Free Saudi Arabia stopover visa ‘to make country more accessible’

A new stopover visa is being introduced by Saudi Arabia in a move to make the country more accessible to international travellers.

The free visa will allow passengers to stay in the country for up to 96 hours when flying with national carriers Saudia and Flynas.

Visa holders will be eligible for a free overnight hotel stay during the stopover when booking through Saudia.

Travellers will also be able to use the stopover visa to perform the spiritual Umrah ritual.

Customised 24, 48, 72 and 96-hour itineraries have also been developed for visitors looking to break up long-haul flights.

The stopover visa is open to a wider number of countries than a historic tourism e-visa.

The introduction comes as airline capacity into Saudi Arabia is expected to grow by more than 65% in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2022 when four of the top ten busiest international routes were to or from the country, according to its tourism authority. 

Saudia chief executive Ibrahim Koshy said: “The launch of this innovative and seamless stopover visa is the first of its kind in the aviation industry and a significant milestone in our digital transformation programme. 

“It is a testament to Saudia’s commitment to support the Kingdom’s strategic goal of reaching 100 million visits by 2030 and we are confident it will positively impact the growing number of transit passengers while enhancing our position as a hub that connects east and west. 

“The new service will also encourage passengers to perform Umrah, visit key destinations and attend events and Saudi seasons.”

Saudi Tourism Authority chief executive Fahd Hamidaddin said: “Today’s announcement of Saudi’s inaugural stopover visa is a landmark example of integrated public and private sector co-operation. 

“Four of the top ten global routes were in or out of Saudi airports in 2022, a testament to the appeal of destination Saudi.

“Saudi is committed to a seamless visitor experience. In partnership with our national air carriers, Saudia and Flynas, we are using digital platforms to provide an instant stopover visa, which only enhances Saudi’s accessibility and our world-class destination offering.”

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