What is the Cost of Living in Saudi Arabia?

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Panorama of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as seen from the Faisaliah tower.

The cost of living in Saudi Arabia is a paradox. Gas costs less than water, and electricity is so cheap you can run the AC all day and night and hardly break thirty dollars a month. The cost of living in the desert kingdom definitely favors those looking to save as much as possible, as quickly as possible.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, also referred to as “K.S.A.”, is one of the last remaining absolute monarchies in the world. It has been ruled by a lineage of kings since its inception in 1926 and is considered a “welfare state”. This means that the locals expect certain subsidies and  monetary privileges by tribal rights. This translates into huge subsidies on items such as gas, bread, sugar, and other basic commodities.

Saudi Arabia is not a backpacker destination.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find any ancient relics or ruins–most of them have been destroyed. Even if there were any, it is one of the only countries in the world which forbids tourism. The easiest way to visit the kingdom is to have a Saudi friend write you a letter of invitation, which can then be presented to your local Saudi embassy so that they may process a visitor visa for you (keyword: visitor, not tourist lol).

Madain Salah, one of the last remaining tombs in Saudi Arabia
Madain Salah, one of the last remaining tombs in Saudi Arabia

It’s also useful to know that the kingdom is split into three main regions: Western, Central, and Eastern. The largest cities in these regions, respectively, are Jeddah, Riyadh, and Dammam. The cost of living in Saudi Arabia does not differ much between each of these cities. It will be far lower in the North and South of Saudi Arabia, but there’s almost nothing for a Westerner to do in these areas. Save for perhaps philosophize the passage of time.

For a Westerner looking for familiar creature comforts, I highly recommend choosing liberal cities. The most liberal are Jeddah and Dammam (Western and Eastern regions–coastal cities), as opposed to Riyadh, which is far more conservative.

Now onto the  cost of living in Saudi Arabia, by categories:


There are no hostels.

That takes care of that (lol). 😀

Most visitors either stay with their Saudi friends, go to a hotel (Western prices), or come as working expats. If you do come as a working expat (such as an English teacher), there are two types of Saudi accommodation that you will find:

  • Compounds
  • Everything else ie. known as “local” accommodation (town houses, houses, etc)

The biggest difference between compounds and local accommodation is that compounds are generally geared towards expats. Some forbid entry to Saudis and provide a “Western” ambiance with pools, gyms, restaurants, and sometimes even a bar.

Alcohol is strictly forbidden in Saudi Arabia, but the government tends to turn a blind eye to what goes on in compounds.

Western compounds like this one, with swimming pool and restaurants, drive the cost of living in Saudi Arabia significantly up
A swimming pool in one of the smaller western compounds in Saudi Arabia

Ninety nine percent of the kingdom lives in local accommodations, this includes many Western expats. It is both cheaper and closer to the city centers, making the cost of living in Saudi Arabia more affordable.

Here is a breakdown of the cost for local accommodation:

  • Cheap studio or room — $200-300 / month (usually very old-looking, possibly no windows)
  • Decent one bedroom apartment — $700 / month
  • Luxury one bedroom apartment — $1000 / month + much more (Western ranges)


  • Small 1 bedroom apartment in a Western compound — $1500-2000
  • 3 bedroom House in a Western compound –$2,500 and much, much more

The upper ranges are usually ultra-modern, but expensive. The lower ranges are usually very old buildings, houses, or an outside-access apartment in someone’s house. Thankfully, the rents in Saudi Arabia are far cheaper than the cost of buying a home. A two or three bedroom modern apartment starts at around $130,000 and goes up from there. A three bedroom modern house averages $270,000, and this is the lower tier of the “average”. If you’re looking for a pool and that extra luxury touch, add another $50-100,000 to the price tag.

You'll find many gorgeous homes in Saudi Arabia, like this one behind Tahlia street in Jeddah
You’ll find many gorgeous residences in Saudi Arabia, like this one behind Tahlia street in Jeddah (can’t really take details since photography is frowned upon–remember, no tourism).

On average, home prices are vastly over-inflated. This prompted the government to pass an emergency law to reduce home prices effective end of 2014.

Food & Drink

You will not find any bars as alcohol is prohibited. But you can find plenty of juice bars! 😉 Think of it positively: this alone saves the expat worker in Saudi Arabia tons of money. The cost of living in Saudi Arabia is made all the cheaper by the immense subsidies on some foods:

  • A pack of 4-6 Arabic pitas — 25 cents
  • A full chicken —  $4
  • A tasty shawarma sandwich (small stall/restaurant) — $2
  • Box of tomatoes (20 kgs) — $7
  • Black market Jack Daniels — $300-400 (had to put that in there lol)

Vegetables are very cheap, half or less of Western prices, depending on the type. Fruits are about the same as Western prices, though usually a little less. You’ll notice many foreign drinks, such as Gatorade, being sold as two separate versions–imported and locally-made. The locally-made versions are real cheap and taste like cough syrup. Buy the foreign version.

Western imports cost a little more than the prices back home, but are readily available. A brand new import, like those Starbucks frappucino bottles, cost almost $7 a bottle when they were first imported. They cost less than $2 in the U.S. Today, the price in Saudi Arabia dropped to $3. Price disparities like these sometimes make no sense. Many things are mood-based.

Fitness Time gym in Saudi Arabia
The inside is super modern, they wouldn’t let me take a photo.

Lastly, if you are a gym buff and enjoy taking health supplements and protein powders, I recommend you order them by mail. The local cost at the GNC store is about 300-400% higher. I order from bodybuilding.com. As long as it doesn’t look like you’re shipping over the entire factory, customs will let the supplements through.

Speaking of gyms, memberships cost about $1,000 per year (paid upfront). Kind of expensive.


Due to the limited import duties assessed on electronics, you’ll find some decently priced electronics. They may cost you about 5-10% higher than if you were to purchase them in the U.S. or Europe. Note that if you are going to be purchasing computers in the kingdom, many manufacturers (including Apple) will not sell you their extended warranty. You will have to purchase a local warranty through the store.

Pre-paid phone plans vary, as does internet. The following are approximates:

  • 6 cents for a local & international SMS text message
  • 14 cents per local voice minute
  • 60 cents for international minutes to the UK
  • 50 cents for international minutes to the US
  • Best DSL internet — $50 / month (but you can get up to an additional 7 months free if you buy a year package–this means the real cost would be $31/mo).
  • Unlimited Laptop Internet (mobile adapter) 4G — $25 / month

The phones themselves are similar in price to the U.S./Europe. You can actually go to phone bazaars (tons of tiny little shops) and buy a used smartphone for 20-30% off. This includes the latest model iPhones and Samsungs. Inversely, you can also sell your old phones there. Bring a local with you. White people suck at bargaining.


Last I recall, it cost me almost $70 to fill my car back home. I never spent more than $10 on gas in Saudi Arabia.

The cost of fuel:

  • Grade 91 — 10 cents a liter (40 cents a gallon)
  • Grade 95 — 17 cents a liter (65 cents a gallon)

Fuel savings are massive. You will spend very little money on transportation, and car prices (including rentals) are similar to those in the West.

Picture of a very old microbus, transportation in Saudi Arabia
The public transport system in Saudi Arabia. Just a tad bit antiquated. Most people drive cars. source: americanbedu.com

Strangely enough, the price of gas has not affected the price of plane tickets at all. Even on domestic flights! 🙁

Random car graveyards like these are proof living of Saudi Arabia's terrible taxi culture
Random car graveyards like these are living proof of Saudi Arabia’s terrible taxi culture

There are plenty of taxis that you can flag down. You can usually negotiate a price of $3-4 to go most places (within a reasonable distance). Warning: I don’t think the drivers ever passed a real driver’s test.

A Saudi insurance car that's been in an accident, smashed in the front.
Don’t count on this insurance car to come to the rescue


If you live in Jeddah or Dammam, you will find plenty of beaches where you can have a swim. Don’t expect a Thailand scenery (it is a desert after all), but do expect beautiful underwater coral reefs. Usually these beaches are considered “private” and require an entry fee of $20 or more. There are no public beaches, nor is going to the beach in your swim trunks/bikinis permitted. You can only swim in those areas designated as private beach areas.

Movie cinemas are prohibited, but all movies are readily available through the excellent local cable TV services:

  • OSN Cable (premier channels) — $65 / month
  • OSN Cable (platinum–ie I want it all!!) — $108 / month. Trust me, you probably will want it all.

There are also tons of restaurants, ice cream parlors, and coffee shops. All of your favorite franchises exist–Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Johnny Rocket, Cheesecake Factory. You name it, they have it. These all have Western prices.

Thos starbucks doesn't help your cost of living in Saudi Arabia, but is readily available.
Starbucks to the rescue 😉

Again, I will emphasize that the coastal cities of Jeddah and Dammam have far more to do, due to their proximity to the beaches. If quality of life is your aim, then those cities are best for you.

The cost of living in Saudi Arabia is equivalent in all major cities, but you will save more in Riyadh since, honestly, there isn’t much to do there but to save money.

In the coastal cities, you can go paragliding, scuba diving, desert trekking and more. These activities will set you back several hundred dollars each. In the central region of Riyadh, you can only go desert trekking. You can also camel race, though I’ve never tried it.

I would particularly recommend living in Jeddah since it is across the Red Sea from Egypt and its ancient marvels, as well as a stone’s throw from such historic cities as Mecca and Medina. On the Eastern coast, Dammam is but a short drive from Bahrain–you just have to cross over a large sea-bridge and you’re there. In Bahrain you will find alcohol, movie theaters, beaches, and people that aren’t veiled head to toe. Again, in Riyadh none of this is available, but you’ll be able to save money.

I’m not knocking Riyadh. I saved a lot by just living there.

Grand Total

The cost of living in Saudi Arabia is favorable to expats because you pay no local taxes. You may still be obliged to pay your own country’s taxes, if you make more than a certain amount.

Cheap fuel and food, proximity to many backpacking destinations, generous salaries for ESL teachers. These are all great benefits to an expat looking to come and teach or work here for a year or two. You will also get to experience an immersive kingdom which shuns tourism, yet generously shares its culture with expats.

I'm wearing an Arabic shmagh and igal.
Me in Saudi Arabia.

Remember that as a working expat, especially as an ESL teacher, you may not have to pay for accommodations as they are usually included in your offer package.

The cost of living in Saudi Arabia can be summarized as follows:

  • Living on the cheap — $500-700 a month.
  • Living OK/good — $1000 / month
  • Living like a baller — $2,000 +

There is a wide gap between these ranges because you could definitely be living OK at $1,700, but you wouldn’t quite be living like a baller.

Disclaimer: these thresholds are not set in stone. You can definitely get great deals if you know the right people.

It’s very hard to come up with a visitor’s budget for Saudi Arabia because the kingdom doesn’t lend itself to tourism. What I have instead shared is the average cost of living in Saudi Arabia within different standards of living.

Traffic gridlock in Saudi Arabia. Chances of accidents are high, considerably endangering your cost of living in Saudi Arabia
If you can figure out which way traffic is going, I’ll treat you to a shawarma sandwich

The beauty of living in Saudi Arabia is the potential to save far more than working in Asia, Europe, or the US. Add to that good salaries, exposure to a vastly different culture, and the lack of income taxes, and you can understand why the cost of living in Saudi Arabia is cheap.

If you are looking to pay off loans or simply want to build a nice nest egg, I really recommend KSA as one of you work destinations. You’ll come five years ahead of the game, with a much more focused frame of mind.

A few resources you may be interested in:

Have you ever lived in Saudi Arabia? What price differences were the most noticeable for you?


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149 comments on “What is the Cost of Living in Saudi Arabia?

  1. Hi Rashad,
    I have been offered 11000 SAR basic/ month + 2500 SAR/ month (house rent allowance) + 700 SAR/ month for mobile & fuel expenses along with family status visa (with 2 way flight tickets/ year) for a project managerial position by a local company in Jubail, KSA. The company is also willing to provide a car (mostly a sedan) or a 1000 SAR as vehicle conveyance/ month. I seek your kind advise to know if this is a decent deal referring to the current economical situation in KSA.

    I wonder how much i can save if I opt accommodation in a family compound. Could you please advise if I can find any decent accommodation (1 BHK) within 2500 sar/ month.

    Thanks in advance,

  2. Sir,
    I have some questions. I am Indian BE Instrumentation Engineer having more than 8 years industrial experience. I got one job offer from Saudi Arabia one edible oil company as an ” Electrical & Instrumentation maintenance supervisor”. Salary offer basic 6000+Accommodation 1505+medical insurance+transportation 600+30days yearly leave. All are SAR. Is is sufficient for me in working in Saudi Arabia? My contact 1 year. Agent told me free recruitment so means may be they can provide air ticket & visa. Is there required any other info ask to client ?

    Kindly advice me

  3. Hi Rashad,

    This post is very helpful and educative about the Kingdom…I need to commend the effort.
    I just accepted an offer in Riyadh as Senior IT Security Engineer of 7500SAR/Month covers basic salary, accommodation & personal transportation…..The pay will be increased to 8300SAR/Month after 6months and review again after a year base on my performance…I have insurance for me and my family (wife+a kid)…With potential bonuses if businesses are win through me.

    Kindly advise if it’s good deal. I still have chance of not coming, because I am working currently in my country.


  4. Dear Sir,

    I’ve been approached by KSA aviation company asking whether I will be interested to work with them as an aircraft maintenance planner. My sincere question to you, how much should I demand for the month salary?

    -for average decent living will be just enough for me
    -be able to save about 30% of my monthly salary
    -I have 3 years plus experienced
    -married with one son

    Much appreciate on your kind assistance Sir!


    1. Hi Hadni, I wouldn’t go for anything lower than 20,000 SAR total package for your type of work. I bet you could make far more if there is a supply shortage–not everyone wants to work in Saudi Arabia, hence the higher salaries to attract talent, so keep that in mind. Anything less than 20k a month would make me question why I’m even there. Make sure they give you Class A insurance.

  5. All good info about living costs for any prospective single (male?) teacher.

    Just one question, what on earth is a baller? Is this one of those arty modernisms, I can only assume it is an american english term for someone who spends a lot of money, now am I right or am I right:-) Good info though overall, thanks.

  6. Hi,
    My husband got a job offer in Dammam with a salary package of 9350 dirhams + car ( no fuel). His work profile is area operation manager for a leading fast food chain
    1.Is it sufficient to live and save with a family of 3 ( husband, wife and school going kid).
    2.We have lived in Dubai ( Dubai Marina area) for 2 years , similarly what is the best area to live in Dammam area
    3. what is the best school ( equivalent to kidzee in India) in Dammam – al khobar area – raka area

  7. Hi,
    I am Subha from India. I am offered a job of Retail Area Manager with 9000 salary Plus 1670 car allowances with Family Status, Health Insurance, 1 year paid vacation & transportation etc.
    Probably will be based at Al Khobar
    Please advice me on the offer.

    1. Subha, that is a typical salary package and pretty good–but you mention a Retail Area Manager. That can mean a lot of different things in Saudi Arabia. People love titles there. A cashier can be called a finance executive. You get my point. Your salary is a good start for a 2-3 branch establishment that is service/food oriented. But anything more would require a much higher salary.

  8. Hello Rashad,
    I see your postings seems quite helpful for people with their queries. I also need a peice of advice from your end. I am an hospitality professional carrying 7 years of experience ( 3 years as an Asst. Restaurant manager) currently based in New Delhi, India. I have been offered a job in the hospitality sector. Here are the details :
    # Position – Restaurant Manager
    # Country of assignment – KSA (Riyadh)
    # Basic salary – SAR 5000.00
    # Contract period – 2 years with 90 days of probation.
    # Food allowance – Free meal on duty
    # Accomodation, Transport & Medical insurance – to be provided by the company
    # Other benefits – Paid vacation as per Saudi Arabia labor law, Economy class air ticket to the country of origin every two years.

    Kindly help if this offer is good enough and as per the remuneration in KSA. Your help would be highly appreciated.

    Shumaz Ahmed

    1. Restaurant MANAGER at 5,000 SAR is NOT a good deal. Not at all. If you live in Riyadh, you should be making more. Remember, Saudi Arabia’s government subsidies are slowly fading, so you’ll need to make more money over the coming years to make up for the lesser subsidies. SAR 5000 is the salary of a regular employee.

      1. Hi,

        Read this article. Must say it really contains a lot of information. I have a question.

        I have received a job offer to work in Riyadh for a bank. Bank has approached one of the Risk Management consultancy firms in Dubai. This firm has offered me 16000 AED per month. Duration of the contract with bank is 6-8 months and after that I would be put on another assignment. I am being told that my posting would be in Riyadh till this assignment gets over and would then be placed in a different project anywhere in the gulf. I am married person but my wife would not be accompanying me. Just wanted ti check if 16000 AED decent salary in Riyadh. How much would I be able to save out of it provided I dont spend lavishly.

        Would appreciate ur inputs.

        1. You’d have to give me the salary in SAR and break it down by category, travel, medical class, car allowance, etc. Hard to tell, otherwise. Your Kafeel should be the bank, not a third part and the contract should state everything in writing (which many don’t). Besides, there is no guarantee they will give you another assignment. Again, unless it is in writing, nothing matters.

  9. Hi All,
    I am travelling to KSA – Riyadh this Weekend, can anyone suggest me on email – saraprakesh@gmail.com ; regarding some good accommodation for 3 months duration near Al Mursalat riyadh with a reasonable price .

    Thanks in Advance:)

  10. Vinod,
    Hi there I am indian got a offer of 11000 basic+family status+transportation ….location is jubail in KSA please guide on following
    1. Is this salary ok for family if 2+2?
    2. What is average schooling cost?
    3. How much is possible for me to save?


  11. HI All,
    My husband has got an offer in Jeddah as software engineer.His salary is 18417 SAR/Month and 4500SR quarterly bonus.Could any one help us to provide the below info .how the lifestyle would be for Indians?House rent,School fee and food cost?Which is the best place for Indians for renting as we are planning to relocate with family,

  12. i am an indian i got a job at saudi @5500 sar per month with bachelor accomodation and transportation …should i take the job or not ?

  13. Hi Rashad,
    the information you’re posting are too good for a person to take a decision.
    but though I still need your advice ?
    i’m tending to work abroad in KSA with my partner ( husband not yet)
    what do you advice us ? go there (some friends there from KSA are helping us)
    we are graduate graphics designers both of us, what range of salaries we must be paid?
    and about accommodation what is the range of prices of a medium department for 2 persons?

    thank you for the help

      1. Hello again Dear,
        Yes i want your help regarding teaching too.
        if i’m planning to go their as a teacher, can u give me any help in such field or the companies or schools i have to apply to ?
        do you schools over their might need me as a teacher?
        and one more question is there any summer schools ?
        so i can move over this summer ?

        Thank you

        1. Hi Mira, I would really recommend speaking with a recruiter. They’re far more knowledgeable when it comes to the nuts and bolts 🙂 You can find tons of them on Dave’s ESL Cafe.

  14. Hai, I am a person like to work in Saudi Arabia with my family. My profession is a nurse. Is it ok to live there with disdue status

  15. Hello folks, I am currently offered a marketing position in a large consumer goods company in Jeddah. The pack includes a 360 000 Ryal/ year + education for kids + Health and life insurance + air tickets… Do you think this salary is good enough for a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 kids) living in decent conditions ? Do you think I can expect to make a saving of 30% of my annual revenues?
    Thanks in advance!

    1. You can definitely save 30% or more, but I find many folk simply start buying expensive cars and living in expensive accommodations, and don’t save as much as they should.

  16. Dear Friends,

    I got an offer of 25000AED(Dubai Payroll) but have to work in Saudi Arabia for one year. Is this a good salary for a family of 2 adults and 2 kids? Medical is covered only for me. Also, flyback option to my home country is twice in a year. No other benefits.

    Please advise.

    1. Definitely a good income, but I’d negotiate the insurance policy as it should be class A and include family. It’s really not that much more. I say this because it’s easy for kids to get hurt playing, or to come down with fatigue/flu/any heat-related issue. A single instance could wipe out your savings as hospitals there are expensive (Western prices). I’m assuming you also get housing and transportation allowances, since these are standard on any Saudi expat contract. As I mentioned on another thread, you will also get headhunted by local companies once you’re there a while, so that salary is just the beginning. Unlike Dubai, however, there are FAR fewer things to do in Saudi Arabia. You need to carefully consider the very different way of life above the pay.

  17. Hi,

    Im sure you are probably sick of answering questions but I’m finding it hard to get real life advice so hope you dont mind!
    Im an Irish nurse and have been offered a monthly contract of 15,994 plus free accomodation, sharing with one other person. Do you think this sounds like a reasonable amount?

    I ould be moving to riyadh and have been told my compound would be Al Yamama but I cant find any proper information on it, would know anything about it where I can get some information on it?

    Thank you !

    1. Hey Fiona, it equates to about 4.2k (dollars) per month, tax-free. With all expenses paid, it’s a very healthy salary. It also depends on your experience, of course. With over 5 years of experience, you could command more salary, and once you learn Arabic, even more. It will also open the doors to nearby GCC countries, such as the UAE and Qatar. Al Yamama Village is the name of the compound; it’s a very decent place. Here is the link: http://www.alyamamavillage.com/

      You have to also consider that after one year, you could go to another employer and get a significant salary increase. The health industry in Saudi Arabia is booming, so nurses are in high demand. Unfortunately, it is booming because Saudis don’t take good care of their health and have one of the highest diabetes rates in the world. I would highly recommend trying it out for one year and saving up the money. After about a month, you’ll get over the culture shock and blandness of Riyadh (it is very dull, no public entertainment). You’ll find things to do and nearby countries to visit. You’ll get used to it and you’ll soon see the positives outweigh the negatives. At the end, what is the worst that could happen? You go home? That’s not so bad. I lived there three years and had no problems–and I moved after living in Florida for over 20 years… so you can imagine the abrupt shock it gave me at first.

  18. I have just seen your blog and joined to follow you as it was so inspired !
    I am a personal trainer and exercise rehabilitation specialist. Working with physiotherapists and orthopaedic surgeons. I also teach Pilates.
    I wondered if you knew anything of the Saudis exercise habits? – as I am not sure they are winning gold medals in the Olympics!
    I ran my own business in London, UK for 7 years and earned about £30 -36 000/year. But the high cost of living and rent has stopped me saving and hoped that the Middle East might enable me to save and travel.
    I have been though an agency Spa elite- who seem to have alot of work available in The Middle East.
    I have been asked to work with a private family in Jeddah. Or to work in Alkohbar in a resort.
    I just wondered if you had any thoughts or suggestions on either of these options?
    And if you knew anything about rates in my field of health and fitness?

    1. If you work in a resort or spa, you’ll do fine, but DO NOT work at a local gym. You will get royally raked over the coals. Gyms are notorious for not fulfilling contracts and/or not paying on time, in some cases. I would stick to major resorts and reknown spas, and nothing less. As for the Saudi exercise habit, does that even exist? Haha, they are actually getting better. I’ve seen tons of new gyms opening. Hopefully that will usher in an era of health-conscious people.

  19. Hi Rashad ,

    Your post are extreemly helpful , please guide me as I have 4 years of experience in India and I got an offer of SAR3500 per month + SAR400 pm food allowance in Dammam with accomodation from company for the position of Admin work.

    Please help me that is the package is suitable or not .


    1. Hi, that’s an average admin salary. It’s not little, not a lot, but acceptable for this type of position. I would make sure your kafeel is the company itself and that you get health insurance coverage class B or A.

  20. hi thanks a lot for your detailed analysis it really helped me understand a bit more than other sites about saudi.
    I would be joining a company at a package of 30k and will take my family (wife & two kids 9yrs & 7yrs) to dammam.
    i have few questions regarding your analysis
    1) living like a baller $2000+ so does that include accommodation (rental), transportation and groceries?
    2) what are general school fee structures like in dammam, if you can split like average schools, good schools and best schools?
    3) can my wife apply for a job there as she use to teach in our home country?
    4) is life for women tough in dammam?
    i know i asked too many questions but it would help me a lot.

    1. Ahsan, your wife will be able to get a job once she is there and life in Dammam is probably one of the easiest in Saudi Arabia. As for all the other questions, you’ll have to look at the comments below to get general ideas of salaries and specs.

      1. Sir plz help me out…i got selected in alraqaan company as an sales executive in riyadh n my toalat salary is 3500 sr but withoit accomdation ,food n tranport …um a fresher..is it ok for me to join this company

  21. Hi, I am an Indian senior civil engineering professional with +25 years experience. I returned from overseas work 2 years back to manage my children education which my wife couldn’t tackle alone. I had been trying to get a suitable job somewhere in a GCC location for past 1` year, as GCC will be far nearer to those South American or South African region.Unfortunately, every recruiters had been asking minimum 1-2 years GCC experience,in addition to other professional requirements, hence I couldn’t crack on those posts, Recently i got an offer of a Civil Engineer in an engineering consultant company Head quartered in Riyadh in KSA. However their terms are not very much upto my expectation, although I am very much willing to start my 2nd phase of overseas work in this region. They are offereing me 8500 SR – Basic, 2300 SR -HA, 500 SR-TA, Med Insurance -A, LS Vacation, ESB and Annual Return Air ticket in advance of 200SR -per month. Gross Package offered 13000SR per month. They will give me a car( to be driven by me- for which all expenses for driving license, maintenance, service cost will be borne by them-confirmed in e mail by them). The contract is for two years. Presently it is under my degree certificate attestation stage KSA embassy and after that VISA process will start.you please advise if this is manageable at my level? I will stay there alone since my wife can not go there for study of my children in India. Thanking you in anticipation of your suggestion and valued guidelines.

    1. Hi Uttam, what you ask is something only a recruiter can help you with. There are plenty in Saudi Arabia, so I would reach out to a few and see what they advise–they may even offer you other positions. Thanks!

      1. Thanks Rashad for your reply. Can I manage my single bachelor accommodation within 2000-2200 SR? For any foreigner to work in KSA,is it the standard rule to send the original Degree certificate to get the Saudi embassy and Saudi cultural attestation stamp? Also for getting work VISA, is it required to get the visa in Passport or visa is given on landing at KSA? The recruiter has arranged an agency in India to process visa so they are also asking the Saudi company to send the original contract approved and stamped by Saudi Ministry. Can you enlighten on this ?

        1. Uttam, you’re asking recruiter questions. Best to speak to one, I can’t help with technical questions about visas. Remember this post is about the cost of living in Saudi Arabia, and the answer to your accommodation question is written in the article under accommodation cost. I list the types of accommodations and cost.

  22. Hi Rashad, your postings are to good for a individual to take a decision. I need your advice ?
    I am working in an MNC in india having its offices in all three major cities of Saudi. I am offered to
    Saudi Arabia. My current CTC in India is 16L P.A.
    The offer made Sr216000 p.a + plus bonus+ incentives. yearly ticket . Place to relocate in al khobar.
    Need your advice should I move or stick to what I am doing in india.
    Why I have put my question is I am getting into anxiety the very moment the thought of relocating comes in mind
    just need your advice is it advised in given condition. I am 45 years old.

    1. Hi Shay, thank you–I recommend you try Saudi Arabia for at least one year. What’s the worst that can happen? You go back home? Plus, you have to remember that in Saudi Arabia they head-hunt heavily, so if you make it known that you are looking for a better position (ie Linkedin and local recruiters), odds are you’ll get an even better position. Granted, there’s a lot less to do on a social level, but that’ll only help you save more money. I’ve never saved money elsewhere like I did in Saudi Arabia.

  23. Hi appreciat your work.
    I also want to clear my some point on offer form saudi
    I got a offer of 4250 sar basic hra2500 transportation 1000 .
    I had done diploma in engineering and working as a Junior engineer i got this offer for BMS Technician .in a uk based company working in KAFD riyadh and name Interseve .
    Kindly guide me is it a good offer for me and wht to do for best savings


    1. Hi Sumeet, please check the posts below for a general idea of salaries and costs. I can’t unfortunately analyze people’s costs of living as I don’t know how their preferences, etc. Good luck!

  24. Hi,

    Your blog gives lot of information and i really appreciate your effort from my heart. I am from India and my current package is 20L INR per annum. my industry is information security domain with 7 years of experience and also have reputed certifications, MS degree & proficient in my area. What would be my expected CTC if am taking a job in Riyadh?
    Based on your above post, I should discuss about kafeel, insurance type & accommodation detail. Am i missing any thing else?

    Expecting your reply


    1. That is correct! I appreciate the comment and wishing you the best in your endeavors there. Please review the thread below for details about costs and salaries. I’ve shared a few examples which will shed light.

  25. Hi Rashad,
    You are doing a great job in addressing each query, I’m requesting your review on my offer as well.

    Total Salary : SR. 10,000 Per Month
    Basic Salary : SR. 7,600 Per Month.
    HRA : SR. 1,900 Per Month.
    Travel allowance: SR 500 Per Month.
    class A medical insurance covered.
    1 month Vacation including traveling charges.
    my contract will be automatically renewed every year.

    Currently working as a senior engineer in IT Sector. I got the offer for system analyst with above mentioned package and location is Riyadh. Is it a good offer..?

    I have 5+ years of experience in Linux/Unix system administration and my current CTC in India is 83,000 INR per month.


    1. Thanks, Anup! Honestly, the offer seems to be a little low for your sector. An English teacher can land a monthly salary of SAR 12,000-25,000, so an IT system analyst should be further up the scale. Then again, it really depends on how large a company you work for. You could still take the offer and find a better salary a year later–just make sure your kafeel is not some random guy out there; it should be the company sponsoring you, or a “holding company” like Mawarid. If you choose to jump jobs for a better opportunity and your kafeel is some random man out there in Mecca, you won’t be able to change jobs… they’ll simply make you stay with the terms as is, or leave Saudi Arabia. They kafeel would be my focus.

  26. Hi Rashad,

    Your posts always been great support. But is daily life safe in Saudi?

    Since last week there was an explosion outside the mosque killed innocent people.. So I am little worried going there.


    1. Unfortunately, you’ll have these issues in any country you go to. Most of the troubles happen in the East, but you just never know. That’s the case with any country nowadays–as long as you exercise common-sense caution, you’ll be fine.

  27. Hi
    I love the way you take pains in responding to queries. I appreciate it and have been reading every bit of information…as I have an offer at Riyadh.
    I am from India and I have been promised 17,000 SAR as Basic + 3 months HRA + 2000 Transport. The role offered is at a M3 level (Sr. Mgr) reporting into the head of the function. My queries:
    1. Is this salary at the Median or below median?
    2. Plan to bring my wife…so would you advice I stay at a western compound?
    3. How much and how far from city is a western compound?
    4. Do you suggest I buy a car or manage with taxi for a year?
    5. How much do you think I can save per month eventually?
    Thank you for your help!

    1. Hi Eby an thanks for the compliment! Makes it all worth it. It really depends on what type of industry you are in, but in banking, for example, senior managers would make between 15,000-20,000 (basic) and heads of retail 25,000+. Your offer seems to be at the median. I don’t recommend you stay in a compound. I find living in a compound to be a waste of money. Not only can the same housing be found for 50% less outside of the compound, the locations of compounds are not very central. You’ll find plenty of great, modern accommodations, and far more choices outside of compounds. I lived outside of one and had no problems at all. I recommend you buy a used car–you can always sell it later on. Although there are many taxis in Riyadh, it gets tedious always having to take one. I remember when there was a huge crackdown on taxi drivers (non-Saudi) in Riyadh in 2014 and you could hardly find a taxi for a whole month. Find a small, used Toyota.

      I get asked how much you could save a lot and that really depends on your lifestyle. At 17,000 basic, I’m assuming your totally package is about 22-24,000? That’s a very good income in Saudi Arabia. Rent will run you about 4-5,000 for a very nice place. Food no more than 2-3,000. Entertainment outside of your home is limited, so you’ll be saving a lot more than you would back in your home country. It’s reasonable to say you’ll be saving AT LEAST 10,000+ per month. Again, it depends on your lifestyle. You’ll likely also get a year-end bonus of 2-4 times your basic (check into that). Employers don’t usually give good raises (although they always say they do during the interview process), which usually means people jump from company to company every 2 years or so, with a 20-30% increase in basic.

      1. Hi Rashad,
        I really appreciate the details you have shared! Thank you very much!
        The company I plan to join is the largest FMCG (dairy) in the UAE!
        Well about the accommodation, if I were to bring my wife along, wouldn’t she be tied down inside an apartment? I mean, would she have a few more options if we stay in a western compound? Are there any trusted sites I can look up for accommodation?

        1. Expatriates.com has a large list of housing/rental options; it’s probably one of the most popular sites to find an apartment. She wouldn’t be tied down–she could always grab a taxi and go anywhere (either flag one down outside, or call London Taxi Company). A compound will be far more expensive, and yes it will allow her to walk outside without a veil, but I don’t know that the price is worth the little free space you get.

  28. Hello,

    I’ve got an offer for a professional software engineer in Riyadh with a basic salary 13000 sar but this is including accomodation and transportation.
    The company told me that they can rent me a furnished house with 500$ monthly in the first year, but i have to relocate to another one after one year. The offer included bonus and raise at the end of each year.

    I’m living right now in lebanon and i earn 2200$ , so i don’t found this offer very attractive , but i’m thinking that i will be able to save more money their.

    Please advise would i accept the offer? and how much would it cost me to rent a single room house in Riyadh next year? and how much expenses would i expect monthly including the house rent (very normal life).

    1. Hi, a $3,5000 is a good salary. You have to take into account flights you may take to Lebanon. If you go home every month, these costs can add up, but thankfully local carriers like NAS often offer “packages” of a certain number of flights to Lebanon for a steep discount.

      A $500 housing will usually be around 20 minutes away from popular areas, without traffic. With traffic, you are looking at possibly a much longer drive, and if you’ve been to Riyadh you’ll know traffic can be hectic. The advantage of accepting the offer is that once you are in Saudi Arabia, you’ll get offers from other companies who will want to hire you at a 20-30% increase over what you would get paid at your original employer.

      And just make sure that bonuses/raises are IN WRITING. Saudi employers are quick to suddenly forget what they promised you. If it’s not in writing, you won’t receive it. Period!

      1. Hi Rashad,

        Thanks for your response, would you give me an idea how much money i would save from this salary knowing that it is 13500 sar and the expenses are (housing, transportation and food). And would it differ if i bring my wife later on after several months?

        1. Although you’d be making more in Saudi, what you really have to consider is there’s really not much to spend on. I mean, you don’t have bars, or cinemas, or many entertainment venues like you do in Lebanon. You’ll spend next to nothing on Petrol, it’s cheaper than water. Food will also be relatively cheap, especially local food. Western brands and bakeries/restaurants will cost the same as in Lebanon; they are expensive. You should be able to save at least $1,500 a month if you don’t have too many expenses back home. I’d get clarification as to how many salaries your bonus is at year-end. The norm is usually 2-4 basic salaries as a bonus. Sometimes this can go up to 6-8 based on performance.

  29. Hi,

    I am from India , I have got a offer from a Food Processing Industry who is operating from Riyadh.Am moving out of the country for the first time and they have offered 9000 SAR basic and 2250 SAR against HRA. with a CAR and my designation is Sr.Manager Warehouse. Can you help me in validating the same , if am offered a Correct Salary / Package. am planning to come ALone….

    Would like to have a immediate reply as i have to confirm them on the Offer


    1. Hi–you just need to make sure your Kafeel is the company itself and verify your class of insurance (A being the best). All benefits need to be laid out in black and white, no verbal promises (they will not be honored–100% guaranteed–not a result of dishonesty, just sheer laziness). Your salary sounds about correct for that position. Check for year-end bonuses, many employers give a contract completion bonus, as well as roundtrip flight home, which is required of all employers by the Labor Office. You might also want to check this post about employment in comtracts: http://www.bankerinthesun.com/2015/06/employment-contracts-in-saudi-arabia-tips-advice/

  30. Hi ,
    Today I have received my offer letter for jeddah as Maintenance Engineer

    They are offering as follows

    Basic 5000
    HRA 833
    Transportation 500

    Everything I have to manage my self, hence here I have doubt with this package how much I can save?

    Actually they are taking for Engineer position but due non availability of Engineer visa they are asking me to come on technician visa, if I go on technician visa what are the difficulties I may Face?

    On offer letter regarding health care they have mentioned that “health care provided for self”
    What it means?
    And also
    Site based job means?

    1. Hi, thanks for writing in. First of all, once something gets put down on paper in Saudi Arabia, it’s very hard to change, even if your employer makes promises. If you’re an engineer, you should come with the proper visa and under the company name, not a “kafeel”. If you come as a technician, you are agreeing to come as a lower grade salary. Every time you mention money to your employer, they will point out you are only a technician. Think about it, would a US engineer come over as a technician? Heck no. You need to make them change this, unless you really need the job.

      Health for self means it’s only for you and not family. Be sure they give you Class “B” or “A” insurance, not C. It’s really hard to tell how much you can save with this salary since I do not know how much you typically spend. Engineers should be making much more than this, however.

  31. Hi, Thanks for the interesting information.. I’m a nurse in South Africa considering going to save money to buy a house. My question is, how easy is it to renew your contract? I don’t just want to go for 1 year.

    1. Most contracts are valid for one year, but they auto-renew at the end of the term. I’d venture to say 99% of the nurses there are on auto-renewing contracts. You don’t need to do anything, just show up to work as usual. Your first three months is a probationary period.

  32. Thank you for your posts. I started to look for the cost of life in Saudi Arabia. I have a job opportunity in the area, hence the question: how much would make an Electronics engineer per month in a job of supervising maintenance at desalination plant?


    1. Hello Mihai, a recruiter would better be able to help you with that. But to give you an idea: typical employees earn 3-5000 SAR, Managers 10,000 SAR, Mid level managers 25,000 SAR, senior managers 50,000 SAR (divide by 3.75 for dollar conversion), and directors even more. I am pulling these figures from our bank. I am also quoting you the total salary package, not the BASIC. You also want to know if you get a year end bonus, and make sure it states in your contract that it is a GUARANTEED bonus. Without the word “guarantee”, you won’t get anything. Class A health insurance is the best, and remember your salary, no matter what it is, is tax free.

  33. Hello.
    i hav recently been selected by saudi ministry of health to work as resident doctor in Mecca. My salary is 5500 SAR, excluding housing and transportation allowance. Wat do u think about this salary? I have a wife and one 14months old kid. Can anyone else who has any idea about that region commen keeping in view my salary eagerly waiting for replys.
    PS i want to lead OK life.. want to buy a car as well.

    1. Hello Azam–Al Shayaa Holdings, which operates Starbucks in Saudi Arabia, pays its employees 2,500-4,000 a month. I would think a doctor would be paid far more, at the very least 15,000 SAR? An English teacher makes around SAR 15,000-20,000.

      1. I know the salary isn’t that much of an attraction but im an entry level doctor. I was curious about my expenses there and whether i wud b able to manage all my epxenses in this salary or not. As im a muslim so im also looking forward for my religious/spiritual tour might as well do Haj and umrahs during my stay.
        Any other suggestions/information would b really helpful.

  34. Does anyone know of a website or a section on here where I can find a companion to join me on occasional on- the-whim trips to Bahrain? I have the vehicle and ok if I have to drive but maybe even alternate with someone. Thanks

    1. You might want to check the coffee shops near the ARAMCO compound, I’m sure some have bulletin boards, or many locals looking to meet new people. Most of the social media sites I know seem to be geared toward dating, so I’m not sure using “Who’s Here”, which is very popular there, would be beneficial.

    1. Kamran, that really depends on what you consider comfortable living. Jeddah is an expensive city and the cost of goods is a little higher than average. That being said, you can always find cheap accommodations anywhere in Saudi Arabia, but you cannot expect luxury at all with that budget, especially for a family of five. It’ll be very economical living.

      You may also get hit with unexpected Kafeel fees; this always happens. Kafeels can get a little greedy and demand money, on top of that, the fees for iqama renewals seem to be skyrocketing–so bear in mind the cost of work permits too.

  35. Hi
    I have been offered a job in Jeddah. The compensation is $12000/month. I have three kids so we are a family of 5.
    Is it considered kind of an income with which one can live decently in Jeddah and yet save some.
    Oh yes, the accommodation and a car is provided by the company.
    A quick response will be highly appreciated.


  36. Thank you for the info. I will be working there on single status and I’d like to keep my cost of living down to a minimum. I’ll be missing my family but I need to make money like anyone else I guess. I’ve spent 7 years in Dubai from 2003 to 2010, but I plan to stay only 2 years in KSA to beef up my savings. Do you think on average men can handle 2 years in the Eastern Region (Dammam) on single status? Would be good to hear some comments.

    1. It’s a good thing you’re in Dammam, then. You have Bahrain right across the bridge and ARAMCO at your doorstep. You could definitely swing that. I was in Riyadh for three years, and it was far more conservative than Dammam, which is full of expats.

          1. The site is very helpful, I wonder if someone can help me with a couple of specific questions. I’ll be is Saudi soon and will be based in Al Hofuf with occasional trips to Riyadh, Does someone know how to search for shared accommodation with other expats in Al Hofuf. Also how much should I expect to pay for low end accommodation, but safe and clean. Of course I’m aware the reply won’t be precise science but just a general indicator will be of great help. Thanks

          2. George, your best bet is expatriates.com rental section. They list tons of properties in KSA. I also would check with local real estate offices. There’s always a cousin of a cousin renting out a room somewhere. As far as price ranges, it really varies. A very basic room can be had for 800 SAR or less in your area. Expatriates.com will give you a far better idea of the price points.

  37. Hi,
    very useful informations, thanks a lot.
    I am moving to Riyadh soon, I would like to help me to find a studio/apartment in a western compound with average yearly rent 40,000-50,000 SAR.
    My work is beside As Sahafah Olaya street, I prefer to be close to this address but in case it’s far it will be ok too

    1. We are going for a final exit my husband and me.I can recommand you my actual
      appartment very nice location in Olaya near Faysaliya Hotel on King Fahd road.
      My house is fully furnished exellent items looking as new.
      if interested email me on m.kabbadj@hotmail.com

  38. Fantastic information, many thanks. I’m considering a teaching job I was offered in Jubail Industrial City in the Eastern Province, which is to start in September. The job is arranged through a North American university and part of an international cooperative arrangement, so I think it’s quite “solid”. They’d arrange everything, from visas to “off-campus” furnished accommodation to health care to flights to paid holidays and “cultural integration”, whatever that means. The salary is $50,000 and the term is for only 9 months, which might be good if I feel I have to “escape” at that point.

    I wanted to ask a few questions, especially for anyone with experience there. To get right down to it, what is the real story with the Tax-Free salary? I assume they put the money in your Saudi bank account each month, but then what? How do you avoid getting taxed on that back home? I’ve read posts elsewhere about people working in Saudi for a few years to save up their tax-free salaries and then go home (Australia, Canada, etc.) to retire, buy a house, etc. I’m no accounting or tax expert, so maybe the thing is pretty basic, but I haven’t found specific details on the whole “process”.

    Security issues. Things are getting pretty chaotic in the areas surrounding Saudi, what with ISIS and Syria and Iraq and so on. What have people’s experiences been in Saudi in terms of safety and security? I’ve read some posts saying that in purely security terms, it’s better to have accommodation outside the foreigner compounds, as you’re living amongst the ordinary folks, including foreign workers not from the West.

    Anyway, any information is greatly appreciated. Time is getting short and I’ll have to make a decision fairly soon.

    1. Hi John! Thanks for your comment. I am assuming you’re from the U.S. since you mention a North American exchange program. **I always recommend discussing your situation with a tax consultant** ok, now that I’ve gotten the disclaimer out of the way, here are some answers:

      Saudi Arabia will tax you at a 2% “social services” rate. Most expats will never live there for 30 years to realize the benefits of this deduction–but basically 2% will be taken out of your paycheck every month. It is similar to the social security deduction taken from U.S. paychecks.

      If you check out the circular below from the IRS, you will notice that you are exempt from having to pay U.S. taxes if you make less than $97,600 and are present in the foreign country for at least 330 days:
      You must STILL file your taxes regardless, and make sure you declare any foreign accounts you have opened to the IRS, or you will be heavily fined at $10,000 per account per year.

      I haven’t had any security problems. As long as you stick to the major cities and your own business, you’ll be perfectly fine. You might want to check other Saudi Arabian articles on my site. You can find them by clicking on the Saudi Arabia tag at the bottom of this post, or doing a search for Saudi Arabia under the main logo at the top of this post. You’ll find plenty of posts that may also address some of your concerns, such as expat safety and life in Saudi Arabia. Safe travels!
      Rashad Pharaon recently posted…5 Tips For Finding Work In Saudi ArabiaMy Profile

      1. Hi. Thanks for the super prompt reply! Much appreciated.

        My bad re. not mentioning nationality. I did some quick research and saw the
        US citizen tax exemption up to $97,000 which is suprisingly good, and
        fair, considering that you hear so many Americans complaining about high
        US taxes.

        I should be so lucky! No, I’m not American. I’m a Canadian and the
        university involved in the program is Canadian too. I’m living and
        working in Italy at the moment and I have my residence here in Italy. So
        that would rule out sending any money back to my Italian bank account,
        as I’d be taxed – and pretty heavily – on that, as the Italian tax
        office looks at where you are a resident.

        Canada does the same too, but I’m not a resident – for tax purposes – in
        Canada. I’m kind of in a no-man’s land. I don’t know about sending $5000
        a month back to my bank in Canada, from Saudi. How would that look with
        the hysteria today about funding (masked people with guns in desert
        countries)? Or am I worrying too much? On a personal note, I had planned
        to send at least part of the money, maybe one salary every 2 months,
        back to Italy, via Canada, for living expenses of dependents there.
        Complicated, huh? Though I have sent money from Canada to my account in Italy in the past, and no one batted an eye, i.e. the bank or the tax people. Nothing big, maybe $10,000, so probably too small to worry about.

        And just to add another twist to things, I also hold an Irish passport,
        though I’m not a resident there for tax purposes. I mention this in case
        you have any Irish readers who might have some tax tips.

        It’s my complete inexperience in working in “tax-free” countries that’s
        created the problem, I guess. I was attracted to the job ad for the
        tax-free salary and all the perks, meaning that I’d have very few
        expenses in Saudi and could get through the 9 months planning to save at
        least 90% of the $50,000+ salary (would actually be $54,000). Thinking that it’d be about $5000 net a month, it was pretty attractive. A lot more than I’m making now.

        Anyway, will keep looking online for info regarding the tax-free salary.

        Thanks again!


  39. Great post as usual! =) I am still considering teaching ESL in Saudi, but research tells me that the recruiters are a rather unsavory bunch. Lots of paperwork, visa issues & health exams also. As a woman, Saudi is definitely not the place to end up screwed over, stranded, or sold down the river!! LOL!! The potenial salary & debt reduction is so tempting though…I guess they do that on purpose, huh? =D

    1. Hi, Nikki! Thank you 🙂 I think the paperwork, visa, and health exams are normal–I had to also do all of that. It’s worth it, instead of being illegally hired like most of the SE Asian countries. Once you’re over that hurdle, life becomes simple. It’s also best to apply directly online at the university websites, such Princess Noura or KAUST. Haha, I don’t think you’ll be sold downriver, however I highly recommend not marrying a local. If you do, you will not be allowed to leave the country without his express permission. No female may exit the country with the “muhram’s” approval, that muhram is a male and head of household.

      1. HA! Zero chance of me marrying a local! I value my freedom entirely too much. I just wanna make my money & move on. =) I’ve also heard that applying to schools directly is best, so that’s what I plan to do. If I don’t get any takers that way, then I guess I won’t be going. It’s a shame that there doesn’t seem to be one recruiter out there that has a good reputation. If someone were to start one that was actually honest & kept its promises, they’d clean up!

      2. Hi Rashad,

        I found your posts are so helpful.
        I am from India
        I recently got a job offer from Landmark Group, Retail as a Assistant Store Manager, and they are offering 6250 Saudi Riyal as compensation.

        Kindly advise if this range OK, and insurance written in offer letter as US $ 30000.can you tell me which category insurance it is, A,B or C.

        Just looking for your kind reply.


        1. Thanks for reading! Sounds like an appropriate salary for the position, perhaps a little on mid-to-low range, as an assistant store manager you could push it up a little more, maybe about 1,500. Saudi males will not usually want to work in retail (although some do, naturally), so it’s a bargaining chip for you–they need you. As far as the insurance category, you’ll need to ask the employer and it should be stated in writing in your contract. I have never seen an actual dollar denomination used in Saudi employment contracts, and $30,000 could mean any number of things. It could mean maximum coverage, or other aspects of the policy. Seek clarification–IN WRITING.

  40. I think I would like to visit one day but I’ve heard so many horror stories from my partner when he lived there wit his family that it worries me a little. Since its not a destination that features at all in travel magazines I kind of guessed they weren’t tourism friendly. But I would imagine its a great cultural place to discover.
    Samantha recently posted…I’ve been nominated!My Profile

    1. Hi Samantha, it’s a shame he had a bad experience, but I think that could happen to anyone, anywhere 🙂 Sometimes the culture shock is immense. Also, the organizational day-to-day aspect is different. Say you go to a store, for example, someone might cut in line in front of you. Or there might not even be a line! But the same happens in many other countries. But having to deal day to day with this might frustrate many expats that are used to a more organized process.

      1. This is very true. I moved to the Czech Republic last year and had a big culture shock. I went shopping on my own for the first time and came back so angry and upset. Czechs would cut I front of me and just look down at their nose at me because they could hear I was English. I did a massive shop and brought no bags with me…I stood there looking at the cashier and asked for some bags (I didn’t think to bring my own since they give them to you in the UK, and did she expect me to carry all this in my arms?) she threw the paper bags at me and said something to which I paid her the amount I thought she had asked for. In cash. Turns out she asked whether I was paying by card or cash and had already put it threw as a card payment so she got angry and proceeded to throw my change back at me.

        Completely shocked me! I wasn’t expecting such treatment in a “western” country. The longer I’ve been here the more I find cultural differences. So your right it can happen anywhere.

          1. I think at the time I was just in shock and since I didn’t know any Czech there wasn’t much I could do. Been here over a year now and have learnt this is completely normal and the Czech’s service is renowned for being the worst in Europe. So now I just take it in my stride and try not to let it get to me…or not do the shopping! 🙂
            Samantha recently posted…I’ve been nominated!My Profile

    1. Hi Jon, it’s a great place to save money 🙂 It’s not so much that you’re not welcome, on the other hand, it’s just that they don’t want to promote tons of tourism. Visitors are always welcome, all they need is an invitation letter from a local. A short paragraph 🙂 I know plenty of folks who come to Jeddah and chill out at the beaches and go shopping, etc.

    1. I always recommend a “one year mindset”. It softens the culture shock, and gives a definite time frame. But I find that many who come here suddenly decide to remain long-term. Those that leave, leave quickly. Usually within a few months.

    1. I really recommend she try it. The best thing is just to say “I’m going to try it for one year. I’ll make good money too.” And watch, one year may turn to two. What people don’t realize is that Westerners have far more freedom. The experience is very unique, original.

    1. Haha, that was funny (hear me roar). If you tried it for a year you’d find many little gems of experience. Western women walk around quite freely, and without the full coverings which you hear about. Furthermore, you’d most likely live in a compound of some sort, which would make it much easier on you.

  41. Great post Rashad. I have considered ESL teaching in Saudi Arabia in the past, but then gave up on the idea, considering that women are unlikely to be able to get dependent visas for their husbands. Still, would love to visit the country and experience the culture and hospitality. Thanks for this great post.
    Margherita @The Crowded Planet recently posted…Hamburg in Five Insider TipsMy Profile

    1. Always worth a try! I say it’s a great thing to try for one year. You’ll then have the opportunity of easily visiting countries nearby, such as India, Egypt, Turkey, and many more. The work connections you make are also far-reaching.

    1. Hi, Salima! Yes, there are plenty of bookstores. I’ve found that they can be up to 50% more expensive, though, so I’ve started to download my books electronically.

  42. Excellent summary! Saudi has always been a prospect for me (as a nurse) to as you say turn up and earn some good money for a year or two, but with the rising living costs the attractiveness has declined significantly in that respect. It is still an interesting place to visit as a traveller though.

    (Oh, and I think the UK needs to pass an emergency house pricing law like that too!) ;D
    Michael Huxley recently posted…5 Free things to do in Amsterdam.My Profile

    1. Haha, yeah that housing law is needed in the UK. My sister lives there and complains about the cost of homes every time we speak.
      There are definitely many nursing opportunities in the kingdom, but the rising cost shouldn’t affect you too much since you may be offered full accommodations and transportation. It’ll cut down on your expenses..

  43. Interesting post! Although it’s not a country I would want to go to – too many restrictions for me – I am fascinated about how people live and what’s daily life like. Looking forward to reading more!

    1. Many countries have Westernized in ways which this one didn’t, so it would definitely be a fascinating cultural experience. The locals are a curious bunch that love to make friends with expats 🙂

    1. You’re totally right Bianca. Teachers live in a bubble here, which is a good thing. They’re usually provided accommodations with other teachers, socialize with a like-minded crowd, and end up with a good support network. The fact you can’t drive is a bit of a bummer, but if you saw how people drove here, you’d probably not think twice about being chauffeured places lol I think in the long run, many things here may wear an expat down (like shops closing several times a day–so if you’re having coffee at Starbucks, they’ll kick you out at random times of the day). But for a year or two, it’s a great opportunity. At least for a year 🙂

    1. Hi, Deane. It’s an interesting question. Dating really ties in with the social media culture here. Saudi Arabia has some of the highest usage of Facebook and Twitter as a percentage of the population worldwide. So, although it is hard to meet people in public areas, it is very easy to meet them on social media first, and then to set up a more private encounter.

      My twitter and Facebook accounts get friend requests/messages quite often. Usually girls looking to practice their English. That, of course, is just a pretext for a meeting–the true objective is to get to know you personally. I will say this, Saudi girls are aggressive go-getters, very educated, and attractive. The downside is they’re mostly looking for marriage ASAP, and when you marry a Saudi girl, you marry the girl, her family, and her ancestry. Yes, the ghosts of her dead forefathers will come for a daily visit to your house too.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Brianna! I definitely recommend it for someone looking to build savings for a year or two. But I doubt many expats could withstand the social pressures for longer than that (don’t get me wrong–many have and still do, though).

  44. I found this article completely fascinating – it’s always interesting to get a peek at life in another country and Saudi Arabia is one country I am not overly familiar with. Unfortunately I’ve never really planned on visiting – being a woman there’s a lot I cant do (at least by myself) which is tough, and now that I know I need to befriend a local and get an invitation to visit the country it seems even more unlikely I’ll see Saudi Arabia any time soon. However I loved reading your post and will definitely be back to explore the region through you 🙂
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    1. I agree, it can be very challenging for a woman to visit (or live here). Saudi Arabia is that niche for that particular type of person: the man/woman who wants to make money. I hate to put it that way. There’s not much to see in the ways of sightseeing, at least nowhere near as much as neighboring Egypt across the Red Sea. The oil money keeps the economy strong, which puts tourism in last priority. The religious clerics are also not too fond of tourism and have definite sway over these types of policies. It’s definitely a beautiful place to visit if you have a friend in Jeddah, though. I’d say, if it’s your first time–go to Jeddah–don’t bother with the other cities. If you like Jeddah, then that’s a start 😀

    1. The prices are very reasonable now, but they’ve been steadily increasing and catching up to Western prices. I’m afraid that in five years or so, there won’t be much a price difference between the West and Saudi Arabia. On a cultural level, it’s a shock. I mean, when you go to exotic faraway places, you may get a shock, but there’s usually a tourism desk somewhere to help you. Here, they’ll stare at you strangely if you try to ask for help lol. As if they expect you to know everything before you come.

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