QUOTE(heatheravan @ Feb 16 2011, 02:15 AM)
Does anyone know the latest deal on getting into Saudi? My Questions are:
1. Apparently a Visa is only issued for tour groups or transit. Any ideas as to who conducts tours into Saudi? budget minded.
2. Can a local guide act as a tour guide? if so anyone have contacts?
3. If using a transit visa can you enter and leave from the same country? We would be comming from UAE where our daughter is a resident and will accompany us?
Any help appreciated. Cheers
KSA halted inbound non-Muslim tourism sometime in 2010. I was there in early 2010, and heard about the ban in September. I emailed our tour guide, and he couldn't say much about it. I just emailed him again to get the latest update, and will post here when I get his response.
Only tourist companies authorized by the Saudi government are allowed to send tourists. Tours have to be government sanctioned, and they MUST be group tours. We had police convoys escorting us from city to city. I used Bestway Tours and Safari. Tours start at around $4500 per person. All others I've seen are in the $7000 to $12000 range. All tours have some minimum people required, like 7 people, or its no-go.
Saudi tour guides are Saudi government approved. They will choose the guide for your tour. Of course, I was so happy that we got a real Saudi citizen to be our guide.
From Lonely Planet Thorntree, I heard that a transit visa is impossible unless you have a dire need to go through the kingdom and have no other option. So, even if you go from UAE to, say Kuwait, you cannot, unless you have some emergency reason.
Saudi Arabia is one of the hardest countries to get into. Tourism, in the popular sense, is in an experimental phase. There are no budget tours there, unless it's for expat workers. The Saudi government needs your tour fully monitored and escorted, have security, etc, etc. Remember, the Saudi government is paranoid about your presence and safety. All the tour companies need a minimum number of poeple to make it profitable, and the tour prices are astronomical. It took me a few years to find a tour that had enough people. I remember an Australian tour company that tried to sell a Saudi tour, but not enough people wanted to go.