FAQ about Saudi Arabia

Where should I live as an expat in Saudi Arabia?

As an expat moving to Saudi Arabia you most likely will settle in the city that your job designates. Once here, it is recommended to live in one of the many expat compounds. These are closed and secure communities that provide expats with a number of on-site amenities and a sturdy sense of camaraderie among like-minded individuals. They tend to have long waiting lists however, so it is best to have your sponsor/employer organise for you.

Do I need visas to both enter and exit Saudi Arabia?

Yes, you will need both. Visas are an absolute in Saudi Arabia to the point where tourist visas don’t formally exist. Depending on what type of visa you need (business, residence, work, transit) you’ll have to arrange the appropriate documentation with the help of a local sponsor. Upon entry into the country your passport will be held by your employer. To exit/re-enter the country once working and living you will need to obtain authorisation in the form of an exit stamp from your sponsor and you will need to pay. This can make leaving the country for emergency reasons difficult on some occasions.

Is it difficult to open a bank account in Saudi Arabia?

No, Saudi Arabia has a respectable and reliable banking climate that is easily accessible to expats and locals alike. In most cases you will only need a letter from your sponsor and your identification (iqama/work permit). While the local Saudi banks are incredibly secure.

What standard of healthcare can I expect?

The level of healthcare in Saudi Arabia is largely similar to that of the US and Europe. It is now mandatory to have some form of healthcare in order to obtain your iqama (work permit). While the Ministry of Health offers universal coverage for locals and public sector expats, private sector expats should organise with their sponsor for appropriate insurance.

Are international schools the best option for education in Saudi Arabia?

There is an assortment of international schools available in the nation that caters to a variety of language and curricula.

What job sectors provide working opportunities in Saudi Arabia?

Historically the oil and gas industry sectors have been primary areas for job opportunity in Saudi Arabia. However, in addition to these cornerstones, recent studies have also published data that cites the logistics as well as retail and consumer goods sectors are increasingly sharing the limelight with their fossil fuel counterparts. Nurses, doctors and English speaking teachers are also actively recruited in Saudi Arabia.

How should I dress in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia is a country governed by Islamic law and thus requires expats to respect the prescribed behaviors. Men should dress conservatively – no shorts, sleeveless shirts or ostentatious accessories. Women are required to wear an abaya, a full length cloak that covers clothing, and a head scarf. Both of these items should be black or dark in color. In the expat compounds Westerners can dress in the manner familiar to their country of origins.

Is it better to ship my belongings to Saudi Arabia or to purchase once there?

Shipping to Saudi Arabia can prove expensive and note all your items are required to pass through Saudi customs. Keep in mind that there are many options for furnished accommodation in the country, and that shopping opportunities are plentiful. If shipping is unavoidable there are a number of local agencies that prove reliable as well as the internationally known ones.

What language is spoken in Saudi Arabia?

The official language of the Kingdom is Arabic, but English is widely spoken and is even the language of operation in all major hospitals. Hindi and Urdu are also spoken frequently by many expats.

Additional information