The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage announced in early October 2019 that single women can rent hotel rooms by themselves in the Kingdom. The new rule applies to both local and foreign women.
This move well fits within the Saudi government’s efforts to make the Kingdom a more modern and open country. It not only allows greater freedom to its female citizens but also shows the intention to welcome foreign citizens who may wish to visit Saudi Arabia for tourism of business purposes.
For the first time in history, the Kingdom has also recently implemented a new electronic visa system that allows foreign nationals to obtain a travel permit for Saudia Arabia online in minutes. Thanks to the visa application, tourists will can visit the Kingdom without requesting special permission to a Saudi embassy or consulate.
Can Women Stay at Hotels Alone in Saudi Arabia?
Until now, women were required to have a male guardian when booking a hotel room or other accommodation in Saudi Arabia. The guardian would usually be the spouse or a member of their family.
Saudi women were asked to present their family register as proof of identity as they checked in while foreigners could just provide their passport.
This has radically changed with the new announcement. Now, women can book and stay at a hotel alone without the help and permission of a male guardian.
As reported by Arabic-language newspaper Okaz, the Commission for Tourism and National Heritage stated:
“All women, including Saudis, can book and stay in hotels alone, providing ID on check-in.”
Can Unmarried Couples Stay in a Hotel in Saudi Arabia?
Saudi was known for not allowing men and women to share a hotel room unless they were married or could prove close family relations. Of course, this could cause foreign unmarried couples to change their travel plans and choose another holiday destination.
The Commission confirmed that now, foreign unmarried couples can share a room in Saudi Arabia without having to provide evidence that they are related. This is still not the case for Saudi couples.
The commission said: “All Saudi nationals are asked to show family ID or proof of relationship on checking into hotels. This is not required of foreign tourists.”
Is Tourism Allowed in Saudi Arabia?
As it’s the case with most Middle Eastern societies, Saudi people are welcoming and gracious hosts. Saudi Arabia is also a proudly traditional society where a lot of importance is given to religious values.
That’s why the Kingdom has been for a long time considered a conservative country, difficult to get into if one wasn’t traveling for religious or business purposes. In general, foreign nationals were not especially encouraged to visit the country except for pilgrims reaching Mecca and Medina.
However, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and the Saudi government recently prioritized a series of social and economic reforms that are opening the Kingdom to the rest of the world.
The new Saudi eVisa, permission to Saudi women to drive, the introduction of smart technology to facilitate the pilgrimage to Mecca are all innovations that are meant to boost international relations and tourism and modernize the country.
The new regulations on hotel bookings follow suit. By allowing single female travelers to organize their own accommodation in the country, Saudi Arabia is opening itself up to new types of tourism.
Although conservative laws still apply (for example, selling alcohol and pornography is forbidden and it’s not advisable to be seen intoxicated in public), the Kingdom is increasingly more relaxed with foreigners.
For example, a conservative dress code is still recommended. But foreign women are not expected to wear religious clothing and cover their hair while in public at all times. Keeping cleavage, shoulders, and knees out of sight is enough in most places (exceptions being, for example, Mosques and other religious sites).