best I can tell, tickets start at 395SAR, or about 105USD.

Bart shares that a visa costs 1035SAR, or roughly 275USD. The process of applying for an electronic visa takes about 15 minutes, and is then approved instantly.

The December 15 date really doesn’t work well for my schedule, though I’m really tempted to take advantage of this, since I wonder when Saudi Arabia will start issuing actual tourist visas.

If they want to get started with “taking off to the future,” this would be a good time. 😉

So, who’s joining us in Riyadh on December 15?

  1. To clarify – this is a Formula E race – which use battery powered vehicles. Formula 1 – which use V6 Turbo Hybrid,s finish this season in Abu Dahbi on Novemer 25.

  2. This is a cool workaround, though I wonder if there is further regulation that would prevent non-religious travelers from exploring the country beyond Riyadh during this time.

    In Iran, for example, Americans/Brits/Canadians get the same visa as other nationalities, at least in terms of the way it looks, but are prohibited from moving around the country independently (though enforcement of this is said to be lax—I certainly didn’t chance it during my trip). I wonder if checking in to a hotel in Jeddah or somewhere with a Western passport and as an obvious non-Muslim would raise any eyebrows, and result in hotel staff reporting the travelers in question to the authorities?

    Anyway, I’m also quite interested in visiting Saudi Arabia, in spite of their awful human rights record and various other elements of the country that are inconsistent with my beliefs.

  3. Hello people!!! How are you today???
    I fly this evening with JAPAN airlines from LHR!!! I will try the Cathay lounge and Qantas!!!!!!! S aFe flight s to all!!

  4. Why would anyone want to visit Saudi Arabia? It’s nice and beautiful but just like the USA the males of the majority race get away with rape, murder and many other things protected by the system that bestows unfair privileges on them. Most of them just like the USA want to make your particular lifestyle illegal and blindly follow their version of god thought to be the only one above all else and in whose name they willingly and blindly kill.

    In other words Saudi Arabia is just as uncivilized as the USA.

  5. Another possible workaround is a transit visa. I was able to get one by purchasing a one way ticket on Saudia from Istanbul to Johannesburg via Jeddah, working in a stopover (I think you can stay up to 3 days). I booked in person at a Saudia sales office and the manager provided a letter to take to the Saudi embassy. No other documents needed apart from the flight ticket and letter from Saudia’s office. Transit visa issued the next day!

  6. Cool, now you also need to find a good reason to go to KSA. I mean… if you like the Arabian experience, there’s this nice, clean and welcoming country that is Oman. Otherwise, KSA makes any sense only if you have work to do there.

    It’s not that you don’t get a nice experience over there, I’ve seen the mountains around Taif, the old town of Jeddah (which is more less a dump, since people there have no interest in conserving anything predating the Al Saud dinasty), the corniche in Dammam and Jubail, and a few nice beaches in Yanbu (with a nice panoramic view on refineries, of course). Good food, and people who are, as usual, nicer than their government. But nothing to justify the hassle of going through their immigration.

  7. If debit is right then Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and Chantae Gilman should all be privileged males of the majority race. And to think we all thought the only thing in common they had was living on the godless left coast. (grin)

    Those of you with respiratory issues (asthma, etc) might want to check on the air quality if planning a visit to Saudi Arabia, especially Riyadh, which mixs sand with smog to create world class air that makes Los Angeles look like Zurich.

  8. Endre it’s your lucky day, they do have first class! That way you won’t have to travel with those you call “plebs”

  9. Been there multiple times for business, it is definitely an interesting country but the hypocrisy and unawareness about the world is striking. I would definitely watch out as a homosexual in Saudi Arabia, they do not laugh with these kind of matters…

  10. Or you could convert to Islam.
    Formula E or convert to Islam???? Hmmm

    What does the Quran say about auto racing?
    – If the car race is held in return of money, it is forbidden to participate in it for the following reasons:

    -Taking compensation from the race, and it is not permissible to take compensation from it.

    -Exposing oneself to danger and death.

    Allah Says (interpretation of meaning): {….and do not throw yourselves into destruction (by not spending your wealth in the Cause of Allâh),….}[2:195].

    -If the car race is held without any compensation, therefore it is Haram to participate in it for the following reasons:

    -Exposing oneself to death.

    Allah knows best? Strange

  11. @emercycrite

    Most likely, as a US citizen, he would be deported. And even then, only if he was caught being openly gay. I mean, it isn’t like they have some scanner at the airport once he arrived…

  12. You can have serious problems if :
    – The authorities can link you to this blog and find you are homosexual, they can google your name at the immigration
    – Someone in this country that read this blog, know you are coming and homosexual and report it to the authorities.

  13. I don’t know in Saudi Arabia, but in other countries what is punished is having homosexual acts… not about the preference per se. So there should no problem if he goes knowing this. However, Saudia Arabia is a world of its own.

  14. I lived in Riyadh for a little over a year as an expat. The city is just dirty with trash blowing everywhere and they really don’t clean it up. I’ve seen people drive into a gas station with a trash bin 10 feet away and just toss their trash out the window instead of putting it in the bin. It’s also fun to watch (not really), the men drop their wives off on the side of the road in 50 Celsius weather to beg for money in full abaya. Also, make sure you’re not in a restaurant or any store during prayer time. You’ll be allowed to stay, but the workers will disappear, lock the doors and you won’t be allowed to leave until prayer is over. There’s nothing to see, nothing really to do. My recommendation is a hard pass.

  15. Lucky I don’t even understand why at all you would want to visit and support Saudia Arabia when women have no rights, so many people are in poverty. And are you not worried as you are gay which is great and widely accepted around the world though it is not in KSA and I think can carry the death penalty in KSA. Saudia Arabia is one of the very very very few countries I do not want to and will hopefully never visit in my life (others being North Korea,Turkmenistan,Iraq,Congo) unless conditions there change significantly in the future.

  16. This would be the travel equivalent of trying to jump the queue to get a totally unnecessary and painfully invasive rectal examination.
    My advice to anyone contemplating a visit to Saudi : go with extremely low expectations; generally they will be met, although Jeddah and Dammam are *OK*
    Why anyone would go for leisure almost defies belief….maybe some good diving in a few spots.

  17. I’d love to visit, my wife spent her teenage years in Jeddah and her sister now lives in Dammam…waiting patiently for the tourist visa to land.

  18. @Morgan & toto

    Well if he survived Russia, the rest of the GCC, and the various “-istans”, I think he can survive Saudi Arabia…

  19. Reading the comments here and seeing the amount of ignorance/misinformation is just fascinating.

    This gives you even more reasons to go and see go for yourself whether any of these comments are true, as well as writing back to educate those who prefer to sit in their comfort zones and judge others based on what they’ve heard not seen.

    I’d be more than happy to give you some tips/recommendations on where to go and what to do if you’d like, after all, it’s my home city.

  20. Sawdee Arabiya is a dessert. So hot and not a drop of water. You can combust, or, upon landing, instantly every known molecule of moisture in your body will evaporate. Be careful.

  21. @Aziz, thank goodness someone has some sense on this ridiculous thread! If Lucky is fascinated by it, then he should go and see for himself! I’m sure he’d love it. Too many people watching commercial news channels which is breeding so much ignorance. Most of what everyone has said here I’ve seen in many Western nations, especially the US.

    @Toto, you mentioned that they might look up his blog? Well, this has only ever happened to me once and guess what – it was while entering the United States. They located profiles of me on “Workaway” and House Sitting that I had done in years’ past, and concluded that I was in the US for work (For $5/hr? Yeah right…) and promptly excluded me from entering.

  22. @Dennis

    “The good news is that the moment you decide that what you know is more important than what you have been taught to believe, you will have shifted gears in your quest for abundance. Success comes from within, not from without”
    – R. W. Emerson

    It isn’t that surprising to see to be honest. We live in a post-truth world where personal beliefs are more important than actual facts. Yet “personal beliefs” don’t truly exist anymore, what we have is masterful mind control masquerading as freedom of choice and expression.
    I bet you at least 90% of the people commenting here think they have reached their conclusions on their own, that’s how masterful the media has become
    “We tell you exactly what to think and convince you it all comes from your free mind”

  23. Ah December is such a tough time for me to travel due to holiday parties and gatherings with friends and family. If you do go, please let us know how it goes and whether the eVisa was ok. I, too, would like to visit Saudi Arabia someday.

  24. In many ways I am like Lucky in that I do want to go to places I’m fascinated by and not just “awesome”. But to me there has to be something I want to do there in either case and not just go to say I was there to check a box. For me – and this is just me – I couldn’t see a reason to go to Saudi Arabia. For someone that uses a million miles/points a year for travel I can see how Saudi Arabia would appear on his list.

  25. @lucky are you planning going to Lebanon? I think you are going to fall in love with the country. Everything there (not just Beirut) is complicated (in a good way) there is no single simple linear way to explain literally anything, that gets you to be even more curious about everything you experience there.

    I was there for awesome 12 days – consider how small the country is and I still feel like I don’t have enough time, it tells you how much you see there. Went to Beirut, Tripoli, Tannourine Cedar forest/Baatara waterfall, Sidon, Tyre, and even the Mleeta – a Hezbollah theme park.

  26. The fact that I didn’t notice that you can do that (because the formula one race has had some advertisements) is mind boggling, as a saudi I’m impressed someone found this

  27. @Lucky
    As a member of the LGBT community, my husband and I would not consider going to Saudi Arabia at all. It is not the fear of persecution, but we would not want to contribute to the economy of a country where gay men can be caned, imprisoned or get the death sentence.

  28. Surprised Bart LA still has the front to be blogging after he helped wreck the IHG BPG by publishing hotel sites on his blog. Asshole.

  29. @Walter thanks for visiting
    @Schultz really Saudi drops their wife to beg for money??what else??for prostitution??keep your lies fir yourself.

  30. I would love to visit Saudi Arabia someday. I have a friend there. We met on a plane from Chicago to Dubai, where he was connecting home and I was connecting to India. Mohammed was on a student via for university at the time. We’ve stayed in touch for years since he finished school and returned to SA. Alas, I am a single woman, and wouldn’t dare set foot there on my own. Hopefully someday I can join a tour group there. I will keep on eye of traveler experiences once they do begin offering visas.

  31. I must say: Lucky, I’m disappointed.
    The fact that you are ready and eager to visit and spend within the lands of a country
    where gay men are systematically IMPRISONED and EXECUTED saddens me. For every dollar
    you spend there, a percentage of said currency is expedited into the coffers of the government, which actively hunts the gays.
    Make no mistake: you will not find the citizens any more sympathetic than the state. As I’ve experienced first-hand, they are undoubtedly kind. However, mention your sexuality, and at best, you will be shunned. Please reconsider your travel wants. Think of your fallen brothers.

  32. Ben,

    My family lived in Saudi Arabia on the eastern coast for almost 20 years. I’ve spent a lot of time there. It is an amazing country, lots of history and the people are so incredibly friendly. Yes, there are bad elements there…just like anywhere. But I never experienced it even once in all the times I’ve been there.

    The food is incredible as well. There is no better shawarma than one from a small shop in Khobar.

    I hope you are able to go and experience the Saudi that I and my friends know.

  33. If you are curious about how different places function you should definitely go to Saudi Arabia.

    Was there for business earlier this year, visiting construction sites and having meetings in and around Jeddah. The best part was talking with people – much more internationally then I had imagined (of course then people I met will not be representative for the general population)

    Some advice: through your network try to find some people you can meet for dinner or who can show you around. My impression is that it is difficult to get more insights into the country and meet people as an independent traveler.

  34. 275 usd is a rip-off.Besides as an non-islslamic heretic you could not visit the holy city. So i dont know what would they offer that u cant find in other places.

  35. Wow, i felt bad for you lucky! There’s really all sorts of people in these world some are really radiculous! I appreciate your post.. Really ! Because I want to visit saudi arabia also! I had been all around the pennisula- even yemen just miss out this country! I wanted to understand thid country by seeing this country with my own eyes! Not from other people! You have my support xoxo

  36. My wife and I spent an hour an a half buying a SIM card yesterday (here in Saudi), and I was explaining to my wife, who hasn’t been here very long, that this was actually pretty organised for Saudi. So I wouldn’t count on the tourist visa anytime soon, regardless of dates that are given. A date in Saudi basically means “at some point.”

    I would caution people to not read things at face value. Despite the official stance on some matters, you’d be surprised what’s tolerated here. Saudis seem to prize privacy above all else. And whilst I have seen unfortunate behaviour like racism, I’ve also encountered politeness and warmth that I’ve not done so elsewhere.

    @Chris — where’s the shawarma shop?

  37. @Andrew S

    Hopefully you haven’t been to places like the UAE (or the rest of the GCC), or Russia, or Indonesia, because that would kind of make you a hypocrite…

  38. @Lucky

    Can we please have @debit banned for repeated hateful comments? Debit is accusing you and other men of “rape, murder and many other things”


  39. @Jim, not sure why you would want Debit banned. To his Credit, his comments often hold a modicum of truth that makes for some interesting banter. Of course, if you want to go the route of banning people, maybe you also have a list of books we should burn too? :p
    Anyways, enjoy your upcoming weekend.

  40. DITTO DYLAN: I must say: Lucky, I’m disappointed.
    The fact that you are ready and eager to visit and spend within the lands of a country
    where gay men are systematically IMPRISONED and EXECUTED saddens me. For every dollar
    you spend there, a percentage of said currency is expedited into the coffers of the government, which actively hunts the gays.
    Make no mistake: you will not find the citizens any more sympathetic than the state. As I’ve experienced first-hand, they are undoubtedly kind. However, mention your sexuality, and at best, you will be shunned. Please reconsider your travel wants. Think of your fallen brothers.

    Yet LUCKY would still “love” to visit.

  41. Wait…isn’t Trump from Saudi Arabia?? That would certainly explain his views on women.

    Actually redact that. The entire US govt and the industries are in the pockets of the Saudis!


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