saudi transit visa

All about the Saudi Transit Visa

One of the reasons we’d previously put off traveling to Saudi Arabia was the high cost of the visa to visit, combined with a perceived difficulty in visiting.  And so when we heard that it was possible to get a free Saudi transit visa we looked into it further.  The Saudi transit visa allows foreign travelers to make a 4-day stopover in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia using this free visa.  It’s a great way to get an introduction to Saudi Arabia and we also benefited from some great deals that the Saudi Tourism Authority is offering.  Here’s all you need to know about the Saudi Transit Visa, our experiences, and how to explore using it.

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED AND AFFILIATE LINKS MORE INFORMATION IN OUR DISCLAIMER

Some nationalities are eligible for visa-free entry to Saudi Arabia and there are also options to extend your stay or apply for longer visas to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  As always with visas you should check the advice of your government, and also the issuing authority (i.e. the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) for the latest information.  Meanwhile here are our experiences and learnings from November 2023.

What is the Saudi Transit Visa

The Saudi Transit Visa is a free (with a small admin fee) visa that means that you can visit the Kingdom on a layover for up to 96 hours.  The Saudi Tourism Authority is also offering additional deals, which make it an interesting place to fly via if you’re heading in that direction.  The benefits (at the time of writing) include a free night in a hotel and a free transfer from the airport to your hotel. 

We were in Tunisia and heading towards South East Asia and couldn’t resist taking a further look.

How to apply for the Saudi Transit Visa

The Saudi Transit visa application is part of the flight booking process through the associated airlines – Saudia Airlines and Flynas.  We chose our flights, gathered together the information for the transit visa, and then sat down on a decent internet connection and started booking.

You’ll start the flight booking then go straight onto the visa application process and then pay for it all.  Our flight booking confirmation came through instantly, and our visa application was processed and in our inbox in 2 (yes two) minutes.

What you need for the Saudi Transit Visa

To benefit from the free Saudi Transit Visa you need to apply for it DURING YOUR FLIGHT BOOKING PROCESS, there’s more on that shortly, but here’s the information that you will need on hand during your booking procedure.

You will need

  • a valid passport with a minimum validity of 6 months
  • citizenship or a residence permit from the country you are applying from (i.e. the country in which you live)
  • a passport-sized colored photograph.  This photo must be 200 * 200px file size, a tiny 20kb
  • a completed and signed Saudi visa questionnaire, which you’ll do online

Saudi Transit Visa Free Offers

We’d first seen the reasonably priced flights with Saudia Airlines in 2022 but weren’t in a position to take advantage of them, but as we were spending a few weeks in Tunisia and whilst looking to get to South East Asia we took another look at Saudia and found a great option for us.  Flights from Tunis Carthage to Male, Maldives, via Jeddah. You can read my review of the Saudia Airlines Business Class flights here.

The deal included a Saudi Transit visa, which gave us two full days in Jeddah.  And the Saudi Tourism Authority sweetened the deal by adding a voucher for a free night in a hotel AND a free transfer from the airport to the hotel.

Free hotel and one way transfer with the Saudi Transit Visa

While our layover in Jeddah ended up being 2 full days and 3 nights (ok, so we left the hotel at 03:45 on the last night, but you know what I mean), the free hotel night and the free one-way transfer were a great option.  You can read more about the offer from Saudi tourism here.

While the offer that we took included a one way transfer, which is only available going FROM the airport to your hotel you’ll need to know how to go from Jeddah back to the airport, I wrote about that here.

Our experience with the Saudi Transit Visa Offers

The take advantage of the Saudi Transit visa offer you need to fly with either Saudia Airlines or Flynas and you need to transit Saudi Arabia.  We took advantage of a great deal on a flight from Tunis, Tunisia to Male in the Maldives via Jeddah.

Our offer gave us 70 hours and 20 minutes in Saudi Arabia, a free night in a hotel (which came with free breakfast), and a free one way transfer to the hotel from the airport.  We booked two additional nights at the same hotel.

For us, it was a great deal, especially as we got to fly business class, as the cost of business class flights was only around US$75 more each than Saudia’s Guest Class, and that was for BOTH of the flights in total.  It meant that we got into the lounge at Tunis Carthage Airport, and our bags came through priority, and we got to the front of the line when it came to passport control in Jeddah.  Brilliant.

Step 1:  Book a flight with Saudia Airlines (or Flynas)

The first step in getting the Saudi Transit Visa is to find a flight with Saudia or Flynas

Step 1a:  Apply for the transit visa as part of the flight booking process

During the flight booking process, you’ll apply for your transit visa.  If you do not apply for your transit visa as part of this process it’s not free and you don’t get the free hotel deal either.

I seriously recommend that you have your passport details, your visa photo (see the details above), and information ready BEFORE you start the flight booking process, it will make it much easier.

The Saudi Transit visa is currently free, but there’s a small admin fee, which worked out to £43.70 in total for both of us

Our visa approvals came through in 2 minutes.

The visa is valid for up to 96 hours in the Kingdom, and its validity lasts for 90 days from the date of issuance.

Step 2:  Book your free hotel accommodation

Once your transit visa has come through you can then book your free night accommodation.  There is some misinformation around that if you fly Business Class then you get two nights free accommodation.  That’s not the case.  It’s just one night.

You will need your flight PNR to book your free hotel accommodation.

Book your free accommodation at https://holidaysbysaudia.com/en-US/dynamicflow/pnrbased

Simply put in your PNR code, and confirm the surname of the lead booker, and go from there.

You’ll be offered several hotel options (for Jeddah there were four hotels to choose from).  We chose the Crown Town Hotel, on the basis that it was the closest to Al Balad, the historic old town area in Jeddah that we wanted to explore.

Crown Town Hotel Jeddah

You can click all the way through and see how much it is for additional nights at the hotel via Saudia Holidays.  Here’s a hint.  We booked our free night accommodation through the Saudia Holidays site, but booked two additional nights through Agoda, as it was a better deal for us.  Although with Saudia breakfast was included, with Agoda it was not. Most of the hotels are also available to book through booking.com.

(When you check in physically at the hotel you’ll just need to give them the confirmation vouchers for ALL of your bookings).

The hotel booking via Saudia Holidays actually offered us a room each for our free stay (although we’re married we have different last names), but we chose to stay in the same room.  The site is a bit clunky, but if you want to stay in the same room, just opt for the one room.

Follow all the prompts on the Saudia Holidays website to confirm your flight details and that you want free transport.

If you are booking a return flight, then the free hotel and transfer option is ONLY available in one of the directions, not both ways.  We flew one way so this was not an issue for us.

Step 3:  Flying into Saudi Arabia

We flew into Jeddah from Tunis Carthage airport, and the day before our flight we received a WhatsApp from the team at Saudia Holidays confirming that they would meet us at Jeddah Airport and take us to the shuttle transfer to our hotel.

What they actually said was that they’d meet us at the “Aquarium” after arrivals and that we should WhatsApp them when we got there.   This boggled my mind.  There was an aquarium at the airport?  Wow.

Anyways. We did.

And it’s a bit of a pain, as there is NO free WiFi at Jeddah Airport arrivals, so you’ll need an internationally roaming sim set up before you get there, HOWEVER…

They’re actually based on the Saudi Tourist Booth IMMEDIATELY ON THE LEFT AS YOU WALK OUT OF ARRIVALS (You’ll see the aquarium straight in front of you).

Saudi Tourism Booth Jeddah Airport

At the booth, you’ll need to show all passports and the hotel coupon that you received when booking through the saudiaholidays website.  You do NOT need to print these, you can show the PDF that’s emailed to you.

What you should do when you meet your transfer guide is to get a hold of the nifty guide to the city that you’re in.  The guide for Jeddah is really useful (and an interesting read), the small map is not so much, but it will give you a general idea of the layout of the city. We used it to help plan our Jeddah Itinerary.

Jeddah Tourism Guide

Step 4:  Getting the Free Transfer to Your Free Hotel with the Saudi Transit Visa

We got some cash from the ATM and grabbed a drink from Starbucks, (bottled water is REALLY cheap, and they accept cards and cash, although he wasn’t too happy with my “just fresh out of the ATM 100 Riyal note for my measly bottle of water) and sat and waited 20 minutes. You can read more about ATMS and cash (and whether you need it) in Saudi Arabia here.

The transfers for the free Saudi transit visa run with shuttle buses, and we were waiting for it to return from its last trip. Our guide took us right to the bus, which came into the Shuttle bus arrival area downstairs at the King Abdulaziz International Airport (Jeddah Airport), where you’ll find the bottom of the aquarium. All really, really easy.

At Jeddah Airport Aquarium

If you decide not to take advantage of the free transfer, then this is where the shuttle buses, taxis, and ride-sharing transports (Uber, Careem, and MyTaxi) leave from anyways.

We were the only ones on the bus and it took us (in glorious air-conditioned comfort) to the Crown Town Hotel in about 30 minutes, dropping us off right outside.

Step 5.  Checking into your Hotel with the Saudi Transit Visa

It’s all really, really easy.  Just rock up to reception, and hand over your passport and the voucher for your hotel that was emailed to you.  If you’ve booked additional nights with a different provider (like we did with Agoda), then just hand that over too.  As with the free transfer, you do NOT need to print these, the electronic copy is fine.

And that’s it.  As we got our passports stamped our very friendly immigration guy did try to upsell us to take a longer visa for Saudi Arabia but we’re just here on a short hop to explore Jeddah before heading to the Maldives.  I’m excited to visit Jeddah and see how we like it and if we want to explore more of the Kingdom in the future.

Your return transport and additional nights at the hotel are NOT covered for free, but just book additional hotel nights with Saudia Holidays, Agoda, or Booking.com and it’s really easy.  And as for your transport back from Jeddah to the airport?  I’ve covered that here.

FAQS about the Saudi Transit Visa

This was honestly a relatively daunting process.  If you check out the Tripadvisor forums for people asking for information you’re likely to think that it’s way too difficult and that the deals aren’t actually real.  However.  It is real.  The process is simple, so long as you follow it and we had a great time.  Here are the answers to the questions we had about the Saudi Transit Visa.

Is the Saudi Transit Visa free?

Yes, kind of.  There is a cost of (for us £43.70 in total for both transit visas), which was detailed on our application as an admin fee.  So I guess it qualifies as free, but with an admin fee.  However, compared to the previous costs we’d been quoted for Saudi Arabia visas (around US$200 each) we thought this was a great deal.  With visas, you should always check with the issuing authority for the current pricing.

Where do you book your free hotel with Saudia?

Once you’ve booked and paid for your flight, you can book your free stopover hotel at this address https://holidaysbysaudia.com/en-US/dynamicflow/pnrbased

Can I book a hotel in Makkah with the Saudi Transit Visa?

The hotels that are available for Jeddah are in Jeddah.  There is a separate section of the transit visa option if you are heading to Saudi to perform Umrah – and you can find all the details here.  That will clarify if the hotels in Makkah are available for the free transit option.

I have already booked my flights can I get a free transit visa?

No.  The free transit visa option is only (currently) available if you book the flight and apply for the visa at the time of the flight booking.

Is the transit visa the same as the stopover visa?

Yes.  You’ll see the transit visa termed the stopover visa on the Saudia Airlines website.  There’s more here

How long can you stay in Saudi Arabia on a transit visa?

The Saudi Arabian transit visa is valid for a maximum of 96 hours. 

Travel Tips for Saudi Arabia

Final Words on Our Saudi Transit Visa Experience

I must admit I was skeptical when we first looked at this.  The reviews I’d read about the Saudi Transit visa and the free hotel night and transfers were not good.  I didn’t expect that any of it would be free and that it would all be difficult.  However, our booking process was easy, the visa application was quick and simple.  The free transfer from the airport was easy (once we figured out where they were) and the folks at the Crown Town Hotel (and in Jeddah as a whole) were fabulously friendly.  Of course, it also helped that the flights in and out of Jeddah were also a great experience.

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