Living In Saudi Arabia Expat Guide – that will be the topic of today’s article.
Before introducing this article, if you are interested in our core services which are expat financial, insurance and mortgages, you can contact me here.
The best time to consider your financial situation is when you are moving to a new country.
Expat life in Saudi Arabia is full of opportunities, and outside adventures. With a hugely ambitious national economic and social reform program currently in implementation, the Arabia kingdom is moving into a new era to favor foreigners. It’s a classic oil-rich state that holds about a fifth of the world’s proven oil.
However, Saudi Arabia is home to Islam’s holiest sites, including the cities of Mecca and Medina. It’s no doubt that religion plays a crucial role in the day-to-day life of the citizens, influencing the culture, working conditions, and even society. In fact, this country is rough twice the size of Western Europe.
The landmass is mainly deserted and there are large distances between villages. Besides, it’s only 1 percent of the land that can support agriculture. That’s why; the Arabia kingdom imports the vast majority of its food. Talking about its geography, it is located in western Asia bordered by the Red Sea.
On top of this fact, Saudi Arabia has developed 13 strategic programs that aim to transform the economy, support a wider role for women, and also create new jobs in the country. Again, work in Saudi Arabia work is underway on the $500 billion NEOM projects, covering 26,500 square kilometers.
In this article, we will walk you through the ultimate guide to living in Saudi Arabia. Aside from that, you’ll understand the facts and figures of relocating to this country. So, as an expat, worry less if you’re just visiting this country for the first time. We got you covered! So, read further to get a glimpse of it.
Reasons to Living and Working in Saudi Arabia
Have you ever asked yourself why you want to live in Saudi Arabia? Do you know the cost and every other expense? Of course, these are the questions you’ll need to ask yourself before planning your relocation process. Without further ado, let’s quickly dive into the reasons to live and work in Arabia.
One of the reasons why people move to Saudi Arabia is because of the financial prospect. The earnings are much and at the same time, salaries are tax-free. Considering this factor in many countries, you can expect to pay tax worth up to 40 to 50 percent of your earnings. In Saudi, savings would be easier than you’ve ever thought.
Global Business Skills
Having overseas work experience boosts your CV to employers. Aside from this fact, you’ll also learn to do business in other industries. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia can be one of the hardest places to do business, but it also comes with a rewarding experience. If you demonstrate your skill, employers may hire you, and pay you well.
One of the reasons why Saudi Arabia is a unique nation is because of the generous sunlight they get all year round. More so, it may be challenging to go outside for more than two to three months. While in the remaining months, you can enjoy different outdoor activities including beaches, pools, and many more.
Lifestyle and Travel
The standard of living is high in Saudi Arabia since they import nearly all their goods. Moreover, they have a low cost of living and it’s very common for expats to enlist the services of drivers, gardeners, maids, and nannies. While these depend on your preference, many foreigners enjoy a good lifestyle.
Also, Saudi Arabia is a central location for many top destinations. It has the world’s busiest airport, Dubai International Airport, and many others to mention a few. Meanwhile, the national carrier in Saudi Arabia offers world-class standards of comfort and safety.
As an expat, you can enjoy a high-quality dining experience and quality cuisines in Saudi Arabia. They have new malls that open regularly, offering consumers the biggest brands and a modern retail experience. Moreover, eating out in Saudi Arabia is a cultural experience and they are rich and flavorful.
Unique Cultural Experience
In addition to experiencing the Saudi Arabia local cultures, you’ll definitely enjoy its hospitality, and quickly learn how to become friendly. Besides, there are some interesting places to visit in Saudi Arabia. From the desert fortresses and mountain ranges to magnificent outdoor activities, living in Saudi Arabia cannot be overemphasized. Again, if you’d like to start searching for career opportunities, you can browse the available jobs in Saudi Arabia and use your CV to apply directly to the roles you’re searching for. If you’re a client, looking for the next addition to your team, we will provide different job boards (site) in Saudi Arabia to find the right candidates.
Good Transportation Network
A good transportation network connects all the major towns and cities in Saudi Arabia. Not only that, but to all of Saudi Aramco’s major communities, the roads may be congested with heavy traffic, and riving conditions. To help you get around, we’ve compiled the travel cost within the major cities in Saudi.
Key Facts Expats Need to Know About Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia polarizes expat opinion just like for other nations. While some enjoy living in traditional expat compounds, other emigrants may struggle to live in the country because of the cultures, rule, and Islamic nation. So, what is life in Saudi Arabia, and what do expat need to know. Check it out now!
1. Sharia Law and Dynamic Islamic Culture
While you’re moving to this country, always know that you can’t resist Sharia law. That’s why it would be better to relocate to this country if you practice the Islamic religion. For decades, Saudis have interpreted their religion rather more conservatively than elsewhere in the world.
As a result of this, the nation’s cultural values have often influenced the way laws were being applied in the country. However, many other countries imbibe the Saudis tradition, which places a great emphasis on the country’s tradition. Also, men and women who weren’t related to each other can relate.
2. Unique Family Values in Saudi Arabia
In general, Saudi Arabia has a unique private life compared to the western world. This means that their everyday activities revolve around the family, and it’s uncommon for Saudis to live close to their extended family. As the culture proclaimed, they might even drop by their grandparent’s home for dinner.
3. Cost of Expat Accommodations
Again, Saudi Arabia remains one of the few countries in the world that has continued to offer excellent packages that include accommodation or allowances for expats. That being said, residents also claimed that they are being trimmed as the economic climate remains uncertain to many emigrants.
Furthermore, when it comes to expenses, rent is the major outlay for expats without allowances. As of June 2021, family life in this country may come with other costs. That’s why we advise you to be financially stable before planning to relocate to Saudi Arabia in 2021.
4. Dating etiquette in Saudi Arabia
Let’s say you’ve found a lover after moving to the country for a couple of months, and you probably would love to go on a date. Well, it’s quite simple, but the fact remains that, Saudis love their first date to be on a low-key affair. As most Saudi Arabia rules don’t apply with the same compound, it would contribute to a more relaxed option for couples.
Outside of these spaces, it pays to remember that romance, dating, and pre-marital sex remain taboo in the country. Therefore, once you do find your prince or princess, be sure to dress conservatively and avoid public affectionate.
1. Saudi Workplace In 2021
The workspace, especially in the private sector, is quite different from the rest of the world. Outsiders may take a while to appreciate that religious and cultural elements often make their way into the Saudi Arabia workspace. Meetings may take place around prayer times, and women may not choose to handshake a visitor or stranger.
However, most companies now use the Gregorian or international calendar but don’t be surprised if the company still uses the lunar Hijri calendar. Finally, be prepared to work on Sunday as the weekend spans from Friday to Saturday.
Pros and Cons of Living in Saudi Arabia (2021)
Moving abroad is no doubt an exciting concept. There are so many reasons to consider taking the step to live in a new country, especially in this 21st century. However, there are many pros, and cons to highlight to know what favors you the most. Now, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of living here.
Saudis Attractive Salaries
One of the most appealing things that made Saudi an expat destination is the attractive salaries. In addition, there are no income taxes, and most contracts in this country come with company cars. Some of the sectors that offer opportunities in this country include construction, medicine, banking, and the IT sectors.
Low Crime Rate and Safety
There’s relatively a low crime rate in Saudi Arabia. This is because of the strict laws and extremely harsh punishments given to offenders. Not only that but many strong security measures keep the citizens from committing an offense. For instance, you’ll high walls around living compounds.
Amazing Education Options
Expats that move to Saudi Arabia with their family and friends will be pleasantly surprised with the kind of education options in the country. Due to its large expat population, you’ll definitely see many international schools around the city. Even so, there’s a high level of competition to gain admission.
Home to a Friendly Interpersonal Relationship
Many people who love to take advantage of working in Saudi Arabia shared the citizen’s friendly relationship. In a way, the country’s openness toward cosmopolitan investors encourages more economic growth and more emigrants in a different region. That’s why many expats would travel to this country based on their lifestyle.
While talking about the pros of living in Saudi Arabia, a lot of people forget to mention the food given by restaurants. As of today, the foods given by Saudi Arabia restaurants, most times, can be enough for two people to eat. This implies that you can save a huge amount of money while enjoying your stay.
Cons of Living in Saudi Arabia
If you’re planning to relocate to Saudi Arabia, you must have weighed the advantages and the disadvantages to know what exactly would work for you. Saudi Arabia has a total population of 28.7 million people with about 8 million emigrants. Without further ado, below are the cons of living in this country.
High Work Pressure
If you’re planning to work while living in Saudi Arabia, you should prepare for the high work pressure. While several companies are used to a week from Monday to Friday, Saudi Arabia’s work etiquette is different. This is because; their workweek starts on Saturdays and usually ends on Wednesdays.
Strict Immigration Rules
It’s no doubt that the immigration system in Saudi Arabia can be extremely challenging. Moreover, localization criteria also influence immigration, while the government has set a strict quota in Saudi Arabia to recruits nationals. Research also made it know those work visas are hard to obtain in Saudi.
While the expats compound offers security and comfort, you should be willing to pay for expensive accommodation. If you want to rent an apartment in Saudi Arabia, you should consider paying a deposit of 10 percent. On top of that, you’ll pay utility bills and could rise during the summer month due to air-con usage.
Cultural Shock and Strict Islam Rules
As aforementioned, Saudi Arabia operates under Sharia law, as it exists as an Islamic state. So, you must abide by these rules and show some understanding of the cultural expectations. Additionally, how the Saudi Arabians treats the women may shock new expats.
Also, wives of expats may not be able to work on their husband’s visas. Besides, it is mandatory to wear an Abaya when they are outside their compound. If you’re coming from a country that practices the Western culture, it might be challenging to adjust to the system as there’s no alcohol and nightlife.
Public Holidays in Saudi Arabia (2021)
|Date Observed (2021)||Type of Public Holiday|
|7th of May to 17th of May||Eid Al Fitr Holiday Celebration|
|18th of July 9, 2021, to 24th of July||Eid Al Adha Holiday Celebration|
|19th of July, 2021||Arafat Day Observance|
|19th of June, 2021||Arafat day observance|
|10th of August, 2021||Muharram (Muslim New Year) celebration|
|23rd of September, 2021||Saudi Arabia national public holiday|
Saudi Arabia Visa Requirements for Expats
It is important to remember that the majority of visas available for expats require a company to act as a sponsor. Everyone entering Saudi Arabia will definitely require a visa except if you’re from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. But, in recent years, the immigration/visa system has experienced a few changes to encourage more foreigners and increase other foreign investment transactions.
Nonetheless, the citizens of the following countries are exempt from visa requirements for Saudi Arabia. This means, if you have only your ID card, you can enter Saudi Arabia with ease.
- Kuwait (as of 2021)
- Bahrain (as of 2021)
- Oman ( as of 2021)
- United Arab Emirates (as of 2021)
Nationality Requirements and Visa Process
To be eligible for a Saudi Arabia visa, you’ll need to have the following.
- You must be at least 18 years old, while the minors would have to be accompanied by an adult)
- Have a valid email address, and your passport has to be valid for at least another six month
- You must enter the country with the same passport with which you applied for
- Ensure you apply for a visa online or on arrival
- Apply at an Embassy or any Saudi Arabia Consulate if you’re not eligible for an eVisa
Common Types of Visas in Saudi Arabia
When you’re planning a trip to Saudi Arabia, chances are that you must first understand the kind of visa you want to apply for. After all, the types of visa you’ll need depend on the purpose of your trip. There are multiple visas for emigrants in Saudi Arabia, but you should only apply for the ones that cover your purpose. As aforementioned, there are many Saudi Arabian visa types, so take a look at them below.
● Business Visa in Saudi Arabia – This kind of visa is issued for business purposes only. If you’re a businessman, and you choose to do your business in this country, this is the right visa. Meanwhile, it is forbidden to conduct a business visa while you’re in Saudi Arabia on a tourist type of visa. Therefore, you can get this type of visa from your country’s Saudi Arabian Consulate.
● Hajj Visa in Saudi Arabia – This is one of the most common types of visas in Saudi Arabia. It is a special visa category that’s meant for pilgrims wanting to visit the country. Again, if you plan to obtain the hajj visa, remember that the best time to apply for it is between Mid-Shawwal and the 25th Dhual-Qa’dah.
● Tourist eVisa in Saudi Arabia – The country has begun to issue tourist visas to foreigners since 2013. While the government decided to enhance this factor, there are 51 eligible nationalities. If you’d like to be in this category, you can get a Saudi Arabia eVisa online but remember that the visa is for tourism only.
● Family Visit Visa in Saudi Arabia – unless you have a family member in Saudi Arabia, you can apply to visit your family members in the country. However, many rules come with this type of visa. It is meant for US citizens or people who live and reside in the United States legally. Again, you cannot work while on a family visa, and you’re obligated to abide by the country’s rules and regulations.
● Work Visa in Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia work visa allow you to gain employment opportunities in the country. During this process, your employer has to provide a Saudi work permit for you. And once you receive your work permit, you’re eligible for a residence permit from the Ministry of Labor in KSA.
● Saudi Arabia Student Visa – Saudi Arabia allows foreigners to study in the country. Before or during this process, you must have secured admission from an accredited institution before traveling to the country. Afterward, your institution will verify your authenticity before you can apply for a study visa.
● Transit Visa in Saudi Arabia – The Saudi Transit visa is meant for citizens who need to fly to a third country en route to Saudi Arabia. They are not visa-exempt for the KSA but will get the Saudi Arabia transit visa.
Saudi Arabia Visa Fees (Subjected to Change)
It should be noted that the Saudi Arabia visa fees can change anytime without proper notification. Therefore, the analysis above will show an average visa processing fee in the country. On top of that, you’ll need to pay a certain amount of money for VAT at the applicable rates in the KSA.
|Visa Type in the KSA||Visa Fees in KSA|
|eVisa fees in the KSA||SAR 450|
|Business Visa in KSA||SAR 250|
|Multiple Business visa||SAR 520|
|Work, Transit, Student & Residence visa||SAR 55|
|Hajj, Umrah, Government entry||Free to the KSA|
COVID-19 Related Restrictions in Saudi Arabia
As of June 30, 2021, the authorities in Saudi Arabia have continued to maintain a strict restriction to Covid-19. In response to the spread of a new variant, an entry ban has been placed on many countries including India, Argentina, Egypt, Brazil, Pakistan, South Africa, Lebanon, Turkey, and Indonesia.
Other restrictions affected by the global pandemic include mandate use of protective face coverings, limiting public gatherings, compliance with social distancing, and many others to mention a few. Therefore, abide by the national health and safety measure to enjoy your next visitation.
The standard of living is high in Saudi Arabia. This way, it’s quite okay to be financially buoyant before planning to relocate to Saudi Arabia. Most expats in this country live in Jeddah and Riyadh because of its Western amenities. Nonetheless, if you’re planning to relocate to this country, read this expat guide to understand what it takes to explore the Saudi Arabian community.