As fan of foreign languages, I often try to read non-English current events articles and travel stories. Thus, for this post, I have to give a hat tip to one of BoardingArea’s Japanese language blogs, Voyage Avancé.
Under a not-so-subtle plan called “Your Ticket is a Visa,” certain passengers on SAUDIA — the carrier formerly known as Saudi Arabian Airlines — will soon be able to enter the kingdom for up to 96 hours visa-free. This will apply to some travelers aiming to visit Saudi Arabia as tourists, and to those planning to participate in Umrah, a particular type of religious pilgrimage.
By the way, with such a limited amount of time to snap photos, your electronics’ batteries are going to be exhausted something fierce. Charge them up well, so that you can hit up these hotspots:
For SAUDIA passengers looking to explore Saudi Arabia as tourists, they will have to hold passports from specific countries; if you guessed the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the EU, and Australia as members of that list, you’d be right. Switzerland, Brunei, and Kazakhstan also make an appearance, among a handful of others.
As for religious pilgrims traveling to Makkah to perform Umrah, although citizenship details aren’t yet available, it is likely that the scope of this 4-day visa-free scheme will include Muslims from all over the world.
For those of you unfamiliar with Umrah, sometimes known as Umroh, I will give you a backgrounder:
- Umrah can be performed at anytime during the year.
- Participation in Umrah is voluntary.
- Umrah takes place in Makkah only, and can be completed in less than two hours.
- As Umrah involves significantly less time, rituals, and can be done year-round, it is the much cheaper alternative to performing the Hajj, one of Five Pillars of Islam required of any able-bodied Muslim.
Still, anyone traveling to Saudi Arabia to realize Umrah must be holding a meningitis vaccination, not to mention any woman under the age of 45 must have a mahram, or male relative, to accompany her. If the woman is above 45, she can travel in a tour group without a male relative.
Last year, I transited Jeddah twice. Although I had lounge access for both visits, I would have gladly left the airport to visit my old stomping grounds, if it weren’t for that pesky ~$140 visa/insurance turn-off. Once this 96-hour visa-free measure takes hold, I’ve already got souvenir stops in mind.