Saudi Arabia to offer tourist visas for the first time

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Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has announced that it will allow unmarried foreign couples to rent hotel rooms together as the ultraconservative kingdom begins offering up tourist visas for the first time.

The tourism authority said in a statement that Saudi women travelling alone would also be able to check into a hotel by presenting valid ID.

In the past, couples wanting to stay in a hotel had to prove they were married.

Saudi Arabia announced on September 27 it was opening its doors to holidaymakers with the goal of diversifying its oil-dependent economy

The kingdom had previously only issued visas to Muslim pilgrims, foreign workers, and recently to spectators at sporting or cultural events.

Kick starting tourism is one of the centerpieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.

Citizens from 49 countries are now eligible for online e-visas or visas on arrival, including the United States, Australia and several European nations.

On September 28, Saudi authorities warned that tourists who violated “public decency”, including with immodest clothing and public displays of affection, would be subject to fines.