Revealed: how Indians can visit Saudi Arabia despite travel ban

Travel services firms are offering passengers the option to travel via the UAE at an extra cost following Saudi ban on flights from India

Travel plans to Indian passengers to Saudi Arabia are offered by travel service agencies across India, the demand is muted because of the high costs and lengthy quarantine periods involved.

The Saudi ban on flights from India may be still in force but travel services firms are offering Indian passengers an option to fly via the UAE.

According to airline industry sources, companies, scenting a fast business opportunity, have come up with packages offering visa and quarantine period stay services in the UAE to Indian passengers’ en-route to Saudi Arabia.

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Saudi Arabia has banned flights from India from the last week of September in light of the surging coronavirus cases in the South Asian country.

Dubai, which has started issuing tourist visas, stipulated 14-day quarantine for tourists.

The packages offered, starting from $470 per person, vary depending on the type of accommodation and facilities. This will be in addition to the ticket costs and visa charges.

“Though we have different packages, our basic package will cost about $672 per person for a shared accommodation and UAE visa cost,” Vipin Chandra, a senior manager with Cochin-based Intersight Tours & Travels, told Arabian Business.

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“We offer mainly Dubai routes to passengers to Saudi Arabia as the city has more stay options which make rates competitive,” Chandra added.

Industry sources said that although the travel plans to Indian passengers to Saudi Arabia are offered by travel service agencies across India, the demand is muted because of the high costs and lengthy quarantine periods involved.

“Only those who have to undertake emergency travels are opting for this,” Chandra said.

While flights from India are banned, the Saudi civil aviation authorities have allowed repatriation flights to India from the kingdom to operate.

India’s national carrier Air India and its sister airline Air India Express, besides private carrier IndiGo, have been operating repatriation flights – also called Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) flights – from Saudi Arabia.

“Our flights carry passengers from Saudi Arabia only and the flights to Saudi carry only cargo in the hold,” a senior official of Air India Express told Arabian Business.

The official also said there was still very high demand for travel to India and that their flights are operating at more than 90 percent capacity.

Travel industry sources said the high demand for travel to India, especially by those who have to return because of job losses, have led to an increase in the air fare also on the Saudi-India route.

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