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Saudi Arabia starts issuing free stopover visa to Indians

Saudi Arabia's stopover visa for Indian citizens is valid for three months and is free of cost Reuters/Ahmed Yosri
Saudi Arabia's stopover visa for Indian citizens is valid for three months and is free of cost

Saudi Arabia has started offering a 96-hour free visa to Indian citizens to help reach its newly set target of 150 million tourists by 2030.

The stopover programme provides a four-day free visa to individuals traveling through Saudia or Flynas airlines.

Additionally, travellers holding a US, UK or Schengen visa are eligible for an e-visa or visa on arrival, Times of India newspaper reported, citing Alhasan Aldabbagh, president, Asia Pacific, Saudi Tourism Authority.

“India is a priority market for Saudi. Last year alone, we welcomed 1.5 million visitors from India, presenting a 50 percent growth. We aim to attract 7.5 million visitors from India to Saudi Arabia as part of our vision for 2030,” he added.

Saudi Arabia has set up 10 visa offices in India, with plans for further expansion in the upcoming year. 

The stopover visa is valid for three months and is is free of charge, enabling applicants to apply up to 90 days before their intended travel dates.  

Saudi Arabia hosted more than 100 million tourists last year, who collectively spent SAR100 billion ($26.7 billion), tourism minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb said last month.

The total was made up of 77 million domestic and 27 million international tourists, the minister told the second edition of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) private sector forum.

Saudi Arabia, a once-closed country, has reformed its visa system since 2019 as part of a vast programme of social and economic reforms designed to diversify the economy away from reliance on oil revenue, create jobs and bring foreign investment. 

In January, the government advised people to return to wearing masks in crowded public places after the spread of a new Covid-19 variant, but said there was no cause for concern.

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