Seven ways Saudi Arabia is becoming more tourist-friendly
- 11 February 2019
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As Saudi Arabia’s plans to become a major tourist destination in the Gulf begin to gather pace under the Vision 2030 strategy, we take a closer look at seven practical ways the Kingdom is becoming a much easier place for travellers to get about.
1. INTRODUCTION OF VISITOR VISAS
Until 2018, the main way to get into Saudi Arabia was to enter on a work, business or pilgrim visa. That is no longer the case; for the first time in the Kingdom’s history, anybody wishing to attend festivals and events held in the Kingdom can enter the country on new visitors’ visas. These visas also allow travel across the Kingdom.
2. NEW TRAIN LINES
Until very recently, Saudi Arabia had only one train line between Riyadh and Dammam. Now there are more: the high-speed line between Makkah and Madinah via Jeddah and another from Riyadh to Jouf in the northwest via Hail.
3. IMPROVING THE TOURISM BOARD
Anyone who has tried to visit the major tourist sites of Saudi Arabia knows how difficult it used to be to get hold of any information about them. Not anymore: the launch of www.sauditourism.sa, with its very own dedicated telephone hotline for tourist information, means it is much easier to get reliable information or speak to someone from the country’s tourism board.
4. OPENING UP TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
Another frustrating aspect of visiting Saudi tourist sites in the past was that they could often only be accessed with a special government permit. This is also being changed across the Kingdom, as places like the World Heritage rock art sites in Jubba are now simply walk-in venues requiring no special permission.
5. DEVELOPING A METRO SYSTEM IN RIYADH
The country’s capital will soon be home to a long-overdue state-of-the-art metro system that will include 85 stations and six lines along 85 km of track. This will completely revolutionise travel within Riyadh and make getting to the city’s key sites much easier for visitors. There are also plans for metro systems in Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah.
6. REDUCING CHECK POINTS
Anyone who has lived in Saudi Arabia knows checkpoints are a part of daily life, but these can be intimidating and even perturbing to outsiders. The Saudi government recognises this and has dramatically reduced the number of checkpoints on highways and within cities over the past decade. This is set to continue as the country gears up for foreign visitors.
7. CHEAP DOMESTIC AIR TRAVEL
In the past, flying from one city to another in the Kingdom could only be done by Saudi airlines. This monopoly often meant that journeys were very expensive. However, in recent years, the emergence of budget airlines like Flynas and Flyadeal have dramatically increased the competition for domestic routes, making it much cheaper to get between major towns and cities.
(Editing by Seban Scaria firstname.lastname@example.org)
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