The good news? Not everyone needs a Saudi Arabia transit visa if they plan to fly through Riyadh or Jeddah on their next trip. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the vast majority of travelers don’t need a transit visa, so long as they book strategically and do their homework before travel.
Reasons to Transit Through Saudi Arabia
There are many reasons you might be tempted to fly through Saudi Arabia on your next trip, even if you don’t plan to visit the Kingdom. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Low prices on connecting flights (usually on Saudia)
- Preferably to certain alternative transit points like Moscow or Tashkent
- Randomly bought a plane ticket without much additional thought
- Unique flight and transit experience
Next, I’ll discuss how to determine whether you actually need a visa.
How to Determine if You Need a Saudi Arabia Transit Visa
What is Your Nationality?
If you not a national of one of the few countries that do not require a visa to enter Saudi Arabia, chances are high that you need a transit visa, depending (of course) on other facts. Namely, if you are not from Arab Muslim countries such as the UAE or Oman, it is almost certain that you need a visa to enter Saudi Arabia as a tourist, although this might not be the case during certain transit-only stays.
How Long is Your Layover?
One factor that can help to determine whether you, in fact, need a Saudi transit visa is the length of your stay. Generally, layovers shorter than 12 hours do not require a transit visa, while those longer than that do. Note that airline personnel may deny you boarding of your plane in the event that you try to transit through Saudi Arabia for longer than 12 hours without a transit visa, so it’s to your advantage to sort this out before you head to the airport.
Which Airline Are You Flying?
Generally speaking, transits visa Saudi Arabia take place exclusively using Saudia, aka Saudi Arabian Airlines; I’ve read reports that the airline will take care of transit formalities for passengers, even in the event of stays longer than 12 hours. However, this is not official policy, so I do recommend procuring a Saudi Arabia transit visa if your connection will exceed 12 hours, even if all your travel is on Saudia.
Do You Value Peace of Mind?
Indeed, I can extend this general advice: For many travelers, the $30 you need to pay for a Saudi transit visa pales in comparison to the time and money you’ll be out if you actually required one but didn’t get it. To learn about the process of getting a transit visa to Saudi Arabia, visit the website of your nearest Saudi diplomatic mission, and follow the instructions you find there (or, if you have to call, do what the receptionist tells you).
Saudi Arabia Tourist Visa
In 2019, the government of Saudi Arabia began issuing tourist visas to non-Muslims for the first time in modern history. These documents are relatively restrict (as is the case if you visit Iran, you’ll need to travel the entire time with a licensed tour guide), but they nonetheless open the Kingdom up to you (minus Mecca, naturally), which can be an illuminating experience indeed, especially if you haven’t traveled extensively in the Middle East.
I won’t personally be availing this option at the present time, for reasons I don’t care to go into in conjunction with the topic at hand. If you do choose to get a tourist visa to Saudi Arabia, however, make sure you understand any restrictions (as well as the laws of the Kingdom, more generally speaking) prior to boarding your plane to Riyadh (which I can also recommend, even if you simply plan to transit there or in Jeddah).
The Bottom Line
Do you need a Saudi Arabia transit visa? Probably not, but it’s always a good idea to be prepared just in case. Whether you mindlessly purchased cheap Saudi tickets or have purposely bought them in order to save money, it might be worth your while to obtain transit documentation, even if you don’t officially need it. On the other hand, you might want to avail one of the tourist visas the Kingdom recently started issuing, which will allow you to discover Saudi Arabia is ways most non-Muslims have only dreamed about. Either way, I wish you a good flight and a safe trip!