This trip hasn’t even started yet, and the obstacle courses have already been set up. I received a call at around 1pm yesterday from Saudi Arabia Airlines notifying me that I needed a VISA for one of my layovers. Apparently if you have more than one layover within Saudi Arabia and/or if the layover is more than twelve hours long, travelers need to obtain a Saudi Arabian VISA. I was, of course, in a panic seeing as that my flight to Dubai was the very next day! I booked my flight over three months ago, why are they telling me the day before my trip that I need a VISA? I honestly thought I had to cancel my whole trip.
Shortly after I hung up, I contacted the travel agency who I booked my flight through and described my situation to them. They were very unsympathetic and charged me a hefty fee to cancel my flight that had two layovers with Saudi Air and book a new flight leaving the next day! Due to a number of reasons, I had to stick to my original travel dates as much as possible. I am meeting with several people that are doing disability advocacy work while I am in the Middle East (hereafter ME). I also already have several local flights booked once I get to the ME and it would be very expensive for me to cancel those flights. Moreover, all of my hostels are already booked for the various ME countries. What I’m trying to say is, it would’ve been very costly for me and unfair to the people I have been corresponding with to cancel everything.
I thought about just keeping my original itinerary, and hope that I catch some major luck with the Saudi immigration services. But I’m glad I didn’t, because one of the nicer and more proficient English speaker on the phone with me shared that she was once stuck at the airport for a few days because she didn’t have a VISA. Her parents had to gather some government documents to go to China and get her. I didn’t want to cause my parents all that trouble and I didn’t particularly care for being stuck at an airport, so booking another flight leaving the very next day it is.
I have traveled a great deal, but I’ve never encountered needing a VISA for layovers. I’ve definitely learned a hard and expensive lesson this time. Hopefully sharing this with you will help you avoid the stress and headache I went through.
Catch y’all in Dubai. I have a flight to catch.