Saudi Arabia allows tourist visas from 49 countries.
So far the only way to travel to Saudi was on a business visa, via a sponsor for your visit or by getting a pilgrimage visa to visit Mecca and Medina (only for Muslims).
The fact that, all of a sudden, Western tourists can visit Saudi Arabia on their own is a radical change coming from the Kingdom.
During the past couple of years, a number of strict Islamic laws had been relaxed i.e. allowing women and men to mix in public spaces and allowing women to drive.
These changes will make things easier for future international visitors to Saudi Arabia.
Abaya Rule relaxed – but there are 19 offences that are punishable
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Interior approved the implementation of new regulations on public decency, which identify 19 offences as punishable by fines.The regulations are meant to ensure that visitors and tourists in the Kingdom are aware of the law relating to public behaviour so that they comply with it.
The new regulations require men and women to dress modestly and to refrain from public displays of affection. Women are free to choose modest clothing and are not obliged to wear an abaya.
Violations listed include littering, spitting, queue jumping, taking photographs and videos of people without permission and playing music at prayer times.
Saudi police is responsible for monitoring offences and imposing fines. Those caught violating the law could face fines ranging from 50 riyals ($13) to 6,000 riyals ($1,600).
Offenders have the right to submit a grievance claim before the Common Courtesy Department and appeal any fines.
The Kingdom encourages tourists and visitors to familiarise themselves with the law on public decency to avoid a fine as it looks forward to welcoming people from all over the world.
Alcohol remains illegal, which will deter quite a number of tourists. It also remains unclear if unmarried foreign men and women would be permitted to share a hotel room.
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