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Saudi Arabia Lifts Ban On International Flights

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At a time when several countries around the world are imposing or extending flight bans, Saudi Arabia is to lift its ban on international flights starting on March 31, 2021

The decision to lift the ban, which saw Saudi citizens unable to leave the country and foreigners unable to enter, is one that will be watched with a keen eye around the world, as governments bide their time and wait for the safest opportunity to take action. Here’s the latest on the removal of the travel ban, and what the decision might mean for international travel in the near future.

saudi arabia desert sand dunes

What Should Travelers Know About the Lifting of the Ban?

Saudi Arabia was amongst the first wave of countries that had started to ban entry from abroad on December 21st. The decision to do so was taken following the discovery of the rapidly-spreading strain of the virus that was responsible for the dramatic rise of case numbers in the UK.

Rather than banning just the UK and South Africa, as many countries did initially, Saudi Arabia instead opted for a blanket ban on entry from all countries, and closed down both land border crossing points and seaports in addition to air travel.

On Friday, January 8th, the Saudi Press Agency revealed the news that the country was to lift its temporary ban on land, sea and air travel from March 31st.

From this date, Saudi citizens will be permitted to travel abroad once more, whilst business travelers from foreign countries may be permitted to enter Saudi Arabia for the first time since entry was forbidden. The decision was made following a drop in the number of cases of Covid-19 in the country, which has seen a steady decline since they were at their worst in June.

The announcement does not include the resumption of tourist visas.
mecca hajj saudi arabia

How Have Travelers Welcomed the News?

Travel companies in Saudi Arabia have reported a flurry of activity both online and through other channels, as Saudi travelers look to explore once more. Al-Maha United Travel, a travel company based in Jeddah, spoke about their difficulties during the pandemic, and reported that there was a high demand for trips to Dubai, London and the United States.

saudi arabia flag

However, there has also been some concern. Flights prices have seen significant increases, whilst some travelers were wary of booking tickets without the guarantee of entry to their destination, with many countries around the world either closed to visitors or having strict entry requirements. With many destinations requiring a period in quarantine or a experiencing a lockdown, some in Saudi Arabia are waiting until they have a clearer picture of travel in 2021 before booking a trip.

malaysia asian muslim family airport travel

What Might This Mean For Travel?

With many countries around the world taking the opposite measures, Saudi Arabia’s decision to lift its travel restrictions is bound to be welcomed by the traveling community. The borders will officially be open for both Saudis and business travelers. 

Whilst it is too early and unsafe for all countries to lift their restrictions, it is a decision that will be followed closely by countries that have similar levels of cases and success when it comes to stopping the spread of the virus. A successful number of flights to and from Saudi Arabia may inspire such countries to adopt similar measures, and make travel in 2021 a reality, rather than a dream.

traveler wearing mask looking at airport board

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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories


Sunday 10th of January 2021

Saudi Arabia did close it's borders in late December for two additional weeks (after a limited reopening in mid September with a promise to open fully on January 1st). After the first week they allowed foreigners who were in Saudi to exit the Kingdom and then on January 3rd they reopened borders to foreigners both entering and exiting. Remember Saudi is a country with a large percentage of foreign workers (over 30%) who are residents but not citizens there. And many have been stuck outside of Saudi since early 2020. The March 31st day quoted above is specifically for citizens to once again travel both in and out of the Kingdom. And this will likely include tourism as well but as we've already seen many times, things change. It is also notable that Saudi is only requiring a 3 day quarantine period (and PCR test) which is far below the norm so it is highly likely that case numbers will drastically increase again.