How Much Does it Cost to Live in Saudi Arabia as an Expatriate?
It’s no secret that Saudi Arabia is a popular destination for expats who are looking to bring their career to the next level.
With excellent opportunities in IT, real estate, and banking, the work opportunities for Saudi Arabian expatriates are vast.
Saudi Arabia boasts expansive deserts as well as modern metropolitan cities. As the birthplace of Islam, it is a country steeped in religious tradition.
The capital city of Riyadh is the region’s commercial hub, with museums, luxury hotels, and high-end shopping malls. The average salary in Riyadh is $84,000 USD, making it a desirable location for expats looking to make a move.
Unfortunately, concerns over cost differences often prevent potential expats from making the move.
We’ve taken the time to research the cost of living in Saudi Arabia to give you everything you need to decide whether Saudi Arabia is the right place for you.
All prices below are listed in U.S dollars. One Saudi Riyal equals $0.27 USD, as of February 2018.
Housing in Saudi Arabia for Expatriates
You have to be a Saudi nationalist to own property, so the only option for expats is to rent. Many expats live in “compounds” which house other Americans and Europeans. This often makes it easier to assimilate into the Saudi culture, especially if you are not Muslim.
Rental options range from small studio apartments to four bedroom flats. A one-bedroom rental can range from $700/month to $1,500/month. 3-bedroom apartments range from $1,400 to $2,700/month.
Entertainment and Social Life
Alcohol is strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia. There are no bar and no clubs, so much of the entertainment revolves around shopping and dining.
For a taste of the old world, shop the souks (the open air markets). For a more modern experience, try shopping and dining on Tahlia Street in the capital of Riyadh.
Looking for something a little out of the ordinary? Check out a camel race. But don’t expect to make any bets or wagers – Sharia law prevents gambling,
In Riyadh, the cost of an affordable lunchtime meal costs approximately $12. An affordable dinner meal costs about $14. For a more upscale dining experience at a nice restaurant, expect to pay about $30 per person.
Love going to the movies? Commercial movie theaters were banned in Saudi Arabia until December 2017. As more and more theaters emerge, you can expect to pay $13-$24 per ticket.
Medical Expenses and Health Care for Expats in Saudi Arabia
Expats need to have private international health insurance to access medical care in Saudi Arabia. With private health insurance, a standard doctor’s office visit usually costs $30-$60.
Over half of Saudi Arabia’s hospitals are owned and operated by the Ministry of Health. The government is currently pushing to make these hospitals available exclusively to Saudi nationals. As a result, expats often stick to private healthcare providers.
Come explore our list of the best healthcare providers in Saudi Arabia
A 12 dose box of an antibiotics prescription costs approximately $10. If you prefer to take an over-the-counter cold medicine, A 6 day supply of cold medicine costs $2-$4.
Saudi Arabia has an extensive network of buses and taxis. Taxis are the fastest and most efficient way to get around. Women aren’t allowed to drive under Sharia law, so taxi cabs are the most preferred method of travel.
If you prefer to take the bus, a single bus ticket costs about $0.53. A monthly bus pass costs $40. If you’d rather jump in a taxi, expect to pay about $0.86 per mile. On average, a gallon of gas costs $0.97.
Keep in mind that taxi cabs in Saudi Arabia don’t always use meters, but you can negotiate the price for a ride.
Groceries and Food Costs
Want to save money and do all your shopping in one place? Saudi Arabia has many large supermarkets to choose from.
Some grocery stores specialize in importing American products. Some focus on Asian foods and local products. Other offer imported European produce. If you prefer to shop independent stores, there are fresh vegetable markets to visit. The cost of food in Saudi Arabia will vary depending on which of these stores you visit. However, here are a few common prices that you can expect to see.
- A bottle of water costs $0.56
- A gallon of milk will run you approximately $4.57
- A pound of rice is just $0.79
- Chicken costs roughly $2.37/pound
Can’t give up your nicotine habit? Cigarettes in Saudi Arabia cost about $6.40/pack.
Keep in mind that everything closes for prayer five times a day for 15-30 minutes at a time. If you’re getting ready to check out with your groceries, you may have to wait until employees return from their prayer break.
Getting ready to make the move to Saudi Arabia? Don’t forget to explore our moving abroad checklist!
Before you make the move to Saudi Arabia, take the time to do your research. Figure out what it will cost you. Learn about the culture. Know what to do and what not do in order to show respect to the locals.
Moving to Saudi Arabia will prove to be an unforgettable experience. Plan accordingly and make the move to start the next chapter of your life!