Saudi Arabia Moves To Reduce International Travel Restrictions

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Starting Tuesday, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be partially lifting international flight suspensions. Unfortunately, this is only a partial lifting but should go a long way in helping the country to resume its economic activities. With travel resuming only for ‘exceptional categories,’ the list is relatively broad and will be good news for the country’s airlines.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia suspended all international flights in March in an attempt to mitigate the spread of disease. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Only a partial lifting of restrictions for now

It’s been a long six months since travel restrictions were imposed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Now, the country is moving to ease those restrictions ever so slightly.

According to Gulf Today, special categories include the following:

  • Public and military sector employees
  • Diplomats and their families,
  • Those working for public or non-profit private sector jobs abroad,
  • Business people,
  • Patients who need treatment abroad,
  • Those studying abroad,
  • Humanitarian cases,
  • Sports teams.

Additionally, GCC citizens (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar*) and non-Saudi residents with valid residency or visitors’ visas will be allowed to enter the Kingdom as of September 15th upon proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

*We should note that with the long, ongoing Qatar blockade still active, Qatari nationals may not be included.

Flynas First Airbus A320neo
Flynas is another Saudi Arabian airline focused on low-cost operations. Photo: Airbus

All travel restrictions set to end January 2021

Sources also report that a Saudi Interior Ministry official has announced the country will scrap all travel restrictions on air, land, and sea transport on January 1st, 2021.

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In March, the Kingdom suspended international flights, including transit traffic, to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. At the time of writing, over 325,000 cases of the virus have been recorded in the country. In the past week, Saudi Arabia has still been experiencing new daily case counts in the hundreds – ranging between 800 and 600. Since late August, however, cases have been on a steady decline despite remaining reasonably high.

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Saudi Arabian airports are significantly quieter due to the country’s travel restrictions. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Restarting the economy

Despite the country using the term ‘exceptional categories,’ the list is fairly comprehensive. This is especially true when considering the term ‘businessmen.’ The easing of restrictions should give Saudi Arabia a decent boost to its economy, which has been hampered by international travel restrictions. It looks like many of the special categories listed will greatly benefit Saudi citizens who need to conduct business or continue education outside of the country.

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Perhaps the most significant category that has been excluded, for now, is tourism – something that is still relatively new for the Kingdom. Thus, it may not be a massive loss if tourism continues to be restricted – although this pandemic as a whole has undoubtedly killed off any momentum the country had in selling itself to international tourists.

What do you think of Saudi Arabia’s relaxation of certain travel restrictions? Is the ‘exceptional cases’ far too broad to effectively contain the virus? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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