Frequently Asked Questions About Saudi Arabia
- What can my wife do and not do in Saudi Arabia? Can she work, drive a car, go out by herself?
The uniqueness of the culture does not openly provide for employment opportunities except in the medical field, and education and travel industries. However, there are numerous private businesses that employ women along with consulates and embassies. Secondly, many women bring skills that allow them to establish private business in fields such as health and beauty, fitness and day care. Women do not drive in Saudi Arabia. However, facilities such as taxis and company drivers are abundantly available allowing women the freedom to go out on their own.
- How much different is life in Saudi Arabia than America, Canada and Europe?
Life is of course different in Saudi Arabia. It is more conservative and culturally diverse, but offers a full spectrum of flavors to experience such as food, people, etc. We don’t have to worry about crime. It’s very people orientated, there are vast communities of people to socialize with and clubs.
- What can you do on the weekends with your family?
With all the expatriates living in this region, socializing with your peers and other cultures becomes an active pastime. Barbeques, social events and desert or beach activities become common pastimes. Sports such as tennis, swimming, biking, hiking, scuba diving, and snorkeling can all be done here. Bahrain is readily accessible to all expatriates.
- How are the schools in Saudi, are there private schools?
There are several private schools for expatriates here in Saudi Arabia. Attending school here is a unique cultural experience as you have a vast mixture of nationalities and cultures attending the same school (i.e. British, Americans, Saudis, Indians, Lebanese, etc). Class sizes are small and the curriculum and staff are as good as it gets! If you are on approved accompanied/family status the company pays the tuition. This link will provides a lot of great information about the schools http://www.isgdh.org
- Are there grocery stores and shopping malls?
Yes. There are Safeway Supermarkets, and the largest shopping mall in the Middle East with the full range of products from Europe and North America meeting all standards of expectation.
- How hot does it get?
Saudi Arabia generally is a hot country with very little rain. Average temperature in summer is 115+ Fahrenheit. Most of the year (8 months) the weather is warm and pleasant, with winters not below 45 Fahrenheit.
- Do the houses have AC?
Yes, everything is air conditioned…….houses, malls, etc.
- How much money can you save?
Since you will live and work in a TAX-FREE environment where all expenses (except food) are covered, this presents an extensive opportunity for savings. Depending on an individual’s personal status – someone has the ability to take home 90% of his income at the end of 1 year.
- I heard women have to keep their body and face covered in black?
It is not necessary for expatriate women to cover the body and face in black. Women expatriates should wear conservative, loose fitting clothing. If you feel better when wearing the abaya, then do so.
- How will I be paid?
Make sure when you come over to Saudi you have a U.S. bank account set up with a “Bank” or “Debit” card. ATM’s are on every corner here so getting some cash (Saudi Riyals) is no problem. You can’t open a bank account, or get a driver’s license until you get your “Iqama” (work permit), so you will want to have all of your money sent to your USA bank. Once you get your Iqama you can open a Saudi bank account and you can have your pay direct deposited to one account in Saudi Arabia and one account in the U.S. in whatever amounts you determine appropriate. It will also help to have an account with free “Bill Pay” and make sure your passwords and pins are all set to go.
- When will I be paid?
Once a month, at the end of every month.
- When does my pay start?
Your employment starts upon arrival into Saudi Arabia and in-processing at your work location. It also depends on when you arrive here. If you get here before the 9th of the month and your in-processing paperwork is properly submitted by the site HR manager, you most likely will be paid at the end of the month. Get here after the 9th and you most likely will not fall into the first month’s pay cycle and will not receive your first paycheck until the end of the following month. Bottom Line: PLAN APPROPRIATELY.
- Should I bring lots of cash when I travel over?
A couple of hundred in cash should do, but again, plan appropriately. The amount of money you will need to live off of will depend on when you arrive in the country and when you receive your first paycheck. Traveler’s checks or money orders are no good in Saudi. Your bank card can be used at any one of thousands of ATM’s and there is always someone here that will swap your Dollars for some Riyals. It is recommended that you exchange some Dollars for Riyals at the arrival airport in Saudi Arabia. Also, you can charge groceries from the compound store, and meals at the compound restaurant to your villa.
- Should I ship over a desktop computer?
Not recommended unless you have a system you can’t live without. Bring a laptop with you if you have one. If you have to have a PC, desktop systems are very inexpensive with lots of brand choices in-country.
- How is the cell phone service and costs?
For the most part, cell phones and service are cheap! Average of 2 Saudi Riyals per minute to the USA. That is the cheapest way to call the states except for voice over internet service.
- Can I bring my pet with me?
Pets are allowed. If you are thinking about bringing your dog be aware that there are problems with that. Contact the Saudi Embassy in Washington about restrictions and paperwork required. Also be aware that there are travel restrictions on some routings like through London. Northwest / KLM is the most direct routing and they do allow pets but again with some restrictions. Food and pet supplies are available locally.
- What about vets?
There are 2 vets in the local Dhahran area. One of them does “well pet clinics” here on the compound every couple of months.
- Is the electricity on the compounds 110 or 220?
Yes and No! Everything is 110V unless you want some 220V. The stove and the dryer are 220V, which means that you can tap off of the stove and have 220 available at the kitchen counter if you have an appliance that requires 220V. There are also many transformers available for purchase downtown that will step up or down.
- Where can I find information on Saudi Customs?
Here are some websites with good information on Saudi customs that might be helpful to new employees and their families.
Guide To Saudi Arabia – Etiquette, Customs, Culture & Business
For additional information, please visit the Saudi Arabia Resources page.