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Saudi Arabia: Unmarried foreign couples can now rent hotel rooms



  Saudi man walks past renovated buildings in the historic city of Diriya Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Saudi Arabia seeks to soften its image in the eyes of tourists

Unmarried foreign couples will now be allowed to rent hotel rooms in Saudi Arabia as part of a new visa regime declared by the religious-conservative kingdom.

Women will also be allowed to stay in hotel rooms alone.

Couples previously had to prove they were married before getting a hotel room.

The governmental move comes amid efforts by Saudi Arabia to develop its tourism industry.

What are the new changes?

Previously, couples had to provide proof of marriage, but now these rules have been relaxed for foreigners.

"All citizens of the Saudi Republic are invited to show family ID or confirmation of hotel registration", ̵

1; said the Saudi Commission on Tourism and National Heritage.

"This is not required for foreign tourists. All women, including Saudis, can book and stay at hotels alone, providing ID upon check-in."

A new visa regulation specifies that women tourists do not need to be completely covered, but are still expected to dress modestly.

Alcohol remains prohibited.

What's the change?

Saudi Arabia, long regarded as one of the harshest places on earth, seeks to soften its image in the eyes of foreign tourists and investors.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently made significant changes to the ultra-conservative kingdom.

  • Saudi Arabia allows women to travel alone

Among them is the suspension of the ban on female drivers and allowing women to travel abroad without the permission of a male guardian.

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Media headline Saudi women have gone on the road

But these changes have been overshadowed by very controversial issues, including the murder of journalist Jamal Hashoggi.

Simon Calder, senior travel editor at The Independent, said that visa waivers are likely to increase the number of people traveling to the kingdom.

"The rapid simplification of visa bureaucracy should lead to an immediate increase in the number of visitors – at first, I think, among those interested in the Arab world and its heritage," he told the BBC.


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