Saudi Arabia - Facts

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  • Saudi Arabia is a very conservative Muslim country, historically difficult to visit by foreigners, except Muslims on a pilgrimage to Mecca. In order to preserve religious purity, tourism was actively discouraged.
  • On the 1st April 2018, Saudi Arabia announced they were going to start issuing tourist visas as well as increased investment in a bid to welcome 30 million tourists annually by 2030. Restrictions have eased, an e-visa can now be obtained online and women over the age of 25 can travel alone to Saudi.
  • In recent years, restrictions for cruising yachts have eased somewhat and fees, although still high, have reduced. See Formalities for more details.
  • Yachts which have been forced to call at a Saudi port in an emergency have been treated courteously, once the authorities have ascertained that the stop has been caused by a genuine emergency.
  • Many areas of the Gulf are highly sensitive, including near maritime boundaries and the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in the southern Gulf. Vessels entering these areas have been detained and inspected; there have been occasional arrests. Mariners should make careful inquiries as to allowed areas before commencing cruising here.
  • Repair facilities and provisioning are best at Mira’ al Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s main port.

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Saudi Arabia was last updated 11 months ago.

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  1. June 13, 2023 at 5:28 AM
    Patrick Catellani says:

    Sailboat Tabata III – 24mt ketch – 5 crew members
    We are sailing around the world diving with sharks to film them and Saudi Arabia is a good place to dive with these animals. We took the opportunity to go now that the country is opening up, but not yet congested with mass tourism. We are sailing the Red Sea in a northbound direction. We had planned to go to Sudan, but unfortunately we have to skip it due to recent events so we decided to go straight to the Mediterranean and we are on our way right now.

    Long before entering Saudi Arabia, you need to submit your entry application through the EBHAR Portal: https://ebhar.naql.sa/Ebhar_Portal/. The system is not working very well yet, so it’s best to start uploading your data at least three weeks in advance entering the country. Through the portal you can also appoint an agent.
    Once you appoint an agent through EBHAR, your agent will ask you to indicate what services you are requesting. In our case we requested support for the clearance procedure, navigation permit (last 6 months) and sailing permit (last 14 days). In Saudi Arabia there are two different types of permits: The navigation permit is a document that entitles you to stay in Saudi Arabian waters but you cannot navigate in domestic waters, while the sailing permit allows you to navigate in domestic waters but only in certain areas. The areas you can navigate to are listed in the EBHAR portal and you need to select them from the portal map. Note that locations names on EBHAR portal and on charts often differ.

    As an agency we chose FAISAL HIGGI. I feel that agencies in Saudi Arabia are not ready to handle private yachts properly because they don’t understand the needs of the crews. Time is irrelevant to them, they answer questions ambiguously and don’t explain procedures clearly. Everything is loose, uncertain and disorganized when dealing with agents.

    We completed the entry formalities at the Jeddah Yacht Club (JYC – VHF channel 17) and the Immigration counters are located in the same area. Customs officers will inspect the boat in person. JYC marina staff are very welcoming, professional and efficient. It is a pity that Jeddah Yacht Club marina does not offer agency service because their staff is highly trained and qualified.

    Jeddah Yacht Club is a very modern small marina now almost completed and has a fantastic staff! There are many restaurants but no shops to buy groceries: it takes 15 minutes by car to get to the nearest supermarket. Uber is the most practical way to get around. Although the entry procedures are very complicated (I am referring to this EBHAR online platform) I think Jeddah is a much better stopover and refueling option than Djibouti because the boat can dock at a nice marina, supermarkets are big , modern and every type of food is available (except alcohol and pork of course), it’s easier to find spare parts and overall the place is very clean and the people are extremely welcoming and polite.

    Unfortunately at the time we were there (June 2023) the marina fuel station was still under construction so refueling was a difficult task.

    Fuel at the petrol station outside the marina is approx. 0.25USD/liter but to foreign boats it is sold, through the agent, at 1.10USD/liter. Since there is no fuel station at JYC yet, if you need to refuel you must notify your agent well in advance otherwise you may be stuck in the marina for many days waiting. Cost: For the marina we received a very special rate of approx. 85 USD/day including water and electricity. We paid the agency $2,300 for handling fees and $2,645 for Visa’s. As a foreign boat you cannot buy fuel at the same price as the locals – we paid 1.2 USD/liter for petrol and 1.1 USD/liter for diesel. It is not allowed to buy fuel on your own at the gas station and you need to contact the agency for organize refueling.

    We arrived in Jeddah on 25th of May and departed on 10th of June. We spent a total of 17 days there, 10 of which were diving between Jeddah and Yanbu reefs. It is forbidden to enter the areas north of Yanbu due to the three mega-projects currently under construction along the coast line (Nemo, Amaala and Red Sea Project) which are scattered between Yanbu and Aqaba Gulf. We did not travel inland but only visited the old city of Jeddah as it is now the hot season and it is extremely muggy and humid walking around the streets. We spent most of the time diving and I have to say the place is amazing. Unfortunately the anchorages are very deep and poorly protected so we often spent our nights rolling and bumping hoping the anchor would hold.

    Getting Around: We have found that UBER works very well. There are many department stores nearby where you can buy excellent food products.

  2. January 22, 2015 at 3:56 PM
    Data Entry5 says:

    Posted on behalf of SY Tamarisk:
    Saudi Arabia – if heading for the Gulf of Aqaba, it is impossible to pass without entering Saudi waters. Use the main shipping channel at the gulf entrance, not the protected route behind the Saudi Islands, otherwise yachts will be stopped and detained by Saudi coast guard (clueless ones).