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Discovering Expat Life in Saudi Arabia: A Comprehensive Guide to Living and Renting

Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s largest economies, beckons expats with its tax-free status and abundant opportunities. This guide is your compass for navigating life in the Kingdom. 

The Expat Community in Saudi Arabia  

While expats make up just 30% of the population, they find a welcoming home in cities like Dammam, Jeddah, and Riyadh. These hubs offer Western-style compounds, complete with modern amenities, for a comfortable lifestyle within the Kingdom’s boundaries. In these compounds, you can dress how you like and move around without restrictions; but only within the premises of the compound. You will have access to a host of facilities; these include swimming pools, community parks, restaurants, convenience stores, and so on. Furthermore, these facilities are all state-of-the-art. 

Jeddah: A Cosmopolitan Oasis  

As Saudi’s largest port city, Jeddah is a vibrant and liberal metropolis despite being the main gateway to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Its cultural scene comes alive with annual arts and entertainment festivals, attracting expats working in science, healthcare, and engineering. The annual art, culture, and entertainment festival features over 2,000 events across the city in May and June. These include Jeddah Jungle, Jeddah Yacht Club, City Walk, Jeddah Pier, Fusion by Cirque Du Soleil, Jeddah Superdome as well as the heritage area also known as the Bride of the Red Sea. 

Riyadh: The Capital of Opportunities  

Riyadh, the capital and most populous city is a bustling hub with diverse career prospects. Despite its conservatism and high living costs, it boasts attractions like the Saudi National Museum, showcasing the nation’s rich history.  

While the city offers a variety of activities and boasts access to excellent healthcare services, it’s important to note that the cost of living, including rent, ranks among the highest in the country. Consequently, the expatriate population primarily consists of individuals employed in the government sector, banking, and telecommunications industries. 

Dammam: A Family-Friendly Haven  

Dammam, nestled in the oil-rich eastern province, offers a cleaner and family-friendly environment. Nearby towns like Al Khobar and Dhahran provide excellent residential options, with a growing reputation for entertainment and cultural experiences. 

Dammam is gaining recognition for its expanding entertainment scene, which encompasses sports, art exhibitions, and live performances. Notably, in 2018, Dammam hosted Saudi Arabia’s inaugural street art exhibition in Al Khobar’s Bayoonya district. Additionally, you can explore the realms of science and innovation at Scitech or immerse yourself in nostalgic pop culture at the Taybeen Museum.

Dhahran: A Hub of Opportunities  

Dhahran, known for its oil industry and research institutions, beckons expats with job opportunities in international businesses and organizations. 

Property Options in Saudi Arabia 

  • Compounds: Western compounds, often with five-star facilities, offer a range of housing options, from villas to condos. They provide a self-contained oasis for expats. Private villas often come with a garden, and some may have a green space attached. These residences offer many amenities, including access to markets, cafés, restaurants, golf courses, swimming pools, tennis courts, and even playschools, providing a well-rounded living experience.  
  • Standalone Villas and Townhouses: These city dwellings offer privacy but come with scrutiny from authorities and neighbors. They can feature three or four bedrooms, with or without gardens. 
  • Apartments: One, two, and three-bedroom apartments are available, mostly in low-rise buildings. Ensure elevator availability in older structures. 

Accommodations may come furnished, semi-furnished, or unfurnished. Semi-furnished options include basic furnishings and white goods, while fully furnished units simplify your move-in process. Expect air-conditioning in most cases, ensuring your comfort. 

Make informed decisions as you embark on your Saudi adventure. This guide equips you with valuable insights for a successful expat experience. 

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