Expat Exchange

Living in Saudi Arabia

William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Feb 10, 2022

Summary: Expats, digital nomads and retirees discuss what it is like to live in Saudi Arabia: Cost of living, Finding a home, Meeting People and more.

What do I need to know about living in Saudi Arabia?

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

"Bring your yoga mat, fill up your kindle, and download some movies - this may be the place for you if you are looking for a retreat from the busy world outside," explained one expat living in Sakaka, Saudi Arabia.

"You will have great fun. Just make sure you get housed on Arabian Homes or The Cove. Arabian Homes is an open compound, a bit out in the sticks (17Km from Royal COmmission) and is a mature compound i.e. a bit faded. The Cove is westerners only, in the Royal Commission and is brand-new. But it's very popular and not easy to get into. May be a waiting list," said another expat in Yanbu.

"Only accept a job that provides accommodation on a western compound (key to access of facilites/ friends/ parties) especailly for women- it would be a nightmare for a western woman to "live out." If you have kids, ensure school fees will be paid," added another expat who made the move to Jeddah.

"Be open minded, expect little, and keep in mind what you're here for; be it the money or quality family time," explained one expat living in Khamis Mushayt, Saudi Arabia.

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How do I meet people in Saudi Arabia?

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When we asked people living in Saudi Arabia about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"We have a remote compound for the western faculty members of Al Jouf University. 75% of us are single. Half are women. Mainly American, Canadian and South African," remarked another expat living in Sakaka, Saudi Arabia.

"There were many expatriate clubs before the 2004 security incident which caused most westerners to leave. Everything from knitting and drama to golf and scuba diving. They all vanished, but are just startign to come back due to the huge influx of westerners to Yanbu because of the gigantic industrial expansion. There are only two western expatriate compounds - Arabian Homes and The Cove. If you live on either, there are many social activities," added another expat in Yanbu.

"Hijaz choir Drama group puts on plays at Sierra ( O R P) Al Bilad beach, Sheraton beach, Silver sands beach Buffet meal weekend at Al Bilad hotel Buffet lunch at Hilton also walk around gardens Any concerts /events on at Sierra Parties at Sierra eg Rhino ball ABJ or BBJ the two groups American business of Jeddah (great social and mixing as well as sports, balls, parties, etc also if full member invites to weekend nights at embassy). Must be US citizen or work for US company- all nationalities though. British businessmen ( I think you have to be British) Hash- running and walking group well organised great social in mountains and hills near Jeddah Rugby club- excellent social - beginners welcome ( at American school) Diving/ boat trips/ snorkelling- ring desert sea divers A MUST DO do not leave Jeddah without seeing the fish on the reefs- snorkel if necessary. Diving lessons also available. Meet people amazing experince. Walk along the Cornishe- absorb Jeddah life- visit Aroma restaurant. Malls- all worth a visit for architecture alone (I do not shop) - Red Sea Mall, Mall of Arabia, Oasis Mall, Megamall, Roshan Mall (also got nice Fudruckers) Thalia street and GOODIES- the best restaurant at the back of Talia. Islamic museum. Old Jeddah (near Ballad - read up history - first amazing old buildings now international heritage site) Souks- Ballad Petromin (great for bargains and second hand - we would call it a flea market) Old airport- great for antiques and coins etc Al Bawardy the new part Mall as well- best gold place. Natural history society- great for info about Saudi- held in national geology society," remarked another expat who made the move to Jeddah.

"The scuba diving community and the softball communities tend to be the most subscribed sports clubs. There are a huge number of diving instructors in the area who'll teach non-divers. Other than that the naturalist society is a great way to make new friends. If that doesn't suit there are a number of illegal drinking dens where you can destroy your grey matter with local hooch,"

"There are a wide variety of things to do from bowling to scubadiving, computerclubs to western style party establishments," said another expat in Khamis Mushayt.

"As most expats which come to KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) are married, and most have children, there are ample activities to get involved in," added another expat who made the move to Dhahran.

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What is life like in Saudi Arabia?

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When we asked people living in Saudi Arabia what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Life here is very quiet. After work, 6 nights a week a compound bus takes us shopping. Women do not leave the compound other than with bus transport. Some men have scooters. Each villa has its own pool and some residents host small gatherings," mentioned another expat in Sakaka.

"Yanbu is an industrial 'new city', but it is very clean and tidy, unlike most Saudi towns. The western housing area of the Royal Commission is very like parts of America. Most westerners in Yanbu are there to work - but it's a great place to socialise and great for things like scuba diving, sailing, dune-buggies etc," commented one expat who made the move to Yanbu.

"People lives are surrounded by their families and GrandParents which means much socialising," remarked another expat living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

"Unfortunately, Saudi Aramco is the largest employer of expats in the area - the attitude of many (particularly our North American cousins) is one of "if you're not an Aramcon, you're some sort of sub-person". This permeates throughout the social scene. Socialising is mostly done in illegal bars where work and small-town gossip is the norm,"

"Family life is really important but so are sports and socializing, to keep your sanity," remarked another expat who made the move to Khamis Mushayt.

"The city is a very diverse group of people representing over 50 countries. In general, life runs at a slower pace here and life generally revolves around the family and sports," explained one expat living in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

Is there a lot of crime in Saudi Arabia?

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We asked people if there is a lot of crime. They answered:

"Absolute NO CRIME in Saudi!!! Lots of crime in Europe and South America. Canada is rather safe. Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Muslim countries = no crime to speak of," mentioned another expat in Al-Khobar.

Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Saudi Arabia accepting of differences?

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"Sakaka is a remote, rural town. All women must wear a niqab at all times in public. There is a lot of construction going on. There is a sizable Pakistani & Indian population," remarked another expat who made the move to Sakaka.

"Almost all non-westerners are Muslim. No overt Christianity or other religions are really accepted (no crucifixes etc.). But everybody is very freindly and won't have a problem with your religion as long as you don't shove it in their faces. Sexual diversity is not really accepted, although it does exist. Think closet," explained one expat living in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia.

"I do not agree with previous poster. There is only one religion allowed. Wahabi Islam. Bible banned - no crosses allowed. Women must wear and abaya- and in some places it is wise to waer headscarf. Men should cover kness and wear long short and long sleves. In Ramadan- no drinking, eating of smoking from dawn to dusk. Stay at home. People though are mostly really friendly if you obey rules," said another expat in Jeddah.

"The expat community is huge, representing many nations, races, cultures and social groups. Amongst the expats there are seldom problems because of diffences on these grounds. The locals however are far less accomodating. Practicing your own religion is forbidden except in the privacy of your home - practicing in groups can actually land you in jail!! Non westerners are treated like dirt by the locals the rest of us just a little better,"

"When first in transit to Khamis Mushayt I was told by Saudi customs that this town is also known as Khamis Mistake. Compared to the main cities like Daharan, Jeddah and Riyadh, Khamis is somewhat "behind" in time, not as developed and not so rich," explained one expat living in Khamis Mushayt, Saudi Arabia.

"The city is a very diverse group of people representing over 50 countries. In general, the people are accepting of differences. However, the country is not accepting of differences especially when it comes to religion," mentioned another in Dhahran.

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Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance in Saudi Arabia

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What are the schools in Saudi Arabia like?

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"If you are looking for a school with strong values and high academic standards this is the school for you. I have trusted them with my 3 children from kg and now in grade 8 and I can't think of a better school for them," remarked another expat living in Jeddah with children attending Advanced genenration school .

"This school was created as an incentive to recruit good doctors to the hospital compound. Only their children are allowed to attend the school. I come from a family of doctors, and if I had known the quality of the school, I would object to my husband accepting a position in the hospital in Al Hada," said another expat in Al Hada/Taif with children at Al Hada International School.

"Don't be deceived when enrolling. Be aware that you are enrolling your kids in a Saudi School.. whole managment and kids are Saudis except for the Home room teachers, they are foreigners. Other than that kids won't be learning in an international community. They are allowed to speak Arabic all the time. My kids learned Arabic more than English! This is not a school for international kids. Its a saudi school for local Saudi kids but with international curriculum," remarked another parent with kids at Advanced Generations Schools in Jeddah.

"Not Recommended at all. Unless you want a place where kids go and not learn anything and come back worried, scared, or confused on lessons. This school is not recommended at all to be at. Be Careful. I just say they built another school which contains all boys, also looks like a prison in Manchester Mat," explained one expat living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

"When we settled in Saudi arabia we were of course disappointed with the schools standard in saudi. Anyhow considering the company we work for didn't pay for our schools Thamer international was a considerably cheaper alternative to the American and British schools in jeddah which are super expensive. Thamer provides both SAT and IGCSE and A levels. My son was in the British stream. My son enjoyed this school as the students all spoke English and have been overseas. Many arabic and Asian kids and a very few European. I would really recommend his school if you are paying for schools and not the company and if you are arabic but raised in usa or Europe. We were fine with it," said another parent with children at Thamer International School in Jeddah saudi arabia.

"In Jeddah there is very little choice if you want a western curriculum with a European slant. This school says it is the best in Jeddah (plenty of modesty there) but if there was more competition from decent schools offering A levels and IB, without resorting to unqualified local staff, it would be a different ball game," commented one expat when asked about British International School Jeddah in Jeddah.

Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in Saudi Arabia?

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"My sponsor always paid for my insurance. I ended paying an extra amount for higher end insurance so I could go the Kingdom Hospital, and found out that the medical staff there are not adequately trained," remarked another expat living in Riyadh.

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Learn MoreGet a Quote

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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Saudi Arabia GuideSaudi Arabia Guide
Learn what members have to say about living in Saudi Arabia.

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Talk with other digital nomads and expats in Saudi Arabia on our Saudi Arabia forum - meet people, get advice and help others.

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An index of all of our site's Saudi Arabia information.

Contribute to Saudi Arabia Network Contribute
Help others in Saudi Arabia by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in Saudi Arabia.

Expat Healthcare Advice in Saudi ArabiaHealthcare & Health Insurance in Saudi Arabia

Expats in Saudi Arabia offer advice about healthcare, hospital visits, emergency rooms visits, finding a doctor and buying health insurance in Saudi Arabia.

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Real estate listings in popular cities and towns in Saudi Arabia.

Guide to Real Estate in Saudi ArabiaGuide to Real Estate in Saudi Arabia

Advice for people renting and buying real estate in Saudi Arabia.

Pros Cons of Living in Saudi ArabiaPros & Cons of Living in Saudi Arabia

Take off your rose-colored glasses and learn what digital nomads & expats have to say about the biggest challenges and the greatest rewards of living in Saudi Arabia.

Cost of Living in Saudi ArabiaCost of Living in Saudi Arabia

Digital Nomads & Expats offer insight into the cost of living in Saudi Arabia.

Moving-to-Saudi-ArabiaMoving to Saudi Arabia

Expats who want to move to the Saudi Arabia should fully explore what it means to move and live there. Read a lot of comments from people who live in Saudi Arabia, and have for a number of years.

Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance

Get a quote for health insurance from our partner, Allianz Care.
Get a Quote

Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance

Get a quote for health insurance from our partner, Allianz Care.
Get a Quote

Saudi Arabia GuideSaudi Arabia Guide
Learn what members have to say about living in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia Forum Saudi Arabia Forum
Talk with other digital nomads and expats in Saudi Arabia on our Saudi Arabia forum - meet people, get advice and help others.

Saudi Arabia Index Saudi Arabia Index
An index of all of our site's Saudi Arabia information.

Contribute to Saudi Arabia Network Contribute
Help others in Saudi Arabia by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in Saudi Arabia.

Expat Healthcare Advice in Saudi ArabiaHealthcare & Health Insurance in Saudi Arabia

Expats in Saudi Arabia offer advice about healthcare, hospital visits, emergency rooms visits, finding a doctor and buying health insurance in Saudi Arabia.

Real Estate in Saudi ArabiaReal Estate in Saudi Arabia

Real estate listings in popular cities and towns in Saudi Arabia.

Guide to Real Estate in Saudi ArabiaGuide to Real Estate in Saudi Arabia

Advice for people renting and buying real estate in Saudi Arabia.

Pros Cons of Living in Saudi ArabiaPros & Cons of Living in Saudi Arabia

Take off your rose-colored glasses and learn what digital nomads & expats have to say about the biggest challenges and the greatest rewards of living in Saudi Arabia.

Cost of Living in Saudi ArabiaCost of Living in Saudi Arabia

Digital Nomads & Expats offer insight into the cost of living in Saudi Arabia.

Moving-to-Saudi-ArabiaMoving to Saudi Arabia

Expats who want to move to the Saudi Arabia should fully explore what it means to move and live there. Read a lot of comments from people who live in Saudi Arabia, and have for a number of years.

Guides to Cities in Saudi Arabia
Al Khobar Dhahran Jeddah Riyadh
Country Resources
Health Insurance Moving & Shipping More Resources

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