About Saudi Arabia


Overview

Expats moving to the Eastern Province (EP) of Saudi Arabia, which includes the main cities of Al Khobar, Damman, Jubail, and Al Hasa, will experience many new things in the city Of Al Khobar.

For one, the hot and humid desert climate is challenging, to say the least; the harsh Saudi summer begins in March and only ends in October. During this period, temperatures can range from 95°F (35°C) in the cooler months to an unbearable 122°F (50°C) in the months of June, July and August (known as “the 90 days of the Devil”).


This area of the KSA shares borders with Kuwait to the north, Qatar and Bahrain to the east and the UAE and Oman to the south. Though its roots reach back 5000 years, the primary urban centers now inhabited by expats weren’t truly developed until the middle of the 20th century, when the discovery of oil in Dammam.

Since that time, ARAMCO (the Saudi Arabian Oil Company) and a handful of others have established operations in the region, and the result is a collection of tight-knit expat communities that host individuals from all over the world.

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Moving to Al-Khobar, Dammam or Dhahran

Al-Khobar, conveniently located between Dammam and Dhahran, is one of the three main cities in the Eastern Province, and is the area’s center of export-import activity. Formerly a tiny fishing port, the discovery of oil transformed the village nearly overnight into the commercial hub of the region.

Expats moving to Al-Khobar will find themselves living in what’s thought to be the most attractive of the EP centers, and will likely be provided accommodation in any one of the nearby surrounding expat housing compounds (some with a mere six units and some with hundreds of units). Keep in mind that it’s best to live as close as possible to your place of work, due to the traffic.

The city is home to many of the nation’s major banks, substantial public and private hospitals, fine hotels and an array of shopping options where foreigners can find an extensive offering of goods and products, including British and American foods, as well as Venezuelan and Korean foods..

Furthermore, with its gardens, picnic spots and lengths of beach, Al-Khobar has become a vacation center. Among its attractions are Half Moon Bay, Sunset Beach, and Al-Azizia beach, which is a five-minute drive from the city center.

Not to mention, Al-Khobar, due to the Western influence, is the most liberal of all the cities in the Eastern Province. Western expat women do not need to cover their heads here, though in Dammam, the seat of government in the EP, they should consider doing so.

Al-Khobar and Dammam have both expanded so extensively into each other over the course of the last fifteen years that it's difficult to tell where one city begins and the other ends.

Lastly, several social groups have formed in the area: The American Business Association, PAWS, Petroleum Club, and then professional organizations, such as the Earth Science groups, Geologists and Geophysics, Rotary Club, etc.

And once expats arrive, they will even find many more, their presence largely unknown and left anonymous so as to avoid conflict with the law.

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Important Facts on Saudi Arabia

Population: Over 27 million

Major Religions: Islam

Capital City: Riyadh (also largest city)

Legal System: Islamic absolute monarchy

Main Languages: Arabic

Time: GMT+3

Electricity: 125 volts, 50Hz in main cities, but expats in remote areas may encounter 215 volts, 60Hz. Saudi Arabia will be moving to 220 volts

Currency: The Saudi riyal (SAR), divided into 100 halala.

International Dialing Code: +966

Emergency Numbers: 999 (police); 997 (ambulance)

Internet TLD: .sa

Drives on the: Right

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SAFETY in Saudi Arabia

In general safety in Saudi Arabia is not a major concern. There is normally tight security in and around expat compounds, leaving expats protected.

Saudi Arabia has harsh punishments for criminal activity..

Expats need to act modestly and adhere to the strict code of conduct when out in public in Saudi Arabia.

Most expats live in Western compounds where security is tight, and burglary and armed robbery are not a concern. Petty theft does occur on the streets of Saudi towns and cities, and opportunistic theft from vehicles also occurs. Expats should always be alert when walking in the street and keep all valuables out of sight.

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Road safety in Saudi Arabia

Road conditions vary between cities and rural areas; although larger cities have paved and well-constructed roads, road surfaces in rural areas are often unpaved. Road safety is a concern in the Kingdom; traffic accidents are frequent occurrences, and aggressive driving and road rage are common. Traffic congestion is always a challenge. Expats should drive defensively, and if possible, arrange for a driver who is familiar with the local conditions

In the KSA driving is done on the right hand side of the road and right hand turns on red are permitted.

Traffic circles are present throughout major cities and towns; however, the “right-of-way” rule for those inside the circle is not adhered to, with cars coming into the circle at full speed.

Drivers should also be aware that left turns are typically only allowed at traffic lights or at designated “U-Turns”, as medians are present on major streets.

Expats driving in Saudi Arabia should do so defensively, and keep their eyes open at all times. The driving in the major metro areas may be more aggressive than many expats are used to

There is an increasing use of traffic cameras both in the city and on the highway to try and deter running red lights and speeding. Additionally, many streets have speed bumps to deter this activity as well. If you are caught breaking the law, you may not know it. Check the government website frequently for tickets.

Remember, you can’t depart the country if you have any unpaid fines

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Keeping in Touch in Saudi Arabia

Keeping in touch with family, friends and social networks is a crucial part of Saudi expat life. The isolated environment and restricted atmosphere of the nation seemingly makes expat’s relationships of home all the more important to maintain.

Saudi Arabia’s telecommunications market in particular is the most competitive, and in this way, also one of the most diversified.

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Using the Internet in Saudi Arabia

As an indirect result the Saudi population and expats alike now benefit from faster ADSL fixed line broadband, more extensive WiMAX infrastructure, and growing networks for mobile broadband.

Keeping in touch via applications like Skype, instant messaging software, and even webcams, is easy and accessible. .

While Wifi is widely available in the city and WiMAX and mobile broadband are becoming more and more common in Saudi Arabia,. The only documentation necessary to open an account is your Iqama.

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English language media

Keeping abreast of newsworthy events in your home country is also a good way to stay connected.

The majority of English language mass media in Saudi Arabia is based around hard news, and tends to have a broad global focus in addition to a local Middle Eastern focus. These publications, both electronic and print, can also offer relevant information, helpful tips and unique advice to the expatriate community.

Some popular options:

  • Newspapers: Arab News

  • Guides: Destination Al Khobar etc.


International newspapers are also available for the expatriate community.

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Banking, Money and Taxes in Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always been one of the most economically sound nations in the Middle East, and even now continues to show increases in employment opportunity and production despite instances of surrounding recession. It follows that Saudi Arabia has been able to cultivate a relatively robust banking system that has managed to put a progressive foot forward for the last decade.

Expats moving to Saudi Arabia can be fully confident in the banking aspect of their transition. Based on the intake of high oil revenues and regulatory actions of the Saudi Arabia Monetary Association (SAMA) no bank has ever failed in the country.

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Banking Basics in Saudi Arabia

To open a bank account in Saudi Arabia you will need a letter of introduction from your employer and your identification in the form of your Iqama. It is worth opening an account as transferring funds to and from overseas can be expensive and unnecessarily tedious.

Expats can expect a healthy choice in the banking sector for both personal and business banking options.

Banking facilities are very advanced, with Internet and mobile phone banking standard. ATMs are freely available, some even permit foreign remittances. Cash is still used for most transactions also credit cards are widely accepted.

Banking Hours
Sunday – Thursday
9.30am -11.30am and 12pm – 4pm
Friday and Saturday closed

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Taxation in Saudi Arabia

There is no sales tax on goods or services either.

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Currency

The Riyal (SAR), divided into 100 halala, is the Saudi currency. Notes are in denominations of SAR 500, 100, 50, 10, 5 and 1. Coins are in denomination of 25, 10 and 5 halala.

Major credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and Diners Club are widely accepted at shops, hotels and restaurants throughout the country while ATMs are common. You should also have few problems using traveler’s cheques – though currencies recommended for this medium are the Saudi Riyal, Euro, US Dollar and British Pound. It is also recommended to carry the purchase receipt.

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Healthcare in Saudi Arabia

The standard of healthcare in Saudi Arabia is high and widely accepted as equal in quality to that of the USA and Western Europe. The nation’s small population benefits from the numerous medical facilities available in both the private and public sectors, and for the most part, delayed treatment or frustrating waiting lists are non-existent.
However, for highly specialized treatment, it can be beneficial to consider medical assistance outside of the country.

The largest and most popular insurance firms are available in the KSA

It is the responsibility of the employer (sponsor) to provide medical insurance to expats relocating to Saudi Arabia for work purposes.

Medicines are freely available from pharmacies.
A word of caution: be careful bringing medicine into the country without a prescription as the drug may be treated as an illegal narcotic.

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FAQ about Saudi Arabia
 

Additional information