Your Guide to Moving and Thriving in Saudi Arabia’s Capital
Moving to a new country for work can be both exciting and challenging, and Saudi Arabia is no exception. If you’re a new employee preparing for your move to Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia, there are several important things to consider to ensure a smooth transition. In this guide, we’ll provide you with valuable insights and tips to help you adapt to your new life in Riyadh.
Riyadh’s Culture and Lifestyle
Riyadh offers a unique blend of tradition and modernity, and understanding its culture and lifestyle can significantly aid expats in acclimating:
Conservative Values – Riyadh adheres to conservative Islamic values. Respect for local customs, modest dress, and adherence to cultural norms, especially in public spaces, is highly valued.
Hospitality – Saudi culture is known for its hospitality. Expect warm welcomes and generosity from locals.
Religious Practices – Islam plays a central role in daily life. Understanding and respecting Islamic customs and practices is essential.
Family Focus – Family is paramount in Saudi culture. Social activities often revolve around family gatherings.
Diverse Experiences – Despite its traditional values, Riyadh offers a diverse range of experiences. From traditional markets (souks) to modern malls, restaurants, and entertainment venues.
Shopping and Cuisine – Riyadh boasts luxurious malls with international brands and restaurants offering diverse cuisines. Traditional Arabic food is prominent, including dishes like Kabsa and Mandi.
Weekend Timing – The weekend in Saudi Arabia typically falls on Friday and Saturday.
Conservative Dress Code – Modesty in dress is important, particularly for women, who are expected to cover their shoulders and knees in public.
Social Interactions – Expats can find social opportunities through expat communities, clubs, and events.
Respectful Conduct – Respect local customs and traditions. Be mindful of religious practices and cultural sensitivities.
Understanding and respecting Riyadh’s culture and lifestyle, embracing its traditions while adapting to its modernity, is crucial for expats seeking a fulfilling and harmonious experience in the city. Engaging with the local culture can lead to meaningful connections and a deeper appreciation of life in Riyadh.
Top 10 things about Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia, has several highlights and unique aspects that contribute to its appeal:
- Rich Culture and Heritage – Riyadh is deeply rooted in Saudi Arabian culture. It offers a chance to immerse yourself in traditions, visit historical sites like Masmak Fortress, and explore the National Museum to learn about the country’s history.
- Modern Infrastructure – The city boasts modern infrastructure, with skyscrapers, shopping malls, and contemporary architecture blending with its historical charm.
- Job Opportunities – Riyadh serves as a hub for various industries, offering a wide range of job opportunities in sectors like finance, technology, healthcare, and education.
- Safety and Security – The city is known for its safety and security, providing a stable environment for residents and visitors.
- Cultural Diversity – With a significant expatriate population, Riyadh is a melting pot of cultures, offering a diverse and cosmopolitan environment.
- Family-Friendly Environment – Riyadh caters to families with various family-friendly activities, parks, and entertainment options.
- Economic Hub – As the financial centre of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is a crucial economic hub, attracting businesses and professionals from around the world.
- Culinary Delights – The city offers a wide array of culinary experiences, from traditional Arabic cuisine to international dining options.
- Events and Festivals – Riyadh hosts various events and festivals throughout the year, showcasing art, culture, and entertainment.
- Gateway to Exploration – Positioned centrally in Saudi Arabia, Riyadh serves as a gateway to explore other attractions in the country, such as UNESCO World Heritage sites, desert adventures, and natural landscapes.
The city has a unique blend of tradition and modernity, providing a dynamic environment for both work and leisure.
Visa and Documentation for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Visa requirements for working in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, typically involve several steps and documents. These can vary based on your nationality, the type of work you’ll be doing, and the sponsoring company. However, here are general requirements:
Employment Visa (Residence Permit)
The sponsoring company in Saudi Arabia usually applies for your employment visa. They’ll provide a visa invitation or “block visa” to the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A medical examination is often mandatory, including tests for infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
Police Clearance Certificate
Some applicants may need to provide a police clearance certificate from their home country.
Education and Work Experience Certificates
Authentication of educational degrees and work experience might be required.
A valid passport with at least six months’ validity.
Contract and Letter of Employment
A signed contract or letter of employment from the Saudi employer stating terms, duration, and salary.
Recent passport-sized photographs.
Other documents may be needed depending on the specific circumstances and Saudi government regulations.
It’s crucial to consult the Saudi embassy or consulate in your home country or the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the most accurate and updated information, as regulations can change. Additionally, many expatriates working in Saudi Arabia often require a sponsor or employer to navigate the visa process.
It’s advisable to work closely with your prospective employer to ensure all necessary documentation is in order before travelling to Saudi Arabia.
Housing and Accommodation in Riyadh
In Riyadh, housing and accommodation for expats can vary significantly depending on personal preferences, budget, and the specific area within the city. Here are some general insights:
Compounds and Gated Communities
Expats often opt to live in compounds or gated communities, which offer various amenities such as pools, gyms, playgrounds, and sometimes even small convenience stores or cafes within the compound.
There’s a range of apartment complexes available, from luxurious high-rise buildings in the city centre to more modest accommodations in various districts.
Villas and Houses
Some expats, especially those with families or looking for more space, choose to rent villas or houses. These can be found in compounds or standalone properties in different residential areas.
Facilities and Amenities
Many housing options come with amenities like security, maintenance, and, in some cases, access to recreational facilities.
Cost of Living
The cost of accommodation can vary significantly based on the type of housing and its location. Generally, compounds and higher-end accommodations can be more expensive, while options further from the city centre might be more affordable.
Some companies provide housing allowances as part of the employment package, which can significantly impact the choice of accommodation.
Expats with families often look for areas with international schools, parks, and community facilities, which Riyadh offers in various districts.
It’s advisable to work with a reliable real estate agent or consultancy specialising in expat housing to navigate the local rental market. Doing so can help find suitable accommodations aligned with specific preferences, budgets, and desired locations within Riyadh. Additionally, understanding local customs, regulations, and tenancy laws is essential before renting a property in Saudi Arabia.
Healthcare & Education in Riyadh
In Riyadh, the healthcare and education systems for expats offer a mix of public and private options:
Saudi Arabia provides public healthcare services to residents, including expatriates. The quality and accessibility might vary, but government hospitals and clinics offer medical care.
Expats often prefer private healthcare due to perceived higher quality, shorter waiting times, and English-speaking staff. There are numerous private hospitals and clinics in Riyadh that cater to expatriates, offering a wide range of services from basic medical care to specialised treatments.
Expats are generally required to have health insurance, and many employers offer comprehensive health coverage as part of employment packages.
Riyadh has several international schools offering various curricula, such as American, British, IB (International Baccalaureate), and others. These schools cater to expat families and offer education in English or other languages.
Saudi Arabia has public schools that are predominantly for Saudi citizens. Expats usually opt for private international schools due to language differences and curriculum preferences.
Quality of Education
The quality of education in international schools is often high, with qualified teachers and modern facilities. These schools aim to prepare students for further education globally.
International schools in Riyadh can be expensive, and fees vary depending on the school’s reputation, facilities, and curriculum.
Expats in Riyadh often prioritise securing health insurance and enrolling their children in suitable international schools due to the high importance placed on healthcare and education for families living abroad. It’s advisable for expats to research and plan for these aspects before moving to Riyadh to ensure a smooth transition for themselves and their families.
Transportation in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Transportation in Riyadh for expats primarily relies on cars, but the city has been making efforts to improve public transportation options:
- Cars: Many expats in Riyadh prefer using private cars due to the city’s sprawling layout and limited public transportation options. Roads are well-maintained, and gasoline is relatively inexpensive.
- Ride-Hailing Services: Apps like Uber and Careem (which was acquired by Uber) are popular and convenient for getting around the city.
- Car Ownership: Expats can purchase or lease vehicles but need to ensure they have valid licences and adhere to local traffic regulations.
- Metro: Riyadh has been developing a metro system, which is expected to provide a more efficient mode of public transport once fully operational. As of now, several metro lines are operational, with more under construction.
- Buses: The city has a bus network, but it’s not as extensive as in some other major cities. Buses are mainly used by lower-income residents and are less popular among expats due to limited routes and frequency.
Taxis are available but are less commonly used by expats due to the prevalence of ride-hailing services, which offer more convenience and reliability.
Walking and Cycling
Walking and cycling are less common due to the city’s layout, which is designed more for cars. Moreover, the hot climate in Riyadh for a significant part of the year makes these options less favourable for transportation.
For expats living in Riyadh, owning or leasing a car is often the most convenient way to navigate the city. However, the ongoing development of the metro system is expected to provide a viable alternative for commuting within the city once it becomes more extensive and operational.
Temporary Accommodation in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Discover a wealth of temporary accommodation and serviced apartments in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Ideal for short-term assignments or settling in during your initial month in the city. Reach out to our specialised team for further details and personalised assistance.
Moving to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, can be a rewarding experience if you prepare well and embrace the local culture. By understanding the cultural nuances, taking care of documentation, and adapting to the lifestyle, you can make the most of your time in this vibrant and rapidly developing city. Riyadh offers a unique blend of tradition and modernity, making it a fascinating place to live and work as an expatriate.
Welcome to Riyadh!
Please note that the articles provided are based on LSS Relocation’s current knowledge. Regulations and laws discussed may change; therefore, seeking expert advice is recommended. Feel free to contact our knowledgeable staff at LSS for further assistance and guidance.