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Independent travel as tourist to Saudi - KSA

Independent travel as tourist to Saudi - KSA

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Old May 27, 19, 1:03 pm
  #16  
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Originally Posted by Nayef View Post
I wanted to ask him about personal specifics in the PM but I'm sure he can share what he has. The it's still not feasible enough of a process because you have to have invitation letters from Saudi companies and a letter from a US company, and you can only get those if you're headed there on business, not tourism.
SO? Surely some FT members travel to KSA on business. If so, presumably they can get the invitation from a KSA company as well as the document from their own employer.
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Old May 27, 19, 9:46 pm
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Originally Posted by g289t View Post
I believe tourist visas are issued only for specific events, such as a Formula race. Fans (or maybe "fans" is more accurate!) can do other things while in the country. I guess you'll need to keep watching for something like that coming up.

In January 2018 I got a 5 year multiple entry business visa for Saudi Arabia. I am American. I used a visa agency. While very expensive, it was rather simple once I figured out what I needed to do.
Please tell them what you know.
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Old May 28, 19, 3:05 pm
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Perhaps a bit off topic - any one hear anything about the transition of int'l flights to the new terminal in JED? I read that July/Aug could be target, but seems the airport is completed and all 46 gates being used already for domestic ops (and it's been open for more than a year now) - not sure I'm grasping the delay.
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Old May 28, 19, 3:46 pm
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Originally Posted by pafnyc View Post
Perhaps a bit off topic - any one hear anything about the transition of int'l flights to the new terminal in JED? I read that July/Aug could be target, but seems the airport is completed and all 46 gates being used already for domestic ops (and it's been open for more than a year now) - not sure I'm grasping the delay.
I tried looking for any sources in Arabic, but the most recent ones from a couple of months ago just said that they started phase 2 of domestic flight inclusions to the new terminal. Most projects in Saudi from airport expansions to opening up movie theaters face delays and they only make announcements when they’re close to opening. So just stay tuned and keep a Google Alert or something because it’s just that abrupt.
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Old May 28, 19, 9:46 pm
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Great - thanks for that. Will be passing through there in a few weeks again and would so love to be in the new terminal (wishful thinking, I know).
thanks

Originally Posted by Nayef View Post

I tried looking for any sources in Arabic, but the most recent ones from a couple of months ago just said that they started phase 2 of domestic flight inclusions to the new terminal. Most projects in Saudi from airport expansions to opening up movie theaters face delays and they only make announcements when they’re close to opening. So just stay tuned and keep a Google Alert or something because it’s just that abrupt.
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Old May 30, 19, 9:49 am
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Originally Posted by g289t View Post
My visa specifies "air only", which means that I can only fly in and out. Technically I could not even cross the causeway between Bahrain and KSA, even though I have a valid visa. Anecdotal evidence suggests, however, that I could cross by land anyway, depending on the immigration officer I would happen to get at the border. I plan to try it if I ever get a chance.
Some years back a friend visited me via the land border with Qatar while I was Doha. His passport carried similar restrictions to yours. It seems a bit reckless now, as it carried the risk of the door slamming shut behind him, as it were. He hadn't thought it through, I guess: and ignorance is bliss.

Just a data point. I've no idea if that was a freakish lapse on the part of the border officials, and it certainly couldn't happen today on that border!
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Old Jun 5, 19, 8:34 am
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Originally Posted by IAN-UK View Post
Some years back a friend visited me via the land border with Qatar while I was Doha. His passport carried similar restrictions to yours. It seems a bit reckless now, as it carried the risk of the door slamming shut behind him, as it were. He hadn't thought it through, I guess: and ignorance is bliss.

Just a data point. I've no idea if that was a freakish lapse on the part of the border officials, and it certainly couldn't happen today on that border!
Well, there is no more land border crossing with Qatar

Also, someone few post above said that you have to have letter from Saudi company before you can apply for the visa. Letter alone is not enough, 'that' Saudi company needs to get approval from MoI before they can even sent you one.
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Old Jun 7, 19, 12:21 pm
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Originally Posted by IAN-UK View Post
Some years back a friend visited me via the land border with Qatar while I was Doha. His passport carried similar restrictions to yours. It seems a bit reckless now, as it carried the risk of the door slamming shut behind him, as it were. He hadn't thought it through, I guess: and ignorance is bliss.

Just a data point. I've no idea if that was a freakish lapse on the part of the border officials, and it certainly couldn't happen today on that border!
From anecdotal evidence I've been reading, KSA had been not worrying too much about the "air only" restriction until last year sometime. Then they started enforcing it, but have recently relaxed again. I've heard that the reason for it in the first place is because the land borders did not have fingerprint readers, which is necessary the first time you visit Saudi Arabia. However, they do now, at least the crossing at Bahrain has them. So they didn't care much as long as it is not your first visit. I'm not sure why they started enforcing it last year though.

I plan to find out. I wouldn't be too worried about getting stuck in KSA, as I could go to Dammam and fly back to Dubai from there. The only caveat is if I rent a car. What would I do with it? My plan is that if I do rent a car in Bahrain, I'll get it from a company that is also in Dammam. I'm sure it would be very expensive if I had to leave it in Saudi Arabia, but it should be possible at least.
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Old Jun 10, 19, 9:14 am
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Originally Posted by g289t View Post
I plan to find out. I wouldn't be too worried about getting stuck in KSA, as I could go to Dammam and fly back to Dubai from there. The only caveat is if I rent a car. What would I do with it? My plan is that if I do rent a car in Bahrain, I'll get it from a company that is also in Dammam. I'm sure it would be very expensive if I had to leave it in Saudi Arabia, but it should be possible at least.
Why renting a car? Take one of the buses which leave Bahrain every 30 minutes for Dammam. The price was anything between $10 and $20.
45 minutes and you'll be in Dammam.
You can always fly from Bahrain to Dammam. I took that flight with Gulf Air last year. Only 14 minutes air time, and they give you food on the ground in Bahrain so you can finish before the flight lands
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Old Jun 10, 19, 12:09 pm
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Originally Posted by bwiadca View Post
Why renting a car? Take one of the buses which leave Bahrain every 30 minutes for Dammam. The price was anything between $10 and $20.
45 minutes and you'll be in Dammam.
You can always fly from Bahrain to Dammam. I took that flight with Gulf Air last year. Only 14 minutes air time, and they give you food on the ground in Bahrain so you can finish before the flight lands
I'm not doing this to visit Saudi Arabia. I want to make the crossing on the King Fahd Causeway. I prefer to drive myself so I can go at my own pace. Plus, if I have extra time, I would like to drive around Bahrain. However, I would consider taking the bus for a couple reasons.

One reason is that I'm not yet sure I can rent a car in Bahrain that will allow driving to KSA. I am working on this now.

The second reason is that my Saudi visa technically does not allow me to cross a land border, although anecdotal evidence says that they usually let "air only" visa holders across anyway. Theoretically, I could be allowed into KSA, and then not be allowed to leave (by land). If I had a rental car from Bahrain and this happened, I would have a big problem! If I was on a bus and this happened, I would simply go to the Dammam airport and fly back to Dubai.

If I do end up taking a bus to Saudi Arabia, where in Bahrain do I catch one? Do they leave from the airport? And how do they get to Dammam in 45 minutes?! Do the passengers get fast tracked through the border?

And that is cool about the "in flight" dining on the ground! It is indeed a very short flight, 54 mi/87 km.
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Old Jun 11, 19, 8:28 am
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Not exactly "independent" travel, but there's a summer event in Jeddah called "Jeddah Season" that has events where you can buy tickets and qualify for an e-visa, mostly concerts, sporting events and the like.

The downside is that they only announce events a week or two tops before they happen (some times mere days), which makes it incredibly difficult to plan for these events and get an e-visa and plane tickets and stuff. So this makes getting an e-visa through Sharek very testy. You might also be able to keep tabs on events through Jeddah's website. You also follow Saudi's "entertainment calendar," which show events from all around the country.

Another tip: the event has to be ticketed and not a "free" event. If you see "This is an international event," this means you can get an e-visa through it.


Last edited by Nayef; Jun 11, 19 at 8:32 am Reason: added and edited links and details
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Old Jun 12, 19, 2:03 pm
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Originally Posted by g289t View Post
I'm not doing this to visit Saudi Arabia. I want to make the crossing on the King Fahd Causeway. I prefer to drive myself so I can go at my own pace. Plus, if I have extra time, I would like to drive around Bahrain. However, I would consider taking the bus for a couple reasons.

One reason is that I'm not yet sure I can rent a car in Bahrain that will allow driving to KSA. I am working on this now.

The second reason is that my Saudi visa technically does not allow me to cross a land border, although anecdotal evidence says that they usually let "air only" visa holders across anyway. Theoretically, I could be allowed into KSA, and then not be allowed to leave (by land). If I had a rental car from Bahrain and this happened, I would have a big problem! If I was on a bus and this happened, I would simply go to the Dammam airport and fly back to Dubai.

If I do end up taking a bus to Saudi Arabia, where in Bahrain do I catch one? Do they leave from the airport? And how do they get to Dammam in 45 minutes?! Do the passengers get fast tracked through the border?

And that is cool about the "in flight" dining on the ground! It is indeed a very short flight, 54 mi/87 km.
The 45 minutes it's actual riding time + whatever time you will spend at the border. Not more then another 45 minutes. The best place to catch a bus is at Lulu Center in Manama. They have several companies that run buses from there to Dammam. The most expensive tickets leaving Bahrain are on Saturdays. On the way back avoid traveling on Thursday/Friday.
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Old Jun 12, 19, 4:55 pm
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Originally Posted by bwiadca View Post
The 45 minutes it's actual riding time + whatever time you will spend at the border. Not more then another 45 minutes. The best place to catch a bus is at Lulu Center in Manama. They have several companies that run buses from there to Dammam. The most expensive tickets leaving Bahrain are on Saturdays. On the way back avoid traveling on Thursday/Friday.
Thank you for the information, but I just made my plans. I found a car rental company that will give me authorization paperwork to take the car into Saudi Arabia. I purchased my round trip flights from Dubai to Bahrain, and I reserved the rental car.

I was also able to determine that Saudi immigration at the causeway border allows "Air only" visa holders through, provided they are American or British. I'm not sure why; apparently it is some deal worked out with the officials of those countries.
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Old Jun 13, 19, 6:29 am
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Originally Posted by g289t View Post
I was also able to determine that Saudi immigration at the causeway border allows "Air only" visa holders through, provided they are American or British. I'm not sure why; apparently it is some deal worked out with the officials of those countries.
According to the locals in Saudi. US or British passports are like "get out of jail free card".
Enjoy your trip to Dammam. Not much there to see, but you have to go and try food at Koshari Station fast food joints. They have couple of them there and they make the best koshari in Saudi.
The nice thing is, that you can put any meat on it. From Indian butter chicken to shrimp or steak That's the only nice part about living in Dammam
Otherwise more sand and uninhabitable beach with broken glass and broken bricks instead of sand. I assumed beach would be the one place where you can find sand...
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Old Jun 13, 19, 11:51 am
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If you manage to make it to Dammam/Khobar, check out the Bohemia Art Cafe if that's something you're into. It's not a "traditional" Saudi place, but it's a vinyl-music-themed coffee place where men and women mingle freely and they have bands, open mic nights and even video game competitions. The patrons are largely open-minded liberal youths, most of whom are well-versed in English and English-language music and pop culture, and you might be able to get some interesting conversations from chatting with them. I reckon they'd be interested in speaking to you. It's part of an emerging trend of places in Saudi where youths can take a load off, and it's practically the only one of its kind in the Eastern Province.
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