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Some middle east countries

Travel Forums Africa and The Middle East Some middle east countries

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1. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5596 posts) 10y

hi there,

I was just wondering if anyone travelled around in some more remote middle east countries, like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or Bahrain. Did you get a visa without hassling to much, are the people friendly, is it expensive and stuff. Any experience is welcome.

Thanks, Michael.

2. Posted by wouterrr (Travel Guru 3379 posts) 10y

I went to Iran 3 years ago. Its not easy to get in there. You need to apply for the visa at least 5 weeks before. It has to go with an invitation letter (which basically means spending two nights in a midrange hotel in Tehran). The people in Iran are extremely friendly and I can't count the times I was invited in their homes. Its a great country for travelling. Public transport is very good and extremely cheap. A 600 km bustrip costed me around 2 euro's. Hotels and restaurants are pretty cheap too. Don't expect high class but its OK.

3. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5596 posts) 10y

Quoting wouterrr

I went to Iran 3 years ago. Its not easy to get in there. You need to apply for the visa at least 5 weeks before. It has to go with an invitation letter (which basically means spending two nights in a midrange hotel in Tehran). The people in Iran are extremely friendly and I can't count the times I was invited in their homes. Its a great country for travelling. Public transport is very good and extremely cheap. A 600 km bustrip costed me around 2 euro's. Hotels and restaurants are pretty cheap too. Don't expect high class but its OK.

Thanks Wouter...unfortunately we have the same discussion as somewhere else..is Iran the middle east? Officially it's not i think, but it doesn't matter
I heard that now your granted a 7 day visa upon arrival at the Teheran airport. But what can you see in 7 days right?

[ Edit: Edited at Sep 3, 2006 11:27 PM by Utrecht ]

4. Posted by Taffski (Travel Guru 182 posts) 10y

Hi Michael,
I have lived, went to school and worked in the middle east for about 8 years over the past 30 years or so in total.
Some places have changed incredibly over this period, while others hardly at all! No surprise... tends to coincide with whether they've got oil or not.

here's a synopsis.

Kuwait - Visa Easy - Expensive - Nothing there - friendly
Bahrain - Visa Easy - Expensive - a race track - friendly
Saudi - Visa a bit harder - expensive in Rihyad - a lot of sand but some good places (try a visit to Mecca!) - relatively friendly (sort of...)
Also
Jordan - Visa easy - inexpensive - Loads of history - very friendly (the Kings mum was british!)
Syria - Visa a bit harder - cheap - loads and loads of history - relatively friendly... unfortunately, less so in recent years.
Oman - Visa Easy - cheap - a bit of history - friendly.
Yemen - Visa harder - cheapest - plenty to see - friendly(ish)

hope this helps a bit.
cheers
Taffski.

5. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5596 posts) 10y

Quoting Taffski

Hi Michael,
I have lived, went to school and worked in the middle east for about 8 years over the past 30 years or so in total.
Some places have changed incredibly over this period, while others hardly at all! No surprise... tends to coincide with whether they've got oil or not.

here's a synopsis.

Kuwait - Visa Easy - Expensive - Nothing there - friendly
Bahrain - Visa Easy - Expensive - a race track - friendly
Saudi - Visa a bit harder - expensive in Rihyad - a lot of sand but some good places (try a visit to Mecca!) - relatively friendly (sort of...)
Also
Jordan - Visa easy - inexpensive - Loads of history - very friendly (the Kings mum was british!)
Syria - Visa a bit harder - cheap - loads and loads of history - relatively friendly... unfortunately, less so in recent years.
Oman - Visa Easy - cheap - a bit of history - friendly.
Yemen - Visa harder - cheapest - plenty to see - friendly(ish)

hope this helps a bit.
cheers
Taffski.

Thanks, great answer by the way.
So Saudi visa is 'a bit harder', but not impossible for tourists? I've read that it's becoming easier, but still don't know how to apply for one.

6. Posted by Taffski (Travel Guru 182 posts) 10y

Hi Michael,

here's the low down on Suadi :

Everyone who enters the Kingdom should have a valid passport with at least 6 months validity and the appropriate visa.
Unless you are a visitor from a GCC country (aka an Arab state) or in transit, all other nationalities require a visa to enter the Kingdom. Visas can be for business, tourist, transit, residency, family, Hajj, or conference attendance.

Visas can be obtained from the visa department in the Saudi Embassy of the visitor's home country or from Saudi Consulates available in all main cities around the world. (Which means you can get one in UAE, Jordan etc. if you fancy?)

The cost of a visa is generally 200 Saudi Riyals. However, visitors should check with the Saudi Embassy or Consulate

You must have a return ticket.

Go for a walk to the Embassy and see what they have to say. They normally love it when us infidels arrive there asking to visit :)

As for Mecca... it's now really, really hard to get there if you're a non-muslim. However, like everywhere in the Middle east, a little Bakshish (or backhander to you and I) can normally circumvent it. I got in with a load of guys I was working with who were all Muslim amd I lied and said I was thinking of converting (they told me the right things to say)
I was only pulled up the once though on the entry to the city.
You need your Docs on you at all times.
Forget booze or any other rectrationals
(However.... there is a silver lining to this cloud as you can get and chew Chatt (not sure how to spell it!) but it's basically like chewing tobacco but it gets you a little bit high (like Marjiauana).... or so I've been told ;)

7. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 10y

Quoting Utrecht

Iran the middle east? Officially it's not i think, but it doesn't matter
I heard that now your granted a 7 day visa upon arrival at the Teheran airport. But what can you see in 7 days right?

Shiraz, Isfahan and Teheran. I just got back from my trip to Iran and Turkey. I had a 7 day visa upon arrival. I got to Shiraz with a local Iran Air flight, leaving from Tehran Mehrabad domestic terminal a few hours after I arrived at the International terminal. I then made my way back up north using night buses and the train and finally crossed the border to Turkey. I agree that in a country that size you can't see much in 7 days. Unfortunately I had only 18 days for both countries. But I intend to go back to Iran and explore the country more fully on a 30 or 60 day visa. It was so great there!

BTW, the security situation in Yemen is see-sawing. If you cannot pass for a local by your looks and your language skills, you run the risk of being abducted by in the tribal areas. The bans on foreigners going to certain places have been enforced and lifted several times over the last 10 years or so. Check the situation with your embassy before you visit Yemen. Syria has this thing with Israel and during this latest bout of violence there was fear of all-out war between Isreal, Lebanon and Syria. So it is necessary to be aware what is happening in the region when you travel in the area.

Iraq: apparently it is possible to visit Northern Iraq. There are direct flights to certain cities in Northern Iraq from Europe. IIRC, one TP member has travelled to Northern Iraq, so look him up.

[ Edit: Edited at Sep 6, 2006 12:47 PM by t_maia ]

8. Posted by dwalker66 (Full Member 210 posts) 10y

A really easy contry to visit, where you see history and culture is the Oman. Flights into Muscat are cheaper now and there are some great places to stay for a few says........ www.omandivecenter.com if you wanted to do some diving. You could head off to Salala, fantastic place (avoid just after ramadan as many try to go there for a few days during the eid breaks).

Bahrain, great to live but would suspect dull to visit.

Jordan a great place - Amman dull, Petra fab and the Desert just south of Petra a great place to see and camp.

Syria amazing, Krak de Chevallie (SP) fantastic, you can just see the lebanese boarder form here, Damascus very friendly (unless you have an american accesnt) and cheap to get about.

UAE, glitz and glamour and good duty free.

Yemen - amazing, need a good guide though.

Qatar - bigger construction site than Dubai.

Saudi, interesting, but restricted for "fun" and not really that interesting unless you want to see "just sand" and a few cities.

Lebanon, avoid for now, but do it!

Iran - fantastic - go skiing - we did!

Few tops I guess if you have specific questions - just ask!

9. Posted by hina (Budding Member 7 posts) 10y

you should see TURKEY, i am exactly sure you do not regret your vacation

10. Posted by jekalo (Full Member 118 posts) 10y

Jordan is a great place to visit, historic, scenic and friendly. Swimming (floating) in the dead sea is a hoot. Inexpensive by local bus to travel from one end to the other. Good diving spots in the Red Sea.
Saudi is a country of contrast although most people don't get past the sand and desert. The drive from Jordan down the coastline has some impressive scenery, reminds me of monument valley in the U.S., the southwest part of Saudi contains the Asir mountains and also a gateway to the empty quarter where there is nothing but huge sand dunes stretching out forever it seems. Great diving in the Farasan islands. Abha is the major city in the south and is a resort area frequented by Saudis because of its cool weather, altitude and scenery. Generaly good roads, cheap gas and friendly, curious people make it fairly easy to get around. Visas can be difficult to get for Saudi. Visas to Yemen are easier and can sometimes be obtained at the border crossings and sometimes not. Depends on who is working that day and whether they have had a good day or not. They can be flexible, we talked a coast gaurd official into lifting a ban on ferry crossings between the islands and mainland so that we could make it back in time to get back to work the next day. The crossing was closed due to high seas but we found a small boat operator who was willing if we could get permission and with persistance and humor we convinced him to let us attempt the passage. Yemen is much the same except if you cross in your own vehicle they may require an escort to travel with you which can be both good and bad. Again it depends on what the situation is at that moment in the tribal areas. It is worth the try. Much of the traditional mud houses are being replaced by cinder block and plaster so the sooner you go the better if you want to see the traditional way of life.
The countries on the east side of Saudi are all getting to be to modern to be of much interest to me except for shopping.