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Saudi Arabia Travel Information

Saudi Arabia Travel InformationThe country's security situation is characterized by the war in Yemen which has led to missile and drone attacks primarily in the south, but also in some cases against Riyadh, by March 28, 2020. In September 2019, there was a major attack on oil installations in the Eastern Province. In light of a generally tense situation in the Gulf region, Norwegians are asked to be vigilant, keep up to date via media and avoid public gatherings. Contact the Norwegian Embassy in Riyadh for more information. As of March 15, all international flights in/out of Saudi Arabia were suspended indefinitely. A 24-hour curfew has been introduced in the country's largest cities and populous regions, and bans on travel between cities and regions. For more information about coronavirus, see the section on Health.

Safety

The reason that all travel in the border area against Yemen is discouraged is the ongoing war and the risk of attacks by Yemen's rebels across the border to Saudi Arabia, including missile attacks, drone strikes and strikes. The Foreign Ministry encourages travelers to exercise caution when traveling to or staying in Saudi Arabia.

In 2017, 2018 and 2019 some missile attacks have also been carried out against Riyadh and in the direction of Jeddah, Mecca and Yanbu, and it may happen again that the rebels in Yemen are targeting the large cities of Saudi Arabia. Also, Abha tourist destination in the mountains of southern Saudi Arabia and the areas around Abha has been hit by multiple missile and drone strikes in 2019. In September 2019, two major oil facilities in the Saudi Eastern Province were also attacked with drones or missiles, major material damage but no personal injury. The Saudi authorities have launched a major investigation into the attack. We do not disregard that oil installations or other Western associated commercial interests may be hit again.

Furthermore, there is a general risk of terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia.

Terrorist incidents and similar violent attacks have in recent years been conducted by extremist groups in both Riyadh, Jeddah, the Eastern Province and the North. Most attacks, including suicide attacks, have been halted by Saudi security forces. Demonstrations and other riots are taking place especially in parts of the city of Qatif in the Eastern Province. Strong clashes between protesters and security forces have taken place. The security forces have also attacked protesters who have entrenched themselves. Foreigners have rarely been affected.

  • Countryaah: Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia. Check to find information of population, geography, history, and economy about the capital city.

The targets or locations of the attacks and disturbances have e.g. been mosques, public buildings and marketplaces and both the country's own citizens and foreigners have been affected.

Therefore, when staying in Saudi Arabia, all travelers are encouraged to take precautions for their own safety. Events in the country and region can quickly influence the mood in the country and attitudes towards visitors in certain places. Developments in local and international media should be closely monitored, as well as seek advice from their employer, client or tour operator. In general, care should be taken in e.g. public buildings and places, at mosques, hotels, restaurants and shopping malls.

Demonstrations are illegal in Saudi Arabia and any public rallies could be dissolved using violence.

During the annual Great Pilgrimage Hajj, pilgrims should be aware of the risks associated with large gatherings of people (in the extreme heat), especially congestion.

ID documents, Iqama (ID card) for Norwegians with residence permits, or a copy of passport should be available at all times. The passport should be kept in a safe place.

Natural disasters: The risk of e.g. earthquakes or hurricanes are small. Local flooding occurs in several parts of the country in connection with heavy rainfall. This often causes major traffic problems. Also be aware of the possibility of heavy sandstorms in parts of the country during longer road trips.

Norwegian businesses that are considering engaging in the Saudi market should also focus on their own safety, and seek advice from Saudi partners and the Norwegian Embassy.

The embassy is contacted in the event of events that may give rise to a changed assessment of the security situation.

Norwegian citizens staying in or planning to travel to Saudi Arabia are encouraged to contact the Riyadh Embassy for updated information and to register their journey at http://www.reiseregistrering.no/.

Entry

Please note that entry regulations may change. For the coronavirus and travel restrictions, see below in the section on health. The Foreign Service is not responsible if the following information on entry regulations or visa requirements is changed at short notice. It is the responsibility of the traveler to ensure that travel documents are valid for entry and to familiarize themselves with the current entry rules for each country.

Saudi Arabia introduced September 27, 2019 e-visa for tourists and Muslims wishing to implement Umrah. The process is relatively simple, with short processing time. Norwegian citizens can apply for a visa in advance or at Saudi Arabia airports. The duration of the visa is one year, you can stay in the country for up to 90 days, and there is the possibility of multiple entries.

It is important to familiarize yourself with the visa requirements, as well as the rules and cultural and social guidelines that must be followed when staying in Saudi Arabia, before booking the trip. See Laws and Etiquette.

The tourist visa costs SAR 440 (as of September 2019), has a duration of one year, up to 90 days stay and the possibility of multiple entry. The visa can be applied for in advance via this link, or you can apply for a visa on arrival at selected airports. Hajj visas must be applied for through a Hajj operator in Oslo. Persons with diplomatic passports who are going on business trips to Saudi Arabia are asked to contact the Norwegian embassy in Riyadh for information and guidance.

Contact information for Saudi Arabia's embassy in Oslo is:
The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
Frøyas gate 11
0273 Oslo
Phone: 22 04 90 10/22 04 90 11
E-mail: osemb@mofa.gov.sa
Website

Health

Coronavirus (covid-19): Norwegian travelers should keep abreast of the development of the coronavirus. Follow local authorities' advice, guidance and instructions on how to deal with the situation.

You can find more information and guidance from the Norwegian health authorities on the website of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. See also UD's answers to frequently asked questions about travel and coronavirus.

Saudi health authorities say there are many thousands of cases of coronary infection in the country, and that is increasing rapidly. It is a very confusing picture when it comes to traveling in and out of Saudi Arabia, and conditions can change quickly. As of March 15, all international flights in/out of Saudi Arabia were canceled indefinitely. All domestic flights and all other public transport are also canceled.

The European embassies are now working together to set up separate flights to Europe, up to one or two a week. If you are in Saudi Arabia and need to go home to Norway, contact the embassy by email. e-mail: emb.riyadh@mfa.no or phone/text to +966 55075 9525 (Geir R. Magnussen).

From April 6, a 24-hour curfew was imposed indefinitely in all the major cities and populous regions in the country, with some exceptions for eg. health workers, security, military, freight transport, etc. In less populated areas, the curfew lasts from 1 p.m. 3 pm to 2 pm 6 in the morning. Violations of the curfew are punishable by fines from SAR 10,000 (NOK 27,200) and up, as well as imprisonment. Travel between cities and regions is not allowed. All schools and other educational institutions, restaurants, cafes, parks, beaches and most shops are closed. Pharmacies and certain grocery stores are exempt. All public events are canceled. Shisha smoking is prohibited.

Previously, Saudi authorities had temporarily suspended the issuance of tourist visas to citizens from a large number of countries, including from Norway. There was also a delay in issuing visas to pilgrims from all over the world, and the sacred areas of Mecca and Medina are now closed to foreign pilgrims. Saudi authorities are asking anyone planning Hajj travel in 2020 to await the situation and not book any travel now. Entry bans have also been introduced for travelers from countries in the region, such as the United Arab Emirates (FAE), Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Jordan. This means that the borders of Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, FAE and Yemen are also closed. In addition, Qatif in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia is closed to all entry and exit.

See otherwise Saudi Arabia's health department guidelines for covid-19. If you are in Saudi Arabia and think you may be infected, contact the 24-hour service phone, phone 937. Follow the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs twitter account for updated information, as well as the World Health Organization's twitter account for the Middle East.

  • See also Saudi Arabia's Center for Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseasesfor information on spreading.
  • For a stop on a tourist visa, see press release from Saudi Arabia's foreign ministryand the ministry's announcement on twitter.
  • For a full decision on March 15 on all international flights, see Kingdom's Government Decides to Suspend International Flights For Two Weeks Starting Tomorrow, Sunday.

About the curfew see

  • Press release from the Ministry of the Interior on April 6.
  • Press release from the Ministry of the Interior on April 7.

For questions related to traveling from Norway to Saudi Arabia in the current situation, e.g. regarding health declaration/certificate, contact the Saudi Embassy in Oslo, tel + 47 22 04 90 11, e-mail: osemb@mofa.gov.no

The Saudi authorities have stated that anyone who had already obtained a pilgrimage visa should be compensated for the expenses of, among other things, visa/visa fee with the organizer of the trip. If there are questions about this, the Saudi authorities can be contacted directly: Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, tel + 966 920002814, e-mail: mohcc@haj.gov.sa

There may be constant changes in Saudi measures against the virus; Therefore, pay close attention to the information and advice of local authorities.

Norwegians traveling to or who are permanently resident in Saudi Arabia are encouraged to register at www.reiseregistrering.no.

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Most major hospitals in Saudi Arabia hold good standards. Free treatment is often offered for pilgrims in the cities of Mecca, Medina and Jeddah, but otherwise Saudi hospitals are run on a regular commercial basis. Prices can be high and prepayment may be required. It is therefore strongly recommended that before the trip you take out a regular, good travel insurance which also includes the possibility of transport home in case of serious illness.

For up-to-date information on health and diseases in the region, see the website of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. It has among other things dengue fever occurred in the Jeddah area. Other infectious diseases do not appear to be widespread, but the millions of pilgrims who annually flow to Jeddah, Mecca and Medina always present an opportunity for the spread of disease.

If you develop signs of pneumonia within the first 14 days after returning home from travel in the Middle East, you should contact a physician for the disease Mers-CoV. Signs of pneumonia may be cough, fever, chest pain, difficulty breathing. People with underlying diseases, such as Diabetes or heart disease, which develops serious infection after returning home from the Middle East (not just pneumonia), should also consult a physician. Inform your doctor about where and when you have been traveling.

Norwegians traveling to or who are permanently resident in Saudi Arabia are encouraged to register at www.reiseregistrering.no.

Practical information

Saudi Arabia is a conservative country, and strictly interpreted Islamic law (Sharia) basically governs most aspects of society and the judiciary. In the last couple of years, however, there has been a form of softening and "liberalization" of many rules and norms that affect social life and daily life (for example, it is a softening of the rule that single men and families/women should sit separately in cafes and restaurants). Therefore, please feel free to contact the embassy for further information.

The importation of alcohol, pornography and pork is strictly prohibited. The death penalty is carried out for murder and possession and drug trafficking. Some prescription medications are considered drugs.

When it comes to dress, the main rule is that women should be covered from the neck down, preferably in a dark robe, abaya. Several Saudi women also cover their heads, but it is not necessary for Western women. Upon arrival in Saudi Arabia without your own abaya, you should cover yourself with what is available from relatively large or wide clothing until your own abaya is acquired. Many Saudi women also cover their face (niqab).

Men in public places are expected to be dressed in long pants and a shirt, but in certain casual wear shorts are beginning to be accepted. In business, suits and ties are expected, while Saudi men usually wear their national attire.

Also, during Ramadan, foreigners should not eat, drink or smoke in public between sunrise and sunset. The restaurants are closed during the day and open after sunset.

Homosexuality is forbidden, but is rarely actively pursued.

Saudi Arabia has for a long time had a religious police, called Muttawa, who monitor whether Saudis and foreigners violate the rules of dress, behavior and other religious principles in public places. Today, the religious police have lost much of their influence and are far less visible.

Public non-Muslim religious practice is prohibited.

There is a continuing separation of men, women and families (ie couples, families, women) in many areas of Saudi daily life. But women (and thus families) can, for example. now attend cultural and sporting events on par with men.

From June 2018, women can also drive. You can drive a car with an international driver's license, but for longer stays it is recommended to obtain a Saudi driver's license. It is also recommended to exercise great caution in traffic, and there is generally high speed on the roads. In the event of an accident, the vehicle must not be moved until the insurance company has come and written a report. Do not leave the scene of the accident. In case of personal injury, everyone involved is usually imprisoned, regardless of the guilt situation, until clarification is available. In such cases, those involved should immediately contact their hosts and the Norwegian embassy.

Currency: Banknotes are available in denominations from 1 to 500 rials. Rials are tied to US dollars in the ratio of 3.77 SAR = 1 $.

Power and telephone: Both 220 volts and the usual 110 volt electrical system are available. The 220 volt current has 60 Hz, compared to 50 Hz which is common in Europe. This means that some types of devices for 50 Hz will go "too fast". A mixture of European, UK and US connectors and plugs is used, but adapters are readily available.

Telecommunications are at the international level. Mobile phones are used by everyone, and coverage is good across the country. There are a number of mobile phone operators. By presenting a valid visa to Saudi Arabia, it is also possible for foreigners to purchase prepaid sim cards.

ATMs are very widespread and accept all regular cards. You can pay by card in most hotels, restaurants and shops.

Banks/offices are usually open from 08:30 to 15:00. Shops/malls and some offices are open 08.00-12.00 and 16.00-20.00 (later). There are changing opening hours during Ramadan and on Fridays. Offices and shops close for about 30 minutes during today's five prayer times.

Friday and Saturday are weekend in Saudi Arabia. Sunday is normal work day.

National Holidays: There is only one fixed, non-religious holiday, September 23, Saudi National Day. Otherwise, there are holidays in connection with the religious holidays Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha which vary in time from year to year. Businessmen stay closed from one to three business days at the beginning of these holidays, public offices can stay closed for up to one to two weeks.

The time difference to Saudi Arabia is two hours. One hour when it is summer time in Norway.

Local emergency telephone numbers: Police 999, ambulance 997, fire: 998
Emergency telephone operators are often not English speaking.

The Embassy's contact information is: Royal Norwegian Embassy in Riyadh P.O. Box 94380 Riyadh 11693 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Tel: (+966 11) 488 1904 Fax: (+966 11) 488 0854 and (+966 1) 483 3168 Email: emb.riyadh@mfa.no

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Visiting Address: Diplomatic Quarter (at Roundabout # 4), Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Opening hours Sunday to Thursday, 08.30-16.00 local time. Closed Friday and Saturday.

In addition to the embassy in Riyadh, Norway has an honorary consul in Jeddah:

Honorary Consul General
Mr. Sami Attar
Royal Norwegian Consulate General
P.O.Box 18600
Jeddah 21425
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Tel: (+966 12) 665 4111
Fax: (+966 12) 665 5611
Email: mcg@attartravel.com
Visiting Address: Attar Travel center 5th floor, Jeddah
Opening hours: Sunday - Thursday 9am - 3pm. Friday and Saturday closed.

Outside of the consulate and the embassy working hours, travelers can contact the UD's 24-hour operating center by phone: +47 23 95 00 00 or by e-mail: UDops@mfa.no.

For specific events or situations, the embassy in Riyadh posts new and important information on its website, facebook or via the station manager's twitter account, see the links above.

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