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Moving to Saudi Arabia

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Jan 23, 2023

Summary: Moving to Saudi Arabia: Expats, retirees and digital nomads talk about everything you need to know before moving to Saudi Arabia.

What do I need to know before moving to Saudi Arabia?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Saudi Arabia, they said:

"My advice would be to take it easy - your company should do most of the work although on arrival be ready for an information overload as well as not sleeping very well in the first few weeks and don't worry it takes a few weeks to settle but you will adapt very quickly and get out there ! join every club etc you can ! it is hard to meet people and always remember your manners as it stands to you for the next invite," remarked another expat in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

"Be very sure of what your getting into. Ask questions from as many different sources not just the employment agencies, they just want their money and paint a very rosie picture to what the reality is..," said another expat in Riyadh.

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How do I find a place to live in Saudi Arabia?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"We found a larger private villa after being in a small compound. It cost the same and now we have our own pool without the harrassment of kids. (Parents allow them to run wild here, with or without supervision to all hours of the night.)," remarked another expat who made the move to Riyadh.

"We were provided with housing, but if you're not, do a lot of research!!! Talk to ex-expats, search message boards, etc etc. But make sure you'll have this all arranged before you leave. The housing / compounds in Kingdom vary extremely from shacks to luxurious villas," explained one expat living in Khamis Mushayt, Saudi Arabia.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Saudi Arabia?

"I live in a three bedroom villa. yes for my company it is as they provide their own accomodation," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Riyadh.

"4 bedroom villa with three other expats. The villa is quite old, poorly furnished, very cold in the winter, power and electrics can be dodgy, circa 1970-80's fixtures. Cheap and nasty kitchen supplies," commented one expat who made the move to Riyadh.

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What is the average cost of housing in Saudi Arabia?

If you are thinking about moving to Saudi Arabia, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"By comparison for the size of the house it is much cheaper here. Though for normal housing the price is virtually the same. (keep in mind you should ALWAYS have housing included in your package, this way you can upgrade if you don't like it with little out of pocket expense.)," remarked another expat who made the move to Riyadh.

"Much lower since they are provided or subsidised by most companies here. We pay around $400-$500 a month," explained one expat living in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

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What should I pack when moving to Saudi Arabia?

We asked people living in Saudi Arabia to list three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They responded:

"I wish i bought more Barry's Tea :), books and music ..... I wish i left half my clothes at home SHOPPING IS ACE OVER HERE," remarked another expat who made the move to Riyadh.

"Three things I wish I brought: more music on my computer, a large jar of vegemite and rexona men's deoderant. Three things to leave: wireless router, batteries, and personal care products," explained one expat living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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What cultural faux pas should I try to avoid making in Saudi Arabia?

We asked people in Saudi Arabia if they could share any humorous cultural blunders they commited. For new expats, keep in mind that these incidents are an inevitable part of expat life. Learning to laugh about them is the key!:

"Our biggest blunder was upon arrival for sure. We were chastising our children in the airport. We later discovered that the locals don't look upon that very favorably," said another expat in Al Khobar.

"Perhaps the funniest episode was when I heard prayer call for the first time. I seriously thought I was listening to the loud speaker from horse races in the distance and I foolishly stated that out loud. Those around me doubled up with laughter. I felt very foolish," remarked another expat who made the move to Riyadh.

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How are healthcare services Saudi Arabia?

When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Saudi Arabia, they replied:

"If you need medical care, go back to the US or to Europe, if you can afford it. Both medical and dental care are substandard. If you can find doctors trained in the US, that is no assurance that they are qualified. The licensing program and qualifications are sketchy, at best," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Riyadh.

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"In general I am satisfied with it, however sometimes I feel like they may not know what is wrong with me they make things up," remarked another expat in Jeddah.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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