Living and working in Saudi Arabia

Author Olivia Roberts
December 12, 2023

Introduction to Saudi Arabia

Geographical and cultural overview Saudi Arabia, located on the Arabian Peninsula, boasts a diverse landscape that ranges from vast deserts to lush oases. The culture is deeply rooted in Islamic traditions, and the country’s rich history can be traced back to ancient civilizations like the Nabateans. Arabic is the official language, and Islam is the state religion. However, Saudi Arabia has also been embracing modernization and is investing trillions of dollars to become one of the leading tourism destinations in the world.

Saudi is currently working towards Vision 2030: A transformative national blueprint that has been introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This blueprint is a comprehensive plan to transform Saudi Arabia’s economy and society. Its goals include reducing the country’s dependence on oil, diversifying the economy and enhancing quality of life for citizens and residents. This ambitious initiative has opened up new opportunities and is a driving force behind the influx of expatriates seeking to contribute to Saudi Arabia’s growth.

Choosing your destination

You will likely choose your destination depending on where your role will be located. The main two cities are Riyadh and Jeddah but many of Saudi Arabia’s leading giga projects can be located in more remote locations where accommodation is provided to you such as Neom, The Red Sea, The Royal Commission of Al Ula and more.

Below is a summary of some of the locations that expats relocate to.


The capital city Riyadh is the political and administrative hub of the country. It’s characterized by its modern infrastructure, towering skyscrapers, and government institutions.

Business opportunities and Riyadh is a major business destination with a strong focus on government, finance, and technology sectors. Many international companies have their headquarters or regional offices in the city, making it a prime location for career opportunities.

Lifestyle in Riyadh offers a comfortable and family-friendly setting. It has a wide range of housing options, including modern compounds, and numerous international schools for expatriate families.

Riyadh is home to several museums, including the National Museum, which offers insights into Saudi Arabia’s history and culture. The city also boasts the Kingdom Centre Tower, an iconic skyscraper with a shopping mall and observation deck.


The cosmopolitan hub of Saudi Arabia Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s second-largest city, is often referred to as the “Gateway to Mecca” due to its proximity to the holy city. It’s known for its cosmopolitan atmosphere, diverse population, and vibrant culture. Expatriates in Jeddah enjoy a relaxed lifestyle and economic opportunities and industries Jeddah is a major commercial centre with a focus on trade, finance and tourism. It’s home to the Jeddah Islamic Port – one of the busiest in the world and a thriving business district that attracts professionals from various sectors.

Jeddah has a scenic waterfront and numerous cultural attractions. The city offers a variety of housing options, international schools, and healthcare facilities to cater to the needs of expat families.

Cultural and recreational attractions Jeddah is known for its historic districts, including Al-Balad, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city also offers a thriving arts scene, shopping malls, and a vibrant dining scene that showcases the diversity of Saudi cuisine.

Remote projects

Neom: The city of the future Neom is a groundbreaking project that aims to create a futuristic city in the northwest of Saudi Arabia near Tabuk. It’s envisioned as a hub for technology, innovation, and sustainability, attracting experts from various fields.

The Red Sea Project: A tourism paradise located along the Red Sea coast, this project is focused on developing a luxury tourism destination. It offers opportunities for professionals in the hospitality and tourism industries to contribute to the growth of this stunning coastal region.

The Royal Commission of Al Ula: Preserving heritage Al Ula is famous for its archaeological treasures and historical sites. The Royal Commission of Al Ula is dedicated to preserving and promoting this heritage, making it an intriguing place for archaeologists, historians, and conservationists.

Navigating work opportunities

Employment and the business landscape in Saudi are vibrant. The economy has been diversifying rapidly, offering a broad spectrum of job opportunities. International companies have a significant presence, and the government encourages foreign investment.

Work culture and etiquette in Saudi reflect modernity and inclusivity. With a huge range of nationalities working together. The workweek typically runs from Sunday to Thursday, with Friday and Saturday being a day of rest. Saudi offers excellent holiday allowances and a large amount of bank holidays throughout the year celebrating Eid and various national or religious days.

Job hunting tips: To secure a job in Saudi Arabia, expatriates should research job opportunities, networ and leverage online job portals and be in touch with specialist recruitment companies who have the relationships with the key projects and clients.

Visa and work permit requirements are something to research before relocating, individuals must obtain a work visa, which is usually sponsored by an employer. Work permits are typically valid for one year and are renewable. The employer often handles the visa application process, but it’s essential to be aware of the documentation required such as an attested degree and/or an attested marriage certificate in some cases in addition to usual personal identification documents.

Accommodation and housing

Expatriates in Saudi Arabia have a range of apartments, villas and compounds to relocate to. Compounds are popular among expat families as they offer security, recreational facilities and a sense of community.

Popular neighbourhoods in Jeddah and Riyadh include Al Hamra, Al Rawdah, and Al Zahra. In Riyadh, compounds in Al Olaya, Diplomatic Quarter (DQ), and Al Nakheel are preferred choices due to their convenience and amenities.

Renting vs. buying

Many expatriates choose to rent rather than buy their property in Saudi Arabia due to the legal restrictions on property ownership by foreigners. This is something that we are seeing change in from 2023 and beyond so please stay up to date with the latest updates when it comes to foreign ownership.

Rental contracts are typically signed on a rolling annual basis. Plus, real estate agents can offer their assistance in helping you find suitable accommodations.

Expats can find housing through online listings, real estate agents, or recommendations from colleagues and expat communities. It’s advisable to visit potential properties in person to assess their suitability.

Healthcare and education

Healthcare facilities and services Saudi Arabia boasts modern healthcare facilities, including government-run hospitals and private clinics. Expatriates have private healthcare services, which are known for their high quality. Health insurance is essential and is typically provided by employers.

International schools are the preferred choice for expat families. Schools offering various curricula, such as British, American, and IB, are available in major cities. These schools cater to the diverse expat population and ensure a smooth transition for children.

All residents are required to have health insurance and it’s typically provided by employers and usually a great grade of coverage as a standard in the private and government sectors.

Cost of living

Breakdown of living expenses: The cost of living in Saudi Arabia varies depending on factors such as location, lifestyle and family size. Major expenses include housing, education, healthcare, and transportation. However, compared to many Western countries, the cost of living can be relatively lower.

Comparison of living costs in major cities Jeddah and Riyadh tend to have similar living costs, with Riyadh being slightly more affordable. Remote project areas usually have part or the entire living costs provided.

Saving and investment opportunities Saudi Arabia offers opportunities for expatriates to save and invest money. Banking services are advanced and individuals can explore options like fixed deposits, mutual funds and real estate investments.

Cultural adaptation

Understanding Saudi culture and traditions starts with respect for Islamic values and traditions – this is fundamental in Saudi Arabia. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with customs, such as dress codes, greetings and religious practices. Learning about Saudi Arabian history and culture helps build rapport with locals.

Social norms and etiquette in Saudi society places great importance on hospitality and generosity. Language considerations Arabic is the official language and while many Saudis speak English and conduct meetings in English, it is nice to know some local phrases.

Building strong relationships with colleagues and locals is key to an enriching stay in Saudi Arabia. Participating in social gatherings, cultural events and local activities can help you establish meaningful connections.

Recreation and leisure

Saudi Arabia is investing increasingly in entertainment options for residents and tourists. You can enjoy concerts, sporting events, and theme parks. Cinemas have also made a comeback, offering the latest films.

Dining and culinary experiences Saudi cuisine offers diverse dishes. From traditional Arabic foods like shawarma and kabsa, to international cuisines. Dining out is a popular pastime and you can find restaurants catering to various tastes.

Saudis are passionate about sports and outdoor activities. You can participate in activities like football, basketball and even camel racing. The country’s diverse geography is perfect for hiking, diving and other outdoor adventures.

In addition, Saudi Arabia hosts various cultural festivals and events throughout the year. The Riyadh Season and Jeddah Season, for example, offer a wide range of entertainment, including concerts, art exhibitions and food festivals.

Safety and security

Saudi Arabia takes security seriously – there is a strong presence of law enforcement agencies. While the country is generally safe, it’s essential to stay informed about local regulations and follow safety guidelines.

Moving to Saudi Arabia checklist

Preparing for the move

  • Gather all necessary documents, including visas, passports, and medical records.
  • Ask which documents need to be attested ahead of time as this process: usually takes up to three to four weeks until your documents are attested and returned to you.
  • Closely follow your visa process with your onboarding contact for your new role: some of our clients advise not to resign until we get your visa approved as this can usually take some time.
  • Make arrangements for your belongings, including shipping and storage.
  • Pack and ship belongings.
  • Research shipping companies, obtain quotes and timeline expectations for delivery.
  • Settle into your new home.
  • Familiarize yourself with your neighbourhood and local services.
  • Open a bank account and set up utilities.
  • Register with the local authorities if required.
  • Prepare legal and administrative requirements.
  • Register your residency and obtain an Iqama (residence permit).
  • Ensure your employment contract is clear and adheres to Saudi labor laws.
  • Familiarize yourself with local regulations.

In conclusion

In conclusion, Saudi Arabia offers a unique blend of tradition and modernity, making it an attractive destination for expatriates seeking exciting career opportunities and a diverse cultural experience. Whether you choose to settle in the bustling cities of Jeddah or Riyadh, or engage in transformative projects like Neom, The Red Sea Project, or The Royal Commission of Al Ula, Saudi Arabia is a land of promise and opportunity.

As you embark on your journey to live and work in Saudi Arabia, remember to approach it with an open mind, respect for local customs and a willingness to embrace the rich culture of the Kingdom. Your experience in Saudi Arabia will undoubtedly be enriched by the warm hospitality of its people, the stunning landscapes and the exciting developments that Vision 2030 continues to bring to this dynamic nation.

If you’re considering relocating to Saudi Arabia or need assistance building your team, we are here to help. With our extensive knowledge and experience in the local market, we can provide valuable support and guidance throughout the relocation and recruitment process. Contact our team today to make your transition to Saudi Arabia a seamless and successful one.

Jobs in the UAE

Featured Content

  • Market Update

An overview of the pharmaceutical industry in the UAE

  • Posted January 11, 2020
The UAE pharmaceutical sector appears to be following a path similar to that seen at a regional levels. It is expanding rapidly to meet primarily the evolving needs of a growing population which is expected to reach almost 11.1 million by 2030 according to the world bank projects. To achieve sustainable growth for this industry […]
  • Banking and financial service

Can technology rescue the Middle East’s insurance sector?

  • Posted June 11, 2017
Insurtech could inject new life into the Middle East’s lagging insurance sector, but more than that, it could help companies reach brand new customers. Technology has the power to disrupt the insurance sector in the Middle East, transforming the types of products on offer and finding new ways to reach customers. Insurance has always had […]
  • Regional Focus

Millennial Retailing in the Middle East

  • Posted March 11, 2019
With the ever changing landscape of the retail market in the Middle East and a lot of reports that trade has either been in decline or flat for a lot of groups or brands across the region, I thought it would be worth looking at the brands that seem to have it right, or those […]
  • Marketing

While eCommerce booms, Middle East malls are proving their pulling power

  • Posted July 11, 2018
Homegrown success stories and international players abound in the Middle East’s fast-growing eCommerce industry – but thanks to the region’s innovative vision of the shopping experience, footfall remains high in its huge shopping malls. Across the world, eCommerce is a rising trade. Its growth is particularly fast in the Middle East where internet and smartphone […]