Men and women—beware!
While Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) offers one of the best rates for travels to Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, it’s not as straightforward as it seems when booking with this airline. Back in 2015, I was lucky to find a 500 Euro round trip Manila-Rome-Manila flight. With 46 kilos of check-in luggage and 15 kilos of carry-on free allowance for all economy class passengers, I couldn’t ask for more with the package!
However, one most important thing to consider is layover time in Dammam, Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s port cities and the country’s gateways for all flights.
As you may know, transit travellers can only stay on any Saudi Arabian airport for less than 12 hours; any more and you have to apply for a transit visa. This is impractical for two reasons if you do not plan to visit the country:
- Transit visa application takes a long, and far-from-straightforward process:
- You have to register online via Enjaz, the official site for initial visa applications. When you check the site, you will be presented with a Windows 95 version of the software; therefore, you have to reduce all your file sizes to up to 18 kilobytes ONLY (yes, you read it right). The website also works on Internet Explorer only—Firefox, Mozilla, Chrome and Safari are all blocked.
- Print out the visa application form.
- Mail your application form, together with required documents as stipulated on Enjaz, to the Saudi Arabian embassy in your country. It is highly advisable to personally drop your documents at the embassy because of a reason stated on the next step.
- Visit the embassy to pick up the visa. The embassy will not contact you once your visa is ready for pick-up so make sure you ask the person at the counter for an estimate.
- If you are an unmarried (doesn’t matter if you are in a domestic partnership) or single woman, you have no chance of applying for a transit visa or any other Saudi Arabian visa; unless, you travel with your father, grandfather, first-degree uncle or brother. This means, if you get a layover in Saudi Arabia for more than 12 hours, you will not be allowed to go onwards with your journey, and will be forced to buy another ticket as you have to leave the airport immediately.
Sounds sad, isn’t it? But as we cross borders, we have to respect traditions even if we don’t totally get it and agree with it.
This post is then to give some word of caution for travellers looking into having a layover on Saudi Arabian soil, or have found affordable flights through Saudia. Don’t get me wrong, Saudia is a good airline to fly with; but save yourself the hassle of missing your entire flight just because of transit time requirements.
Remember, less than 12 hours. That’s all the information you need when booking a flight with a Dammam, Jeddah, or Riyadh layover 🙂
For more info on Saudia’s flight rules and Saudi Arabia’s visa rules, specifically for Hajj and Umrah travellers, check here.