Most foreign workers choose to live in western compounds. Compounds offer an excellent range of facilities including swimming pools, gyms, tennis courts and shops.
Free accommodation is provided by the hospitals, while the cost of utilities and transport to work may also be covered.
If you do opt to find your own property, you will be provided with an accommodation allowance.
- Electricity: 110v and 220v, 60Hz AC
- Plug type: A, B, C and G
Many Saudi Arabian properties offer a mix of power supplies with both 110 and 220-volt wiring throughout.
Electricity in the country is supplied by Saudi Consolidated Electricity Companies (SCECOs) and gas is provided by Saudi Aramco. Due to the rapid economic development of Saudi Arabia, the country’s consumption of electricity and gas has risen sharply over the past few decades.
At six years of age, children must enter primary education for six years. This is followed by middle, then secondary education, both of which last for three years.
The school year begins in September and concludes in July. Male and female students are separated throughout all stages of education.
During secondary education, students are given a choice; either continue with general education or switch to specialised secondary education at a technical secondary institution. The latter provides vocational education and training in a number of fields including agriculture, commerce and industry.
Tertiary education is available at 24 government universities across Saudi Arabia. Degrees in humanities and social sciences take four years to complete, while courses studying medicine, pharmacy and engineering take a further two.
Childcare is widely available in all major towns and cities across Saudi Arabia and is especially popular in areas that house large numbers of expatriates.
Both public and private hospitals operate in Saudi Arabia, with the standard of healthcare not too dissimilar to that on offer in Western Europe and North America. Saudi hospitals employ well-trained, English-speaking doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals and are equipped with the latest in healthcare technology.
Health insurance is mandatory for all foreign workers and helps to maintain the country’s healthcare infrastructure. Health insurance and malpractice insurance are provided by your employer.
There are around 2,000 primary healthcare centres across the country and 240 hospitals.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Saudi Arabia is relatively cheap. Basic ingredients for cooking are inexpensive (milk, bread and a dozen eggs can be bought for less than R20), while a basic lunch in the city can be picked up for less than R40.
Lulu Hypermarket, FARM Superstores and Carrefour KSA are amongst the most popular supermarkets in the Kingdom, with Lulu Hypermarket and Carrefour KSA recommended for imported goods.
Travel costs must also be taken into consideration. Public transport, available in larger towns and cities, is generally cheaper than in any other Gulf state, while taxis can be hired for R2.50 per kilometre. If you choose to drive, petrol is available for a very reasonable price.
Depending on your budget, you may want to hire a cleaner to take care of domestic duties. Housemaids often charge by the hour and are available to hire for around R30.
Mobile Phone Operators
The cost of owning and operating a mobile phone varies depends on your monthly plan. Basic handsets can be purchased for around R60 while the latest smartphones can cost upwards of R3,000.
If you’d prefer to keep your existing phone, SIM cards - sometimes referred to as a ‘chips’ - are available to buy from the airport and authorised retailers. You may be required to show your visa when purchasing a SIM card.
On average, coverage is good in populated areas with 2G, 3G and 4G services available.
Top Mobile Phone Operators:
- Virgin Mobile KSA
- Lebara KSA
Fixed-line, wireless broadband and mobile internet are all available in Saudi Arabia, as are instant messaging applications such as Skype and WhatsApp. Many coffee shops offer free wifi.
The average download speed is 21.66 Mbps, while upload speeds come in at 9.25 Mbps.
- Integrated Telecom Company
Dining, Tipping and Service
Typical Saudi ingredients include chicken, lamb and seafood, as well as dates, potatoes, rice, wheat and yoghurt. Traditional dishes include kabsa, saleeg and hininy.
The country boasts a superb selection of restaurants serving delicious Middle Eastern delicacies.
However, if you fancy indulging in a little fast food, internationally recognised eateries are available in cities across the Kingdom, including McDonald’s, Burger King and Pizza Hut.
If you are invited to dine with locals, there are a number of customs that you must observe. Firstly, guests must wash their hands and say ‘Sahtain’ (equivalent to Bon Appetite) or Bismillah (in the name of God) before beginning their meal.
Once a meal is finished, guests are invited to say ‘Daimah’, which translates to ‘may there always be plenty at your table’.
When dining out, tipping ten per cent of the total bill is considered polite and a sign of appreciation.
Saudi Arabia has plenty to offer when it comes to entertainment. From sensational cityscapes to amazing outdoor experiences, the Kingdom has something to cater to any taste.
The colourful city of Najran on the Yemeni border is often described as one of the most beautiful regions in the Kingdom. It is widely considered to be the most tourist-friendly destination in Saudi-Arabia.
Alternatively, around 700km from Riyadh lies the Wahba Crater, a volcanic crater that offers amazing scenery including lava fields, an oasis and salt pans. The area can be easily explored by foot and provides an incredible backdrop for camping out under the stars.
However, if history is more to your liking, the northern towns of Buraidah and Unaizah in the Qassim region offer a rich cultural heritage. Unaizah has ancient farmlands, beautiful unique mosques, historical sites and a vibrant traditional marketplace.
Sports and Culture
Sport is deep-rooted in Saudi culture and plays a key part in the Kingdom’s educational system, with children encouraged to take part throughout their academic life. Sports facilities are also available in most cities.
Horse racing is a sport that has entertained Saudis for centuries and remains a firm favourite in modern-day society. The country is famed for producing the Arabian horse, one of the most sought-after breeds in the world, and is home to a number of stylish racetracks, however, gambling is outlawed.
Other traditional sports including camel racing, falconry and hunting are also much-loved by locals and expatriates alike.
While traditional sports still remain a huge part of Saudi life, modern sports have successfully infiltrated the culture. Football (soccer) is by far the most popular of these sports and regularly entertains vast numbers of fans. The country’s league is widely followed and attracts huge audiences across the country. International leagues like the English Premier League are also watched with great interest.
Swimming, basketball, volleyball and gymnastics are all keenly played and observed, while water sports are accessible in the regions close to the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf.
- 1-3 Shawwal – Feast of the End of Ramadan (Eid al-Fitr) – Observed officially for ten days (3 to 7 for private institutions)
- 9-12 Dhul-Hijjah – Feast of the End of Hajj (Eid al-Adha) – Observed officially for ten days (3 to 7 for private institutions)
- Saudi National Day – 23 September
*Islamic holidays are determined according to moon sighting – holiday dates in the Gregorian calendar vary.
- Police: 999
- Fire service: 998
- Car accidents: 993
- Public ambulance service: 997
- Natural disasters: 966
- Coast Guard: 994
- General emergency: 112