Saudi Arabia is a country that respects the culture of its visitors, but it has some unique rules and customs that outsiders should at least be aware of. For example, Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country with Islamic restrictions. In particular, Islam strictly prohibits alcohol consumption, gambling, pornography, and drugs. Drug trafficking is punishable by death.

Islamic law requires women to wear a headscarf in public (neither this nor the prohibition of public consumption of alcohol applies to non-Muslims). Expatriate males and females have been arrested for inappropriate dressing (i.e., excessive exposure of skin), particularly in the more conservative regions of the country, such as Najd (the central highlands bordering Jordan) or in Bedouin areas.

Saudi Arabia is essentially a federation of 14 individual Saudi Arabian Autonomous Regions (SARs), which are governed by the Council of Ministers and headed by a prime minister. The SARs are distinct, in culture and practice, from the Kingdom’s urban areas. These regions generally have the same legal system as their kingdom counterparts and often share the English language with their kingdom region. You can visit Saudi Arabia by Dubai to Jeddah flights.

How long can visitors stay in Saudi Arabia?

Visitors holding a tourist visa are normally granted a maximum stay of 30 days with the possibility of renewal. Only the Saudi ambassador/consul-general has the authority to grant a longer extension or issue a multiple entry visa. Overstaying your visa or working without permission is punishable by imprisonment and fines, then deportation. Note: The immigration authorities may detain travelers arriving in private vehicles at border crossings until it is established that they have paid their due tolls.

Is it possible to extend the date of departure?

It is very difficult to obtain an extension of your departure date, even if your visa has expired. Many travelers have overstayed their visas and are living illegally in Saudi Arabia. Asking for a stay extension may cause problems for you with the Saudi police and immigration authorities since there is a high chance that your visa has expired.

Is it possible to change the date of arrival?

Yes, but once you arrive at the airport on a new day, your entry is considered as an immigrant, and you will be subject to fines and detention. The immigration authorities may detain travelers arriving in private vehicles at border crossings until it is established that they have paid their due tolls. Also, Saudi Arabia requires that each visitor has a minimum cash balance of SAR200 (approximately $100). The amount is non-refundable even in cases where the departure is delayed due to any reason.

What visas are available for Saudi Arabia?

Visitors from certain countries, who plan to stay less than 90 days within a period of 6 months, do not require a visa. These include Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France (biometric passports only), Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico (biometric passports only), the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway (biometric passports only), Portugal (biometric passports only), South Korea (biometric passports only), Spain and Sweden. Foreign visitors need to hold a valid passport with at least six months of validity. Visitors from other countries must obtain a visa before entering Saudi Arabia. Nationals of the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar are also permitted to visit Saudi Arabia for up to 15 days without a visa.

What is the process of obtaining a visa?

Visitors from other countries must obtain a visa before entering Saudi Arabia. Nationals of the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar are also permitted to visit Saudi Arabia for up to 15 days without a visa.

Can one obtain a visa at the airport?

Visitors from other countries must apply for a visa before entering Saudi Arabia. Nationals of the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar are also permitted to visit Saudi Arabia for up to 15 days without a visa. Other nationals need to apply for the visa in advance at the Saudi Embassy/Consulate-General in their country of residence or in another country where they possess diplomatic status. The procedure usually takes between two and four weeks, depending on how long it takes your embassy/consulate-general to process your request and send you a letter confirming your appointment date, place and time with the Saudi authorities.

Do I need an invitation letter to get a visa?

Yes, you will need an official invitation letter issued by the sponsor in Saudi Arabia. The sponsor may be your employer or a Saudi family member who will be putting you up in Saudi Arabia (if staying with a family member). Who is sponsoring your visit determines what type of visa you can obtain and whether or not you have to obtain and present this invitation letter. Many embassies require that the sponsor’s name and contact details be included on the application form.

 However, the invitation letter is not the same thing as a sponsorship letter. It is NOT proof that you have obtained a sponsor’s visa (e.g., if you have an employment visa). A sponsor’s visa is an additional requirement for those who do not have residency status in Saudi Arabia and thus are required to obtain a work permit before beginning work therein. All visitors to Saudi Arabia must have an employment visa or a student visa unless they are coming to the country on a tourist visa.

Will I need an invitation letter if I am traveling to Jeddah?

Yes. You need an invitation letter for entry into any SAR. An invitation letter is issued by the sponsor in Saudi Arabia and proves that the sponsoring party is responsible for your stay in Saudi Arabia. The sponsor may be your employer or a Saudi family member who will be putting you up in Saudi Arabia (if staying with a family member). Who is sponsoring your visit determines what type of visa you can obtain and whether or not you have to obtain and present this invitation letter? Many embassies require that the sponsor’s name and contact details be included on the application form. However, the invitation letter is not the same thing as a sponsorship letter. It is NOT proof that you have obtained a sponsor’s visa (e.g., if you have an employment visa). A sponsor’s visa is an additional requirement for those who do not have residency status in Saudi Arabia and thus are required to obtain a work permit before beginning work therein. All visitors to Saudi Arabia must have an employment visa or a student visa unless they are coming to the country on a tourist visa.