Travel Spring Break in Saudi Arabia? The Kingdom Plans to Issue First Tourist Visas on April 1
Tourists Overrun Yet Another European Favorite
Amsterdam wrestles with the impact of an increasing number of visitors.Between 2006 and 2016, the number of overnight stays at hotels in the Dutch capital increased from more than eight million to 14 million, according to Associated Press.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is planning to issue its first official tourist visas this April, tour operators say, opening up the famously conservative country to non-Muslim visitors and those who want to see Jidda, Riyadh, and historic sites like the ancient city of Mada’in Saleh in the Arabian Desert. It’ll be the first time Saudi Arabia issues visas specifically for tourism, though foreigners have been allowed to enter the country for religious, business, and so-called personal visits in the past.
“We’ve heard so much about Saudi Arabia in regards to business, religion, and politics,” said, U.S. Director at Wild Frontiers, in an email. “But as a traveler, getting to see beneath the news story and understand more about day-to-day life, the people of Saudi, and the amazing historical sites, is a huge driver” of interest in visiting the country, Ross said. , which specializes in travel to out-there destinations like Pakistan and the Caucasus, is planning its first visit to Saudi Arabia in November.
The world’s most popular tourist destinations are being ‘loved to death’
An influx of new travelers can have a major impact on the environment and locals’ livelihoods.Here’s the problem: The top 20 countries for international arrivals account for nearly two-thirds of all global travel, according to a new report from consulting firm McKinsey & Company and the World Travel and Tourism Council. And the top ten countries alone for international tourists make up nearly half of all international travel.
Even with the new tourist visas, you won’t be able to just pop over for a long weekend, saidof the tour company Abercrombie & Kent, which already takes visitors to Saudi Arabia under existing visa rules. “Some of the details are still sketchy but we now have an idea as to how they are planning to roll this out,” Girgis said in an email. “In order to qualify for a tourist visa, there needs to be a minimum of four guests traveling. Also, all visas will still need to be attested by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, [meaning] that you will still need to book through a registered tour operator in order to get the visa,” he said. The somewhat complicated process is, nevertheless, “an improvement and a step in the right direction,” Girgis said.
Saudi Arabia to launch tourist visas in early 2018
Saudi Arabia will begin issuing tourist visas in the first quarter of 2018, its top tourism official said, a first for the kingdom as it undergoes major economic and social reforms. Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz told AFP that "all government approvals" are in place for the launch of electronic visas next year to "all nationals whose countries allow their citizens to visit" Saudi Arabia.
Other than seeing one of the world’s most closed-off countries, what can you expect to see should you go? At the top of the list, Ross says, is “the Nabatean site of, featuring a number of spectacular rock-cut tombs similar in style to the Nabatean sites at Petra. And a visit to visit the Red Sea town of Jidda, where the only tourists will be Saudi families enjoying the sun and sea; the capital Riyadh; and the Sarawat Mountains, close to the border with Yemen. Here you see villages that feature brick stone towers used as residences. This unique form of architecture used to be a highlight of any trip to Yemen—and with Yemen now closed off, seeing these here is an incredible opportunity.”
There will be challenges on any visit. Women will be able to apply for tourist visas, but those under 25 years of age will need a “chaperone,” according to. “My understanding is that [women] can apply and visit," said Ross, "but will need to wear a headscarf and stay with the group." Non-Muslim travelers won't be able to visit Saudi Arabia’s most famous cities of Mecca and Medina, Girgis said. While the that “terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Saudi Arabia,” the country’s Level 2 travel advisory puts it on par with France or the U.K. in terms of risk. (The U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office has about travel to Saudi Arabia.) And those “whose passport contains evidence of previous travel to Israel may be refused admission,” according to .
This Ritz-Carlton Is a Hotel Again—After Spending Months as a Prison
For months, the luxurious hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, had been housing prisoners of the governmentWhile the Saudi prisoners have spent months at the Ritz-Carlton, many outside the country are unclear as to what the exact charges are. Since effectively taking over for his father in 2017, the 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was quick to install his agenda. That involved a slight liberalization in Saudi Arabia's strictly controlled social matters, as well as an apparent crackdown on corruption. Those suspects that are still being imprisoned at the hotel will soon be transferred to al-Hayer, a high-security prison outside of Riyadh.
Then there’s the possibility that the visas won’t actually start to flow come April 1; Saudi officials have been talking about opening the country to tourism since 2016. “We are cautiously optimistic,” Ross said. “We are accepting bookings onto our November and December departures and will have an update on April 1.” So maybe spring break will have to wait until next year.
WATCH Spring in New York City (provided by Conde Nast Traveler)
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<p>Eating healthy for spring break bod success doesn't mean you have to eat tasteless salads or go on extreme diets. Some of the healthiest food even tastes better than the unhealthy alternative and will prepare you for the upcoming beach season. Here are some healthy and delicious foods that'll help you to feel your best.</p>Eating healthy for spring break bod success doesn't mean you have to eat tasteless salads or go on extreme diets. Some of the healthiest food even tastes better than the unhealthy alternative and will prepare you for the upcoming beach season. Here are some healthy and delicious foods that'll help you to feel your best.
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