find out more about living in Saudi Arabia.

Are you considering settling in Saudi Arabia? The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been attracting foreigners across the globe for decades, mainly for professional reasons. As such, accommodation is in high demand, and will likely be one of your major concerns if you are planning to move there.

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accommodation in saudi arabia.

Expat accommodation in Saudi Arabia traditionally takes the form of conservative compound living, and more recently, the option of renting or purchasing from the private sector. Accommodation is in high demand in major cities, so this should be considered in the early stages of contract negotiation.

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types of accommodation.

Saudi Arabian expat compounds were first created in the early 1980s, to allow expats to enjoy the freedoms they were used to at home, without falling under the watching eye of the religious police. The complexes vary in size, provide various on-site facilities, and are generally guarded behind walls.

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private market housing.

Villas and apartments in Saudi Arabia range in cost depending on size, location, and the assortment of amenities present. When looking for housing in Saudi Arabia, expats are advised to bring a native Arabic speaker with them, to help field enquiries and establish trust between all the negotiating parties.

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paying the rent.

Many employers in Saudi Arabia provide accommodation for their expatriate employees. But in some cases, employers may offer to pay the rental price partly or fully. In this case, you will need to sign a lease document which will have a 6 to 12 months duration. It’s important to note that the rent must be settled in advance, before you are able to move in. 

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iqama residence permit.

An iqama is a residence permit, that is issued to expatriates who arrive in Saudi Arabia on a valid employment visa. It’s an essential document and may be requested at banks, hospitals, and similar places. It provides an expatriate with legal residence permit for Saudi Arabia, for the period of its validity.

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good to know.

Most expats that have lived and worked in Saudi Arabia advise that those who follow should consider their time as a new life experience and an adventure. Others will point out that it’s important to go for the right reasons – not just to make money, but as a opportunity for career advancement, cultural experience, and financial enrichment.

money.

The basic monetary unit used in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Riyal (SR). The Saudi Riyal is printed in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500 bills/notes.

The coins used are called halala and are issued in denominations of 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100. One Riyal consists of 100 halalas. The Saudi Riyal exchange rate is fixed to the U.S. dollar at SR 3.75 to 1 U.S. dollar and fluctuates in value, relative to other currencies, in line with the dollar.

cost of living.

The cost of Living in Saudi Arabia is generally considered to be on the lower side, or on par, with other expat-friendly nations in the Gulf. Expats from all around the world move to Saudi Arabia as employers in the country offer lucrative compensation packages, often with great benefits, including housing allowance, transport allowance, medical insurance, and education allowance for children. Therefore, it wouldn’t be wrong to claim that living in Saudi Arabia is reasonably inexpensive for those who have most of their living costs covered by their employer. Salary and benefits however, vary from company to company, so it’s worth negotiating your contract before signing on the dotted line.

healthcare.

The standard of healthcare provided in Saudi Arabia is similar to that of many countries in Western Europe and the United States. There are public and private hospitals and clinics in all major cities, with well-trained staff and modern equipment. Most expatriates prefer to use private hospitals/clinics as many doctors and medical personnel are English-speaking foreigners or Saudis who have studied abroad.

Healthcare is expensive, and it is compulsory for expatriates to have private medical insurance. However, these expenses are usually taken care of by the employers, as medical coverage is offered to expat employees as a part of their compensation package.

It’s important to note that certain drugs, including types of anti-depressants, pain medications, and sleeping pills, are illegal and not available in Saudi Arabia. In some cases, it is possible to bring these medications into the country with a doctor’s letter and prescription, but you should not import them without checking with the relevant authorities first.

schooling.

As expatriate children are not permitted to attend Saudi public schools, there are numerous international schools that cater to the expat community. The standard of education in these schools varies, as does demand. Space is limited in the more well-known schools, and parents should consider applying as early as possible to get a place for their child. Likewise, school fees can be exorbitant, and expats should factor these costs into their contract negotiation when considering a move to Saudi Arabia.

The school week is from Sunday to Thursday, and hours may be shortened during Ramadan. The academic year runs from September to June, and is usually divided into two or three terms, depending on the school.

climate.

The climate will depend on where you choose to live in Saudi Arabia, but in general, the summer lasts from May until September, with the hottest months being June to August. Winter, from December to February, is characterized by mild weather, and the occasional rain shower.

food & drink.

Drinking alcohol is forbidden in Saudi Arabia except inside expat compounds. Non-Muslims are also expected to abide by the Islamic law which forbids people to eat pork. As such, you cannot take any pork products into the country.

getting around.

Saudi Arabia’s public transport infrastructure is underdeveloped by modern standards, so most residents use their own vehicles or taxis to get around. Up until recently women were forbidden from driving, so it is not uncommon for women to rely on male relatives or a hired driver to get from a to b. Most expat compounds offer shuttle services for women and children, and it is possible to book a taxi in advance. Most taxi cabs are metered but fares can be high, especially during public holidays.

Urban and intercity buses in the country are well-maintained and air-conditioned. There are plans to introduce a new bus network in Riyadh that will link to a metro system. However, women aren’t allowed on city buses, and have to sit in screened-off sections on long-distance routes.

Air travel is possible between major Saudi cities, and the national airline, Saudia, plus a number of other international carriers, operate regular domestic and international flights from main airports, such as King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh and King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah.