Women over 25 won’t need a guardian, but they will need to be part of a tour group.

Saudi Arabia is changing at a rapid pace these days. Come June, women will be allowed to drive in the kingdom, and sporting events for women are on the rise. Just this week, the first Saudi squash tournament for women was held.

And now, those of us outside the kingdom are going to find it much easier to see all this first hand.

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Details are emerging on how tourist visas to Saudi Arabia will work, as the kingdom opens itself up to international visitors. The visas are expected to come into effect in the first quarter of 2018.

Previously, we reported via Arab News that women over 25 would be able to visit the country without a chaperone. Now, it’s come out via Gulf Business that while that’s true, those women will need to be travelling as part of a licensed tour group.

Those tour organisers will be responsible for briefing visitors on Saudi law and culture, as well as supervising their time in the country. Full plans must be submitted ahead of time, Gulf Business reports.

Women under 25 will still need to be accompanied by a male guardian.

“The tourist visa will be a single-entry visa, and valid for 30 days maximum,”Saudi Commission of Tourism and National Heritage licensing director-general Omar Al-Mubarak told Arab News.

“This visa is added to those currently available in the Kingdom. It is independent of work, visit, Hajj and Umrah visas.”

Regulations surrounding the new visas are finalised, Al-Mubarak continued, explaining that work on an electronic administration system is under way.

These changes come as part of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s ambitious post-oil economy plan which hopes to increase participation of women in the workforce and diversify the country’s industries.

The initiative, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, aims to make Saudi a more modern, tourist-friendly destination.

The crown prince is also behind an initiative to turn 200 kilometres of the country’s Red Sea coast into a series of luxury retreats.

We’ll keep you informed as things develop.

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Images: Getty