When Saudia Airlines (formerly Saudi Arabian Airlines) offered an amazing $557 r/t deal from New York to Dubai via Jeddah last December, I jumped on it—but it was not because I had any desire to go to Dubai. Saudia is a member of SkyTeam and the fare was eligible for Delta Skymiles as well—almost 15,000. But that wasn’t the reason for my trip either. I also was not all that interested in actually flying Saudia—though it is always nice to try a new airline. No, the reason for this trip was two-fold, 1.) a desire to transit through Saudi Arabia and therefore see a bit of Saudi Arabia and 2.) as a means to position me to get to Afghanistan. As you’ll soon find out, the trip was a splendid success.
I found the great fare on Flyertalk and tried to book the ticket directly through Saudia’s site. Each time, though, no matter what credit card I used, my payment was rejected. I was concerned because I had grabbed the last seat in the cheap fare class and when I attempted to book the trip on orbitz.com, the fare had gone up. I had a feeling the space would quickly return to inventory and when I checked about an hour later, I was able to lock in the $557 fare on the flights I wanted, forcing in a 23-hour transit in Jeddah.
After booking a room at the Park Hyatt Jeddah, my next order of business was obtaining a transit visa to Saudi Arabia. Despite fear mongering across the net about how “impossible” this was, I had no trouble obtaining one from the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC. In part two of this report, I will outline specifically how I obtained one.
Then came Afghanistan. How would I get there? Should I just show up? Is it really that unsafe? The visa was no issue (you should have seen the look on the woman’s face at the Los Angeles consulate when I appeared in person to request a tourist visa!) and was issued in one day at a cost of $100. After some deliberation, I opted to hire a security detail in Kabul—a driver, armed guard, and guide—to eliminate the stress of playing tourist in a war zone. In retrospect, it probably was not necessary but I found that anyone who is someone in Afghanistan has his or her own driver and guard.
There were a few tense moments on the trip—a massive suicide bombing in Kabul the day before I arrived and literally about a dozen security checks to get from the street to Kabul International Airport—but wait till you hear about my adventure—it was a great trip.
Read more of my Saudi Arabia + Afghanistan Trip Report–
Introduction: A Journey to Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan
How to Obtain a Saudi Arabian Transit Visa
New York JFK to Jeddah in Saudia Economy Class
Review: Park Hyatt Jeddah
Pictures from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Jeddah to Dubai in Saudia Economy Class
Dubai to Kabul on Ariana Afghan Airlines
Arrival in Afghanistan
The Panjshir Valley of Afghanistan
My Hotel, er Compound, in Kabul, Afghanistan
Kabul – TV Tower Hill and Darul Aman Palace
Kabul – National Museum of Afghanistan
Kabul – Gardens of Babur and Kart-e Sakhi Mosque
Kabul – The Green Zone and British Cemetery
Kabul International Airport and Departing Afghanistan
The Afghanistan Dilemma
Kabul to Dubai on flydubai
Dubai to New York via Jeddah in Saudia Economy Class